Pilots at beleaguered Indian airline, Jet Airways, have said they will not perform additional duties from next month onwards after receiving just 50% of their salaries in September. They have given their employer until November 30th to clear their debts, otherwise they will start refusing any additional work.
Around 1,600 Jet Airways pilots as well as engineers and senior managers were paid only half their salary in September. Jet Airways has denied this, saying at least 75% of salary payments have already been paid.
Speaking to an Indian news agency, a spokesperson for the pilots said,
“Pilots have decided that they will not perform any additional duty and adhere only to the roster from December 1st if all salary dues are not cleared by November 30. The decision has been communicated to the management verbally”
In response, Jet Airways have claimed they are ‘committed to meeting it’s obligations’ that they are ‘progressively addressing compensation matters’. In English, that means they’re trying to pay people what they’re owed.
If pilots are not paid by the end of the month, they say they will perform roster-only duties, leaving the airline seriously short of pilots. On a typical month, pilots should be flying 75 to 80 hours, but due to staff shortages Jet Airways pilots have been flying up to 90 hours a month by taking on overtime duties.
Abrupt cancellation of flights
This news comes almost simultaneously with the stranding of hundreds of Jet Airways passengers at an airport in Mumbai. Passengers flying from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) found flights were cancelled with no previous warning, leaving them to struggle to find onward transportation.
In total, 10 flights were cancelled on November 18th, which the airline claimed was due to ‘operational issues’. In a statement they said,
“Jet Airways had to cancel a few domestic flights of date (November 18) due to operational reasons. Guests of the affected flights were duly informed about their flight status via SMS alerts. In accordance with regulatory policy, guests have been re-accommodated and or compensated.”
However, an airline insider told Business Today that the real reason was due to a pilot shortage. They said that many pilots had quit the airline over financial issues, and the carrier had failed to replace them, instead relying on other pilots to take up the slack with overtime work instead.
The Jet Airways saga continues
Following a massive loss of Rs 1,323 crore ($185m) in the June quarter, Jet Airways have increasingly been looking for ways to cut costs. Requesting to temporarily stop making loan payments in October followed the grounding of four widebodies and offers of unpaid leave to employees.
Boeing have previously bailed them out, almost certainly in an attempt to avoid cancellation of the $8bn order they have from the airline. Etihad have also been propping them up and most recently Delta have expressed interest in taking a majority stake in the carrier.
Despite all these efforts, it seems Jet Airways just can’t keep its head above water. Their ongoing cashflow problems will undoubtedly see more staff resignations, more route cancellations and serious operational problems for this floundering airline.