80 SpiceJet pilots sent on leave
SpiceJet has asked about 80 of its pilots to go on a three-month leave without pay. The move is a temporary measure to rationalise cost, the airline said. “This measure, which is in line with SpiceJet’s policy of not retrenching any employee which the airline steadfastly followed even during the peak of the Covid pandemic, will help rationalise the pilot strength vis-à-vis the aircraft fleet,” the budget carrier said in a statement.
The affected pilots are from the airline’s Boeing and Bombardier fleets. Sources said the carrier had continued to recruit pilots during the Covid-19 period and thereafter, even when the sector and the airline’s finances were in a bad shape. It did not carry out any retrenchment.
In June, the airline in a regulatory filing stated it had 650 pilots trained on the Boeing 737 Max aircraft. The employee cost was Rs 216 crore in the June quarter of FY23 compared with Rs 165 crore in the corresponding period of last fiscal and Rs 172 crore in the June quarter of FY20.
The sources said it made no sense to have excess pilots as the fleet is down to 50 from 95 at the beginning of 2021. The airline has returned several planes to the lessors, while some have been grounded because of the lack of spares and maintenance.
SpiceJet is returning the older 737 aircraft which it inducted from Jet Airways while the lessors have repossessed around four aircraft. Around 10 of its Q400 aircraft are grounded because of the lack of spares.
The sources said rationalising the cost by way of leave without pay will increase the salary of existing pilots. SpiceJet is facing stiff competition from foreign airlines and domestic airlines such as Akasa Air which has recently hiked the salary of pilots by an average of 60 per cent. SpiceJet said the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft between March 2019 and November 2020 after two fatal crashes the financially-embattled airline.
“SpiceJet had in 2019 inducted more than 30 aircraft following the grounding of the 737 MAX aircraft. The airline had continued with its planned pilot induction program in the hope that the MAX would be back in service soon. However, the prolonged grounding of the MAX fleet resulted in a large number of excess pilots at SpiceJet,” the airline said.
“We will be inducting MAX aircraft shortly and these pilots will be back in service as the induction begins. During the LWP period, pilots will remain eligible for all other employee benefits as applicable, all opted insurance benefits and employee leave travel,” it said. The airline has been restricted to operate flights up to 50 per cent of its capacity for eight weeks from July 27 by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.