Jet Airways shuts down: Couples in 'Jet marriage' are worse hit due to airline crisis
Couples who found love at Jet Airways are not sure how they'll pay EMIs of homes and school tuition fees after airline suspended operations on Wednesday following a denial of request by lenders for critical interim funding
For roughly 40 per cent employees of the troubled Jet Airways who are married to each other, the airline's current crisis has dealt a blow to both incomes coming into their homes. From enjoying a stable, comfortable life, several are now struggling to make ends meet, falling back on housing loans and even the school fees of their children because they haven't been paid their salaries for months.
Among the 40 per cent of married couples - a statistic claimed by several employees - is Sushma Shetty, 33, a customer service supervisor who met her husband Pushkar Bhavsar, a member of the cabin crew, on the job. Far from enjoying the married life they had hoped for, the couple has not been able to pay the EMIs on the loan they took together for their Powai home.
While some of the senior staff members, including pilots and engineers, have not received their salaries since January, the junior employees have been unpaid since March. If push comes to shove, Shetty, who has worked with Jet Airways for the past 11 years, says they will have to move out of their house, unless they are able to pay the EMIs. "We all took up jobs with Jet because it is a reliable brand and we will wait for things to stabilise. But, if we don't get our salaries for much longer, we will have no choice but to put our house on rent and move in with my in-laws."
Based on discussions they had with Kiran Pawaskar, president of All India Jet Airways' Officers and Staff Association, the employees will continue to report to work at least until May 10, when the bidding process to find a buyer will end. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Working without pay
Shetty's predicament is shared by several other employees. Ashwini Kakde, who has spent eight years in the Jet administration, is married to Praful Karochi who is a part of the cabin crew. The couple has been juggling housing loans and their four-year-old daughter's tuition fees.
Apart from shelling out Rs 60,000 for her daughter's school fees, Kakde also has to pay off a housing loan, as well as a car loan. "I have managed to convince the school authorities to allow me to pay half the tuition fees for now. We are hoping the situation will improve. Since the operations are suspended, there isn't much work either. But all of us still have to spend eight and a half hours at work every day," she said. The situation is worse for employees with fewer years of experience who earn around Rs 20,000 and have to commute all the way to the airport without having much to do here.
For customer care department executive Amina Abbas, who has been in the airline for the past seven years, paying rent is proving to be tough. "I moved from Goa to Mumbai for work and I live as a paying guest in Malad. For the past week, my landlord has been messaging me every day for rent. My parents are supporting me right now but they can't do this every month," she said.
Many employees, however, have quit their jobs and moved to other airlines. One of the pilots who has been with Jet Airways for the past nine years said that at least 250 of the 1,800 pilots have quit and joined another airline in the past one week alone. "Our salaries are higher than that of the ground staff or cabin crew," he said, adding that based on experience, a pilot's salary can range from anywhere between Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 7 lakh. "So we were able to manage even though we haven't received our salaries since January. Our salary for December was paid in March. Many of us are waiting because we believe things will work out and operations will resume," he added.
On Thursday, several of these aggrieved employees had gathered in front of the Jet Airways office in Andheri. While they are concerned about their pending salaries and the financial hurdles they are experiencing, they are hoping they won't have to jump ship to another airline. "The government oversees the aviation sector. During financial problems, they cannot say that it [aviation] is a private business and take a backseat when it is convenient for them. Thousands of employees have paid taxes. They should intervene and help us out," said Bincy Zaxon who has spent nine years in the company in the customer service department.
Demanded CBI inquiry
Based on discussions they had with Kiran Pawaskar, president of All India Jet Airways' Officers and Staff Association, and member of the legislative assembly from the Nationalist Congress Party, the employees will continue to report to work at least until May 10, when the bidding process to find a buyer will end. Pawaskar, who claims to represent around 10,000 Jet employees from across the country, said, "I have demanded a CBI inquiry into the manner in which Jet Airways folded." Pawaskar is planning to approach the police commissioner on Friday with the request to not allow stakeholders like Naresh Goyal to leave the city, lest they flee like Vijay Mallya, leaving thousands of employees to suffer.
"The government has to intervene since the impact will not only be specific to Jet employees but will also apply to those of Kingfisher Airlines and Cambata [Aviation] who still haven't received their dues. The Prime Minister promised to give jobs to the youth but here, thousands are losing their jobs and nothing is being done," he said. He added that Jet employees who want to quit and join another company are not able to get their gratuity amounts either. Jet Airways needs Rs 983 crore to resume operations for fuel and salaries of its employees. mid-day contacted a Jet Airways spokesperson, but they remained unavailable for comment.
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