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Air India plans to hire pilots from abroad for wide-body planes amid scarcity

Air India plans to hire expat pilots for its Boeing 777 planes as the airline is facing a shortage of pilots (HT_PRINT)Premium
Air India plans to hire expat pilots for its Boeing 777 planes as the airline is facing a shortage of pilots (HT_PRINT)

Air India plans to hire expat pilots for its Boeing 777 planes as the airline is facing a shortage of pilots amid plans to expand its fleet as well as international operations, according to sources

In order to fill a pilot shortage brought on by plans to expand both its fleet and its international operations, sources say that Tata group-owned Air India will hire foreigners to fly its Boeing 777 aircraft. According to the sources, the carrier has contacted several organisations that help airlines find expat flight crew in order to hire about 100 pilots for its wide-body Boeing 777 fleet.

In order to reduce costs, the loss-making Air India, which was owned by the government for nearly seven decades before the Tata group acquired it in January 2022, stopped hiring foreign pilots many years ago.

Pilots who work abroad are more expensive than those who work in India.

"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.

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.

"Air India has sought 100 pilots from the market. Though they say they will prefer Indian pilots, they are also open to hiring expat pilots. While these pilots come at 40 per cent higher cost compared to the cost incurred on hiring an Indian pilot, it is also a fact that experienced wide-body pilots are not easily available in the domestic market," the source said.

Only Air India and Vistara operate a wide-body fleet, consisting of Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft. B777s and Airbus A330s were among the wide-body aircraft that once made up the fleet of Jet Airways.

The majority of these pilots, however, switched to foreign airlines after Jet Airways was grounded in 2019.

A recent job posting for expat pilots was published by a Mumbai-based hiring company. There are openings at Air India for Boeing 777 Line Captains, and they will be hired on a one-year contract.

According to the contract, the salary offered is USD 11,500 per month (net of taxes) and includes benefits as well as a payment of USD 133.30 for each hour of flying over 70 hours.

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.

(With inputs from PTI)

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