: The Air India Express (AIX) has set a timeframe of five years to fill the shortage of commanders (or pilots) as part of the drive to make optimum use of its fleet. The decision was taken at its 187{+t}{+h}board meeting held here on Thursday.

Addressing journalists after the meeting, AIX Chief Operating Officer Ansbert D’Souze said getting more pilots was the first step towards streamlining connectivity.

At present, the AIX engages only 180 commanders against the required 250, out of which 166 are on deputation from Air India. The AIX has also set the timeframe of five years for severing “the umbilical chord” with Air India.

The AIX currently has four trainer commanders and is planning to bring in nine more, mostly from abroad, with a long-term goal of creating an in-house team of trainer commanders. Instructors have also been issued to upgrade the senior commanders as trainer commanders. Once the recruitment of 250 pilots is completed, the company will be able to operate targeted 11 hours a day.

The airline is also working on revising the pay packet of the commanders, he said. The meeting decided to take measures to improve the emoluments and working conditions of commanders to make it comparable with the best industry standards. Advertisements calling for new recruitments of commanders will be issued soon. At any given point of time, 17 flights out of its present capacity of 21 will be operating and the AIX is planning to acquire 14 more flights within the next three years to increase its fleet strength to 35.