Jet Airways in trouble as JetLite pilots line up to join Vistara, IndiGo

With 12 pilots dedicated per aircraft, the move could leave up to 6 of Jet’s aircraft grounded.

Loss-making Jet Airways is staring at further trouble. At least 70 of the 189 pilots with its low-cost subsidiary JetLite (which operates under JetKonnect brand) have decided to quit and accept offers from market leader IndiGo and new player Tata-SIA?s Vistara, sources told FE. With 12 pilots normally dedicated per aircraft, the move could leave up to six of Jet?s Boeing 737, or ATR, aircraft grounded.

The development comes after multiple meetings between the Jet Airways management and JetLite pilots ? the last two of which happened on Monday (in Mumbai) and Saturday (in Delhi) ? failed to yield positive results. JetLite pilots are unhappy with the ?unfair? terms offered by the Jet management under the merger of the JetKonnect brand with the parent that is expected to be completed by December this year. Out of 189 pilots at JetLite ? erstwhile Air Sahara, 98 are captains and the rest first officers.

A Jet Airways spokesperson said, “We currently have excess pilot numbers in JetLite and we are opening options to the pilots of working with Jet Airways and in exploring further career opportunities.?

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JetLite pilots have asked the regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation to allow them a month?s notice period, against the mandatory six under the Civil Aviation Requirements, so that they make a shift to a rival airline at the earliest.

?Both IndiGo and Vistara are rapidly expanding and have said they are interested. The JetLite pilots need a shorter notice period, because if Jet decides to close down JetLite within the next few months, they will be left jobless. Jet also owes significant arrears to these pilots, about R15 lakh each to the pilots and R7-8 lakh for the first officers,? a source close to the development said.

At the Saturday meeting, the Jet management gave the JetLite pilots four options in all, on which they have sought a final decision by October 5.

The first is to stay in JetLite post the brand merger, but with no guarantee if JetLite?s ?S2? airline code will close down. Other two offers are either to shift to Jet Airways on a 18-month contract and with four months of base protection, or to shift to Jet Airways completely but with no seniority or base protection ? this means senior-most JetLite commanders would be put at a lower position of a first officer in Jet and can be shifted to anywhere in the country.

The last option, as earlier reported by FE, is a shift to Jet’s Abu Dhabi-based 24% equity partner Etihad on an 18-month contract. However, Etihad has immediate requirement only for 20 Boeing 777 pilots.

“Only the Etihad offer is acceptable, that too for a small number and the younger pilots. Not for those with families and already settled in Delhi or Mumbai. We are deeply unhappy and are writing to the Jet CEO, DGCA, as well as the Prime Minister’s Office on our plight,? a JetLite pilot said

Another added, ?The offers by the management isn’t much better than the original offer. They have only tweaked it without adding anything significant for the pilots. A massive exodus of pilots could be expected as more pilots are expected to put down their papers in the coming days?.

Incidentally, Jet Airways’ own pilots (it has over 1,000) had also objected against any benefits offered to JetLite pilots under the merger terms. They felt that if JetLite pilots filled up the senior positions, it would hamper their own career progression. ?The management decided to play it safe. It had to make a choice between Jet Airways pilots and JetLite pilots, since several senior Jet Airways pilots were not happy with the integration of Jet Lite pilots into Jet Airways,” a third pilot said.

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First published on: 30-09-2014 at 01:37 IST