The first day of the Navratri festival began on a high note for the 4,000-odd employees of the grounded Jet Airways, as the committee of creditors (CoC) approved the revival plan submitted by the Kalrock Capital-Murari Lal Jalan consortium.
“For the past 18 months, the employees have endured great hardship and financial stress. But finally, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We hope the revival process is fast-tracked with the help of the government,” said Amit Kelkar, vice-president of Jet Aircraft Maintenance Engineers Welfare Association.
The airline’s employees have claimed dues to the tune of Rs 1,428.7 crore, of which Rs 1,265.7 crore was admitted by the resolution professional.
When Jet Airways went into insolvency in June 2019, it had close to 9,000 employees. More than 3,700 of them were part of the ground services, around 2,000 were part of the in-flight services, another 1,500 worked in the engineering department, nearly 1,000 were employed in flight operations, while another 500-odd were part of the airline’s corporate and commercial departments.
Today, Jet’s staff strength stands whittled down to around 4,000, with many former employees having joined airlines in India and abroad.
Among those who stayed on is a core team of about 175 employees, which has been functioning since last year. This includes four senior executives — Chief Strategy Officer Rajesh Prasad, Legal Head Gautam Acharya, Vice-President (Planning) Anthony D’Sa, and General Manager (Management Information Systems) Farazad Patrawalla. The team has been working closely with the resolution professional to revive the airline. Apart from coordinating with lenders and lessors, these senior executives were also overseeing other departments in the company.
“Jet Airways has been a preferred brand because of its customer service and training standards. We are hopeful that our employees will get opportunities in the new organisation. We are very happy that Jet Airways will fly again,” said Nidhi Chaphekar, who represents the cabin crew union.
Jet’s employees have been keenly following the airline’s insolvency case. Many of them have regularly attended the tiny courtroom of the Mumbai Bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). Employees have also made various applications before the tribunal, seeking relief. The CoC’s decision has come as a big shot in the arm for them, but there is a long road ahead before the airline takes to the skies again.
Although lenders have cleared the resolution plan, multiple approvals and government support are required to secure airport slots and traffic rights.
Still, the mood is upbeat. As an aviation expert remarked, “Jet Airways is out of the ICU and is now in the general ward.” But how many employees will be retained will depend on the new owners and their business plans, he added.
What is certain is that the airline will now need more hands on the deck and in specialised roles to secure regulatory approvals. The first step would be the hiring of senior executives in operational roles, updation of various manuals, and activation of systems.
Jet’s operating permit is dormant and the airline will need to apply to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to have it restored. Airport slots can be granted only after the operating permit is reactivated.