According to reports, Air India, which is owned by the Tata group, intends to acquire foreign pilots for its Boeing 777 aircraft due to a pilot shortage brought on by ambitions to grow both its fleet and its overseas operations.
The carrier has contacted many organisations that help airlines find expat flight crew in order to hire about 100 pilots for its wide-body Boeing 777 fleet, according to sources who spoke with PTI.
In order to reduce costs, the loss-making Air India, which was owned by the government for nearly seven decades before being purchased by the Tata group in January 2022, long ago stopped hiring foreign pilots.
Compared to pilots working in India, expat pilots are more expensive.
“Air India was already facing a shortage of pilots and the recent announcement of the induction of 5 Boeing 777 planes in the next four months and new flights to the US have added to this shortage,” one of the sources said to NDTV.
In light of this, the sources claimed that Air India is willing to hire foreign pilots.
According to the sources, there are also rumours that the airline wants to add another 6 to 10 wide-body aircraft, which will require a sizable number of pilots.
On this matter, inquiries made to Air India went unanswered.
“One hundred pilots are needed by Air India. However, they are willing to hire foreign pilots as well, even though they declare they will favour Indian pilots. While employing one of these pilots will cost 40% more than hiring an Indian pilot, it is also true that experienced wide-body pilots are hard to come by on the local market ” the source stated to NDTV.
Only Air India and Vistara, among Indian airlines, fly Boeing 777 and 787 wide-body aircraft. Previously, Jet Airways had wide-body aircraft in its fleet, including Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s.
However, the majority of the pilots flying these types of aircraft shifted to other airlines once Jet Airways was grounded in 2019.
An advertisement for expat pilot positions was recently published by an organisation in Mumbai. Air India has openings for Boeing 777 Line Captains who will be hired on a one-year contract.
According to the advertisement, the promised compensation is USD 11,500 per month (net of taxes) plus a payment of USD 133.30 for each hour of flying above 70 hours (net of taxes), in addition to benefits.
The introduction of nonstop flights from Mumbai to San Francisco, New York, and Newark has been announced by Air India. In addition, flights from Bengaluru to San Francisco will begin. They are anticipated to begin within the coming weeks.
Campbell Wilson, the chief executive officer and managing director of Air India, announced on Saturday that the company would increase its market share on both domestic and international routes to at least 30%.
According to him, the airline is putting its long-term revival plan into action and over the next five years, it plans to increase both its wide-body and narrow-body fleet size as well as its global network.