Indian Aviation Struggles with Pilot Shortage and Flight Delays

The Indian aviation industry has grown at an annual rate of around 13% for domestic air traffic. However, it has been plagued by challenges due to a shortage of pilots and aircraft, resulting in frequent flight cancellations and disruptions.

By Priyal Dutta
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The Indian aviation industry has experienced noteworthy growth in recent years, with an annual increase of approximately 13% in domestic air traffic. It totalled an estimated 154 million during the 2023-24 fiscal year, according to the credit rating agency Icra. However, the industry has faced challenges primarily due to a shortage of pilots and aircraft, leading to frequent flight cancellations and disruption. Major airlines in India, including IndiGo, Vistara, Air India, Akasa Air, and SpiceJet, have struggled to adhere to their flight schedules. 


India's aviation industry faced pilot and aircraft shortages, causing frequent flight disruptions for major airlines like IndiGo, Vistara, Air India, Akasa Air, and SpiceJet.

Vistara, a collaboration between the Tata group and Singapore Airlines, faced operational disruptions starting in early March, with many flight cancellations. The airline attributed these disruptions to various factors, including adverse weather conditions and air traffic congestion. However, a more pressing issue arose due to a dispute over new payment terms related to its merger with Air India, leading to unplanned pilot absences and subsequent flight cancellations. Despite inquiries, Vistara chose not to comment on these issues.

Vistara's CEO expects the merger with Air India to be cleared by mid-2024, with operations merging by mid-2025.

On the other hand, Air India has taken a proactive approach to address the pilot shortage issue. The airline launched South Asia's largest aviation training academy earlier this year, serving Air India and supporting the broader aviation ecosystem in the region. This academy is equipped with simulators for various aircraft models, enhancing training capabilities and showcasing the industry's adaptability and commitment to overcoming challenges.

Air India will merge with Vistara by March 2024, with Singapore Airlines receiving a 25% stake in the new airline, and the Vistara brand being discontinued.

Similarly, Akasa Air's CEO, Vinay Dube, has assured that the airline has sufficient pilots and has planned for both current needs and future growth. 

Akasa received permission from the DGCA to operate international flights in December 2023, and commenced its international operations from 28 March 2024.

IndiGo, which commands a significant share of India's passenger traffic, has experienced high flight cancellations and delays since the beginning of 2024, primarily due to adverse weather conditions. This has led to public frustration, with many passengers voicing their grievances on social media.

IndiGo carried over 100 million passengers in a calendar year in December 2023, becoming the first Indian airline to achieve this milestone.

The ongoing issues with Pratt & Whitney engines have significantly impacted operational aircraft, leading to technical and operational challenges. Combined with intense competition and a cost-sensitive business model, this has dramatically stressed India's leading airlines, resulting in abrupt cancellations, delays, and inconsistent customer service.


Pratt & Whitney is an American aerospace manufacturer with global service operations. Its engines are used in both civil aviation and military aviation. 

The severity of these challenges highlights the urgent need for strategic solutions to enhance operational reliability and financial stability in the Indian aviation sector.


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