Tuesday, May 02, 2017

These Indian pilots don't want to fly with their expat colleagues

New Delhi: Pilots at one of India's biggest airlines could stop flying with their expat colleagues because they're paid less.

The National Aviators Guild, a labor union representing more than 1,000 Indian pilots at Jet Airways, says it is taking a stand against discrimination. It says Indian pilots have to work longer hours for lower wages than pilots hired by the airline from overseas.

"[Expat pilots] work for eight weeks and get two weeks off," NAG President D. Balaraman told CNNMoney. "They're trying to make us work for 11 weeks to get the two weeks off, which we feel is unfair."

The union had directed its members to stop sharing a cockpit with the airline's expat pilots from Monday. It called off that strike over the weekend after being promised talks this week with airline management.

The threat of a strike hasn't gone away entirely and will depend on the outcome of those negotiations.

Jet Airways says it has to hire expats at a higher cost because Indian pilots won't fly certain aircraft in its fleet, such as Boeing 737s and ATR regional turboprops.

An airline spokesperson said it had to cover gaps caused by a shortage of skilled Indian pilots "many of whom do not regard [those aircraft] as a preferred career option."

According to the airline, only about 8% of its 2,000 pilots are expats. The spokesperson added that Jet Airways had hired more than 400 Indian pilots in the past 16 months.

Expat pilots are employed by several airlines in India, where the aviation industry is growing at almost 20% per year and could become the world's third-largest by 2020.
01/05/17 Rishi Iyengar/CNN Money/NBC-2