MUMBAI: Several pilots at Jet AirwaysNSE -0.15 %, where lenders are busy putting together a revival plan involving likely ownership change, have sought to go on leave from April 1 to highlight four months of salary arrears.
The airline’s lobbying body of 1,000 pilots too said its members wouldn’t fly from April 1 if salaries aren’t cleared.
In individually signed letters addressing the financially stressed airline’s CEO Vinay Dube, these pilots have said that they would want to go on leave from the beginning of the new financial year. The letters, written in the first person, have the same content. ET has seen a copy of the letter that, sources said, was drafted only around 5 pm on Friday.
“…I feel that it would be suitable for me to proceed on leave of absence, to assist me in organising my personal life and arrange for sources of my existence as you have failed in honouring the agreement and your word,” reads the letter. “This has left me traumatised, distraught and financially strained and distressed. Hence, I request you to grant me leave of absence for a period commencing April 1.”
“As announced earlier this week , the airline’s lenders and its management team would like to reiterate, that every effort is being made to inject adequate liquidity into the company, to quickly restore normalcy of operations, ensuring due compliance with all appropriate legal processes / formalities at the same time,” said a Jet spokesperson in an emailed response post midnight.
“While acknowledging the support of each and every member of its family, Jet Airways’ especially recognises the contribution of its pilots, AMEs and members of its senior management, who have sacrificed personal interests and have gone beyond their call of duty in order to ensure safe and reliable operations for the airline’s guests,” he added. He didn’t specify when salaries would be paid or how Jet would cope if pilots didn’t fly its planes.
To be sure, pilots had earlier threatened to go on strike from March 1 but they didn’t take industrial action then due to the situation prevailing along the Indo-Pak border.
“This mail has been individually sent by many pilots who aren’t part of the union. But we too will not fly without pay from April 1,” said a senior member of the National Aviators’ Guild, a lobbying body of about 1,000 pilots at Jet.
Earlier this month, lenders led by the State bank of India (SBI) took the majority stake in the carrier, seeking to bring a strategic partner into running the full-service airline at the earliest.
Pilots have referred to a December 7 communication from Jet’s HR department in their letters. The HR communication reportedly said that all salary arrears would be cleared by March 31 and that the payroll would become current in April.
“With the above perspective and now coming back to basics, after having been aggrieved over the last eight months, my anticipation, belief and confidence in your management has been completely eroded…. due to the complete lack of communication in a transparent and fair manner. I am hoping to receive all the payments due to me in my account before the last working day,” the letter said. “I will let you know in the meanwhile if I intend to take recourse to legal steps, which will include recovery proceedings against the company for my salary, allowances and benefits…”
Pilots have also referred to two letters from founder Naresh Goyal—one thanking them for their support and assuring them that their salaries would be cleared on priority, and the other saying he was stepping down as chairman and board member. Goyal announced his resignation Monday.
The letters from the pilots come just days after Jet’s finance chief Amit Agarwal said the employees had been convinced to give the company some more time. After the equity structure recast on Monday, lenders own the majority in the carrier. Goyal (25.5%), Etihad Airways (12%) and the public (12.5%) hold the rest. The lenders aim to find a new investor by June end. Both Goyal and Etihad can bid.
Jet, facing the worst financial crisis of its existence, is now flying 35 aircraft, down from 124 planes in December. It aims to operate 75% of its original fleet within a month. Jet has defaulted on loan repayments to Indian and foreign banks and on rentals to aircraft lessors.
Jet has said it will receive additional loans of Rs 1,500 crore that would be used to part-pay salaries and vendor dues.