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Amid woes, revival hopes flutter for Jet Airways employees

As hundreds of employees, highly-skilled as well as semi-skilled, assembled for a "silent appeal" in the national capital on Thursday afternoon, hope was in the air despite an uncertain tomorrow.  

PTI
PTI New Delhi April 18, 2019 20:28 IST
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Some loaders have pledged ornaments of their wives, some engineers have sold vehicles and many have defaulted on their monthly payments. They are among the 22,000-odd employees of the now wingless Jet Airways.

As hundreds of employees, highly-skilled as well as semi-skilled, assembled for a "silent appeal" in the national capital on Thursday afternoon, hope was in the air despite an uncertain tomorrow.

From being clueless on how to find money for their children's school and college fees, to paying rent for their accommodations, staff are looking for answers and for most, the answers lie in immediate funding from lenders.

"I can't believe that I don't have work today... Hope the airline flies again," Chandrasekar Mandal, who has served the airline for 24 years, told PTI.

Mandal, who is a supervisor of loaders at the airport here, has stories of many of his colleagues struggling to cough up money to meet their expenses, including for college admission of their wards.

Sunil Kumar, a driver who has also put in 24 years, said it was becoming difficult to manage daily requirements, adding that many of his colleagues have pledged their wives' ornaments to raise money.

With prayers on their lips for funds to restart the airline, many employees are optimistic about turning around things provided enough support is coming.

About Thursday's gathering at Jantar Mantar, a place known for hosting demonstrations, senior pilot Rohit Chaudhary said the employees' gathering is not a protest but a "silent appeal" for reviving the airline.

Chaudhary has been associated with Jet Airways for 21 years and his wife is also a pilot with the carrier for 16 years.

According to a senior pilot, one of the reasons for the airline's downfall was possible lack of transparency in communications between the airline management and the government on funding.

Manish, an engineer who has been with the carrier for 19 years, said he did not have any clue that the airline would suspend operations.

He also said that some people have sold their vehicles and withdrew their fixed deposits.

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Quite a few employees did crowd funding for their colleagues in dire need, including for one who is bed ridden, Rithesh -- an engineer with 17 years stint at the airline -- said.

Loaders and drivers, working on contract, are also bearing the financial brunt with mounting salary dues. One of them, Rajeev Kumar, said paying tuition and admission fees are becoming difficult and that most have taken loans.

Not just meeting expenses, some employees staying on rented accommodations have been asked to vacate by their landlords in the wake of the airline crisis, according to Vaishali, who is in the commercial department.

Besides impacting the lives of employees, there are also the cascading effect on others in the aviation business.

The shutting down of operations is also negatively impacting travel agents and businesses of outlets at airport, according to Abhijit Angolkar, station manager of the airline here. He has been with the carrier for 26 years.

Jet Airways would have completed 26 years of services in May.

With substantial number of employees having been with Jet Airways for around 20 years, getting another job is also not easy considering the age factor and the job market situation.

A rival airline was offering only around half the salary amount that was paid to a loader at Jet Airways, according to Srinivas, who is into the administration department.

Jet Aircraft Maintenance Engineers Welfare Association (Jamewa) President Ashish Kumar Mohanty said that funds should be immediately given to the airline as efforts should be first made to save existing jobs and then look at generating jobs.

Taking to the street, the harried employees are waiting to be heard as reflected in a placard, 'Hear our cry, Let 9W fly'.

9W is the code for Jet Airways flights. 

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