Home > companies > Air India may send pilots to fill shortfall in Express service

Mumbai: Air India Ltd’s board has cleared a proposal to send its pilots on deputation to its budget arm, Air India Express, which has been facing shortage of commanders for some time now, people close to the matter said on Sunday.

The move would help Air India, which may face a surplus of pilots as the airline’s Boeing 777-200 LR fleet is being phased out and shrinking, the people said.

Air India earlier used to send its pilots on deputation to Air India Express (AIE), but stopped the practice after a two-month strike by pilots in May-June 2012.

“The board recently approved the proposal, paving the way for AI (Air India) pilots to join AIE," a person with knowledge of the matter said in Mumbai.

AIE’s has had a shortage of pilots for a long time, which has led to at least three or four of its 17 aircraft always remaining on ground, the people mentioned earlier said.

Besides which, Air India and AIE top brass were keen to have in-house talent as a cheaper option rather than going to the market to meet the shortage.

“The idea was mooted several times with the airline management but did not find favour primarily due to the two-month strike by the pilots owing allegiance to the now de-recognized Indian Pilots Guild," the people said.

Air India has already sold five of its eight Boeing 777-200 LRs to Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways and has floated tenders to sell the remaining ones.

“The phasing out of these planes is leaving surplus pilots with the carrier who will now be adjusted in AIE. Besides, it will also help Air India pilots in getting command positions earlier than in the parent company. So, the move will benefit Air India and AIE as also the pilots," the people said.

AIE will require around 50 more pilots to operate its entire fleet of 17 aircraft, the people said, adding that it will be better since the airline was planning to induct eight more Boeing 737-800s in the fleet to get back to the original size of 26 aircraft.

The Kochi-based low-cost airline till a few year back used to operate some 214 flights with 25 planes, seven of them being leased aircraft. However, it gradually phased out the leased aircraft and lost one 737-800 in a crash in Mangalore.

The airline now operates 165 weekly flights connecting 12 international routes, mostly to the Gulf, and also covers 11 domestic destinations. PTI

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