Hours after the aircraft engineers’ union said Jet Airways flight safety is at risk as its employees haven’t been paid in last three months, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu Tuesday directed the civil aviation secretary to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the airline’s financial crunch.
“It has been arduous for us to meet our financial requirements, result of which have adversely affected the psychological condition of Aircraft Engineers at work and therefore the safety of public transport airplanes being flown by Jet Airways across India and the world is at risk,” the Jet Aircraft Engineers Welfare Association (JAMEWA) said in a letter to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
On Monday, Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal told pilots that he needed more time to resolve the issues facing the company. Goyal added that he is “committed to have the process completed as soon as possible and restore much-needed stability” to the airline’s operations and that he would make it a top priority to settle delayed salary payments for pilots and some other staff.
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“While the senior management is finding a resolution to be in business, we the Engineers who inspect, troubleshoot and certify the public transport airplanes for its airworthiness are in tremendous stress due to non-payment of salaries on time, since last 7 months. As of now, 3 month’s salary is overdue to us,” the association wrote.
The airline has accumulated a debt of Rs 8,200 crore and has defaulted thrice since January. Jet has delayed payments to its pilots, suppliers and lessors for months. Goyal said talks with the airline’s strategic partner Etihad Airways, which owns 24 per cent stake in Jet, and SBI-led lenders were ongoing.
Amid the growing uncertainty over the future of its flight operations, the airlines also grounded its operations in Abu Dhabi for an indefinite period. Abu Dhabi is one of the two international hubs of Jet Airways. “Jet Airways has cancelled all their flights from Abu Dhabi with immediate effect from March 18 due to operational reasons,” Etihad Airport services said in a notification to its passengers Sunday.
The Jet Airways board had on 14 February approved a bailout plan whereby the lenders led by the State Bank of India (SBI) would become the largest shareholders in the airline by converting the airline’s debt into equity at a nominal price of Re 1.
(More details awaited)