Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Life of a pilot in COVID-19 times: Little flying, diminishing salary and high EMIs

A monthly payslip of Rs 7.5 lakh can buy a lot of luxuries. Hirendra Barua, a Senior Captain at a low-cost airline in the country, had all that. A BMW car, flat in a posh colony in Mumbai and business class tickets for family on international holidays.

But in May, Barua got a shock when the airline said it was restructuring his salary. Now he would get a gross monthly salary of Rs 1.25 lakh, which could increase as much as his earlier pay, but it depended on the flying hours.

"Though the airline had resumed services after May 25, when domestic flights re-started across the country, I have flown only one day till now. I don't see myself flying more than 30 to 40 hours a month," says Barua ruefully.

The lower flying time, as compared to 70 hours earlier, would mean that the senior pilot's pay could come down to as low as Rs 2.6 lakh a month. That, says Barua, would be barely enough to meet the EMI payments on the loans he has taken. Though he has savings that will be enough to meet monthly expenses till the end of the year, the aviator wonders if the aviation sector will bounce back by then.
Across airlines, senior pilots like Barua, have seen a dramatic cut in their pay scales. While those in IndiGo, the largest airline in the country, may see a trim of about 40 percent, their counterparts in GoAir have had to suffer a heavier cut of 65 percent.
Not that others have been spared. Pilots who had moved companies recently, are facing a tough time. And many of these are from Jet Airways, which had suspended operations in April 2019.
Many of these pilots, who were undergoing training, have seen their job terms getting tweaked, resulting in lower pays and allowances. For instance, at IndiGo, these pilots will see a cut of 50 percent in their salaries and a drastic reduction in flying hours.
"I know of Jet Airways pilots who had joined airlines in the Philippines, South Korea and Turkey. All of them have either been terminated from their jobs, or sent on leave without pay," says a senior pilot who himself was earlier flying for the Naresh Goyal-founded carrier. "Worse is that the pilots are stuck in these countries because of travel restrictions, and can't even get back home," he added.
03/05/20 Prince Mathews Thomas/moneycontrol
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