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Kids’ fees to EMIs: Jet Airways staffers’ worries soar

Updated: Apr 16, 2019, 10.44 AM IST
Jet family
Jet Airways employees protest at Mumbai's Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport.


  • Since January, Jet has deferred pay cheques for those employees in the high-income bracket but in March, salaries dried up for everyone
  • Even quitting isn’t an option since the sudden surge of people looking for jobs has sent salaries plummeting
(This story originally appeared in on Apr 16, 2019)
NEW DELHI: March 16, 2019, is a day Jet Airways’ Captain Amit Rai (name changed) isn’t going to forget. That morning, he received a message posted by an aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) on a WhatsApp group seeking financial help for his son who was being treated for aplastic anemia, a condition in which the human body stops producing enough new blood cells.

“Request has been made to HR (to) release my three months’ pending salary. It is still pending. The suggested treatment is bone marrow transplant which (will) cost over Rs 25 lakh. I am left with no choice (but) to make an appeal to all my colleagues to help in this dire hour,” read the WhatsApp from the AME, who had exhausted his entitlement for hospitalisation expenses. But even as the cash-strapped management and pilots scrambled to arrange funds, the young boy passed away.

While passenger woes have been highlighted in the media, the impact of the near-collapse of a big company that employs over 14,000 people goes much deeper. Since January, Jet has deferred pay cheques for those in the high-income bracket but in March, salaries dried up for everyone.

Sukhbir Singh, 45, who works as Jet’s loader supervisor at Delhi airport, says his finances are already fraying. “I had to pay for my daughter’s coaching classes so that she could get admission in law but there’s not enough to pay my son’s school fees,” said Singh, who earns Rs 28,000-38,000 a month as loader.

Even quitting isn’t an option since the sudden surge of people looking for jobs has sent salaries plummeting. “Those who went to other airlines were offered half their current salary,” said Singh.

Besides employees on the roll, Jet also employs 6,000 plus contract workers. They may be the worst hit, says Deepak Gaikwad, managing director, Target Hospitality, which supplies 1,200 contract workers to Jet at five airports, including Mumbai. “Workers from remote villages join us as an airline job is considered prestigious,’’ he said. They live in slums around the airports in Sahar, Kurla, Andheri and earn around Rs 14,000 a month.

Among those who are fretting over their missing pay checks and outstanding EMIs are pilots who joined Jet Airways in the past two years. Under the Jet cadet programme launched in June 2017, a student pays Rs 88 lakh to the airline to earn a commercial pilot licence and then be trained to fly a Boeing 737. “I know students who have put in all their family’s savings and joined the cadet programme. Then there are commercial pilot licence holders recruited by Jet in past 1-2 years who have paid Rs 35 lakh towards their specialised type-training at the time of induction. These two categories won’t get their money back, they won’t earn a salary, and they have huge loans to repay,” said a commander, requesting anonymity.

What’s worse is that with planes grounded, the luckiest among them haven’t flown for Jet for more than 700-900 hours. “None of them will get a job as the current requirement put up by other Indian carriers is 1,500 hours of experience and an airline transport pilot licence, even if it’s for a first officer’s job," added the commander.

However, Abhijit Angolkar, who had joined Jet some months before it started flying on May 5, 1993, hasn’t given up hope. “There are no jobs in the market and the options people are getting are at almost half their current salary. Still everyone is coming to work. There is hope Jet will fly again,”Angolkar said.

"Jet is the proverbial too-big-to-fail company. We’ve been in crisis before too, but every time the chairman (former chairman Naresh Goyal) has stepped in, and we’ve survived," said Jet’s Boeing 777 Captain Asim Vallani.
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