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Air India pilots get sky-high salaries

You could be funding the fat paycheques of some pilots famous for going on strikes. Tushar Srivastava reports. It pays to fly Maharaja class

india Updated: Jul 11, 2012 08:02 IST
Tushar Srivastava
Air India

Striking-Air-India-pilots-hold-placards-during-a-hunger-strike-in-New-Delhi-AFP-Photo-Sajjad-Hussain

You could be funding the fat paycheques of some pilots famous for going on strikes.

Many pilots of loss making Air India (AI), which is surviving on repeated bailouts from taxpayers, earn more than the chief executives of some of India's most profitable companies.

HT has obtained a list of the state-owned carrier’s highest paid employees for fiscal year 2010-11. On the list of 335 were mostly management pilots (who hold managerial posts) and senior pilots who made between Rs 60 lakh to over Rs 1 crore per annum – a monthly salary of at least Rs 5 lakh. Many pilots are just high school graduates.

What’s more Air India’s pilots earn more than their counterparts in market leader Jet Airways and profit making budget airline IndiGo. This when Air India has a debt of over Rs 50,000 crore and accumulated losses in excess of Rs 20,000 crore. "The airline cannot survive a day if the government withdraws support but that hasn’t stopped it from giving a royal treatment to its pilots," a senior AI official said on condition of anonymity.

The top four earners for the year, whose salary crossed Rs 1 crore each, were all from erstwhile Indian Airlines (IA). They do not operate long-haul international flights that typically entitle one to higher perks.

"This should be an eye opener for the AI management. Their own pilots are milking them dry," said Captain Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation expert and a former IA pilot whose last drawn salary in 1989 was Rs 10,600 per month. Such high salaries, Ranganathan said, indicate towards a clear manipulation and nexus between Air India officials and pilots.

More than 15 employees in the list obtained by Hindustan Times earned more than Rs 90 lakh a year while there were more than 65 whose annual compensation package was more than Rs 80 lakh.

By comparison, the annual package of SD Shibulal, CEO, Infosys Technologies was Rs 83 lakh in 2011-12 while its chairman emeritus, NR Narayana Murthy received Rs 38.2 lakh. RC Bhargava, chairman Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, earned Rs 35.6 lakh.

Ranganathan said many management pilots spend most of their time in simulator training where allowances are much higher than actual flying. "The annual salary bill for Air India is around Rs 3,200 crore and a major portion of this goes towards paying pilot salaries," another Air India official said.

Poll: Are the high salaries of Air India pilots justified?

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