Research group pegs Indian aviation, growing at 18.4%, as the 9th biggest market in the world, but pilots quitting AI and Kingfisher may stall its pace
Debt and prolonged underperformance are not the only things nagging flagging Indian carriers.
At a time when the aviation industry is growing at an annual rate faster than any in Indian history, it requires manpower to sustain itself, but pilots dissatisfied with their jobs are quitting in big numbers.
According to market forces, the Indian aviation industry requires 2,000 pilots immediately to run the show, but around 200 pilots have quit ailing state carrier Air India and a crisis-hit Kingfisher Airlines in the past few months.
According to industry sources, about 50 pilots have quit AI in the past four-five months and another two dozen are ready to follow suit. Kingfisher Airlines is the worst hit, with about 120 pilots quitting in the same period.
"It is very unfortunate that pilots are quitting at a stage when the Indian aviation industry is at its best.
According to recent studies, the Indian industry requires 2,000 pilots immediately, as new aircraft are scheduled to join the fleet of airline companies," said aviation expert, Captain Akram Baigh.
Various research and analysis reports have already established that the Indian aviation market is growing at an annual rate of 18 per cent.
According to the latest report of Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) and International Air Transport Association (IATA), India was the fastest growing domestic market in the world in September 2011 with 18.4 per cent year-on-year growth, exceeding the growth rate in China (9.7%) and Brazil (7.5%) in the same month. Also, it is placed as the ninth biggest market in the world.
If it is to maintain its pace, it requires the resources.
"The airline operators must solve this problem immediately or the number will grow in future when foreign airlines will hire these pilots at higher salaries and the loss-making Indian carriers will have to depend on foreign pilots who not only charge heavy salaries but are also not fit for Indian conditions," Akram added.
Former AI managing director Captain D S Mathur said, "The airlines must reconsolidate their positions. Currently the carriers do not have a concrete future strategy but are shaping up future projects, which is very dangerous. Pilots quitting Indian carriers are a big loss as the airlines will again have to invest in training newcomers."
"Every one wants a stable carrier. We are professionals and we give our best services and expect the best salary. Unfortunately, we are not getting that and this is the reason why pilots are quitting and joining foreign carriers for a better future," said an AI pilot who recently quit.
India has more than 450 airports and airstrips. Of these, 16 are designated international airports. With the liberalisation of the Indian aviation sector, the industry in India has undergone a rapid transformation. Private airlines account for around 75 per cent share of the domestic aviation market. In the past two years, more than 150 aircraft have been added to the fleet of Indian carriers and more than 200 aircraft are likely to be inducted over the next year.