India has made commercial pilot licences faster and easier to beat the shortage in airlines' most-expensive asset

  • India is estimated to have nearly 8,000 pilots for over 650 commercial aircraft fleet.
  • The growth rate of the commercial aircraft fleet has also led to an increase in the demand for over 28,000 pilots over the next two decades.
  • There are over 400 expat pilots in India.
  • In the last two years, the hiring of pilots witnessed an 88% rise, as per the data by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA).
The shortage of pilots and cabin crew has been affecting the Indian aviation industry for long.

This is in spite of having nearly 8,000 pilots over 650 commercial aircraft fleet. But at the rate at which commercial aircraft fleet is growing suggests that the country will need over 28,000 pilots over the next two decades.

But there is an existing crunch too, which has attracted 400 expats for the job. While Tata Vistara hired eight expat pilots, Indigo and Go Air have as many as 239 and 64 of them, respectively.


Needless to say, but pilots are the most expensive asset of airlines and are paid the highest as compared to airport staff, cabin crew and aircraft engineers.

“India is a case where there are many pilots who haven’t found jobs and there are airlines that haven’t found enough pilots. The bridge could well be a finishing school like in other professions,” Ameya Joshi, the founder of NetworkThoughts told CNBC.

In the last two years, hiring of pilots witnessed an 88% rise, as per the data by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA).


Yet, crew shortages are so bad that they are disrupting flight schedules. In February, IndiGo, India’s largest airline cancelled nearly 70 flights for a week - due to shortage of pilots.

On the other hand, Go Air suspended almost 20 flights.

Pilot hiring picks up


As a response to the dire need, the government has automated the process of issuing Commercial Pilot License — which is expected to benefit over 700 aspiring pilots.

As of December 2019, over 2,300 pilots were hired via recruitment exams conducted by the airlines this year — compared to 2,917 recruited in the last two years. IndiGo hired the most number of pilots at 1,088 followed by SpiceJet, Air Asia and Vistara, Businessline reported.

Air India which is facing its problems like excessive debt and a possible sell-off, is not hiring as much. Adding salt to the wound, the pilots union announced mass resignations after government decided to put up the national carrier on sale. Even as 120 pilots resigned in protest, but it hired merely 21 pilots in 2019 — down from 232 in 2017.


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