In what looks like a mass exodus of pilots, state-owned Air India has seen over 120 A320 first officers resigning from the airline in the past 3-4 months.
In aviation, the first officer is the second pilot of an aircraft, also referred to as the co-pilot, who occupies the right-hand seat in a cockpit.
The resignations can be attributed to low pay, no career progression and ready availability of jobs in other airlines, The Times of India reported.
“These pilots were hired at a very low salary. The difference in their current salary structure and market rate would be more than Rs 1 lakh (per month). Then again, the salary isn’t paid on time. It’s paid anytime between the tenth or twentieth day of a month. These pilots have heavy loans, taken for their training, to repay," the report quoted a source as saying.
“Another issue is that of promotion. The industry average for a first officer to be promoted to a commander is 3 years. But in Air India, that is not likely, at least in the next 3-5 years," the source added.
An Air India spokesperson confirmed that a few A320 first officers have resigned, but didn’t give an exact number. “Few first officers have resigned in the past months. They were on contract," said the airline spokesperson.
The exit of these pilots, however, has not hit flight operations yet as Air India has a surplus of first officers, according to the report. An AI official was quoted as saying that the airline has about 2,000 on-contract A320 first officers. Though, the mass resignations can be seen as Air India’s failure to retain the talent it had been training.
“These first officers were taken on a five-year fixed term contract. Most of them joined with only about 250 hours of flying experience, but they quit with 3,000 hours or so. The cost to AI is that of experienced crew leaving as the airline took so much effort to bring them up to a certain level," said a source. “We’ve been feeling bad, all the good guys are leaving. We’ve spent time training them," added a senior commander.