Saturday, March 23, 2019

Jet Airways suspends 12 international services

New Delhi/Mumbai: India's debt-laden Jet Airways has grounded seven more planes after failing to pay for its aircraft leases, heaping pressure on its founder as a ballooning crisis threatens its survival.

The beleaguered airline, gasping under debts of more than $1 billion, had grounded six planes earlier this week, and is also facing the threat of strike action over salary payments.

In a statement late on Friday announcing the latest groundings, the airline said it was "making all efforts to minimise disruption to its network... and is proactively informing and re-accommodating its affected guests". The Mumbai-based airline has now been left with just a quarter of its fleet of 119 aircraft in operation.

Jet has suspended 12 international flights, a separate report says, even as it grapples with a reduced fleet strength, industry insiders said.

Sources said the airline has suspended operations to Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Dammam, Singapore, Manchester and Dhaka, among others, until April 30.

"Apart from suspensions, the airline has also reduced frequencies on some of the international routes. These suspensions and reduction in frequencies can be attributed to the fact that its fleet size has been trnucated," sources said.

Jet, which employs more than 20,000 people, has also been facing pressure from pilots who have not been paid on time, with unions threatening they will walk off the job if salaries do not arrive soon.

Jet's crisis deepened due to a stalemate in talks between Jet founder Naresh Goyal and the airline's other major stakeholder, Etihad Airline. Local media said on Saturday hope was fading that Goyal would be able to raise the funds needed to save the airline he launched 26 years ago.

Meanwhile, Jet's pilots said they are suffering from massive financial stress caused by non-payment of salaries for the last three months, which has even forced some to mortgage jewellery and take short-term loans. The pilots said even EMI payments on car and home loans might become difficult in the present circumstance.

Pilots said that they, along with engineers and other highly-critical segments of employees, have not been paid three-month salaries from January 1 and that only 12.5 per cent of December pay was given.

"Nearly all of us have financial responsibilities. We fear that a sudden collapse of the airline might be imminent. We need our dues to paid by March 31 and a clear road map for our company," National Aviator's Guild vice-president Captain Asim Valiani told IANS in Mumbai.

"We have decided that either the management lets us know about the progress of the resolution plan and the future of the company by March 31 or we will refrain from flying duties."
23/03/19 AFP/IANS/Khaleej Times