Crisis deepens in Jet Airways; Govt. monitoring situation
Mumbai/New Delhi March 19 (PTI): In more trouble for cash-strapped Jet Airways, an umbrella body of its domestic pilots on Tuesday threatened to stop flying from April 1 if their dues are not paid by March-end even as aviation regulator DGCA said only 41 aircraft of the airline were in operation.
As situation at the beleaguered airline deteriorated, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu directed senior officials of his ministry to continuously monitor developments relating to the crisis.
In a related development, the Jet Airways’ Aircraft Maintenance Engineers’ Union wrote to the DGCA on Tuesday morning saying they were not paid salaries for last three months and that their “adverse psychological” condition has put flight safety at risk.
However, they issued a clarification hours later saying Jet Airways aircraft are safe to fly and are being maintained at highest levels of safety standards.
Terming the situation at the airline “dynamic”, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said only 41 aircraft of the Jet Airways were currently available for operation and there may be “further attrition” of flights “in coming weeks”,
As per the website of Jet Airways, it has a fleet of 119 aircraft in total. For the past few weeks, passengers have been venting their ire on social media as the airline’s flight cancellations have increased.
A senior official of DGCA said the regulator is reviewing the hike in airfare on specific routes across the country and it has advised airlines to increase flights so that the fares remain in check.
The DGCA held a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the upward spiral in airfares owing to Jet continuing to ground more aircraft while cancelling a significant number of its flights.
In a statement, Prabhu’s office said he has also issued direction for safeguarding the public interest and giving “paramount importance” to ensure safety as well as convenience of passengers.
In Mumbai, National Aviators Guild, a body representing around 1,000 domestic pilots of the airline, in its annual meeting warned the management of the Jet Airways that they will stop flying from April 1 if their pending salaries are not paid by end of this month.
They also demanded implementation of the “resolution plan” to resolve financial issues of the airline. The plan was announced few weeks ago.
“If there is no proper clarity on the resolution process and salary payments, by March 31, we will stop flying from April 1,” the guild said in a statement.
The pilots and other senior staff of the airline have not been getting their full salaries since December.
After the DGCA took stock of the situation at Jet Airways, its spokesperson said the regulator reviewed the performance of the airline on operational, airworthiness and passenger facilitation.
“Current availability of aircraft in the fleet for operation is 41 and accordingly scheduled for 603 domestic flights and 382 international flights has been drawn. However, it is a dynamic situation and there may be further attrition in coming weeks,” he said.
The spokesperson added that the DGCA has instructed the airline to comply with “the relevant provisions of the applicable CARs (Civil Aviation Requirements) for facilitation of passengers regarding timely communication, compensation, refunds and providing alternate flights wherever applicable”.
The DGCA spokesperson said the aviation watchdog is ensuring that all aircraft in the fleet “whether in operation or on ground” are maintained in accordance with Approved Maintenance Programme (AMP).
“The operator was also directed to ensure that no pilots/cabin crew/AMEs be rostered on duty who had reported stress of any nature. Additionally, all such staff should be current with all mandatory training requirements.
“The DGCA is continuously monitoring overall situation and based on the same, will take appropriate steps by the end of the month, if needed,” the spokesperson added. Jet Airways has a debt of over INR 8,200 crore and needs to make repayments of up to INR 1,700 crore by the end of March.
On March 8, Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal wrote to Etihad Airways Group CEO Tony Douglas seeking an urgent funding of INR 750 crore and also warned that any delay in fund infusion might result in its grounding of the carrier. Ethihad Group has stakes in Jet Airways.