After techies, its aviation crew salaries that will be ‘up in the air’

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After techies, its aviation crew salaries that will be ‘up in the air’
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  • Indigo has been hit by labour troubles on the ground too as this month, aircraft maintenance technicians went on a mass sick leave for two days in Delhi and Hyderabad.
  • All the airlines will face shortage of crew, leading them to poaching.
  • Experts also fear that this increase in demand for experienced pilots will push them to hire foreign pilots.
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India’s largest airline Indigo has been well-known for its on-time performance. Yet, earlier last month over half of its flights were delayed. Reason? A large chunk of its cabin crew staff took a sick leave. As per s ources, they all went to attend a mass recruitment drive by Tata Air India, a competitor.

The airline has been hit by labour troubles on the ground too as this month, aircraft maintenance technicians went on a mass sick leave for two days in Delhi and Hyderabad to protest low wages and salaries.

There will be more such incidents in the coming months, experts say, as a new airline Akasa Airlines is all set to launch operations. Jet Airways too is making a comeback and even Tata Air India is getting ready for a revamp.

All of them will face shortage of crew, leading them to poaching. There are around 17,000 registered pilots in India out of which over 2,500 are women. The industry needs much more.

“India needs 10,000 more flight attendants, 6,000 more qualified pilots. Compared to past slowdown of 2010, 2012 or 2009 in the industry, this time it is going to be very hard for the airlines to sustain. To sustain growth one has to add aircrafts, fleets, need more pilots, flight attendants, engineers,” Mark Martin, founder and CEO of Martin Consulting told Business Insider in an interview.

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Experts also fear that this increase in demand for experienced pilots will push them to hire foreign pilots. Flying schools had closed during the Covid-19 pandemic for two years and there are a lot of pending licenses to be approved as well.

It’s not just the pilots but there will be a shortage of experienced engineers, ground staff and other cabin crew that new airlines would love to have in their fold. It means an aviation talent war is afoot and it will be another ground for old and new airlines alike to battle on — in addition to fliers and flying slots.

Salary cuts and bruises


While many international airlines went bankrupt and shut shop during the pandemic close downs, top Indian airlines have managed to stay afloat. For which, they had to resort to salary cuts and more such moves. Indigo and SpiceJet both deferred and slashed salaries but also restored them within a year, as airlines started flying in 2021.

But very few salaries are back to pre-pandemic levels in spite of the fact that Indians have been thronging airports in the recent months. This could be another reason why most of them could be swayed by better salaries and offers from the market.

Praveen Paul, a Bengaluru based aviation consultant disagrees. He believes that employees would stick to bigger airlines which are better paymasters and will look for stability in addition to hikes. Indigo, he says, is one of the few airlines that pays its employees on-time, unlike most others.

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“I don’t see talent running to new airlines in a hurry. Indigo, Tata’s Air India will not lose any talent while SpiceJet, Go Air may lose as employees feel whatever happens they get their salaries on time at Air India and Indigo,” Paul told Business Insider India.

Aviation sector jobs, while technical and necessary, have gone through many rounds of stress and strain in the last few years. After the debacle of Kingfisher employees who were never paid when it closed down in 2016, Jet Airways and its bankruptcy was also hard on the sector and its employees.

However, now that there’s a turnaround, they would be in a better position to negotiate — that could be bad news for airlines who are already flying on wafer thin margins thanks to a massive increase in aviation turbine fuel prices.

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