Mumbai: At least half a dozen key executives at Jet Airways (India) Ltd, including the airline’s well regarded executive director Saroj K. Datta, are said to be quitting the carrier, India’s largest airline by passengers.
The surprise resignations come at a time when Jet Airways is sharply expanding its international operations and is set to report a turnaround at its low-cost airline unit, JetLite, the former Air Sahara business, later this year.
According to a person close to the matter who did not want to be named, Datta as well as N. Hariharan, vice-president (office of the chairman); B. Krishnan, senior general manager (finance); Col (retd) A. S. Bedi, general manager (security); S. Bandula, senior general manager (in-flight services) and Poh Leong Choo, senior vice-president (services), have submitted their resignations.
Exit route: Saroj Datta is currently Jet’s only executive director. (Photo: Madhu Kapparath/Mint)
While the six resignations were confirmed by two other people with knowledge of the developments, it wasn’t immediately clear how Jet’s management is dealing with them individually. These same people also note that the resignations —over the last three weeks— appear unrelated.
Late Tuesday, Mint couldn’t immediately reach the executives who are said to have resigned for comment. Datta, a long-serving lieutenant to Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal, did not respond to calls made to his cellphone. Goyal, whose office said he was travelling to London, was also not available for comment.
Late Tuesday night, a spokeswoman for Jet would only say: “We are not aware of this development.” She didn’t elaborate.
Mint could not independently ascertain whether all the resignations are still pending or whether any of the issues that precipitated the decisions have been since resolved.
Indeed, “while others have made up their mind, Poh Leong Choo might stay back with the airline following negotiations with the top management,” one of the people said.
The executives, according to one person, aren’t joining competing airlines, but are leaving the aviation industry to pursue opportunities in related businesses.
It was also not clear whether they were headed to more than one new employer.
The latest spate of resignations come in the wake of Garry Kingshot, JetLite’s chief operating officer, leaving in March to become chief executive of Cebu Air of the Philippines. Carl Saldanha, Jet Airways’ chief financial officer, quit in February.
Goyal, a larger-than-life entrepreneur who has built Jet into an airline powerhouse, has previously dismissed the impact of key departures.
“Jet Airways is a big training school with a lot of talent, so it is natural that domestic and international airlines look at us to tap those talents,” said Goyal when asked in January by Mint about what was then the rumoured departure of chief executive Wolfgang Prock-Shauer. “Even if I am hit by a bus, there is somebody to replace Goyal. There is a clear succession plan in place for my airline. Exit of any manager is not going to affect us.”
Jet, one of the few surviving airlines since India allowed private carriers to take to skies in the early 1990s, has lost several executives over the past two years, many of them joining Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines Ltd.
Prominent among those who left the company include Peter Luethi, who was chief operating officer; V. Raja, vice-president (Asia Pacific); Rajesh Verma, vice-president (customer and in-flight services); Nandini Verma, vice-president (corporate affairs); Murali Ramachandran, senior general manager (airport services) and Raja Parthasarathy, executive vice-president (finance). Except for Luethi and Parthasarathy, the remaining four now work for Kingfisher Airlines.
At the same time, Goyal has also been successful in roping in talent. Luethi, who was COO of Jet Airways between 2003 and 2006, returned to Jet Airways recently as vice-president (eastern and mid-west America and Canada).
Goyal also hand-picked experienced hands from others airlines for key roles: ex-Singapore Airlines executive Sudheer Raghavan as executive vice-president (commercial); Abdulrahman Albusaidy, earlier with Oman Air, as group executive officer and Capt. Hameed Ali as executive vice-president (operations and engineering) from Gulf Air. Maunu von Lueders, from Finnair, was recently made chief executive at JetLite. Still, if Datta does leave, it will be a loss to Jet. With some 40 years of experience in civil aviation, he has been involved with Jet since its inception in May 1993 and is currently the carrier’s only executive director.