This is your captain speaking..
For a moment I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard that announcement sitting in an air bus and about to get on a six-hour long journey. It was not the content but the voice that stayed with me. At the next opportunity to grab a quick minute with the air hostess, I reconfirmed who the captain was and her answer made me super proud.
Last night, I took an international flight from Hong Kong which was led by Captain Hazel Zakaria of Jet Airways. This was my first time flying on an air craft where a woman pilot had the controls in her hand and throughout the journey all I kept thinking was how amazing that is. Yes, you may think I was caught unaware and it is partially right. Having taken many flights over the years – this was my first time and resonated with the recent “IAF women pilots can fly fighters” news that was making waves.
I researched a few facts for you to note:
- According to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, out of 130,000 pilots in the world, about 3% (approximately 4,000) are women.
- According to the data by Ministry of Civil Aviation, India currently has 5,100 pilots, of which 11.7% (600) are women.
- As compared to 2013, there was a 5% increase in the number of pilot licences issued to women in 2014.
- Like Jet Airways, other Indian carriers like Indigo, Spicejet and Vistara are also welcoming women pilots in their team.
It feels good about the fact that gender biases on who plays what role in the airline sector is visibly fading. When I see a male cabin crew member demonstrating flight safety instructions with a smile and a woman pilot taking the lead, it reaffirm a very basic fact – work is beyond any gender.
Bridging the gender gap in India also makes economic sense. According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, this could add Rs 46 lakh crore (or about USD 0.7 trillion) to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2025. Isn’t that such a positive estimate for the country?
Just before alighting, when rest of the passengers were headed towards arrivals, I made a request to the crew and mentioned my desire to meet the Captain. I was welcomed and yet again, for the very first time, I stepped into the cockpit to meet the pilot and told her how inspired and happy I was! She mentioned that even in nations like Hong Kong, the ground staff finds it hard to believe that Indian women in white uniform are the ones flying the craft.
Captain Zakaria is an experienced commercial pilot with many hours of flying under her wings. Her crew spoke really high of her which was good to hear. In those quick 5 minutes that I had with her, I found her to be a kind and warm woman.
Captain – if you ever get to read this post, Thank you again!
So, the next time your flight’s captain makes an announcement, listen to her/him carefully. You never know you too could be on your destination led by a woman pilot.