At 7 pm today, it will be 96 hours or four days since Jet Airways announced a temporary suspension of all its operations on Wednesday. Much has changed since then.
Over 400 slots of the airline at Delhi and Mumbai have been transferred to other carriers, the number of employees actively looking out for jobs is increasing day by day, as many as 22 B737s have already been transferred to SpiceJet by the lessors and Air India is also in talks with the State Bank of India to get five Boeing 777 on lease.
The lenders await the submission of binding bids from investors by May 10 but there are several important questions which they don't have answers to, yet.
The first one pertains to slots.
"State Bank of India is concerned about the slots being transferred to other carriers. Investors would not look at the airline with the same interest if this continues. The aviation ministry has given assurance that the slot transfer is for an interim period but it doesn't make for a good picture when your product is up for sale," one of the people aware of the developments said.
While the civil aviation ministry said that it will review the situation in July, it is rather important to understand that getting back slots from an airline which would have invested a considerable amount of money on initiating flights on a route and capturing passenger traffic would be difficult, if not impossible.
The second one is regarding employees.
The airline, which has a strength of over 16,000, is now witnessing a rise in resignations as faced with uncertainty over payment of their pending salaries, employees are actively considering job offers or are actively looking out for jobs. However, that's not a pretty picture.
"We are being offered a 30-50 percent cut in salaries and not just that, experienced pilots are also made to sign bonds of Rs 30-50 lakh for 3-5 years. That used to be the case for first officers at the time of entry. In addition, there is a demotion in the ranks being offered," a Jet Airways pilot said.
"The problem with skilled staff like pilots, engineers, cabin crew is that it's a huge pay cut and fall in ranks. However, for ground staff it will be even more difficult," a Jet Airways employee said.
The third issue is with suspended operations.
It is always difficult to revive an airline, not in operation but in view of the money not forthcoming from the lenders. The management of Jet Airways took the call on Wednesday evening. The important point to take home is that an airline cannot remain suspended for a long period of time as by then, there will be a considerable and irrevocable drop in staff and planes. The airline no longer has a total fleet size of 119 as an increasing number of these planes are being de-registered on account of non-payment of lease rentals. Till last week, 17 were de-registered and 12 were under consideration for the process.
As part of their latest appeal, the staff representatives, CEO Vinay Dube, CFO Amit Agarwal, along with Maharashtra Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, met Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley at his residence on Saturday. The company sought disbursement of Rs 170 crore for payment of pending salaries and revival of the airline.
"He said he will look into it. He said it's not a case like Kingfisher. It's a case of operational inefficiency. The meeting lasted 1 hour 20 minutes," one of the participants said.
Time is running out for Jet Airways, and stakeholders must act quickly.
First Published: IST