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More demand than supply of talent in aviation sector: TeamLease data

There is a shortage of captains, maintenance staff, route scheduling experts & productivity planners.

Updated: Apr 02, 2019, 07.26 PM IST
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The sector is staring at a deficit of 500 pilots in 2019 against the 1,300 the airlines have on the roster now.
MUMBAI | NEW DELHI: India’s aviation industry may be passing through turbulence because of the troubles at Jet Airways, but it is not a mayday call for professionals working with top airliners. Beyond cyclical headwinds, airliners are grappling with a gaping shortfall of talent, data from staffing firm TeamLease Services suggest.

The sector is staring at a deficit of 500 pilots in 2019 against the 1,300 the airlines have on the roster now. There is a dearth of cabin crew as well—1,350 short of the optimum 4,900. To handle duties on the ground, there are only 9,200 personnel, compared with the requirement of 15,800, TeamLease data scrolls put together for ET reveal.

“All three job roles are among the projected high-demand jobs in the Indian aviation industry,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder of TeamLease Services. The current projections point to higher demand for aviation jobs than supply, and cannot be satisfied with low and slow entry-level rate, she said.

“With most airlines in expansion mode and looking to add more than 100 aircraft through the end of 2020, we believe that the industry could add up to 18,000 jobs (direct and indirect) across levels and functions in the same time period,” said Paul Dupuis, managing director at Randstad India.

It may sound paradoxical that an industry going through rough weather is facing a talent shortfall. While there are headwinds from high aviation fuel prices and taxes that are hurting the margins of all airlines, Jet Airways is troubled by heavy debt. But experts said the unprecedented fleet expansion by India’s airliners has kept the demand for talent more than the supply.

Take the case of IndiGo, the market leader which had to trim its flight schedules due to a shortage of pilots. If experts are to be believed, IndiGo’s competitors too are not quite well-staffed to expand routes.

IndiGo, which is facing acute shortage of commanders due to aggressive fleet expansion, hired about 100 Boeing 737 commander-level pilots from Jet Airways. But that may not be enough.

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Full-service carrier Vistara hired more than 1,000 people in fiscal 2018-19 to meet its fleet expansion plans. A Vistara spokesperson said the company is expecting the delivery of 56 new planes by 2023.

IndiGo and SpiceJet did not respond to ET’s queries.

There is a huge shortage of captains, maintenance staff, route planning/scheduling experts, productivity planners, etc., said R Suresh, founder of boutique search and consulting firm INSIST Executive Search. In several of these areas, there is a lot of demand for expat professionals due to the paucity of local talent.

Industry experts said because of the huge demand-supply mismatch, the employment scenario in the aviation sector will continue to be positive, though the ongoing crisis may create a short-term blip in hiring sentiment.

Training academies, meanwhile, are expanding their capacities to meet the rising demand for airlines professionals.

Around 250 pilots are trained in India every year while the industry needs as many as 900, said YN Sharma, chief executive of Chimes Aviation Academy, which trains pilots. The institute, which trains around 80 pilots every year, plans to expand capacity to train 120 pilots in next 4-5 months.

KS Kohli, chairman of Frankfinn Institute of Air Hostess Training, said airline companies including IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir have recruited around 7,000 students from its campus in 2018-19. Of these, around 2,500 were for cabin crew positions.

India's aviation sector is expected to witness ?35,000-crore investment in the next four years, according to industry estimates. Domestic capacity addition (available seat kilometres or the passenger-carrying capacity) grew 10.5% in February, according to a report by stock broking firm Prabhudas Liladhar.

However, experts said the moment there is a cash flow crisis, employee salary is the first thing to take a hit in airlines. “Staff salary forms about 30% of the non-fuel expenses for an airlines company, which is something that could come under stress in troubled times,” said Suresh of INSIST Executive Search.

In such situations, those who are looking to move out will see enough options if they aren’t in aviationspecific roles, said head hunters.

There will be no dearth of opportunities for general manager roles that are industry agnostic, such as legal, finance, customer services, etc., said K Sudarshan, managing partner at EMA Partners India.

There are opportunities in related industries like hospitality and BPOs “where we have been placing people”, said Kris Lakshmikanth, managing director of The Head Hunters India.

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