Home / Politics / India /  Pilot exodus prompts India Air regulator to turn labor watchdog

New Delhi: India’s aviation regulator wants senior pilots to provide at least a year’s notice before changing jobs, a move aimed at stemming exits that sometimes force airlines to scrap flights at the last minute.

The proposed rules, if implemented, would affect experienced pilots who often move to foreign carriers lured by higher salaries. The draft measures, doubling the period to one year for commanders, may also upset market leader IndiGo’s ability to hire crew for its proposed small aircraft fleet, which it plans to start operating as soon as this year.

The world is going through an acute shortage of experienced pilots as airlines, especially in Asia, order thousands of new planes valued at trillions of dollars. Airlines worldwide will need to recruit and train about 617,000 pilots to fly 39,620 planes, that are expected to be added through 2035, according to Boeing Co.

Pilots leaving their jobs is sometimes “is in the form of a concerted move, which is tantamount to holding the airline to ransom and leaving the traveling public stranded," the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said in draft rules posted on its website. The regulator has invited comments from the public by June 14 before finalizing its decision. IndiGo spokesman Ajay Jasra declined to comment.

“The DGCA is paying more attention to mundane things like this rather than passenger safety which they appear to be totally ignorant of," said Mohan Ranganathan, a former commercial pilot and an aviation consultant based in Chennai. “IndiGo’s ATR plans will go for a toss if the one year notice period comes into force."

India is the world’s fastest growing major aviation market, and overtook Japan as the third-biggest by domestic passengers last year, with airports in the South Asian nation handling 100 million local travelers compared with 97 million for Japan, according to CAPA. Potential for air traffic growth in India, which expanded about 24 percent last year on the back of an emerging middle class flying for the first time, has lured Singapore Airlines Ltd. and AirAsia Bhd. to set up local units, while Etihad Airways has bought a stake in Jet Airways India Ltd.

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