India, the Country Where Women Rule the Skies

Globally, just 5.18% of commercial pilots are women. But in one country, this number soars to 12.4%, which is the highest in the world. Interestingly, that country is India.

According to the latest statistics from the International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISWAP), airlines in India employ the highest proportion of female commercial pilots at 12.4%, twice that of the global average. India has left behind other nations in strengthening the women force of the aviation industry. 

Air India Express, India’s first international budget carrier, has female pilot ratio well above national average. The Airline has 45 women pilots – 16 Captains and 29 First Officers. The proportion of female pilots in the Commander position is 12% while that of female First Officers is 23%.

Women pilots of Air India Express share a common perspective about women’s ability to take up challenging tasks and fulfil their dreams irrespective of the social or economic background.

Captain Bindu Sebastian, who is an Ex-Air Force Wing Commander and a commander at Air India Express, said the work culture at the Airline is the best-in-class. “It is a very safe place for women,” says the Captain who joined the IX in 2009. “When you fly, you see the world from a different perspective. Your outlook changes.”

In her message to female pilot aspirants, Bindu says there is nothing in life that one cannot achieve. “Twenty-four years back, I joined the Air Force, despite being from a very small town in Kerala. If I could be among the first batch of women pilots and train there with the men, you also can do it.” Parents should let the children dream and let their dream be the priority, she says.

“When I take people on board, the trust they place in me, gives me more confidence to fly,” says Captain Priti Sidharth Singh, Line Training Captain at Air India Express. In her opinion, women should dream big. The doors to the world of aviation are always open for women. “I’ve been part of the aviation fraternity for 14 years. I am thankful to my mentors and colleagues and very satisfied to be here at Air India Express,” says Priti.  

With zero wage gap, maternity benefits, flexible work hours and safe working environment, India provides a favourable climate for women to take up this career and excel.

Indian female pilots who made history

Sarla Thukral was the first Indian woman to fly an aircraft. She earned an aviation pilot license in 1936 at the age of 21 and flew a Gypsy Moth solo.

Prem Mathur is the first Indian woman commercial pilot and started flying for Deccan Airways. She obtained her commercial pilot’s licence in 1947.

In 2017, an all-women crew led by Air India Captain Kshamata Bajpai set the world record for the longest direct flight route when they flew to San Francisco from Delhi.

In January 2021, an all-women crew led by Captain Zoya Agarwal created history by flying over the North Pole. This was Air India’s longest direct route flight and was piloted by Captain Zoya Agarwal, Captain Papagiri Thanmei, Captain Akanksha, and Captain Shivani.

We can easily conclude that it is the women-friendly policies adopted by the airlines in India that led to this revolutionary step towards gender equality in a profession that was once male-dominated.

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