Tuesday, December 27, 2011

IndiGo asks govt to relax rules for hiring expat pilots

New Delhi: The country's second largest private carrier by market share, IndiGo, has asked the government to relax the rules for hiring expat pilots under Foreign Aircrew Temporary Authorisation (FATA). The proposal, if approved, would allow the carrier to engage experienced pilots quitting crisis-ridden Kingfisher Airlines.

“The airline has written to the civil aviation ministry for waiver of additional security clearance and for transfer of FATA in respect of expat pilots flying in India," industry sources told FE.

With the low-cost airline expanding its fleet by adding almost one aircraft every month, it needs commander-level pilots. The airline, which currently operates with 49 airplanes, is expanding its international operations to the West Asia and Southeast Asian countries.

While there is over-supply of entry-level pilots in the country, the industry depends on foreign pilots at commander-level, having experience of flying commercial jets. As per an estimate, there are currently 450 expat pilots holding FATA.

"IndiGo's request is fair. This is a long pending demand of several airlines. Expat pilots are hired by airlines only after getting all government clearances such as security. When they want to join another airline, the FATA should be transferred since the pilot is already security-cleared," said Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) India head Kapil Kaul said.

As per the existing rules, an expat pilot has to go back to his own country after completing his term with the Indian carrier and re-apply to a rival airline from there. In case the rival airline plans to hire them, they have to again go for security clearance and medical test, among others, adding to procedural delays.

In the last few months nearly, 140 Kingfisher pilots have either quit or given resignation notice to the company. Rival carriers want these pilots to hire as sufficient availability of senior pilots allows them to offer lower salaries. Private carriers are expected to add as many as 30 aircraft in 2012.

Since a commercial pilot has to serve at least six months of notice as per the regulatory guidelines, the recruitment process takes several months.

"When the government is so strict with their own pilots, there is no reason it should be lenient for expat pilots," former president of National Aviators' Guild (NAG) president Girish Kaushik said.

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