Mumbai: Jet Airways (India) Ltd is looking to phase out all its expatriate pilots to control costs, company executives told employees at a meeting on Thursday.

“They (the management) said they are planning to do away with all the expat pilots to save costs," said D. Balaraman, president of the National Aviator’s Guild (NAG). The expat pilots, he said, are paid a third more than their Indian counterparts.

Spokespersons at Jet Airways, India’s second largest airline by number of passengers flown, did not respond to an email, calls and text messages.

The carrier has around 60 expat commanders, operating its fleet of mainly Boeing 737 and ATR planes. Pilots of Indian nationality have previously alleged discrimination in the treatment of expat and local pilots.

On 15 April, NAG wrote to all members not to fly with the foreign pilots, alleging the latter have been making disparaging, inappropriate and racist comments against Indian pilots and that the carrier has been giving the local pilots a “step-motherly treatment".

Peeyush Naidu, a partner at consultancy Deloitte India said phasing out the pilots is a necessity. “However, it will have to be done over a period of time as they need to be replaced with trained and experienced ones, which is a function of time," he said.

The Naresh Goyal-controlled airline, part-owned by Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, is facing intense cost pressures amid heightening competition, and a slowdown in the key Gulf region.

On 20 July, the airline asked as many as 200 of its junior pilots to go on unpaid leave for 10 days every month that would shrink their salaries by 30%, Balaraman said. This issue will be taken up again in a meeting on 17 August, he added.

Jet has close to 50 pilots in excess and the airline is “exploring all options," including placing them in other airlines, Balaraman said.

This is not the first time Jet Airways is looking to place pilots at other airlines. Even in the past, it has placed pilots with Etihad and they have returned to Jet later, he added.

In the fourth quarter ended 31 March, the airline had reported a 91% decline in net profit as higher revenue was more than offset by costlier fuel, lower airfares and weak demand from the Gulf region. To contain costs, the airline is also looking to sub-lease its smaller aircraft to regional airlines.

Meanwhile, the management, said Balaraman, reiterated its intention of reviewing the salaries of senior pilots after the first quarter results.

Jet Airways on Tuesday informed stock exchanges that its financial results for the June quarter would be delayed since it is adopting new accounting standards from this fiscal. The airline proposes to hold its board meeting for approval of the financial results for the June quarter on or before 14 September.

India’s domestic air passenger traffic grew 20% in June from a year earlier, continuing the growth trajectory.

Among major carriers, IndiGo continued to retains the largest market share of 40%, followed by Jet Airways (17.5%), SpiceJet Ltd (13.3%), Air India (13.1%), GoAir (8.4%), AirAsia (3.7%) and Vistara (3.6%).