A CRISIS at India’s Jet Airways deepened today (19) as an increasingly worried Indian government called for an emergency meeting, angry passengers demanded refunds, and pilots threatened to go on strike over unpaid salaries.
India’s civil aviation minister, Suresh Prabhu, asked his officials to call for a meeting to discuss grounding of flights, advance bookings, cancellations, refunds, and any potential safety issues, at the cash-strapped carrier.
Saddled with debt of more than $1 billion (£754 million), Jet is struggling to stay aloft.
The groundings have forced Jet to cancel hundreds of flights, some at the last minute, leaving passengers stranded. Many have taken to social media to voice their angst.
Jet is currently operating only 41 aircraft, just a third of its original fleet, the aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), said in a statement, adding that the situation is fluid and the airline may be forced to reduce its fleet further in coming weeks.
Several angry passengers were seen demanding pending refunds for cancelled flights at Jet’s offices in Mumbai earlier on Tuesday (19).
The airline’s pilots union has also said that pilots have decided to stop flying from April 1 if Jet does not have a rescue plan in place by March 31 and does not provide a proper roadmap on paying their overdue salaries.
“It is not about the salary right now, it is about whether we are going to survive,” one pilots told television news channel ET Now.
The DGCA said with the current fleet Jet is likely to operate only about 985 flights a week or 140 flights a day – down from an average of about 650 flights a day in March 2018.
The regulator also said that Jet’s pilots, cabin crew and ground staff who have reported any kind of stress should not be put on duty, and the airline should carry out regular maintenance of its aircraft even if they are currently grounded.
Prabhu, in a separate statement on Tuesday (19), asked officials to continuously monitor the situation at Jet and ensure that public interest and safety are given top priority.