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Only 41 Jet aircraft in air, pilot stir on cards

India’s aviation regulator told debt-ridden Jet Airways to ensure that pilots and cabin crew who are under stress aren’t allowed to operate flights in its already heavily curtailed schedule even as its pilots said they would stop flying after April 1 if the beleaguered airline’s management doesn’t finalise a resolution plan by that deadline.

Jet has been operating with just one-third of its fleet of 119 planes after failing to pay aircraft lessors. The cause of the stress could be delays in pilots and crew receiving their salaries and it could be dangerous for them to operate flights, officials at the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said .

“DGCA is ensuring that all aircraft in the fleet whether in operation or on ground are maintained in accordance with Approved Maintenance Programme (AMP). The operator was also directed to ensure that no Pilots/Cabin Crew/AMEs be rostered on duty who had reported stress of any nature. Additionally, all such staff should be current with all mandatory training requirements,” a DGCA spokesperson said. AMEs are aircraft maintenance engineers.

On Tuesday, Jet’s pilots decided they would stop flying on April 1 if the status quo continues. Karan Chopra, president of the National Aviator’s Guild, the pilots union of Jet Airways, said, “We want assurance that our salaries will be paid to us. Currently, we haven’t been given any information by the management.”

A senior management official said, “In no case, will the salaries not be paid to the pilots.”

Also read | Jet Airways crisis worsens as government steps in, pilots threaten strike

Jet Airways is battling a crisis that has led to the grounding of 78 of its 119 planes. The board of Etihad Airways, which owns a 24% stake in the airline, and creditors of Jet Airways are in an impasse over fresh fund infusions into the beleaguered carrier, forcing it to halt flights to foreign destinations including Abu Dhabi, one of its two international hubs.

Aviation minister Suresh Prabhu directed civil aviation secretary to hold an emergency meeting on Jet Airways’ massive cancellations following the grounding of a large part of its fleet.

“DGCA reviewed the performance of Jet Airways on Operational, Airworthiness and Passenger Facilitation on Tuesday. Current availability of aircraft in the fleet for operation is 41 and accordingly schedules for 603 domestic flights and 382 international flights have been drawn. However, it is a dynamic situation and there may be further attrition in coming weeks,” DGCA said in a statement.

Jet used to operate 119 aircraft and almost 4,000 flights weekly, which has gone down to 985.

“DGCA instructed the airline to comply with the relevant provisions of the applicable CARs (Civil Aviation Requirements) for facilitation of passengers regarding timely communication, compensation, refunds and providing alternate flights wherever applicable. The data is being monitored by DGCA on regular basis,” the spokesperson added.

On Tuesday evening, Jet Airways said it had grounded six more planes due to non-payment of lease rentals. “…. an additional six aircraft (include one aircraft of Jet Lite (India) Ltd) have been grounded due to non-payment of amounts outstanding to lessors under their respective lease agreements,” the airline said in a filing to the stock exchanges.

Many passengers are being informed about flight cancellations at the last moment and although the airline will refund them, most are unable to book alternative flights because of the extra cost it would entail.

“I booked tickets two months in advance to travel home for Holi (March 21) but for travel on Wednesday, the airline informed me on Monday that my flight has been postponed to Sunday, the day when my return flight is booked. I checked fare of other airlines, which is almost four-five times of the fare I booked. Now my festival is ruined because of the callous behaviour of the airline,” said a passenger who booked a flight from Mumbai to Kolkata, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

There were also concerns over maintenance of the grounded planes and safety of the planes that are operating.

“DGCA is ensuring that all aircraft in the fleet whether in operation or on ground are maintained in accordance with Approved Maintenance Programme (AMP),” the DGCA spokesperson said.

“DGCA is continuously monitoring overall situation and based on the same, will take appropriate steps by the end of the month, if needed,” he added.

Burdened by debt of around $1.14 billion, Jet Airways has cancelled several flights from/to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad and Port Blair.

Meanwhile, lessors of Jet Airways’ grounded aircraft are in talk with its rival Spicejet to ensure the planes are in operation, according to a senior airline official who did not want to be named. Spicejet has had to ground 12 Boeing 737 MAX planes amid safety concerns following an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash on March 10 that killed 157 passengers and crew, and is in need of more aircraft.

First Published:
Mar 19, 2019 22:11 IST

Source: HindustanTimes