Coronavirus hits aviation industry: Air Deccan ceases operations 'until further notice', employees put on sabbatical without pay

The coronavirus lockdown has seen most modes of transport shutdown completely or in part. People have been discouraged from steppig out of their houses, and travel has been made very difficult. All passenger flights and trains have been halted till the 14th of April. The crisis has been a severe blow to the aviation industry and there have now been some casualties.

On Sunday, domestic carrier Air Deccan announced that it would be ceasing all operations and all employees were put on a sabbatical without pay. The announcement was made by the company's CEO, Arun Kumar Singh.

"In view of the recent Global and Domestic issues and subsequent directive by the Indian regulator, Air Deccan has no choice but to cease its operations until further notice. With heavy heart. I am also compelled to inform that all existing employees of Air Deccan (permanent, temporary and contractual) are being put on sabbatical without pay with immediate effect," he wrote.

Singh added that in the coming week the company's management would conduct meetings with the heads of departments to ensure continuity for certain key personnel. This, he said, was to ensure that the airline could be restarted smoothly at the "right time".

I personally assure you as and when Air Deccan recommences the operations under conducive circumstances, all existing employees will be offered first right of refusal for their current positions," he added.

As per a PTI report, Air Deccan has a fleet of four 18-seater Beechcraft aircraft to fly on regional routes in western India, focusing on Gujarat.

While Air Deccan is the first aviation company to shut operations entirely, they are not the first to have taken steps since the lockdown came into place on March 25.

According to reports, there are many airlines that are nearing bankruptcy as cash reserves begin to run dry. A letter informing Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of the same was sent last week by FICCI.

Earlier, IndiGo had announced a pay cut of up to 25% for senior employees. Vistara had announced a compulsory leave without pay of up to three days for its senior employees in March and GoAir had reduced employee salaries as well as laying ff expat pilots and introducing a system of leave without pay on a rotational basis.

SpiceJet had also stated that its employees' salaries would be reduced between 10 to 30% and Air India has announced a 10% cut in allowances for every employee, except cabin crew, for the coming three months.

With the lockdown slated to end on April 14th, all airlines, save Air India have begun to accept bookings for dates after that.

(With inputs from agencies)

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