Jet Air asks junior pilots to go on 10 days' unpaid leave

Jet Airways (India) Ltd has asked as many as 200 of its junior pilots to go on unpaid leave for 10 days a month, resulting in a 30 per cent reduction in their salaries, as the airline seeks to cut costs and rationalisation of its fleet amid weaker demand for travel to Gulf countries.

Jet Airways grew slower than the industry last year. The domestic aviation market saw a growth of 23.18 per cent in terms of passengers carried in 2016, and against this Jet Airways and Jet Lite grew by only a little over 4 per cent, according to data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

''Jet Airways continues to remain committed to all its employees which include crew members and trainees, who are essentially a part of the Jet family. However, certain developments in the market, including that of the Gulf region, as well as our continued efforts to enhance internal efficiencies, has resulted in the review of our network, fleet and crew utilisation. Consequently, as a proactive measure, the company has made interim alignments to its crew work patterns, which will be reviewed in future, in line with network growth,'' a Jet Airways spokesperson said.

In a 15 July letter addressed to a first officer (junior pilot), a copy of which has been reviewed by sections of the media, the management asked the pilot to take 10 days off each month ''with the appropriate remuneration'', which results in a 30 per cent pay cut, as an 'interim measure' to help the company balance its cost structure.

Such letters were mainly sent to junior pilots who joined the airline in the last 12-18 months, reports say.

The airline said the company, over the past few months ''has been intensely focussed on fleet and network rationalisation and working on cost efficiencies.'' As part of the exercise, it had to revisit its manpower requirements, it said.

In the letter, Jet said it is offering a ''lifestyle work pattern'' and if the ''terms are not acceptable'' and the pilots wish to seek alternative opportunities, they will need to revert by 31 July added.

The Naresh Goyal-controlled airline in which Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways PJSC owns a stake has been facing intense cost pressures amid greater competition and a slowdown in the Gulf region.

In the fourth quarter ended 31 March, the airline reported a 91 per cent decline in profit as higher revenue was more than offset by costlier fuel, lower airfares and weak demand from the Gulf region, a key market.

To contain costs, the airline is also looking to sub-lease its smaller aircraft to a regional airline as they do not align with Jet's premium push, reported on 19 July.