india_pilots.jpgAs air transport constitutes a large and still growing industry it facilitates not only economic growth but also world trade, international investment and tourism.  The migration of pilots lies at the core of the on-going aviation industry globalization process. Job opportunities soar as airlines expand so the domestic skies become an attractive place for foreign pilots and India is among the most popular choices nowadays. experts point out, that nearly 500 foreign pilots are currently working in various Indian aviation companies. However, by 2013 the local government would like to make the Indian aviation industry independent from the expat pilots.

‘Of the 500 foreign pilots working in India, the majority is employed by Jet Airways (183), Indigo Airlines (90) and Spice Jet (88). One of the main reasons why airlines in the emerging markets such as India and China are desperate for foreign pilots is the long amount of time that it takes to prepare local specialists. Because of the growing demand and the experience foreign pilots bring, they are generally better paid than the domestic ones’ – commented Skaiste Knyzaite, the CEO at

An expat commander is paid around $12000 excluding flying allowances – about 40% more than an Indian commander with a similar experience is paid. The expat pilots who draw commuting contracts (6 weeks on with 2 weeks off or even 10 weeks on with 4 weeks off) enjoy accommodation provided by the company, and their taxes are paid by the company. What is more, foreign pilots have a 4 months’ holiday every year as compared to 30 to 45 days of leave an average Indian pilot is used to. An Indian pilot has to get his leave pre-approved. That’s often a difficult task due to the shortage of pilots in the country. experts have noticed that expats are able to fly 110-120 hours per month while the Indian pilots have the chance to fly about 75-80 hours per month only.

As concerns living conditions, the price of food and many other goods remains fairly low in India, which makes life easier for expats. Foreign pilots often enjoy better terms of employment, too. Their agreements oblige them to work with a company for the period of time ranging from one year to three years whilst their local colleagues usually sign 10-15-year long contracts.

Banning expat pilots from the country means that more Indian co-pilots will have the opportunity to get promoted as commanders. For example, Jet Airways has already decided not to hire foreign pilots in a bid to bring down escalating costs. But the country has a domestic supply of approximately 3,000 pilots who have done the necessary training, are unemployed and inexperienced.

‘Even if foreign pilots will be finally banned from the Indian aviation industry, government and airlines management should be grateful because of their important role in helping the Indians to learn more about international flight routes and aviation English,’ said Skaiste Knyzaite.

Ms. Skaiste has added that the best qualified and best performing pilots should be paid the highest, regardless of their nationality. However, if the industry wants to achieve independence from its reliance on professional pilots trained abroad, it will have to tackle domestic issues like fake pilot licenses and start auditing the country’s 40 flying schools.

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