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Home > Business > Business Headline > Report

Poaching season in airlines

T R Vivek & Bipin Chandran in New Delhi | October 21, 2004 10:18 IST

New low-cost carriers are on the lookout for experienced pilots from the existing airlines.

The poaching season is back in the domestic airline industry. New low-cost carriers like Kingfisher Airlines, which is set to take off in 2005, are already on the lookout for experienced pilots from the existing airlines.

Source in Kingfisher say that the airline has approached 25 flight captains from Alliance Air's pool of 35 pilots. This is even before Kingfisher has got the regulatory clearance to start operations.

"We are trying to build a team of pilots in readiness for the launch, and are looking at taking people from all airlines including Alliance Air," Parvez Damania, executive director, Kingfisher Airlines, said. He, however, refused to comment on the number of pilots that the company was looking to hire.

When contacted, Anil Goel, commercial director, Indian Airlines with additional charge of Alliance Air, said he was not aware of this development.

According to industry estimates, there are close to 1,200 commercial pilot licence holders in the country who are currently not employed by any airline company.

A CPL is the minimum requirement to join an airline as a co-pilot. But it takes nearly three years of flying experience to become a commanding pilot of an Airbus A320 or a Boeing 737.

Aviation analysts say the new airlines would hardly get any unemployed commanding pilot. At present the three major domestic airlines -- Indian Airlines, Jet Airways and Air Sahara -- employ close to 550 flight commanders.

The leading airlines pay more than Rs 400,000 a month to flight captains and close to Rs 225,000 to the co-pilots. The low-cost carriers on the other hand pay around Rs 175,000 a month to co-pilots.

Thus the low-cost accriers are at a disadvantage here.

Alliance Air, which employs pilots on contract pays them according to the flying hours clocked. "Currently on an average an Alliance Air pilot clocks 90 hours a month earning about Rs 230,000. But since Alliance has an ageing fleet of aircraft, its pilots are willing to settle for a lower salary at low-cost airlines," said a member of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association.

For private airlines, recently retired pilots of state-run carriers are an attractive option as the retirement age for IA and AI pilots is 58 whereas for the private firms it is 60.

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