The present strength of the narrow-body fleet is 66, which is expected to grow to about 80 aircraft by March 2018.
The fresh hiring of 534 Airbus A320 pilots is in line with Air India's aircraft induction plans...
and aimed at overcoming the shortage which has many times led to cancellation of its flights at the last minute, say media reports.
Currently, Air India has 1,441 pilots, with 670 of them flying 66 A320 family aircraft. Besides, another 70 pilots are under training.
Air India's pilot strength will cross 2,000 by May this year when the recruitment exercise gets completed.
"We will be inducting 29 more A320s including 14 A320neos between April this year and March 2018. In line with this induction programme, we are recruiting 534 type-rated pilots as well on a contract basis," news agency PTI quoted an official as saying.
Type rating is a regulating agencies certification given to a pilot to fly a certain aircraft type that needs additional training that is very expensive.
Air India has added 66 A320 family aircraft in its fleet besides Boeing planes. It has already tied up with a Kuwaiti aircraft lessor to lease 14 A320neos, which are to be delivered by March 2017.
Air India would soon float tenders for leasing of 15 A320s to augment capacity.
"At the same time, we will also be phasing out some old classic A320s from the fleet. We expect our overall narrow body (A320 family) fleet to stand at around 75-80 aircraft by the end of March 2018," the report said.
Air India has changed hiring norms after a number of pilots quit and moved to private airlines after acquiring high high-cost type-rated training at its expenses.
"The new pilots joining Air India will have to sign a bond and submit bank guarantee totaling Rs 1 crore, which will be encashed if a pilot decides to quit the airline before the expiry of his contract," it said.
As many as 173 Air India pilots have resigned from the national carrier since 2012, with the maximum being those operating the narrow body Airbus A320 family aircraft.
Of these, 72 pilots operating the narrow-body Airbus A320 family fleet have resigned, while 38 pilots each of Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Boeing 777, eight of Boeing 747 and 17 of Boeing 737 fleet have quit between 2012 and October this year, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju had said during the Winter Session of Parliament. At present, the cost of training a pilot for an Airbus family of planes stands at Rs 4.01 lakh per pilot while the type rating cost per pilot comes to nearly Rs 23 lakh.
The financial health of Air India is at present not so good with the national carrier surviving on a Rs 30,000-crore bailout package approved in April 2012 under a turnaround plan.
Air India reported a net loss of Rs.5547.47 crore in 2014-15 with total revenues touching Rs.19781 crore. The loss was bigger than in the previous fiscal but the airline managed to reduce it from the 2012-13 figure of Rs.7559.74 crore.
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