Air India to Reduce Flights to the United States

Air India will temporarily reduce frequency on specific routes to the United States amid crew shortages.



March 20, 2023

DALLAS — India flag carrier Air India (AI) will temporarily reduce frequency on specific routes to the United States amid crew shortages. The Tata Group-owned carrier stated that there is a shortage of qualified crew on the Boeing 777, which the airline deploys on routes to the United States.

The airline has been looking to hire qualified pilots to meet operational demands for the past few months. This comes as new Triple Sevens join AI’s fleet, with more scheduled to be delivered in the next few years.

According to Air India Chief Executive Officer Campbell Wilson, AI will stop three flights each to Newark Liberty (EWR) and San Francisco (SFO) for the next three months. Additionally, the airline plans to add 100 pilots for the Boeing 777 in the next three months. He also stated that almost 1,400 cabin crew are in training and would add 1,700 captains.

According to Wilson, the airline is in a tricky situation as the airline is growing and shrinking simultaneously. The carrier is hiring new pilots while offering older pilots the option to retire early. In January 2022, Tata Group took control of AI and Air India Express after purchasing the airline from the Indian Government for US$2.4bn. 

Throughout the past few months, multiple AI flights to North America have either been delayed or canceled due to problems with the crew. These problems included insufficient pilots or delays in the United States visas for cabin crew.

Aircraft without Pilots

In February, the carrier committed to ordering 470 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus, 70 of which are widebody aircraft, as the airline looks to expand its international and domestic network rapidly. Out of the 470 aircraft, 220 will be from Boeing, while 250 will be from Airbus. Furthermore, AI also has the option to purchase an additional 370 aircraft from Airbus and Boeing.

With new Boeing 777s joining AI’s growing fleet and additional widebodies joining the fleet throughout the new few years, AiI will need to hire thousands of qualified pilots to ensure a smooth transition. In early March, India’s Aviation Regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), approved the airline to have common pilots for Boeing 787s and Boeing 777s.

Air India announced that it would start a trial phase with pilots to see how feasible the program can be. This approval was done to address the shortage of skilled pilots and to be able to turn to pilots who are trained to fly both jets if necessary.

Featured image: Air India Boeing 777-200ER (VT-ALF). Photo: Luca Flores/Airways