: 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 the 187{+t}{+h}board meeting of the AIX held here on Thursday.

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

At present, the AIX engaged 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.

Pay revision

The airline is also working on revising the pay packet of the commanders, said Mr. D’Souza. The board 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. The AIX will soon plan domestic flight schedules to supplement the Air India schedule. As part of this drive, the existing flight routes will be consolidated.

The airline will augment the existing number of officers at the corporate headquarters in Kochi by the first week of January, with a customer service unit and airport services group. The State-based call centre will become operational by the first quarter of next year, said Pushpinder Singh, Deputy COO of AIX. Senior level officers from operations, flight safety, commercial, finance and flight coordination will be based at the corporate headquarters here.

Rohit Nandan, chairman of Air India Charters Ltd, chaired the board meeting, which was attended by Rajasekhara Reddy, joint secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation; the former Air Chief Marshal Fali Major; S. Venkat, Director (Finance) Air India; K.M. Unni, Director (Engineering), Air India; and Deepak Brara, Director (Commercial).