Air India to Hire Expat Wide-Body Pilots

An Air India Boeing Dreamliner climbs out after takeoff.
Masakatsu Ukon, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – On November 21, the news outlet Outlook India published an article which mentions that the Indian flag carrier, Air India, is looking at hiring expat pilots for its widebody aircraft.

The Expat Hire

Many of the world’s airlines are facing pilot shortages, which is mostly due to the lack of funds given how expensive pilot training is, which with the current exponential rise in inflation, many people cannot afford to venture down the route of becoming a pilot.

This has caused an outpour of pilot shortages worldwide, to which Air India is another carrier to suffer. As such, to help combat this, it has been revealed that Air India is looking to hire around 100 expat widebody pilots for its Boeing 777 fleet, as well as to support its fleet growth plans.

Air India has already approached various pilot recruiting agencies to begin looking for available expat pilots that are readily trained to fly the Boeing 777.

When Air India was under ownership of the Indian Government, there was a halt put in place on hiring expat pilots due to their increased cost with having to handle pilots that are not based in India.

Since now being taken over by the Tata Group since January 2022, the halt on expat pilots has been lifted in order to enable Air India to focus on its revitalisation plans. However, it only plans to hire expat pilots on one-year contracts initially.

A source that revealed this information has said, “Air India was already facing a shortage of pilots and the recent announcement of the induction of 5 Boeing 777 planes in the next four months and new flights to the US have added to this shortage.”

“Air India has sought 100 pilots from the market. Though they say they will prefer Indian pilots, they are also open to hiring expat pilots. While these pilots come at 40 per cent higher cost compared to the cost incurred on hiring an Indian pilot, it is also a fact that experience widebody pilots are not easily available in the domestic market.”

In line with the five inbound Boeing 777’s, Air India announced that they will be utilised not only across some of their domestic services, but primarily on new international routes that are due to start in the coming weeks. Those routes are:

  • Mumbai to San Francisco
  • Mumbai to New York JFK
  • Mumbai to Newark
  • Bengaluru to San Francisco

This is all part of Air India’s revitalisation plans that were announced in the past few months, whereby the carrier over the next five years will be growing both its widebody and narrowbody fleet, as well as expanding its domestic and international route networks.


We expect that over the coming months as Air India begins its revitalisation plans, they will experience issues with hiring pilots, not necessarily just widebody but possibly narrowbody as well, given the shortage of pilots across the entire industry.

Expat pilots will certainly give them an opportunity to overcome some of those problems in the short-term, however, long-term the carrier will certainly want to permanently hire Indian pilots.

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