Jet Airways flew its last flight—S2 3502, from Amritsar to Mumbai—on Wednesday night as it ran out of cash and lenders declined to pump in more funds to keep the airline running. With that last flight, the hopes of over 16,000 employees hangs in the balance as their jobs have vanished in thin air.
While Jet Airways CEO Vinay Dube told employees on Wednesday that the stake sale process would take time and could throw up more challenges, but he was confident the airline would fly again. However, till then, the fate of these employees is unclear.
The government has maintained its silence on the issue, but at stake is the uncertain future of employees, lessors and its vendors as well. Hundreds of angry employees have protested in New Delhi and Mumbai, accusing management of leaving staff in the dark about the airline's worsening crisis which till recently was India’s third-largest domestic airline by market share.
Saddled with more than $1.2 Bn in bank debt and with all its planes grounded, all eyes are now on India’s largest lender, State Bank of India, and the consortium of banks it leads to revive the debt-laden airline. The group believes that for Jet Airways to survive, the best way is to get the binding bids from potential investors. In a statement, the consortium of lenders said they were “reasonably hopeful" that the bid process was likely to be successful in determining fair value of the enterprise in a transparent manner.
Meanwhile, about 400 pilots have moved to other airlines, leaving Jet with about 1,300 pilots, as per a senior Jet pilot. About 40 engineers have also left the airline. In addition, Air India has almost completed hiring 150 cabin crew members from Jet Airways for its international operations. While some veteran employees remain loyal to the airline and hope it can be restored to its former glory, when will that be is anybody’s guess. Till then, the fate of thousands of employees is grounded too.