A major crisis at the struggling carrier Jet Airways was averted Sunday after its pilots' body, National Aviator's Guild (NAG), deferred till April 15 its call for halting operations.
The decision was taken at an open house meeting of NAG members which took place in both Mumbai and Delhi on Sunday afternoon, NAG president Karan Chopra told reporters after the meeting which lasted for about four hours.
The NAG, which claims to represent around 1,100 of the 1,600 Jet Airways pilots, had announced earlier that its members will not fly from April 1, unless their salary dues were cleared and clarity was provided on future payments by March 31.
"The management has shown us a positive intent by transferring our(December) salary and we thought we should give them at least a couple of weeks to settle down and form the interim board and solve our issues which they have already spoken about earlier.
"Therefore, the collective call taken by the pilots in both Mumbai and Delhi of no flying, which was supposed to start from April 1, has now been deferred to April 15 in a hope that something positive pans out in two weeks," Chopra said.
On March 21 the NAG had requested the government to intervene for the survival of Jet Airways, after which State Bank of India (SBI) stated that the lenders will infuse interim funding of Rs 1,500 crore to sustain its operations for the next two months.
Last Monday, Jet Airways' board approved a resolution plan formulated by SBI-led domestic lenders. Under the plan, lenders decided to take control of the airline and make a fund infusion of Rs 1,500 crore.
It has been only six days since the lenders, who are now the new owners, announced additional funding to Jet Airways, and that is why they should be given more time to resolve the issues, Chopra said.
He, however, urged SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar to hold a meeting with pilots' representatives for a clear assessment of the affairs at the airline.
SBI had said the salaries will be paid out of the interim funding, Chopra noted, adding that last night pilots were intimated about disbursal of remaining 87.50 per cent of the December salary.
Jet Airways has been defaulting on salary payments to pilots, engineers and senior management since August 2018.
Its engineers have also reportedly threatened to stop work from April 1 if their dues were not cleared by March 31.
The loss-making airline, now under the ownership of SBI-led consortium of lenders following a debt-recast plan, said Saturday that it could remit only the remaining amount of December salary to pilots and others, as of now.
"Currently, along with engineers and senior staff we are three salaries behind. In totality, it is up to 300 per cent which is slightly more than the 287.50 per cent dues last time.
"The total payout of salary for pilots, engineers and general managers and above-level executives would be in the range of Rs 320-350 crore for the period between January and March this year," Chopra said.
The clearing of remaining dues will be in conjunction with interim funding, as per Jet Airways chief executive Vinay Dube, Chopra informed.
The NAG chief added that now the pilots are hoping that interim funding comes in and remaining dues get cleared.
The NAG hopes that the interim funding continues, but it is not sure about the amount that will come in and how much will be the subsequent pay-out, Chopra stated.
"We urge for a meeting with SBI as early as possible. Ever since our last request, we haven't heard back from him (SBI chairman)," Chopra said.
NAG General Secretary Tej Sood, in a letter to Kumar on March 25, had sought a meeting so that the pilots could get "an idea of the recovery roadmap".