Jet Airways pilots threaten to stop flying over non-payment of salaries

Jet Airways pilots on Tuesday threatened to stop flying from April 1, unless salaries were paid or a resolution plan was agreed upon by the airline management, Etihad and the banks by the month-end. The decision was taken at the annual general body meeting of their union, National Aviators Guild (NAG), in Mumbai on Tuesday. A town hall to discuss the issue will be held in Delhi on Wednesday.“It was a collective call taken by the member pilots. It was not a NAG executive decision. It has been three months since salaries have been affected. Only 37.5 % of the December salary has been credited. The salaries for January and February are still awaited, with no timelines mentioned. Not everybody has the financial strength to continue in this manner,” a senior pilot, who attended the AGM, told The Hindu.Pilots and other senior staff members have not been paid full salaries since December. So far, the airline has grounded over 40 planes due to non-payment of lease rentals. Two out of every three Jet Airways flights now stand cancelled as the airline has been forced to ground the same proportion of planes in its fleet. The DGCA warned on Tuesday that the situation could worsen for the airline in the weeks to come.“Current availability of aircraft in the fleet for operation is 41 and, accordingly, schedule for 603 domestic flights and 382 international flights (per week) has been drawn. Until February, the airline had a total 123 planes in its fleet,” a DGCA statement said.70% flights cutAccording to DGCA sources, Jet Airways operated 2,100 domestic flights per week. Therefore, the current schedule of 603 domestic flights means the airline has been forced to curtail nearly 70% of its flights.In an email to the DGCA, the Jet Aircraft Maintenance Engineers Welfare Association (JAMEWA) vice-president Amit Kelkar said that it has been arduous for the engineers to meet their financial requirements.As a result their psychological condition at work has been affected and therefore the safety of Jet Airways aircraft flying in India and overseas is at risk, it said.However, minutes after the email was leaked to the media, the association sent another email stating that Jet Airways airplanes are safe to fly with a 99.50% Technical Dispatch Reliability (TDR).“The original mail was being misconstrued. Every aircraft that we sign off are in perfect condition to fly and there should be no doubt about this. All we tried to say was that the man behind the machine is more important,” a senior JAMEWA official said.Performance reviewedIn the backdrop of these developments, the DGCA reviewed the performance of the airline on Operational, Airworthiness and Passenger facilitation.“The DGCA instructed the airline to comply with the relevant provisions of the applicable requirements for facilitation of passengers regarding timely communication, compensation, refunds and providing alternate flights wherever applicable. The data is being monitored by the DGCA on a regular basis,” the aviation regulator said.The airline informed the stock exchange late on Tuesday that it was grounding another six planes due to non-payment of lease rentals to lessors.