A job loss is always bitter, and mass layoffs, disastrous.
Like the meltdown of the mid-1990s, the aviation sector is heading for difficult times.
In the days ahead, hundreds of pilots, engineers and management staff will either be laid off or see drastic reductions in salaries.
If the big boys of Indian aviation — Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines — can begin
retrenching, it’s a bad sign for the industry at large and for thousands of young aspirants with dreams of flying high.
Jet and Kingfisher plan to ground, return or lease out a total of 16 aircraft. They have shelved all overseas expansion.
Come January, even ground staff at the Delhi and Mumbai airports will no longer be supplied by individual airlines.
Cabin crew can find alternative employment in hospitality, retail and call-centres.
But a pilot has no such luck.
For the hundreds of young men and women who have been gathering flying hours and paying up to Rs 40 lakh for flight school, the future looks bleak.
So why is a sector considered so hot only six months ago now battling to survive?
“It’s a bad situation,” said Ankur Bhatia, executive director with Bird Group, a Delhi-based aviation consultancy. “The budget airlines led to this crash by starting a price war. And other airlines made the mistake of trying to boost market share at the cost of financial viability.”
That’s not the only reason. Airline owners overestimated the market, and their miscalculations cost them as oil prices rose and the global financial crisis kicked in.
Now, many flyers can no longer afford their wings. Apparently, neither can India’s airline magnates.