Regional airliner Air Deccan announced that it is ceasing its operations until further notice and all employees are being put on sabbatical without pay. This makes Air Deccan the first Indian aviation company to succumb to the Coronavirus crisis that has hit the travel and aviation sector badly.
In an email to his employees, Air Deccan CEO Arun Kumar Singh said, "In view of the recent global and domestic issues and subsequent directive by the Indian regulator (to suspend all commercial passenger flights till April 14), Air Deccan has no choice but to cease its operations until further notice."
"With heavy heart, I am also compelled to inform that all existing employees of Air Deccan (permanent, temporary and contractual) are being put on sabbatical without pay with immediate effect," he added in the email.
Singh also added in his email that next week, the management will hold meetings with department heads for continuity of certain key personnel (with continuity of employment terms) to ensure that when the right time arrives, the airline can be restarted with nominal efforts.
"I personally assure you as and when Air Deccan recommences the operations under conducive circumstances, all existing employees will be offered first right of refusal for their current positions," he added.
The regional carrier has a fleet of four 18-seater Beechcraft aircraft to fly on regional routes in western India, focusing on Gujarat. The development comes as India imposed a 21-day lockdown from March 25 to curb the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, all domestic and international commercial passenger flights have been suspended for this time period. Only cargo flights, offshore helicopter operations, medical evacuation flights and special flights permitted by Indian aviation regulator DGCA are operating during this lockdown.
Other aviation companies have been hit too. IndiGo announced a pay cut of up to 25 percent for its senior employees while Vistara announced a compulsory leave without pay of up to three days for its senior employees in March. SpiceJet has also initiated pay cuts stating that its employees' salaries would be reduced between 10 to 30 percent. Similarly, Air India has announced a 10 percent cut in allowances for every employee, except cabin crew, for the next three months. GoAir also initiated salary cuts, laid off its expat pilots and introduced leave without pay for employees on a rotational basis. However, Air Deccan becomes the first casualty of the crisis, which doesn’t bode well for the sector and the people employed in it.