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Aviation in India – Market Growth and Opportunities

The Airports Council International observes that India will grow to represent the world’s third largest aviation market by 2020, behind the US and China. “The domestic Indian passenger market posted double-digit year on year RPK (revenue passenger kilometres) growth for the third year in a row in Feb 2018 (22.9%)”, twice the pace of China (11.8%) and above its five-year average (15.6%), according to IATA.

Market outlook

Total air traffic in India rose by 15.80% to 280.24 million during April-February 2017-18. As of March 2018. Accordingly, Delhi – the country’s largest airport, saw growth of 14.1% in passenger traffic raising it to the 16th busiest airport in the world. Calcutta, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Madras also ranked among the fastest growing airports in the world with year-on-year growth of 26.9%, 19.6%, 12.9% and 10.5% respectively (Economic Times, Feb 2018).

Although growth is substantial, India only operates 577 commercial aircraft as of Jan 2018, compared to an estimated 7000 in the US and 5500 in China. The number of domestic Indian passengers is expected to grow almost six times in the next 20 years, reaching the level as domestic is today. Nevertheless, India boasts a load factor of 90%; 10% above the global average which depicts its efficiency.

Such growth was driven by various factors such as the rise of low-cost carriers, modern airports, FDI in domestic airlines, advancement in IT infrastructures, and most importantly the rise of middle class households with disposable income spent on recreational travel.

What this means for pilots:

In a very short period of time, the supply of pilots in India has grown from glut to shortage, with the policy change by the DGCA (Indian CAA) reflecting this situation. Domestic captains now have to give 1 year and First Officers 6 months’ notice period to leave the country. Minister for State of Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha estimates that 3,700 Captains and a similar number of co-pilots will be hired in the next 5 years.

As a result, the Indian aviation market looks more lucrative than ever, with headlines such as:

  • “Jet Airways looking to train 380 professional pilots” (Pilot Careers News)

  • ““Air India on a hiring spree, to recruit 2,000 crew members” (Indian Aviation News)

  • “More aircraft, more flyers, but no pilots” (Mumbai Mirror)


Vacancies by Brookfield Aviation


The next two years represent a solid opportunity for pilots to enter into the Indian Aviation sector. Airlines are in fierce competition over pilots, some are even willing to shorten the recruitment process by accepting Pilots’ latest proficiency checks/proof of last flight within 90 days without the need of lengthy SIMs.

However, one major roadblock to talent attraction remains the amount of red tape involved – the process to obtain security clearance and necessary authorisations require much paperwork and can drag on for weeks. The upside for the pilot is that this regulatory burden falls mostly on airlines, who need to coordinate all approval processes with the DGCA while the pilot waits.

Pilots looking to settle in positions of seniority should consider this brief window of opportunity. Seniority affects the days pilots fly, the quality of layovers and the equipment they will operate. As airlines are at the start of a long recruitment binge, early entrants can stay ahead of their hire class and be first in line for upgrade opportunities as opposed to those hired at the end of the period.

The Road ahead

Overall, India’s aviation industry is expected to expand much further with huge growth opportunities considering the growth of its highly mobile middle class (approx. 40% of the population). With the right talent policies, relentless focus on quality and cost and passenger interest, India would be well placed to achieve its vision of becoming the third-largest aviation market by 2025.

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