Mumbai: Naresh Goyal, the founder of Jet Airways (India) Ltd, was obsessed with the airline’s punctuality. Jet Airways’ last flight before it halted operations should not disappoint him. Flight No. S2 3502, which left Amritsar at 10.18pm on Wednesday, landed in Mumbai at 12.22am on Thursday, before the 1am arrival time.
Ironically, the flight operated on a Boeing 737 aircraft belonged to its JetLite division. In 2007, Jet Airways had paid about ₹1,450 crore to buy Air Sahara, which was then rebranded JetLite. Jet Airways soon realized it was a terrible move. The airline started to haemorrhage money and in 2015, wrote off its entire investment.
The expensive acquisition triggered a downward spiral that eventually led to the grounding of Jet Airways, said industry experts.
As Jet Airways' last flight taxied to a halt in Mumbai, emotions ran high among the airline’s staff. Jet Airways’ ground staff as well as other employees were seen in huddles, chatting animatedly as they found themselves looking at an uncertain future.
“We don’t know what to do, whether to come to work tomorrow or not," said a ground staff member of Jet Airways, who identified himself as Rohan K. “The situation is uncertain as salaries haven’t been disbursed for March."
Some employees of the airline whom Mint approached at the Mumbai airport declined to talk, while others requested anonymity as they voiced their concerns about jobs, salaries and their families.
Several passengers who took the S2 3502 flight were initially unaware that it would be the airline’s final one for at least a long period. If the airline survives, it would be under a new ownership.
“We were initially not aware that this was Jet Airways’s last flight. But on board announcements made us realize this fact," said Puneet Sabharwal, a DJ based in Amritsar.
“I was supposed to fly from Delhi to Mumbai on Jet Airways a few days ago. This was cancelled and I was accommodated on the Amritsar-Mumbai flight," he said, adding that the last flight was moderately booked.
Amarjeet Singh, a Ludhiana-based businessman and transporter who frequently flew with Jet Airways, took the last flight from Amritsar to Mumbai on Wednesday night.
“There were lots of announcements on board about the airline being closed temporarily. I really hope this is the case," Singh said.
Another frequent flyer with Jet Airways, Sheriff Abdullah, who flew on the same flight, said the “cabin crew on the flight seemed emotional towards the end of the journey".
It is, however, unclear when Jet Airways would resume operations.
In India, no major airline has ever resumed operations after being grounded. In the past decade, airlines such as Kingfisher Airways, Air Costa, Paramount Airways, Air Pegasus and Air Carnival suspended operations, never to fly again. During this period, about nine airlines shut shop, including five scheduled airlines.