Jet Airways: From high-octane celebrations to a sombre 26th anniversary

Forum Gandhi Mumbai | Updated on May 06, 2019 Published on May 05, 2019

While scores of Jet Airways employees have quit, others are still hoping that things will change for the better   -  Bhagya Prakash K

Amid turbulence, hope is what keeps Jet Air staff going

In November 2018, when Naresh Goyal, promoter of Jet Airways, on-board a flight to London was asked by the Captain of the aircraft about the future of the airline, he said, “your grandchildren too will fly for this airline, and I will make sure it does not nosedive.” Just a few months before, in May, Jet Airways had marked its silver jubilee in style with huge celebrations and goodies for passengers.

A year later, the 26th anniversary of the airline on May 5 went largely unnoticed as the company struggles to stay afloat. With bitter feelings and overwhelming emotions, a group of Jet Airways employees stood outside the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, with placards and banners of ‘Save Jet Airways’ on Sunday. In Chennai, a group of engineers held a cake-cutting ceremony with “Happy 26th Anniversary Jet Airways” written on it.

It’s been three weeks since the airline temporarily shut down its operations due to unavailability of funds. While several of the 22,000 employees of Jet Airways have quit, others are still hoping that things will change. “Last year, we were trying to tell the world that we were 25 years’ old; this year, we are trying to tell the world that we are united and we want the company to survive,” said Captain Ashwani Tyagi, who has served the airline for over 18 years.

“Celebration is secondary. At the moment, our main concern is that the management is silent and they don’t tell us anything beyond what we already hear through the media reports. It was too sudden for us because, there was no game plan, no cost-cutting, no other measures at all... it was just a sudden shutdown. The good part, however, is the CEO is at it and a turnaround plan is ready. Even with more than half of our fleet being de-registered, we have 50 aircraft, and we have the brand, so we are positive,” said another pilot.

Captain Prashant Singh Bararia, who has been with the company for 23 years, said: “ Last year, Naresh Goyal, promoter of the company, had come down to the office and we were gratified that we had spent over two decades of our lives with this company. Today, we are here with no knowledge of what tomorrow has for us. I’ll wait around till the last ray of hope is there for the company.”

Debt tops ₹11,200 crore

The airline has been delaying salaries for the past two to four months as it struggles to repay a debt of over ₹11,261 crore.

Ashish Kumar Mohanty, a senior maintenance staff who has worked for the airline for over two decades, said: “Several people are on the verge of losing their jobs, yet several are celebrating and want to resurrect the airline. Last year, it was business as usual and we had no clue of the storm that was brewing. We had lots of celebratory events last year, and this year, it’s all gone haywire.”

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Published on May 05, 2019
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