Careers in aviation: Short-term blip will not eclipse growth prospects in the long haul

Chitra Narayanan New Delhi | Updated on April 23, 2019 Published on April 23, 2019

Indian aviation is likely to grow multi-fold as more airports get built and more capacity is added by airlines. This file photo shows cabin crew at the Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru   -  NS

But with over 20,000 Jet employees facing job losses, recruitment this year may be unenthusiastic

A full-fledged argument is on at the Pandey household in Jaipur. Sixteen-year-old Jharna Pandey, who has her heart set on becoming a pilot after her Class 12 board exams next year, is being dissuaded by her parents, who want her to think of another career option.

The news about the grounding of Jet Airways, which may render over 20,000 people jobless, has worried the Pandeys to no end.

Costly training

Cost is another factor. Training for a commercial pilot will set them back by ₹1 crore at least, they reckon. Apart from the ₹40-50 lakh fees charged by the training academy, you need to get type rated to be eligible to fly different types of aircraft, which is another big cost.

But the Pandeys are lucky as they still have a year to decide. By that time, industry experts say, the jobs should be back in aviation. Not so lucky are those finishing their cadet programmes this year, who may get a job after a bit of struggle, but not at expected salaries.

“It will be a temporary impact,” says K Sudarshan, Managing Partner, EMA Partners India, a global executive search company.

The aviation business is going to continue to grow in India as more airports get built and more capacity is added by airlines, he says, adding that there is an acute need for skilled manpower in the sector.

“There is going to be a bit of a chaos in the sector for the next six months,” admits Suresh Nair, General Manager, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh for AirAsia Group. But, at the same time, he says, he is sure there is enough opportunity for people to be employed.

The maths is simple, point out those in aviation circles. You need at least 200 people per aircraft — this includes four sets of crew, including pilots, plus the ground handlers. Given the number of orders placed for new planes, there is opportunity for sure.

Need for pilots

Indeed, a report by the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) estimated that India will need about 17,000 pilots by 2028, which means an infusion of at least 1,800 pilots annually.

However, Jet’s downfall and a series of other problems the sector is facing — rise in oil prices (up 33 per cent in the last few months), the grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, and the closure of airspace over Pakistan — have hit the sector hard, in turn affecting recruiting sentiments.

But, as Nair points out, the Indian aviation sector has been seeing upheavals every five years or so. It has witnessed airlines such as ModiLuft, Damania and Kingfisher closing shop, affecting those working in the sector. Yet, the demand for pilots and ground staff has only multiplied over the years.

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Published on April 23, 2019
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