The commercial aviation industry in India and across the globe have suffered immensely due to the spread of COVID-19. Airlines in India had not taken off since 25 March when the government announced complete lockdown. The lockdown meant that airlines had to cancel all its passenger operations and restrict people from travelling. Although the lockdown was initiated to control the spread of the pandemic, airlines have taken a toll as their financial woes have increased.
GoAir, a widely known low-cost carrier in India, said it would defer and partially pay the majority of its staff due to revenue constraints. The airline management has said that since they haven’t received any support from the government in the form of a bailout, the airline had no other option but to defer salaries. Since March, GoAir laid off ex-pat pilots, introduced leave without pay and cut 50 per cent of the salary of its top leadership.
No-frills carrier SpiceJet also announced a similar package. The airline said that pilots would not receive salaries for April and May. Only those pilots who operated cargo flights will receive salaries depending on the number of hours flown. SpiceJet which deployed passenger flights for cargo operations said it is utilising 20 per cent of their pilots. Around 20 aircraft from their fleet is carrying cargo.
Pay cuts and forced leave without pay
Vistara, which is a full-service carrier, forced its senior grade employees to go on leave-without-pay. Over 1200 employees have to take up six days of leave without pay. Other employees who comprise cabin crew and ground handling services will not be affected.
IndiGo which announced in April about the deduction of salaries as high as 15 per cent for cockpit crew reversed its decision keeping in mind the government’s appeal to not cut salaries during these difficult times. However, understandably since the lockdown was extended until 17 May, IndiGo announced yesterday that they have no other option but to introduce pay cuts. The airline, however, has paid full salaries to its employees in March and April. Other carriers AirAsia and Air India have cut salaries by 20 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
Although the lockdown has been in place since 25 March and airlines have been grounded, a positive sign to restart operations came in from the Civil Aviation Minister.
Preparations to restart civil aviation operations are in place. As soon as a decision is taken in this regard we will be able to take off immediately. We also foresee changes in the way people travelled thus far. A calibrated reopening can happen after the lockdown. @MoCA_GoI pic.twitter.com/fGnyFIGtqI
The government is yet to chalk out a plan to give interim relief such as tax reduction or bailout the airline industry. The government promised that it would work in favour of the airlines. India is the world’s third-largest aviation market carrying over 400 million passengers every year.