Poaching trouble for Indian carriers as pilots head to West Asia

  • Tushar Srivastava, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: May 27, 2015 23:28 IST

India is the new hunting ground for cash-rich Gulf carriers who have been hiring pilots, cabin crew and engineers in droves to cater to their ever increasing fleets.

Sources said Gulf carriers – primarily Etihad and Qatar Airways – have poached over a 100 pilots, mainly senior captains, from India in the last six months. IndiGo, sources said, has been the worst affected. The airline said it has lost 31 pilots in the last six months, but sources said the number is significantly higher.

SpiceJet has seen 25 pilots quit while 30 pilots have reportedly put in their papers at GoAir. Other domestic carriers, too, have seen resignations from their cockpit crew.

As reported by HT, SpiceJet raised salaries of its Q400 captains last week to keep foreign airlines at bay. “A majority of those who have quit have joined one or the other Gulf carrier,” said a source.

The situation is so bad that a leading low-cost carrier is learnt to have requested a Gulf airline to not hire its pilots.It is the perks offered by Gulf carriers – tax free salary, company housing, footing of school and medical expenses – that makes them so attractive.

Even cabin crew and engineers are in huge demand. So much so that airlines have urged the government to formulate rules for cabin crew and engineers, on the same lines as pilots, who are required to serve a six-month notice period before joining another airline.

“Working in Gulf allows flying wide-body aircraft which always remains very attractive. Job stability is another major driver as Indian carriers continue to remain vulnerable given their financial constraints. Except IndiGo and may be Vistara, growth in other carriers remains limited,” said Kapil Kaul, South Asia CEO of Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.

Gulf carriers have managed to corner the biggest pie of the Indian international market; around 40% of all international traffic from India is West Asia-bound.

“Job security is better and cities like Dubai are far more cosmopolitan than many regional Indian cities and offer a higher standard of living,” said London-based aviation expert Saj Ahmad.

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