Saturday, October 18, 2008

India's Jet Airways sacks, then reinstates, hundreds of flight attendants

Put this one in the "truth is stranger than fiction" file.

Jet AirwaysFirst, India's Jet Airways decided to lay off hundreds of flight attendants, beginning this week, in order to cut costs. The Times of India reported that as many as 850 Jet Airways cabin crew would receive termination letters this week in what would be the largest layoff in the history of Indian aviation. Most of those who were to be let go have been working for the airline for less than a year and a half. An article on another news website,, said that the number of layoffs would be 600.

In addition, it was rumored that the round of terminations might  not be the end of the crew cutbacks at Jet Airways. The Times of India quoted an unnamed airline official who said, "The rumour doing the rounds here is that more cabin crew lay-offs are on their way. Even the people who de-rostered the crew today fear that they may soon be at the receiving end themselves."

The layoffs were announced with little advance warning to the flight attendants. From The Times of India:
The retrenched crew are said to have taken it very hard, particularly since they were given a verbal job assurance as recently as two months ago by the top management. Chief commercial officer Sudhir Raghavan in one of his weekly Friday interactions with the cabin crew had said that their jobs were insulated. "Irrespective of whatever cost cuts we make, Mr Goyal has told me not to touch the cabin crew, he had said," a crew member recalled Raghavan saying. "So no one pressed the panic button when Goyal and Mallya made the tie-up announcement," he adds.
"It's not just the junior staff, even experienced personnel like the crew and ground staff at Jet's San Francisco base will be laid off once the airline calls off its flights in January," the source said.

Jet Airways announced in a press release earlier this month that the Mumbai-Shanghai-San Francisco route will be discontinued effective January 13, 2009.

But now, in what has been described as a stunning reversal, Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal has announced the reinstatement of all employees sacked earlier this week, and has asked them to return to work tomorrow. According to The Times of India, Goyal claimed the airline's management had taken the decision to lay off hundreds of employees on the basis of economic conditions in the industry. He claimed he didn’t even know the number of employees who had been sacked.

From an article in The Times of India:
Apologizing for "the agony" that the staffers must have undergone, [Goyal] said, "The management might not like my decision but sometimes there are disagreements within the family and as the head of the family, I am taking this decision."
I'm glad to learn that the cabin crew and other employees who were dismissed without warning may not have lost their jobs after all, but something tells me that this drama may have more chapters to follow.

[Photo Source]