Aviation sector awaits successful vaccination drive; crawls towards normalcy
With the nationwide mass inoculation drive against Covid-19 underway, the aviation sector, which was severely affected last year with a two-month halt in flights followed by restrictions on domestic and international operations, has begun crawling towards some signs of normalcy.
Last month, low-budget airline Indigo hired 32 new pilots who are currently being trained with 25 newly purchased jets, said an industry expert. “We have opened hiring for ground and operational staff,” an IndiGo official confirmed.
To survive the economic impact of Covid-19 lockdown, all airlines had, in 2020, adopted cost-cutting measures such as layoffs, salary roll-backs or cuts, and leave-without-pay programmes. Private airport operators had also issued pay cuts to their employees.
TeamLease Services, an employment portal that deals with entry-level and blue-collar jobs in all metropolitan cities, said while the impact of Covid-19 pandemic slowed down the pace of growth in 2020, the aviation industry is treading cautiously towards its growth trajectory.
“While aviation industry salaries are better than national averages, the uncertainty around job longevity is very high too. Jobs of Indian pilots, flight attendants and ground staff took a severe hit during Covid,” said Deval Singh, business head, mobilisation (hiring), TeamLease Services.
Singh added, “While India Inc. will see an average salary hike of 7% in 2021, most businesses seem to feel confident about their recovery and want to retain their talent. But the aviation industry, in comparison, will see a muted hike that will be less than the national average, owing to the fact that their road to recovery will be longer than other industries.”
Stating that there was no reduction in 4,000-plus staff strength at Vistara during the pandemic, the airline’s spokesperson said, “In fact, we have been hiring for select operational roles, replacements of voluntary exits, strategic needs, etc. We will continue to invest in resources in line with our expansion plans.”
Although domestic airlines are currently operating at 80% of their pre-Covid levels, passenger footfalls have recorded an increase with the roll-out of vaccines. Air traffic in January was recorded at 7.334 million; it was 7.327 million in December 2020 and 6.354 million in November 2020.
Experts said the ministry of civil aviation is estimated to create 1,058 jobs this month which signals growing optimism in the industry.
“Indian aviation sector is a critical enabler for India’s endeavour towards the $5 trillion economy. Financial year 2021-22, will witness a robust 78% year-on-growth in domestic air passengers, owing to the low base of 2020-21,” TeamLease said.
In another indication that the aviation industry has resumed the recruitment process, Dr GK Chaukiyal, head of academics of Rajiv Gandhi National Aviation University, an autonomous public central university in Amethi, said 25% students have been hired as operation staff in Hyderabad and Delhi in both commercial and cargo airlines.
“Our students who completed their internships at Delhi and Mumbai airports have been hired by airlines and airports for operations and security-related jobs at the entry level,” said Chokyal. “Currently, companies in the aviation sector are preferring freshers to avoid paying higher salaries. Recruitment process will fasten only when flights start operating at 100% and after 30-40% Indians are vaccinated.”
The Indian aviation industry is among the fastest growing aviation markets in the world. The country has 100 operational airports at present, and the government has also announced development of 200 airports in the next couple of years including airports, heliports, seaports and advanced landing grounds.
Industry experts, however, said it will take at least six more months for airlines and airports to witness footfalls near pre-Covid levels.
CS Subbiah, former chief executive officer of Alliance Air, said, “When we are not even allowing flights to operate at their full capacity (the government has allowed airlines only 80% of their flights’ capacity), how can the traffic reach pre-Covid levels unless the state governments ease their respective restrictions (like mandatory negative RT-PCR test report) and more people are successfully vaccinated?”