Pilot shortage crippling Asia’s biggest budget airline

Published February 18, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

IndiGo, an Indian budget carrier, is canceling dozens of flights every day over the next two months as it struggles to find enough skilled pilots following an aggressive expansion binge, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Pilots at Asia’s biggest low-cost airline by market value have exhausted their annual limit on flying hours earlier than expected, leading to the chaos, the people said, asking not to be identified as they are not authorized to speak to the media. IndiGo declined to comment on pilot shortage.

The airline, which controls more than 40 percent of the domestic market in India, scrapped as many as 49 flights on Wednesday, and said it will cancel 30 flights a day until the end of the month. Those disruptions will continue through March, as the airline adjusts its crew rosters, IndiGo, operated by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd., said in a statement, citing weather conditions and restrictions at various airports that “resulted in extended duty times” for crew, forcing a re-roster.

The problems at IndiGo, the biggest customer for Airbus SE’s A320neo jets, follow chaos at China Airlines Ltd. last week, when cockpit crew went on a strike complaining of overwork, leaving thousands of passengers stranded during a peak travel season in the region. India needs 17,000 new pilots in the next decade, according to Kapil Kaul, New Delhi-based chief executive officer at consultancy CAPA India.

The cancellations started late last week when New Delhi and its surroundings were lashed by a hailstorm, sending airline schedules haywire. A planned runway closure in the southern city of Bengaluru and commercial capital Mumbai added to the mess. (Bloomberg)