Air India is being forced to hire its first foreign pilots to cope with a fleet expansion designed to help it compete with other airlines in an increasingly liberal operating environment.

The state-owned carrier revealed in April that it was planning to hire 20 foreign pilots to facilitate an expansion of its Airbus A310 and Boeing 747-400 fleets, acquiring two more used examples of each type. The move drew some criticism within India over fears foreign pilots would take away jobs from Indian nationals. Air India called the criticism "absurd", particularly since two domestic carriers already employ foreign pilots.

The national carrier desperately needs to expand its fleet and route network to help it compete with foreign airlines, which over the past year have been securing additional operating rights.

Over the past three years Air India has leased 11 extra A310s and three more 747-400s, while also seeking government approval to buy new aircraft.

Source: Airline Business