Pilots, cabin crew recruitments up by over 80% as airlines expand operations

Forum Gandhi Mumbai | Updated on December 24, 2019 Published on December 24, 2019

File photo   -  REUTERS

Despite severe headwinds in the aviation sector, the recruitment of pilots and staff crew by airlines has gone up substantially in the past two years.

According to data released by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA), the hiring of pilots has gone up by 88.4 per cent while cabin crew recruitment saw rise of 82.8 per cent.

The past financial year has been very eventful starting with the fluctuation of the rupee, high ATF costs, grounding of Boeing 737 Max, the possible demise of Jet Airways and the potential disinvestment of state-run Air India and the overall economic slowdown. At the same time, several airlines have placed huge aircraft orders, expanded their operation network and hired expeditiously to meet the demands of a growing passenger base.

According to the MOCA data reviewed by BusinessLine, as of December, 2,301 pilots were recruited via recruitment exams held by scheduled airlines. In comparison, 1,221 and 1,696 pilots recruited in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

With 1,088 pilots hired in 2019, IndiGo remained at the top of the ladder of recruitment which was 148 per cent higher than in 2017. SpiceJet hired 398 pilots compared to 143 pilots in 2017. Air Asia hired 246 pilots which is 173 per cent higher than in 2017. Vistara too hired 224 pilots which is 194 per cent higher than that of 2017.

State-run Air India’s pilot recruits dropped from 232 pilots in 2017 to 21 pilots in 2019. GoAir had hired 109 and 275 pilots in 2017 and 2018 respectively, but in 2019, the airline only hired 179 pilots.

Nicolas Dumoulin, MD, Michael Page India said that on a macro level, the overall capacity and operations in the industry had increased. “Jet Airways ceased its operations about eight months ago, giving Vistara, SpiceJet, and IndiGo an opportunity to ramp up their capacity, operations, and recruitment. There has also been an increase in domestic travel.”

Aircraft orders

Currently, 700 odd planes of various manufacturers are operated in India. Low-cost carrier, IndiGo earlier this year had announced firm orders of 300 Airbus aircraft and SpiceJet had placed an order of 205 Boeing aircraft. Full-service carrier, Vistara ordered 50 aircraft from the Airbus A320neo family and announced that it will double its fleet by March 2020.

A former HR official with the defunct Jet Airways explained that “the airline’s expansion plans are planned a year in advance. One may not see the aircraft inducted at the moment, but they need to train a pilot a year prior to her/him actually being onboard.”

According to experts, there is space for more jobs in the airline industry. On average, for each flight, an airline needs two pilots and at least nine-cabin crews. India currently has over 9,370 pilots as of December 2019 and 15,412 cabin crew.

Speaking about the global pilot shortage, Mark D Martin, Founder & CEO Martin Consulting, said: “Globally, there is a need for 1,10,000 pilots. Markets like Dubai and Qatar and India are struggling. India needs about 8,000 more commanders,” he explained.

However, currently, the age-gap between a captain and the first officer is approximately 35 years. “The surge is good but on the flip side, the pilots that are being hired are at the entry-level. They end up being on the right side of the cockpit and the transition to the being the pilot takes a lot of time.” It needs at least 3000-4000 hours of flying to be promoted. According to him, airlines need to speed up the time of this transition in India given that our sector is growing.

Cabin crew recruitment

In 2019, around 5,037 cabin crew were employed in comparison to 2,754 in 2017. Interestingly, most of the cabin crew hired were females with 4,115 in 2019 compared to 2,389 in 2017.

IndiGo has an all-female crew. With 1,290 recruits, the LCC hired the most number of cabin crew members as of December 2019. However in 2018, IndiGo had hired 2,453; almost double than that of 2019. SpiceJet hired approximately 1,300 crew members (675 in 2018).

GoAir hired over 800 crew members which was 181 per cent higher than that of 2018 and Air India hired 250 odd members compared to 400 the previous year.

Martin explained that the number of recruits as the cabin crew is due to attrition. “Not everyone is into core aviation, some move out quickly from being cabin crew to ground staff or other hospitality offers.”

He further added that those who stick around in the aviation industry are now getting hired by airlines in the Middle-East as they are “always looking at Indian crews.”

“As the experienced crew goes out, the companies tend to hire. It is all balancing out itself,” Martin explained.

According to Dumoulin, next year hiring in the aviation industry will be stable. But he stressed upon the fact that there “is definitely need for more capacity but there are constraints at the airports which need to be solved.”

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Published on December 24, 2019
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