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Aviation

Air India to retain pilots for five more years after retirement

Print edition : Sep 23, 2022 T+T-

Air India to retain pilots for five more years after retirement

It cited “future expansion plans” as the reason.

“It will drastically hamper our career progression. Also, it is detrimental for unemployed aspiring CPL [commercial pilot licence] holders looking for a job.”

This is just one of the voices from amidst several young pilots from Air India who have said that they aren’t too pleased by the airline’s proposal to retain its current crop of trained pilots even after they superannuate at the age of 58.

An internal communication from the airline’s human resources department dated July 29 states that the airline proposes “to retain [its] current trained pilots post retirement on a contractual basis for 5 years extendable to 65 years”. Though the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) allows pilots to fly until the age of 65 years, which is also the practice followed by most airlines in the industry, pilots at Air lndia superannuate at 58.

The Air India management has cited “future expansion plans” as the reason for allowing pilots to fly till the age of 65 years. The communication states that this move is “imperative to meet [the] workforce requirement for pilots [at Air India]”.

According to the proposal, pilots retiring in the next two years and who are keen on an extension of their career at Air India will be screened for their eligibility by a committee composed of representatives of the airline’s human resources department, operations and flight safety. The committee will “recommend the shortlisted names” for a post-retirement contract”. A letter will be issued a year prior to the pilots’ retirement, with the contract being issued for a period of five years extendable by another two years.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has also submitted a paper to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) seeking a review of commercial pilot age limits to help relieve the forecasted demand for cockpit crews. The IATA has written to ICAO stating that limited availability of skilled aviation personnel was a “constraint” on the industry’s ability to recover from the slow-down caused by the pandemic.

Notwithstanding the opposition from a section of pilots, other pilots speaking to Frontline agreed that it was a pragmatic move as far as the airline was concerned. It also provides the management with the opportunity to decide who to retain and who to let go.

But several pilots explained that this could at best be a stop-gap arrangement and Air India would eventually have to go in for a long-term policy for progression such as what other airlines have already implemented.

The move came even as Air India rolled out a voluntary retirement scheme for its employees, including cabin crew, and announced that it would soon be recruiting fresh blood. The move also comes amidst a pick-up in air travel after the pandemic, and new airlines such as Akasa and regional airlines such as FlyBig taking to the skies.

The Air India move came a day after the Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia told Parliament that there was no shortage of commercial pilots in India. However, Scindia admitted that there was “a marginal shortage of commanders on certain types of aircraft and the same is being managed by utilising foreign pilots by issuing Foreign Aircrew Temporary Authorisation (FATA)”.

Scindia disclosed that there were 82 FATA-holders in India as on June 30, 2022, as compared to over 9,000 pilots employed with airlines in India. The Minister had also disclosed that the number of pilots receiving their CPLs in India was increasing every year; the DGCA he said, had issued 862 CPLs in 2021, “an all-time high”. In 2022, India’s flying training academies had issued a total of 699 CPLs until June 30.