Air India is reportedly facing a pilot shortage as it embarks on a journey of expanding its operations. The past few months have seen plenty of positive changes in the airline as part of its massive overhaul program. Now it seems the carrier may be finding it slightly challenging to recruit flying crew fast enough to keep up with its growth plans.
Pilot unions claim shortage
A report by the Economic Times (ET) says that two pilot unions at Air India (AI) have pointed out a shortage of pilots for its ultra-long-haul flights.
The unions in question are the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) and the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA). Both wrote a joint letter to Air India’s Chief Human Resources Officer Suresh Dutt Tripathi on December 13th, accessed by ET, which says,
News of pilot shortage at Air India comes shortly after reports of several ultra-long-haul flights of the carrier being affected by flight attendant shortages.
Some of AI’s flights to North America have been disrupted recently. For instance, on December 6th, flight AI-183’s departure to SFO was delayed by over three hours. On December 8th, it was delayed by 7.5 hours.
A contributing factor to the cabin crew shortage is the long wait time for a US visa. The conditions of the pandemic had caused backlogs and staffing challenges in the travel industry. Currently, the wait times for some US work visas are around 1,000 days for Indian residents.
Many of Air India’s crew have also opted for the voluntary retirement scheme, and there are also reports of the carrier calling some of them back to fill the gaps.
Amid all this, the airline has stepped up the hiring and training process of new pilots in the company and hopes to have sufficient crew soon.
Last month, it was reported that AI is looking for pilots offshore as it gets ready to welcome additional Boeing 777s to double down on US flights. The airline is engaging a placement firm to help find the cockpit crew for its fleet, and it is reported that the monthly salary offered will be $11,500 (net of taxes). Benefits will also include a payment of $133.30 per hour for flying more than 70 hours.
Earlier this month, Air India graduated its first batch of cabin crew trainees and new pilots since privatization. The batch of 215 cabin crew and 48 pilots, all Indian nationals, have received their wings and are now ready to be deployed to operate as fully-qualified crew. Most of these crew members will join the airline’s A320 fleet.