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Four top Jet Airways executives resign plunging down airline’s fate

With hopes of Jet Airways revival fading, the top brass is deserting en masse.

Four top Jet executives – chief executive officer Vinay Dube, chief financial officer Amit Agarwal, chief people officer Rahul Taneja and company secretary and compliance officer Kuldeep Sharma – resigned on Tuesday, plunging the defunct airline further into chaos. Insiders claim that Tuesday’s development is a clear indication that the bid won’t fructify and the airline would head for insolvency.

The exodus comes days after Gulf-based Etihad Airways made a non-binding bid offering mere Rs 1,700 crore for the ailing airline, even as Jet Airways needs immediate funding of at least Rs 5,000 to smoothly run its operations. The airline’s debt, though, stands at Rs 15,000 crore, with some estimate putting it in excess of Rs 25,000 crore. Also, Etihad Airways wants the lenders to find a majority stakeholder as it will not increase it will limit its stake to 24% and take a massive haircut on its exposure.

According to the airline insiders, Agarwal, who was also a full-time director and deputy CEO was the first to resign, followed by Dube and Taneja. Jet Airways in a regulatory filing on Tuesday said that Agarwal resigned with effect from Monday due to “personal” reasons. On Dube’s resignation, the carrier said that the resignation was with immediate effect, also due to ‘personal’ reasons.

With most of the top level executives gone, the airline’s employees who are unpaid for the past few months are clueless about whom to approach. “We are clueless as nothing left now. Not even hope,” said a senior employee of the company.

Mark Martin, founder and CEO of Dubai-based aviation Martin Consulting, earlier said that the lenders have played a very sad role in bringing Jet Airways to the situation it is in at present.

The past few months have been a spate of resignations from the airline’s top executives. Earlier this month, another whole-time director Gaurang Shetty, who was said to be close to the promoter Naresh Goyal resigned. In April, former chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi quit from his position as a non-executive director while independent director Rajshree Pathy quit just weeks after Goyal and his wife Anita stepped down from the Board in March.

Dube, who has been the face of the airline, was fire-fighting for the revival of the airline by meeting lenders, government officials, vendors and employees. Unable to see help from any quarter, Dube had last month in an email to employees had shown his dejection at the non-funding by lenders and promoter-strategic stakeholder. Dube, with three decades of international aviation exposure, joined Jet Airways in August 2017. His earlier stint was at Delta Airlines Inc, Sabre, Inc and American Airlines in the US, Europe and Asia. In addition to his strategic and leadership roles, Dube also held various Board-level positions. Taneja, who joined the company in February 2016 previously headed HR at Essar Group. Agarwal, on the other hand, has been deputy CEO of the airline since November 2017 and CFO since December 2015. He even served as its an Acting chief executive officer since March 1, 2016, until August 9, 2017. He has more than 18 years of experience in the steel industry.

Jet Airways, which till a few months ago had 119 aircraft in its fleet and was even contemplating investing in financially ill national carrier Air India, has been eagerly awaiting for an investor to take over. The carrier was forced to stop all flight operations on April 17 after its lenders declined to extend more funds to keep the carrier going. In the final weeks before it declared its inability for fly any further until infused with funding, the airline did not even have money for basic operational expenditure, including paying for fuel, aircraft lessors, vendors and salaries to its 16,000 employees.

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