By phasing out expat pilots, SpiceJet is planning to save Rs 90 crore per annum. Foreign pilots employed by Indian airlines are paid in dollors. Not jut, SpiceJet, the falling rupee has made airlines in India to act in an area where they have dragged their feet for years - phasing out expat pilots. Now the low cost carrier SpiceJet has brought down its number of expat pilots, all of whom are commanders, from over 100 a year ago to just 25 now.
With an expat commander getting almost three times more than the average Indian commander's monthly pay of Rs 5 lakh, the airline is looking at saving Rs 90 crore per annum. Even the remaining 25 expat commanders are set to be eased out by the end of this calendar year. Airline sources said the expats are now only for the Bombardier Q-400 aircraft, as being a new plane in India, there are not enough desi pilots for it.
Sources said that the Boeing 737 fleet is being operated fully by Indian pilots for the past three months. Airlines spend more on expat pilots for mainly three reasons: They have to be paid in dollars apart from being provided with accommodation in India and free return ticket to their home countries every few months. SpiceJet was trying to phase out expats as per the aviation regulator's guidelines but the rupee's fall made it to expedite the process, said sources.
All Indian airlines have a significant number of expat pilots despite the fact that thousands of commercial pilot licence holders remain without a job even after spending upto Rs 30 lakh for training. Unlike Indian pilots, the expats don't join unions and in case the desi pilots go on strike, they give airlines the vital backup to operate a skeletal schedule.
But the falling rupee has made this cushion bit too expensive for Indian carriers, most of whom are financially distraught. Apart from lowering cost by phasing out expats, SpiceJet is also planning to start direct import of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) or jet fuel from next month.