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Last Updated : Feb 15, 2019 05:13 PM IST | Source:

Exclusive | There was a pilot 'mismatch,' but things under control, says IndiGo COO on flight cancellations

Wolfgang Prock-Schauer added that IndiGo will add 20 captains a month, and its pool of pilots is big enough to meet requirement despite the aggressive fleet expansion

Prince Mathews Thomas @prince0879

While admitting there was a "slight mismatch" in the availability of pilots that had impacted its operations, IndiGo's senior executive reiterated the situation was under control now, and that the airline plans to add at least 20 captains a month going forward.

"We have curtailed our schedule by 30 flights a day, till the end of the March. There are rumours floating around on the number of daily cancellations. Those are not correct," Chief Operating Officer Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, told Moneycontrol. 

The country's largest airline had announced the revised schedule earlier this week. Its operations had been impacted since February 7, when hailstorms initially led to a diversion of 11 flights, and later to scores of cancellations.

The airline said several factors like anticipated weather conditions and NOTAMS at various airports resulted in extended duty times and made it necessary to re-roster crew and optimise operations.

Notam, or notice to airmen, is given to pilots and include information on potential hazards on a flight route.

The cancellations brought under focus IndiGo's aggressive expansion of its fleet, and availability of pilots.

"The situation will be normalised by the end of March, and from April onwards we will go back to the original schedule," said Prock-Schauer. He underlined that the cancellations and the curtailed schedule won't impact the company's guidance for the quarter, as the impacted flights are "just 2 percent of the total operations."

Adding pilots

At present, IndiGo has 6.65 pilots for every aircraft. "This ratio will become better in the coming months," said Prock-Schauer.

"Internally, every month 20 of our senior first officers will make the transition to becoming captains. Beyond that, we are also hiring expat pilots," he added.

The company currently has 1,260 captains, including 40 expats. It plans to hire 100 more expat pilots, that will add to its pool.

IndiGo has 208 aircraft in its fleet, the first Indian airline to have more than 200. It continues to expand aggressively, adding 19 aircraft in the third quarter of the financial year.

The company is building on its dominant position in the industry and has a market share of 41.5 percent. It has also mapped an equally ambitious international plan to add destinations.

Prock-Schauer clarified that the current situation will not impact its expansion plans. "We maintain the guidance that we have shared with the investors," he said about the fleet expansion.

The airline will add 62 flights in the 2019 financial year, said consultancy firm CAPA in its report. IndiGo will add a further 40 aircraft in the next financial year, said CAPA.

Prock-Schauer said while the industry overall is facing a shortage of pilots, IndiGo will meet its requirement, thanks to its size. "We have 300 senior first officers who can be upgraded to captains. We will be able to handle the demand. The present situation was accentuated by weather conditions," he said.

The COO added that the company has 40 trainers, under whom the pilot upgrade happens.
First Published on Feb 15, 2019 03:18 pm
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