ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 02, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 40
Financial Times  

Pilot exodus from SriLankan Airlines

By Dilshani Samaraweera

National carrier Sri Lankan Airlines will lose 28 pilots this year to airlines in Asia and the Middle East. Already Sri Lanka’s single international carrier is functioning below the required cadre. The airline will lose many more trained pilots for its airbuses, by the middle of this year – just as Emirates moves out from fully managing the airline.

Sri Lankan needs around 225 pilots for full, regular operations. At the moment it is functioning with 211 pilots. This week, SriLankan confirmed that 28 pilots, out of its current pilot cadre of 211, have already given notice.

“We have around 211 pilots right now. Out of this, we have 28 resignations at the moment. These resignations will take effect by April-May of this year, because they have to give 3 months notice,” said Captain Milinda Ratnayake, Senior Manager, Flight Operations, Sri Lankan Airlines. Most of the pilots are going to airlines in India and the Middle East. India’s demand for pilots of wide-bodied aircrafts has jumped with airlines like Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines starting to operate international flights. Many of the trained and experienced pilots leaving Sri Lankan are entering these two Indian airlines.

SriLankan pilots are also joining Middle Eastern airlines like Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways. SriLankan said it has stepped up training and recruitment to maintain uninterrupted operations, despite the large exodus of its trained pilots.

“We have training capacity for around 22-24 pilots. This is around 10% of our cadre. So we already have ongoing training programmes. We are also on a vigorous recruitment campaign,” said Ratnayake. Already around 40 of Sri Lankan Airlines’ pilots are expats. The airline says the salaries are the same for both local and expat pilots. The outflow of trained Sri Lankan pilots has been gradually increasing over the past few years.

“The demand for pilots is very high now because airlines are opening up in this part of the world and they need pilots. So this has been going on for the past 2-3 years now,” said Ratnayake.


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