Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Life of an Indian pilot: Extra hours, high EMIs and a fat salary that's often delayed

The day hadn't ended well for Ayesha*, a pilot at one of India's low-cost airlines. Her final flight of the day was delayed by three hours, and embarrassed, she hadn't even waited to say bye to passengers, something that the 26-year-old liked to do. Ayesha was waiting at the tarmac when she was told that her taxi was not coming, and she would have to take the bus along with passengers to the terminal.

Avoiding eye contacts with fliers - lest someone asked her about the delay  - Ayesha waited impatiently for the bus to reach the terminal. The flight had landed past midnight, and it was now nearly 1 am. Ayesha just wanted to get back home and crash.

Then her phone rang.

"Report for the 6 am flight," said the manager who handled pilot rostering. Ayesha refused flat out.

But he insisted, saying that there was a shortage of pilots. "Please don't make me fly," Ayesha was now pleading. "I have been flying for six days, and it's my off tomorrow. I need to sort things at home," the pilot was almost begging now, unaware of all the eyes in the bus were on her.

The manager was unrelenting.  Ayesha pleaded, again and again. But it's of no use. She hung up. And as she stepped out of the bus, she heard the dreaded notification on her phone. She was on the 6am flight.

This was not the dream job that the junior flight officer had signed up for three years ago.

Miles away, Pratik,* a captain with a major Indian airline, was having problem managing his finances. Yes, he was paid well. Very well, in fact. Captains take home about Rs 8 lakh a month. But it is of little use if the salary is delayed, or is not paid in full.

It had been months since he got a full salary at a time, and that was showing in his bank balance. "I'm now forced to dip into my savings, to pay the EMI on my home loan," he says. He and his family live in Mumbai's Powai, in a posh colony where flats sell for Rs 5 crore upwards. He declined to say how much the EMI was, but says it runs into lakhs.
19/02/19 Prince Mathews Thomas/moneycontrol.com

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