Tata group-owned 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.
The carrier is looking to rope in around 100 pilots for the wide-body Boeing 777 fleet and has approached various agencies that provide expat flight crew to airlines, the sources told PTI.
The loss-making Air India, which was under government ownership for nearly seven decades till the Tata group took over in January 2022, had stopped hiring expat pilots many years ago to save costs.
Expat pilots come at a higher cost compared to those pilots working 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.
Against this backdrop, the sources said that Air India is open to hiring expat pilots.
There are also speculations that the airline is looking to induct another 6-10 wide-body planes, which will require a good number of pilots, the sources added.
Queries sent to Air India on this issue remained unanswered.
"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.
Among Indian carriers, only Air India and Vistara are operating wide-body fleet -- Boeing 777s and Boeing 787s.
Erstwhile Jet Airways used to have wide-body planes -- B777s and Airbus A330s -- in its fleet.
However, after the grounding of Jet Airways in 2019, most of the pilots operating these types of planes moved to foreign carriers.
Recently, a Mumbai-based expat pilot hiring agency came out with an advertisement for expat pilots' jobs.
The openings are for Boeing 777 line captains at Air India and they are to be hired on one year contract.
The salary offered is $11,500 per month (net of taxes) and a payment of $133.30 for every hour, over 70 hours of flying (net of taxes) along with benefits, as per the advertisement.
Air India has announced plans to introduce non-stop services from Mumbai to San Francisco, New York and Newark.
Besides, flights will be started from Bengaluru to San Francisco.
They are expected to start in the next few weeks.
On Saturday, Air India chief executive officer and managing director Campbell Wilson said the airline will increase its market share to at least 30 per cent in domestic and international routes.
The airline is implementing a long-term revival plan and over the next five years, it aims to grow its wide-body and narrow-body fleet as well as expand the global network, he had said.