Friday, February 23, 2018

Air Pocket: Why Jet Airways’ pilot loss could mean actual losses

Mumbai: With chances of nearly 50 senior pilots moving out of Jet Airways, the airline could be in trouble as it faces a shortage of captains. Every flight must have at least one captain and Jet’s present pool of pilots includes about 831 captains, of whom only about 330 fly wide-bodied aircraft. It is critical for the carrier to have captains to fly wide-bodied aircraft as it is hugely dependent on its overseas operations for revenues and profits. Even before this, Jet was already having trouble with first officers over pay cuts. The pilot count at about 1,734 today (according to industry sources, as the airline does not disclose these numbers) is down from about 2,000 in July last year, and falling. FE has learnt that the majority of the 50 senior pilots is headed to Vistara, the Tata-Singapore Airlines joint venture, which is in expansion mode.The trouble between junior pilots and the management started in July last year after the management wrote to them suggesting they either take a 30-50% cut in their salaries or stipend or leave. The move followed excess hiring of about 200 first officers on an inaccurate demand forecasting by its team. This was reported by the media at the time.

A pilot at Jet said on condition of anonymity that the functioning of the airline had changed with sudden changes being introduced. “They are also a breach of the contract that was entered into by the pilots and the airline,” the pilot added. He said today pilots do not want to fly after their duty hours if there is a shortage of hands as was the case earlier. Jet declined to comment for the story. On an investor call earlier this month, Jet CFO Amit Agarwal said the airline was taking a series of steps to improve its on-time performance (OTP). Agarwal said the OTP had improved in January and February compared with that in the December quarter and that this is the ongoing focus area for the airline.
In response of FE’s query to Vistara on the subject, the airline said, “As we continue to scale up our business and operations, it is only natural for us to hire more talent, including cockpit crew. As every other airline, most applications for technical positions, such as that for pilots, come to us from within the industry. We’re glad that in a short span of three years, our success has drawn great interest from people within and outside the aviation ecosystem, helping us become an employer of choice.”
The non-cooperative stance of several pilots is impacting the on-time performance of Jet.

“An airline running out of pilot flying hours is symptomatic of deep trouble within that airline and there is widespread discontent among Jet pilots and we might see some who will look at opportunities with other domestic carriers,” said an airline executive not wanting to be named. In aviation industry parlance, pilot shortage is meant to indicate an airline not having pilots with adequate flying hours available to continue flying. In the early 2000s, the entire aviation industry had struggled with pilot shortage due to the flying hour restriction. Regulations today mandate that a pilot can fly for only 1,000 hours in every consecutive 365 days.
23/02/18 Financial Express

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