In The Middle Of Nowhere: Jet Airways’ Employees
Jet Airways (India) Ltd. is in zombie land. Once India's largest airline, it's currently flying 6-7 planes, hasn't paid salaries since January and its pilots are threatening not to fly from today. All this while lenders to the airline have attempted to find buyers. A process to seek expressions of interest concluded last week after a deadline extension. But with planes repossessed by lessors, and no money for fuel and to pay salaries, buyers face the same uncertainty as employees. Is the airline beyond rescue?
BloombergQuint spoke to several Jet Airways employees for their accounts of what's going on. Will they stay? Is the airline past rescue?
Here are their stories...
Employed with Jet Airways for: 12 years.
Name: Requested anonymity.
I haven't received last month's salary, but was informed about the delay in advance. We were told that we would get our salaries by April 10, but that deadline has passed. I'm not under any financial strain at the moment because I have some savings and can manage for another few months.
While there are openings in other airlines and most of the crew has been attending interviews, I haven't done so. I'll take a call depending on how the situation pans out over the next few days. I hope the situation gets resolved at the earliest else I'll also have to look out for jobs with other airlines.
Employed with Jet Airways for: 7-8 years.
Name: Requested anonymity.
My salary for March hasn't come yet. I have to pay an equated monthly installment of Rs 15,000 on my home loan and have a six-year-old daughter. I have attended job interviews in other airlines, but didn't pursue them as they're offering a much lower salary. I can’t work on a lower salary because I have a home loan and other obligations such as my child’s education.
Jet Airways is very unique. My career as a ground staff began here. They have taken care of the employees very well. It's because of Jet Airways that the family members of ground staff and loaders got to travel in an aircraft. It's really sad what is happening right now to the airline. So many people working as ground staff stay in rented accommodations in Mumbai. This is a very difficult time for them. But I am still hopeful that the situation will change. Till the time the airline is there, I will be standing there in my uniform. It's disappointing that the government has completely ignored the aviation sector.
Pilot and general secretary, Society for Welfare of Indian Pilots
Employed with Jet Airways for: 19 years.
Name: Captain Ashwini Tyagi.
I have been working with Jet Airways for about 19 years as a pilot and I'm now a senior commander. I haven't been paid for the the last three months. Now things are getting worse, we have to pay EMIs for our homes, vehicles, among other things. My son also works with the airline as a pilot, and both of us aren’t getting paid. I don't know whether this company will survive, and we are looking out for opportunities.
It's a difficult situation, like any other profession. I have six months of margin in hand. While I had applied at other airlines, I'm getting options at a reduced salary. Also, I will have to undergo training again as I was currently flying 777-300, for international routes. But since none of the other Indian airlines fly that aircraft except Air India, which uses a higher version 787, I will have to fly a smaller aircraft. For that, I have to get full training, which we call endorsements, which takes about 3-6 months.
These days, I keep myself de-stressed, look out for opportunities and keep myself fit. Besides, whenever I go out and meet my friends, neighbours or family, the first question they ask is: “What's happening with Jet?” My response is: “We have no idea, you guys know better as it's all in the media.”
Employed with Jet Airways for: Four years
Name: Requested anonymity.
My husband, too, works in the same organisation, in the revenue management department. I was very happy when I had joined Jet Airways and was satisfied with my job. My salary was good and I used to get free international tickets as perks. I haven't received my salary for the last one month. My benefits have also been curtailed. I'm looking to work with other airlines now. I had appeared for interviews, but they’re offering me a salary package that's 20 percent lower than my current salary. Since I have done an MBA in finance, I must probably switch sectors—to banking, for instance—because the situation in aviation has turned worse.
We've not been able to pay our rent and electricity bills this month because both of us haven't received our salaries. My husband is also looking out for jobs. It’s a tough time for both of us. I'm not hopeful of a financial revival of Jet Airways, but my colleagues who have been working here for the past 20 years are. They aren't looking out and feel that since Jet Airways faced losses earlier too, the company will overcome the crisis. According to me, this is Jet Airways’ worst financial crisis.
Vice-president of the National Aviator's Guild
Name: Asim Valiani.
Employed with Jet Airways for: 23 years.
I joined Jet Airways when I was 21 years old. This is my first job. Jet Airways has been like a family to me but the situation now is very stressful. Our salaries have been irregular for the past seven months and from January, pilots and engineers haven't received their pay. Salaries for other staff have also not been disbursed for the past month. We were happy working for the airline and right now we're just pleading with the government to save it. We had 1,800 pilots out of which only 350 have changed jobs so the rest of us are still hopeful that things will turn around. In this crisis and despite the availability of other jobs, we have stood with the airline.
What is disappointing is that even after Naresh Goyal stepped down as the chairman and pledged his shares, the banks did not honour their commitment to release ₹1,500 crore. This would have served as an interim relief till new investors takes over. Now the fleet is shrinking and I'm not sure if we will survive for long. The current situation is taking a toll on our families. We have equated monthly instalments to pay and children’s education to look after. Many of my colleagues have elderly parents and they have to pay their medical bills as well. I even know of colleagues who have postponed their weddings.