Amid increased attempts by Gulf carriers to poach highly-skilled commanders from India, the country’s biggest airline by market share, IndiGo, has given a salary hike of up to 13% to its pilots.
The hike, which translates into an increase of around Rs 1 lakh a month for many pilots, comes at a time when InterGlobe Aviation, IndiGo’s holding company, has filed draft prospectus with the market regulator for its initial public offering (IPO), which will be the largest by an airline.
IndiGo has 1,448 pilots. “The average increase in salaries for pilots is 8.1%. It may vary for different categories of pilots,” said an IndiGo spokesperson. “IndiGo announced increments for its non-crew employees two months ago, while for the pilots and cabin crew last week.”
Following the latest hike, sources said IndiGo has become the best paymaster among Indian carriers.
Industry experts, however, said that the increased poaching by Gulf carriers was a key reason for Indian airlines to raise salaries of its pilots.
Budget carrier SpiceJet, as first reported by HT on May 25, raised salaries of its Q400 captains to keep foreign and domestic airlines at bay.
Cash-rich Gulf carriers have been hiring pilots, cabin crew and engineers in droves to cater to their ever increasing fleets.
As reported by HT on May 28, Gulf carriers — mainly 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, however, maintained that only 68 of its pilots had been hired by foreign carriers in the last 24 months. “That is 4.7% over a period of 24 months,” it said.
“Tax-free salary, company housing, schooling and medical expenses borne by the airline are some of the perks that make Gulf carriers so attractive for pilots,” said a senior pilot with a full-service carrier.
Sources said the situation was so bad that a leading low-cost carrier is learnt to have requested a Gulf airline not to hire its pilots.
Airlines have, in fact, urged the government to formulate rules similar to those for pilots, who are required to serve a six month notice period prior to joining another airline, for cabin crew and engineers as well.