Mumbai: Lessors to Jet Airways (India) Ltd have grounded 15 more planes due to non-payment of rentals. The airlines operations to and from Srinagar Airport are completely closed now.

An airline official who wished not to be named told Ziraat Times that the airline’s operations for now are closed in Srinagar and the staff have no communication about their employment status.

Meanwhile, fares from and to Srinagar have gone up significantly, raising serious concerns about the upcoming tourist season in the valley. With the fares going up, the eight million population of Kashmir faces immense hardships in view of the dilapidated condition of Srinagar-Jammu highway and unaffordable air fares.

“With Jet Airways closing down its Srinagar operations, naturally, other airlines are going to use this situation to their advantage”, Farooq Ahmed, a hotel owner told Ziraat Times.

Pertinently, despite government’s assurances, no concrete steps have been taken so far to cap the air fares to and from Srinagar.

The airline did not disclose its current fleet size in a regulatory filing on Tuesday. Two industry executives, who did not wish to be named, said the airline currently has 29 planes.

“As mentioned earlier, the Company is actively engaged with all its aircraft lessors and regularly provides them with updates on the efforts undertaken by the Company to improve its liquidity. Aircraft lessors have been supportive of the Company’s efforts in this regard,” Jet Airways said in its statement.

The airline is “also making all efforts to minimize disruption to its network due to the above and is proactively informing and re-accommodating its affected guests” while updating the Directorate General of Civil Aviation on the evolving scenario.

Jet Airways, which has been struggling to continue its operations, hasn’t paid salaries to a section of its staff including pilots, engineers and general managers for the past three months. Unable to cope with rising costs, it has deferred interest and lease rental payments to lessors.

Meanwhile, the airline has told pilots operating Boeing Co. 737 planes that they can take a long break without pay between April and September.

“Due to changes in operational requirement, B737 flight crew will be assigned on a 5 day working and 3 days off roster from 11th April to 26th April 2019. Additionally, flight crew seeking a long break/sabbatical between April-September, 2019 may put in their requests to the fleet office for approval,” Jet Airways chief pilot for B737 fleet Amish Ved said in a communication, a copy of which has been reviewed by Mint.

Responding to queries from Mint, a Jet Airways spokesperson said: “Like all corporates, Jet Airways too has a leave without pay (LWP) policy that allows employees to avail leave for personal necessities, in a voluntary manner and after due considerations. The airline has opened the employee friendly initiative to its 737 crews for the interim, even as it awaits the return and revisal of its grounded fleet in order to restore services across its network over the course of the next few weeks.”

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