A year after Jet Airways grounding, wishes to go back in time, hopes of revival dot the firmament

'Wish I could go back in time', yearns a pilot who was in the cockpit of a Jet Airways plane that landed little past midnight at Mumbai airport on April, 2019. Not many thought it will be the last flight of the once-storied carrier, where scores of pilots and other staff served for at least two decades

Press Trust of India April 15, 2020 18:34:32 IST
A year after Jet Airways grounding, wishes to go back in time, hopes of revival dot the firmament

New Delhi/ Mumbai: "Wish I could go back in time", yearns a pilot who was in the cockpit of a Jet Airways plane that landed little past midnight at Mumbai airport on April, 2019. Not many thought it will be the last flight of the once-storied carrier, where scores of pilots and other staff served for at least two decades.

As the grounding of the cash-starved Jet Airways nears one year, many dreams have been shattered but there is optimism of an insolvency resolution-led new birth.

The airline announced the temporary suspension of services on 17 April last year and the last flight S2-3502 that took off from Amristar at around 1030 pm touched down at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport at 12.22 am on 18 April.

Jet Airways' low-cost arm JetLite operated the flight with a Boeing 737-800 aircraft, which was later taken on lease by no-frills airline SpiceJet.

From a sense of belonging to disbelief to lingering hopes of a revival, a few former staff PTI spoke to have myriad emotions when they recalled Jet Airways days.

A year after Jet Airways grounding wishes to go back in time hopes of revival dot the firmament

Representational image. Reuters.

For Nidhi Chaphekar, the Jet Airways cabin crew member who was injured in a terror attack at Brussels airport in 2016, the closure of the airline is more tough than the terror incident.

Chaphekar, who was with the airline for nearly 24 years, is now a motivational speaker and has also released a book.

There are lot of troubles for many former employees. Some are even under depression and some are doing part-time jobs, including taking tuitions, she said.

"I worked with Jet Airways for 21 years and everything looked like a dream. For many like me, the clock has come back to a standstill," a senior pilot who flew Airbus 330 plane told PTI.

Requesting anonymity since he is now working with an overseas airline, the pilot said like him, many of his colleagues have also got jobs with foreign carriers but there are issues to deal with.

After Jet Airways shuttered with no money to fly last year, thousands of staff came together for public meetings, silent protests and made representations to the government and other authorities. Candle light marches were also organised in various cities, including the national capital and Mumbai.

Some drivers who had worked with Jet Airways are now driving Ola, Uber and auto rickshaws, according to the pilot.

Jet Airways, which began its journey as an air taxi operator with service from Mumbai to Ahmedabad, had about 1,300 pilots and a total of about 20,000 employees at its peak.

Captain Mohit Dagar said memories are still fresh when he joined the airline as a trainee first officer more than 11 years ago.

He was the pilot-in-command of the last flight that operated on 17 April.

"Some days I wish I could go back in time. Not to change anything but to feel a few things again," he told PTI from Dubai.

Sounding nostalgic about his Jet Airways days, Dagar said there were so many great memories such as in getting command, becoming trainer, flying to so many wonderful and challenging airports.

"One thing I am really grateful (for) is the kind of training I received. You realise this only when you go out in the world to a new company. Wherever I go, whichever aircraft I fly, there will always be a Jet pilot deep down in my heart," he said.

A senior executive, who was privy to most developments during the final months of Jet Airways, said the airline was a vibrant place to work and there was always a sense of belonging.

"The D-day (17 April) was not expected by anyone at the airline... It was a disbelief when the operations were suspended on 17 April," he said on condition of anonymity.

According to him, Jet Airways brand has outlived the airline's operational presence and it was the loss of a national brand rather than just an airline.

At the peak of its operations, Jet Airways had little over 120 planes. When the operations came to a halt due to mounting debt woes and unpaid salaries, the airline had around 16 own planes.

Amit Kelkar, who worked with Jet Airways for 23 years as an aircraft maintenance engineer, said many employees had to make huge compromises in salaries and designations at new companies.

He was also the vice president of Jet Aircraft Maintenance Engineers' Welfare Association.

Irrespective of operations, Jet Airways' work of maintaining planes in an airworthy condition was on till 31 May, 2019. After that, approval for maintenance and training was suspended, he noted.

Sharing sentiments of many others, he said payment of EMIs was a big issue for most even as he added that a substantial number of former Jet Airways staff are still waiting patiently in the hope of revival.

Kelkar, who is also actively involved in the insolvency resolution process, said that many questions about Jet Airways reaching the current situation remain unanswered.

Released in February, Chaphekar''s book is about her experience after Brussels airport terror attack. The book is about how she faced the negativity and about grit, she noted.

Her photograph taken soon after the terror attack on 22 March, 2016, was widely carried.

On 20 June, 2019, the National Company Law Tribunal admitted the insolvency petition filed against Jet Airways.

While some entities expressed their interest in the airline, no concrete proposals have come up so far. On 18 March, 2020, the tribunal allowed 90 days' extension for the corporate insolvency resolution process of Jet Airways.

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