Why Air India might be courting Jet's expat pilots

If Air India is to get the cash infusion it has been promised, it will have to bolster performance. And for that more pilots are a must.

FP Staff June 01, 2012 11:14:27 IST
Why Air India might be courting Jet's expat pilots

Despite the worsening plight of India's aviation industry, the Indian carriers certainly know how to spot an opportunity. Just a day after Dubai-led Emirates grabbed the international market share left void by curtailed Air India and Kingfisher operations, the national carrier has turned to expat pilots sacked recently by Jet Airways to beef up its dwindling numbers. Interestingly, the private carrier had sacked the expats to make room for 'local' pilots.

Air India, which will shift to an "interim plan" to salvage its international operations that have been crippled by a 24-day-old pilots' strike, is looking to recruit around 50-60 sacked Jet expat pilots to operate a small international schedule, an Economic Times report said today. Jet Airways losses doubled in the last quarter and in order to cut losses the private airline sacked 72 of its 183 high-cost expatriate pilots last month that charge way more than their existing counterparts.

Why Air India might be courting Jets expat pilots

Air India is expected to fully shift to the truncated interim schedule from today. AFP

Air India is expected to fully shift to the truncated interim schedule from today, dropping seven international destinations including Hong Kong, Osaka, Seoul and Toronto. The airline will operate only 38 services instead of the regular 45. Currently, the carrier is operating through a contingency plan under which a bare minimum number of flights are maintained by clubbing operations to various destinations in Europe and the US.

Air India has sacked 101 of the 400 agitating pilots, who are demanding exclusive rights to fly Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. The airline has not taken delivery of the aircraft so far.

Air India has also maintained that it has enough executive pilots to operate services to long-haul destinations in the US and Europe on some of the Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 aircraft and is also said to be examining several proposals to restore the international operations which includes wet leasing aircraft from other airlines.The proposal will include renting of aircraft with pilots and cabin crew.

Then why is an airline, whose losses have already piled to Rs 300 crore on account of ticket cancellation, unused labour and bulk of Boeing 777 fleet being grounded, so desperate to recruit these expat pilots rather than downsizing its international operations?

The answer is this: It was to get Rs 10,600 crore cash infusion from the government this fiscal based on its performance, of which Rs 1,200 crore has been paid, towards equity infusion and meeting working capital requirements. In order to get the total Rs 30,000 crore financial aid from the government over the next eight years, the strike-hit airline is desperately trying to improve its financial performance as the money will only be released it it meets certain performance targets. DNA had also reported three days ago that out of the 5000-odd unemployed pilots only 500 of them had commercial pilot licenses. Therefore these '72' expat pilots are clearly a valued lot.

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