To expand its A320 fleet, Tata-SIA-owned Vistara is looking for pilots on deputation to low-cost airline AirAsia India to ensure sufficient crew for its expanding fleet. Both airlines are part of the Tata group, and the latest move indicates a drive for greater synergy and optimal utilization of manpower between the group’s carriers. Tata Group also owns Air India and Air India Express. AirAsia India operates a fleet of A320 aircraft. Vistara – a joint venture between the Tatas and Singapore Airlines – has a fleet of 53 aircraft. These include 41 A320s and five A321s. The airline plans to increase its fleet to 70 aircraft by December 2023.
“Vistara has sought several pilots from AirAsia India on deputation in view of the launch of new aircraft, a proposal to which the budget carrier has agreed,” said one of the sources on condition of anonymity. However, both Vistara and AirAsia India declined to comment on the matter. According to sources, Vistara is expanding its fleet of Airbuses but does not have enough pilots to operate them.
“The airline was banking on the huge pool of pilots that was created due to the pandemic, but the dynamic has now completely changed as a number of serving and non-serving pilots have flown to Gulf airlines, which offer more perks in addition to fatter salary packages,” one of the sources said. .
The source also said that Vistara was looking at hiring some pilots from the Mumbai-based low-cost airline, but the plan fell through due to notice period issues. Another source said on condition of anonymity that while AirAsia India has 27 aircraft in its fleet with around 400 pilots manning them, the airline does not operate more than 18-20 aircraft.
“With such a large number in service, the airline would not require more than 240-250 pilots. Since AirAsia India does not plan to launch any new aircraft in the near term, more so during talks on a possible merger with Air India Express 150-160 pilots as surplus,” the source said.
Further, the source said after receiving Vistara’s proposal, AirAsia management left it up to the pilots to make a call on how many should be sent on deputation.
Meanwhile, the Tata group has started an exercise to evaluate the options of consolidating AirAsia India and Vistara under Air India to bring operational synergies between the three airlines under its umbrella. Air India has constituted a team in this regard under the leadership of its Chief Operating Officer RS Sandhu, sources said earlier.