The Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG), which represents around 450 pilots engaged in international operations and belonging to the National Aviation Company of India Limited (Air India), has proposed that the national carrier renegotiate the contracts of the nearly 175 foreigners employed by AI.
According to the guild, a renegotiation of the contracts — each of the expatriate pilot is paid around $13,500 for 21 days of availability per month — on local terms and ensuring a higher monthly utilisation could help the ailing AI save Rs.75 crore a year.
Stating that the contracts of foreign pilots — who chiefly fly AI’s Boeing 737s and 777s — are a financial burden, the guild questioned the need to provide them five-star hotel accommodation costing up to Rs.7,150 a day round the year, return business class tickets to commute anywhere, and chauffer-driven transport even when they are on non-flight duties.
In a letter, dated October 14 and addressed to the convener of the ‘Board Sub-Committee for Review of PLI (productivity linked incentives) and Flying Related Allowances,’ the IPG said the cost-to-company of these foreigners is phenomenally high compared to the average Indian pilot, despite their being junior to every Indian in the seniority list.
Besides Arvind Jhadav, AI Chairman and Managing Director, the members of the sub-committee are E.K. Bharat Bhushan and Prashant Shukul, Joint Secretaries in the Civil Aviation Ministry.
The saving on expatriate pilots is part of the cost-cutting measures totalling Rs. 452.8 crore annually, and interestingly from just the Operations department. The IPG said it hoped this cost-cutting and resultant saving will offset any need for a downward revision of allowances and perks of pilots.
The IPG said an annual savings of Rs.70 crore could be made by upgrading the Computerised Flight Planning and Despatch System, which would lead to more efficient route planning in terms of fuel and time saving; Rs.72 crore by automated planning and scheduling of worldwide cockpit crew movement (now done manually); Rs.16 crore by setting up online ground training centres for pilots at major bases; and Rs.72 crore or one per cent of the airline’s annual fuel bill by polishing and cleaning the aircraft’s exteriors regularly and reducing fuel burn due to reduced air friction at high speeds.