In 5 months 12,729 airline staffers put-on-bench, companies avoid layoffs

By Coreena Suares  Published on  20 Sep 2020 6:31 AM GMT
In 5 months 12,729 airline staffers put-on-bench, companies avoid layoffs


  • In five months 12,729 airport employees have been ‘put on bench’
  • the domestic traffic plummeted to 1.20 crore against 5.85 crore in 2019
  • International traffic dropped from 93.45 lakh to 11.55 lakh

Hyderabad: In a span of five months beginning 2020 March, 12,729 airport employees have been ‘put on bench’, this includes ground and cargo staffers. However none of the cockpit or crew members have been issued a pink slip.

The revenues of Indian carriers have nosedived from Rs 25,517 crore during April-June 2019 to Rs 3,651 Cr in 2020.

India in 2019 was the 9th largest aviation market in the world with a passenger flow of 344 million.

However, during the lockdown period, the domestic traffic plummeted to 1.20 crore against 5.85 crore in 2019. Likewise, the International traffic dropped from 93.45 lakh to 11.55 lakh.

The last two fiscal years have been unfortunate to the newly licenses cadets in terms of employment . “Jet airways folded up during pre-summer last year and several experienced pilots were left jobless. However Indian carriers preferred them over newly licensed cadets given their flying experience. This left many cadets without any job opportunities. Then came the lockdown in 2020,” said Krishnakanth Malpani, a flying officer and founder of Pilot dreamer, a training institute.

Malpani said none of the cabin crew or cockpit staff has been issued a pink slip. “Few seniors have been asked to go on unpaid leave ranging from six months to two years. While others were subjected to pay cuts. Other allowances like a bonus, overstay charges have been slashed,” he said.

Airlines employees see the industry bounce back in 2021, “Carrier operations growth is directly proportional to passenger flow. It is gradually picking up. Employees cannot be jobless as operators need the trained staff,” he said.

Data reveal that between April and June 2020, Airport operators suffered Rs 4,851 Cr loss compared to last fiscal.

In India, active pilots are either being put on the bench or being given minimal flying hours, both with reduced salaries. But, they aren't being completely abandoned. However, this was not the same case with Air India. The revenue earned by Air India and Express through Vande Bharat Mission's various phases was Rs 2021 Crore and Rs 415 Cr, respectively.

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“The revenues of carriers are directly proportionate to the passenger flow. Once the air traffic picks up, companies will need staff. Companies would think of retaining the skilled employees by putting them on bench or unpaid leave but not sack them” added Flying officer Aditya Sharma.

“In the aviation industry, these changes can be witnessed through passenger processing, airline scheduling, fleet retirements, 'COVID Combi' cargo operations and employee redundancies,” said Rakesh Dhannarapu, an author of ‘101’ flying Secrets and an ex-cadet.

Experts said the strong COVID safety culture along with symptomatic and asymptomatic passenger preflight testing is the key to restarting healthy passenger load factors for the airlines. This would also entail the recovery of grounded jobs into active roles as the frequency of the flights would improve.

Rakesh explains “From what I have seen, I haven't witnessed any other country/airline pushing for the usage of a comprehensive PPE kit for the flight crew as well as passengers as in India”.

Experts noted that India cannot suffer both a pandemic as well as a complete economic downfall. “The role of DGCA in formulating safe travel regulations, and actively overseeing its enforcement is pivotal in keeping the country moving towards a better tomorrow,” he added.

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