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Last Updated : May 06, 2019 01:37 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

As employees gather on Jet Airways' 26th anniversary, all eyes on Friday's bid deadline

Employees’ hope lies on one of the bidders putting in a bid to revive the airline.

Prince Mathews Thomas @prince0879

The message was high-spirited and even a tad boisterous.

Calling Jet Airways employees to assemble at Terminal 3 of Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport on Monday evening to mark the company's anniversary, the message said: "We are 26 years young today. Joy of Flying (the airline's tagline) ... Let the bidders not only know our strength but let's be an example for the business houses across the world for the solidarity and strength of the dedicated employees!!"

There was hope.

"Let's do it on this very significant day with hope and prayers in our hearts that we will fly back soon."

And then, there was reality check, followed by some more exuberance.

"Remember these are the last few days for the finishing stages of the bidding. We have to show the bidders, the dedication and support of the family of Jet Airways, whose back bone is its employees," ended the message.

The emotions are understandable. It is a crucial week for Jet Airways and its employees. The bidders - Etihad Airways, TPG Capital, Indigo Partners and NIIF - have to submit bids by Friday, May 10. The bids are important to keep hopes of the airline's revival alive after it suspended operations on April 17.

The odds

But, most of the odds seem to be stacked against it. "There is nil chance," says a senior official of a low-cost airline, when asked about chances of Jet Airways resuming operations. He explains: "If the banks had kept it flying, then the chances would have been better as the airline would have kept generating some amount of working capital. But now, it is starting afresh, and too without much of its assets."

Jet Airways owes over Rs 8,000 crore to banks, which were unwilling to lend more without another investor coming on board. Etihad Airways, which holds 24 percent in Jet Airways, had initially agreed to bring more funds but later backed out.

Since closing its counters on April 17, the airline has lost aircraft (over half of its original fleet of 119 planes), slots (especially in the busiest airports of Delhi and Mumbai) and talent. Peers such as SpiceJet and IndiGo have recruited hundreds of pilots, crew members and engineers from Jet Airways.

An airline employee has said that Jet Airways now has about 1,000 pilots left from the earlier count of about 1,800.

"It is still a large number.... Almost 90 percent of pilots based in my location have resigned," said another Jet Airways employee. After staying put for a long time, this executive has accepted an offer from another airline. "It's mostly the guys in Mumbai and Delhi who are holding up," added the person.

Some of them, based in Mumbai, met SBI Caps last week that is overseeing the bidding process. The group of employees proposed to take over the airline and promised investments of Rs 7,000 crore. In the meeting, the employees were told that their proposal would be considered if none of the bidders submitted a bid.

When asked about the chances of a bid being placed, one of the employees, who was a part of the meeting, said: "The chances are very good."

If not, they are preparing the grounds to take over the airline.
First Published on May 6, 2019 01:37 pm
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