Senior pilots quit Air India to join private airlines


Four senior pilots with Air India (AI) quit last week for jobs in private airlines because they were unable to handle the turbulence in the company. Sources in the airline said this could be an indication of the first signs of cracks in the loss-making national carrier. Around 40 pilots, includin g these four pilots, went for walk-in interviews conducted by private airlines in Delhi on Saturday.

The move comes less than a month after a 10-day stir by the Air India pilots failed to get them pay parity. “People are getting frustrated. We are yet to get our March salaries,” said a senior pilot requesting anonymity.

The airline management deferred salaries of the entire staff citing losses close to Rs200 crore incurred during the pilot strike that ended on May 6.

The private airlines (two budget carriers and a full-service carrier) that conducted the interviews have a fleet similar to Air India’s domestic aircraft fleet. “Their (private airlines) fleet mainly consists of Airbus A320s. Air India has a readymade stock of seasoned pilots to operate these aircraft,” said a training captain with the private airline.

According to the agreement with the management, AI pilots are supposed serve a six-month notice period before switching jobs.

However, sources said that private airlines are prepared for legal battles for the four pilots who have given only a one-month notice.

This is also the first sign of an exodus in the national carrier after the low-cost airline revolution in 2004.

“Erstwhile Indian Airlines’ pilots are the only ones who don’t have a fixed pay in the industry,” added the source.

The Air India spokesperson neither confirmed nor denied query pertaining to resignation of pilots.