No Indian airline has the world's largest commercial airliner - Airbus A-380 - but over 60 desi pilots are flying the mega plane in the fleets of foreign carriers.

While airlines rarely disclose nationality-wise break-up of their cockpit crew, a few airlines operating the A-380 have said highly professional Indian pilots are flying the world's most expensive plane for them.

Dubai-based Emirates, which is the largest operator of this aircraft, has 133 Indian pilots in all of which almost half fly the A-380. "We have 57 Indian A380 pilots and in total we have 133 pilots from India. Overall we have more than 4,000 pilots," said an Emirates spokesperson.

Neighbouring Abu Dhabi-based Etihad has shifted five Indian pilots who used to fly their Airbus planes in its fleet like the 320, 330 and 340 to the A-380. The airline said it has one Indian commander and four first officers flying the A-380. Overall, Indian pilots comprise 6% of the total cockpit crew of Etihad.


Singapore Airlines, also a big operator of the mega plane, said it does not have any Indian pilot operating its A-380 and German carrier Lufthansa said it did not have "statistics in place that would give details about nationalities of the respective aircraft type".

 


According to the Airbus website, the average list price of an A-380 in 2018 is $ 445.6 million (about Rs 2,910 crore). The salary for flying big birds is also mouth-watering. The Emirates career website says the total monthly salary (tax free with accommodation allowance included) is 44,450 UAE Dirham or AED (about Rs 7.9 lakh) for first officers on Boeing 777 and A-380. For captains, this figure goes up to 58,770 AED (about Rs 10.5 lakh).

"While in overall terms, the salary may not seem too high compared to what pilots earn in India. But being tax free makes it really big for us," said an Indian pilot working with a domestic airline. Indian airlines have to struggle to prevent their experienced pilots from being "poached" by Gulf carriers.

 


While the ideal way to do is letting market forces determine where one wants to work by offering competitive remuneration, citing frail financial health Indian carriers got the DGCA to increase notice period for commanders from six months to a year last August. Domestic airlines matching post-tax salaries of India with tax-free ones in UAE is impossible for them. "No one is going to wait for a year if they want to hire us," rued an Indian commander. This tug-off-war shows just how highly rated Indian pilots are.

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