Oct 18, 2008

Business - India;Jet to restructure cabin crew flying hours

Manisha Singhal

Jet Airways is working on a plan that will entail a reduction in flight duty hours of its unconfirmed cabin crew (that will reduce their take-home salary), withdrawing some perks and downgrading entitlements like hotels as part of a package to reduce manpower costs. Perks on the block include a weight allowance (given to cabin crew if they maintain a certain body weight) and allowances for staying abroad amongst others.

This plans follows Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal’s announcement at a drama-filled late night press conference yesterday that the airline would reinstate all 800 employees, mostly cabin crew, retrenched the day before.

The broad parameters of a compromise solution were discussed between Goyal and the reinstated staff at Mumbai's Trident Hotel today. Goyal had hinted at yesterday's press meet that he would sit around with the reinstated staff to see how they could work together to improve the efficiency of the airline.

The package might also include downsizing the number of expatriate cockpit crew who get 40 per cent higher salaries than their Indian counterparts. Jet Airways has over 700 expatriate pilots. A Jet Airways spokesperson, however, was not available for comment despite repeated attempts.

The broad plan also entails shifting experienced senior cabin crew from international operations to domestic routes, thereby reducing the number of the flying hours beginners would be clocking. The carrier has decided to withdraw many international destinations and also cut capacity 15 per cent.

Around 80 per cent of cabin crew salary is linked to the number of flying hours they put in, unconfirmed crew will obviously get a much lower overall take home salary. "The airline recruited cabin crew in hoards when it was expanding, now it does not know what to do with them," said a source in the airline.

Jet has at least 3,800 cabin crew currently. A general ratio between the aircraft and cabin crew is 1:5 or 1:7, depending on the aircraft type. For Jet, currently this ratio is 1:9. 7

Roughly 40 per cent of the cabin crew consists of members with over four years of service, about 1100 are beginners who were unconfirmed (and whom the airline planned to retrench) and around 1000 have eight months to a year-and-a-half of experience.

Although Goyal yesterday hinted that he had no role to play in the decision to lay off 800 staffers, the chairman met senior cabin crew twice, say sources, once on October 6 and then October 7 at Mumbai's Intercontinental and Mirage Hotel.

The senior cabin crew protested to the chairman about the substantial cut in their salaries because of reduced flying hours owing to a cut in capacity, the reduction in international flights and the presence of surplus non-confirmed cabin crew.

Sources say the move to lay off Jet's unconfirmed cabin crew was taken to primarily meet the growing opposition of the senior crew.

"Goyal was not happy about the fact that experienced staff was not getting paid enough because of the entry level staff," said a source.

The source added that the chairman was also apparently unhappy that the quality of service on the domestic sector was deteriorating.

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