Skills shortage forces Air India to wet-lease

Struggling to operate fleet after rapid shortfall in skilled pilots.

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Air India is struggling to operate its fleet after a rapid shortfall in skilled pilots. The company is now seeking wet-leases on long and medium haul aircraft for its immediate needs.

The national carrier is looking at four long haul aircraft, two to be wet-leased for 11 months starting October 1 and two to be wet leased for 21 months starting October 1.

An Air India spokesman, who did not want to be named, said: “The reason we are wet-leasing is because Air India has a shortage of pilots and in particular we cannot get enough captains.”

Air India is also seeking up to five medium haul aircraft, three wet-leased for two years starting October 1 and two wet-leased for two years from March 1 2007.

In January, Air India issued a tender for 20 777 captains, six 747 captains, 40 737 captains and nine A310 captains. The spokesman said the airline had successfully recruited some foreign pilots, although it has failed to get all the captains it requires.

Richard Pinkham, an aviation analyst for the Asia Pacific region, said: “Staff shortages within the Middle East and other areas is causing pilots to be ‘poached’ from other countries, such as China and India, where wages are significantly lower.”

Air India also needs to increase its pilot workforce, because in November it takes delivery of the first of 18 Boeing 737-800s on order and in February next year it gets the first of 23 Boeing 777s it has on order.

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