In a huge setback for national carrier Air India (AI), eight senior Boeing 787 Dreamliner pilots, on whom the airline had spent about Rs 40 lakh each on training, have resigned.
Senior AI officials said the resignations had come as a big shock for them and were apprehensive that more could follow.
Six of them, sources said, are headed to budget carrier SpiceJet, whose flight operations chief, SPS Suri, was previously AI’s head of operations.
“Two pilots have already joined SpiceJet and are doing their command training in South Africa. The rest are serving their notice periods,” a source said.
“It’s a big loss. We trained them abroad at a huge expense in 2012. Training a single pilot costs anywhere between Rs 30-40 lakh. And during the training period, which can extend to a few months, the services of a pilot cannot be used for flying purposes,” said an AI source.
AI spokesperson did not offer comments for the story.
Officials said this was another example of poor planning. “A pilot should stay on fleet for a minimum of 5-7 years to justify the expenses involved. With no security bond or contractual obligation, B787 pilots are at the liberty to leave,” said an official.
“For a pilot, what matters most is career progression. All those who have resigned are co-pilots, but had an average 4,000 hours of flying experience, while you can become a captain with half that experience in a private airline. While they were flying on premium routes like Paris, Milan and Rome, progression opportunities were limited,” said an AI pilot, who did not wish to be named.