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Business News/ Companies / News/  Two more senior executives quit Jet Airways
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Two more senior executives quit Jet Airways

Last week, vice-presidents Manoj Bhambhani and P.P. Singh quit and their resignations were accepted effective 20 March

There have been a spate of resignations since the merger process began, starting with Jet Airways’ long-time confidant and chief executive Nikos Kardassis. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/MintPremium
There have been a spate of resignations since the merger process began, starting with Jet Airways’ long-time confidant and chief executive Nikos Kardassis. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

New Delhi: Two more senior executives have resigned at Jet Airways (India) Ltd, according to two people familiar with the matter, raising questions over the airline’s assimilation with Etihad Airways PJSC.

The Abu Dhabi-based airline bought a 24% stake in Jet last year in a $900 million deal. Jet is now merging its entire network with Abu Dhabi as its hub stop.

There have been a spate of resignations since the merger process began, starting with Jet Airways’ long-time confidant and chief executive Nikos Kardassis resigning in June.

Acting chief executive Ravishankar Gopalakrishnan resigned in March, making him the fifth senior Jet executive to quit since the Etihad deal.

Last week, vice-president of training and standards, Manoj Bhambhani, and vice-president of regulatory affairs, P.P. Singh, also quit and their resignations were accepted effective 20 March, said a Jet official who declined to be named.

The resignations came after the airline in March promoted Nikhil B. Ved, a long-time employee, to senior vice-president of flight operations. This would have required Singh and Bhambhani to report to Ved, who was junior to them, the Jet official said.

Gopalakrishnan is likely to be with Jet Airways till 5 May, said another person familiar with the development, who also declined to be named.

Gopalakrishnan became acting CEO on 16 January after the earlier CEO Gary Kenneth Toomey quit, barely seven months after he had taken charge. Toomey had replaced Kardassis.

K.G. Vishwanath, who was vice-president of commercial strategy and investor relations, and Sudheer Raghavan, who was chief commercial officer, resigned last year.

Jet said it is well-placed to fill the vacancies.

“The company has robust procedures and well-established processes for filling up internal vacancies. In order to promote growth, advertisements are released to provide an opportunity to the employees in a transparent manner. The promotion system allows talented internal employees to progress within the organization, in line with industry norms," the airline said.

An executive with a foreign airline suggested the rush of exits at Jet may have to do with a sense of frustration.

“It may be that the top management, who have given many years to the company, are feeling betrayed by the current changes," the executive said, requesting anonymity. “Whenever there is change, there is resistance, as, if you believed in a certain strategy and it is being completely overturned 180 degrees in a change of direction, you will have people who become distraught, who were believers in the previous strategy, and therefore will resist. This is quite natural."

The exits might be good for Jet Airways, the executive added. “The old guard has to give way in the new scheme of things and to an extent it is also good in accelerating change. What would be a worse outcome than having remnants of the old strategy and mixing them with the new, which would then take the company completely off-track," the executive said.

Jet declined to comment on whether there was additional trouble brewing within its pilot ranks.

As a result of merging its network with Etihad, Jet Airways has asked many of its excess pilots on Airbus A330 planes—used for medium haul routes like Europe and which have been reduced—to take up positions in Etihad for a year.

This has caused a lot of disenchantment in the ranks.

“The worry is that Singh and Bhambhani both had helped management in the last strike and now they are no more there, and one can’t be sure if the pilots break ranks again," said the first Jet employee quoted above.

Another analyst said the exits were a part of a clean-up by Etihad.

“It appears that Etihad is clearing the stable of people who may be a hindrance in smooth operation of code share flights into the US," said Mohan Ranganathan, aviation analyst and a member of the government-appointed civil aviation safety advisory council (CASAC). “The two VPs, P.P. Singh and Manoj Bhambani, had been flying in serious violation of DGCA CAR (civil aviation requirement) and this was pointed out with documented proof by CASAC in October 2012. The failure of the flight standards directorate of DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) to correct these played a hand in FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) downgrade of India."

US aviation regulator FAA downgraded India’s aviation safety rating in January, citing a lack of safety oversight, meaning Indian carriers such as Jet Airways and Air India cannot increase flights to the US and face extra checks for existing flights. Jet has been going through these checks on US soil, Mint first reported on 10th February.

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Published: 31 Mar 2014, 07:20 PM IST
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