Air India is in the process of hiring around 270 co-pilots in the reserved category at a time when the government has initiated the loss-making carrier's disinvestment process, sources said.
Industry sources said the airline has also created a new post of chief pilot as well as two executive director-level positions in the IT and civil departments.
When contacted, an Air India spokesperson defended the plan to hire pilots citing operational and regulatory requirements and also claimed that no new posts have been created at the airline.
The recruitment of around 270 co-pilots also comes on the back of the airline hiring about 500 cabin crew weeks before the government came out with a preliminary information memorandum for the proposed 76% stake sale in Air India on March 28.
"Air India is in the process of adding 270 co-pilots when such crew is already in excess. And this hiring is being done in the reserved category and that too at a time when there is a big question mark on the issue of retention of the workforce post-privatisation," a source told PTI.
At the end of December 2017, Air India had 11,214 permanent employees, including 2,056 on deputation to other companies and agencies. It also had 2,913 employees on contract and 2,661 on deputation from other group companies, as per the memorandum.
On the hiring of so many pilots, the Air India spokesperson said that being a state-run entity, it is governed by Presidential directives.
"Keeping this and operational requirements in view, a special recruitment drive is on and the airline is in the process for filling up the existing backlog of vacancies of pilots," the spokesperson said in a statement.
Sources claimed that Air India recently created two executive director-level posts in IT and civil departments.
"The creation of a new post for civil (department) is without any reason as the airline is in the process of getting rid of its real estate and it can't be understood why there has to be a post for such work," one of the sources said.
However, the statement said "no new posts have been created".
According to sources, the airline has created the post of chief pilot though there are already two occupants who are in charge of flight operations. There is already a director and an executive director and both positions are held by senior pilots.
"Interestingly, one of the three contenders for the (chief pilot) post is a pilot who had failed the pre-and post-flight alcohol tests when he was the flight operations inspector and was suspended by the DGCA," one of the sources said.
The airline's statement said the post of chief pilot is not new and is named as fleet captain as designated by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
"The selection process for this post is carried out as per the regulatory requirements and company policy and interviews for the post were held on April 23, 2018," it said.
Under the disinvestment proposal, the government plans to sell 76% stake as well as cede management control of Air India to private players.Besides, it would offload 100% stake in low-cost international subsidiary Air India Express and 50% stake in the ground handling joint venture AISATS.