Mumbai: Ongoing privatisation and mounting losses have not deterred the flag carrier Air India from adding to the already-bloated workforce, as it's in the process of hiring around 270 co-pilots in the reserved category.
Sources in the know of the development also say the airline has created a new post of chief pilot as well despite it already having two somewhat similar positions--director of operations and executive director of operations--being manned by two senior pilots. Air India has, however, defended the hiring plan, citing operational and regulatory requirements.
The massive pilot recruitment comes on the back of hiring of 500 cabin crew by the state-run carrier weeks before government floated a preliminary information memorandum inviting bidders to buy 76 per cent stake.
Government will also exit the low-cost international subsidiary Air India Express and its 50 per cent stake in the ground handling joint venture AISATS. The rest of the stake is held by SATS or Singapore Airport Terminal Services.
"Air India is in the process of adding 270 co-pilots when such crew is already in excess. And this hiring is being done in the reserved category and that too at a time when there is a big question mark on the issue of retention of the workforce post-privatistion," airline sources said.
Air India has 11,214 permanent employees as of December 2017. These include 2,056 on deputation to other companies and agencies. It also has 2,913 on contract and 2,661 on deputation from other group companies as per the government memorandum on privatisation. Sources also alleged that the airline has recently created two ED-level posts in the IT and civil departments.
"The creation of a new post for civil (department) is beyond comprehension as the airline is in the process of getting rid of its real estate and it can't be understood why there has to be a post of for such work," they said.
Moreover, the airline is now creating the post of chief pilot though there are already two occupants who are in charge of flight operations, sources alleged. "Interestingly, one of the three contenders for the post is a pilot who had failed the pre-and post-flight alcohol tests when he was the flight operations inspector and was suspended by the DGCA," they alleged.
Responding to the allegations, Air India in an e-mail told PTI that "the post of chief pilot is not a new and is named as 'fleet captain' as designated by the DGCA.
"The selection process for this post is carried out as per the regulatory requirements and company policy and interviews for the post were held on April 23, 2018," Air India chief spokesperson said in the e-mail. On the hiring of so many pilots, the statement said that Air India being a state-run entity is governed by the Presidential directives.
"Keeping this and operational requirements in view, a special recruitment drive is on and the airline is in the process for filling up the existing backlog of vacancies of pilots," it added. The statement also said "no new posts have been created," at the airline.