Air Deccan, the regional commuter airline, has ceased operations. As per its announcement on April 5, 2020, it is putting its employees on sabbatical without pay, till further notice. It is the first Indian airline to cease operations as a result of the slow business during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The employees were informed by Arun Kumar Singh, CEO, Air Deccan, through an e-mail, that the current global scenario, coupled with the suspension of all commercial passenger flights till the end of the lockdown period has left the Airline with no other option but to cease operations till further notice. His mail also conveyed to the staff that each member, including permanent, temporary and contractual employees, will be put on sabbatical without pay.
This week, meetings have been scheduled to draw up a continuity plan, which may require retention of certain key employees. This will ensure that operations can be resumed with minimal effort when the situation improves. The employees have been assured that whenever the operations are resumed, the current staff will be given the “first right of refusal for their current positions”.
Air Deccan, with its fleet of four 18-seater Beechcraft aircraft, is not the only airline to be adversely impacted by the recent coronavirus outbreak. Owing to the lockdown, all domestic and international flights have been suspended till April 14. Only helicopters, cargo flights, and special flights meant for medical evacuation have been allowed to fly during the lockdown period. The number of international and domestic travellers had started dwindling much before the lockdown causing huge loss of business to many airlines.
With cash depleting fast, quite a few airlines in the country are nearing bankruptcy. They are trying to implement cost-cutting measures to stay afloat, including laying off crew, imposing pay cuts or sending staff on leave without pay. Some airlines have been taking domestic bookings for flights post April 14. However, Air Deccan is not sure when it will resume operation and is therefore not taking any bookings.