When dreams crashland | india | Hindustan Times
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When dreams crashland

The skies were the next frontier for the young urban professional. As the meltdown’s grip tightens and India’s struggling airlines look for a way to survive, it’s the employees who pay the price, reports Barney Henderson.

india Updated: Oct 16, 2008 00:58 IST
Barney Henderson

Laid-off Jet Airways staffers staged two protests on Wednesday — at the airline’s headquarters and at Raj Thackeray’s party headquarters.

But at the end of a day of smeared make-up, frantic calls to parents and chants for justice, they remained jobless, united in their fear of an uncertain future.

The 350 protesting cabin crew were told on Tuesday that there would be no further flights for them and that their contracts were being cancelled. Most of them are in their early 20s, having sacrificed their studies and taken loans to train at Jet.

The employees were to be given their basic monthly salary of Rs 9,000 — well short of the Rs 33,000 they usually take home each month after bonuses. The probationary flight attendants were with Jet for less than a year.

They said they were prepared to take a salary cut of Rs 5,000, but complained that Jet refused to listen to them or give any reasons for their sacking.

The group blames one man: Vijay Mallya, who heads Kingfisher.

“This day has changed our lives and we blame Mallya. He is trying to dominate Jet,” said a 22-year-old airhostess from Assam, referring to the alliance the airlines and liquor tycoon has forged with Jet. “Why should Jet, the leading airline, cut staff when Kingfisher is recruiting? It is because of Mallya that we are on the road. Where can we find jobs now? We are helpless.”

Some protesters were galvanised in their fight for justice, while others sat on the fringes weeping.

“This job gave us hope; now they are destroying us. They are playing with people’s lives. During training, they made us sing a song about Jet — ‘We are a family and we will stick together’. What sort of family is this?” said a 23-year-old air hostess from Rajasthan.