Air Transport World

Brighter skies for India's Airlines: the country's carriers are emerging from the recent downturn leaner and more business-focused.(Analysis)(Industry overview)

IF THE RUSH FOR PILOTS IS AN INDICATOR, THE AIRLINE INDUSTRY IS alive and well in India. Local pilot groups had asserted themselves enough over the past few years to lobby the Directorate General of Civil Aviation against the hiring of foreign flight crew. Airlines are supposed to end all contracts with expatriate pilots by July 2011. On the whole, many carriers that were cutting capacity and reeling under aggregate industry losses of close to $1.7 billion in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2010, were not too unhappy about the prospect of sending the higher-paid expats packing.


But the picture is changing. In the last week of September, airline officials met with DGCA chief Nasim Zaidi, spelling out alterations in their business plans. They said there is a shortage of senior captains, and most of them are reviewing expansion plans that had been put on ice. "They now expect to induct more than 150 aircraft in the next five years and will need close to 1,500 pilots according to current estimates," says a DGCA spokesperson. "They want us to issue a FATA [Foreign Aircrew Temporary Authorization] for five years and ease security clearances for the expats."

Domestic passenger traffic grew 19.3% in the April-August period (the latest for which data are available) compared to last year. This is still shy of the heady 25%-plus growth the industry saw in 2008, but optimism is certainly back in the air.


India has six domestic carriers with national operations, almost all of which are trying to get back into shape through financial recapitalization and operational restructuring in preparation for the traffic rush expected from a GDP that is galloping forward at 8%-plus every year. Three of them--Jet Airways, Air India and Kingfisher Airlines--are full-service operators while IndiGo, SpiceJet and Go Airways are lCCs. …

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