Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Surplus pilots, weak demand amid pandemic may force IndiGo to pause hiring

IndiGo, the largest airline in India, has been known to hire pilots in bulk given its expansion plans comprising over 600 incoming aircraft and an ambition for aggressive international rise. However, the unprecedented disruption caused due to COVID-19 pandemic seems to have forced the airline to hit the pause button on hiring and inducting pilots.

The airline is unlikely to induct new batch of pilots before early 2021 as around 400 junior first officers and 300 senior pilots—who are in transition—are still in line to complete their respective training and flying hours, CNBC-TV18 has learnt.

In fact, the pipeline of pilots include some who were inducted in late 2018-early 2019 and some who were earlier with now defunct Jet Airways, CNBC-TV18 has learnt from multiple sources.

While the airline, and the aviation industry at large, has witnessed a shortage of commanders in the past, COVID-19 is changing shortage into surplus for the near-term. The renegotiations regarding aircraft delivery period indicates that the issue will go beyond a period of just a few months.

Notably, IndiGo is the largest customer of Airbus as its cumulative neo order book comprises 730 A320neo family aircraft, of which order for 300 aircraft was placed in October 2019. As of March 2020, IndiGo had 262 aircraft in its fleet including 100 A320neo, 13 A321neo, 123 A320ceo and 25 ATRs. This means that IndiGo is yet to take deliveries of 616 A320neo family aircraft.

While the airline was adding an average one aircraft every week during 2019 (208 aircraft as of December 2018 and 257 aircraft as of December 2019), it added just five aircraft during January-March 2020 or about one aircraft every fortnight.
07/07/20 Anu Sharma/CNBC TV18

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