With budget carrier SpiceJet wobbling amidst a fund drought and the aviation regulator keeping a close tab on its curtailed operations, the no-frills carrier's pilots are flocking to other airlines in search of jobs, industry sources said.
As many as 54 SpiceJet pilots of the over 125 pilots who have quit the airline have already applied for jobs in two major airlines - Jet Airways and IndiGo, the sources said.
"The exodus of pilots from SpiceJet continues in view of the prevailing uncertainty. Around 125 pilots have already quit the carrier so far and of them 54 have already applied for a job with Jet Airways and IndiGo," one of the sources said.
Of the 54 pilots, 40 have sought a job with Jet Airways, while the remaining have applied in the budget carrier IndiGo, the sources said.
The airline auditors, in their recent report, have cast doubts over the ability of SpiceJet to run as a "going concern".
Concerned over the deteriorating condition of SpiceJet and large-scale flight cancellations, aviation regulator DGCA on Saturday withdrew 186 of its slots and asked it to clear salary dues of all its employees by December 15.
The airline, however, in a statement on Saturday, said that surrendering the unused slots to airport operators was a routine practice and it had already paid November salaries to almost 85% of the employees two days ago.
After reviewing the situation facing the no-frills carrier, DGCA chief Prabhat Kumar took a series of decisions, including asking the airline to file a "convincing schedule" by 15 December to clear its over Rs 1,500 crore dues to various vendors, including airports and oil companies, as well as stop taking bookings beyond one month among others.
As many as 93 arrival and 93 departure slots were withdrawn by DGCA as the low-cost carrier was operating 232 flights in October, instead of 339 in September.
It may be mentioned here that civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju had late last week raised serious concerns over the financial health of the domestic airline.
"We are running through a lot of turbulent weather... not only the public sector, private sector is also crashing. (With) Kingfisher crashing and, right now, SpiceJet seems to be giving us heart attacks, as far as airlines are concerned," Raju had said.
The regulator would now on also carry out "heightened" surveillance of all SpiceJet flights on landing to ensure that safety is not compromised due to its financial troubles, DGCA sources had said on Saturday.
With reports of slashing of its Boeing fleet by about a third and operate 24 out of its current strength of 35 planes by the middle of next year, its officials said the decision to shrink was part of the airline's restructuring process and cutting costs.
The airline has reported its fifth straight quarter of net losses for the July-September period, at Rs 310 crore, although it is down from the year-ago period when it had a net loss of Rs 559 crore.