17 August 2023, Mumbai: Even as grounded airline Go First struggles to restart operations, it faces another roadblock as employees, upset at not having received their pay for three months, have started looking for jobs elsewhere.“Employees are frustrated as salaries have not been paid for May, June and July, despite promises of retention bonuses and a quick restart,” a senior executive working with the airline told Moneycontrol.
The second executive said that employee sentiment has been badly hit after the Supreme Court on August 7 refused to entertain Go First’s appeal against a Delhi High Court order that allowed lessors to inspect and carry out maintenance work on their 30 leased aircraft twice a month.
Emails sent to Go First remained unanswered at the time of publishing.
A third executive said that if salaries are not paid to employees soon, a rash of resignations is expected. “None of the departments has been paid for three months now, employee sentiments are at an all-time low and a mass exodus is expected,” this executive said.
The airline’s resolution professional had earlier this month sent an email to employees saying that Go First’s cash flows have been impacted due to challenging circumstances.
“We are working tirelessly to resolve these challenges and restore normalcy as early as possible,” Shailendra Ajmera said in the email.Similarly, Go First Chief Executive Officer Kaushik Khona had said that salaries would be paid by August 10 but employees Moneycontrol spoke to confirmed that salaries have not been paid.
Rs 5 crore and Rs 35 lakh from the Central Bank of India.
During the employee interaction earlier this month, Khona noted the challenges faced by the airline in getting its funds parked with banks. He pointed out that Go First has been unable to access Rs 5 crore and Rs 35 lakh from the Central Bank of India and IDBI Bank, respectively.
Khona also said the airline was lucky to secure Rs 56 crore in the past few months despite zero operations and this amount was used to pay insurance premiums and salary advances.On June 26, the Committee of Creditors (CoC), which include Central Bank of India , Bank of Baroda, Deutsche Bank, and IDBI Bank approved the request for additional funding worth Rs 400 crore.
Last week, stressed unpaid employees who were left with doubts went to the Andheri East, Mumbai headquarters of Go First to seek some answers but Ajmera was not in office.
Funding will be used by the airline
The beleaguered low-cost airline has also sought emergency funding of Rs 100 crore from its lenders to keep itself afloat and to meet mandatory liabilities such as insurance. The funding will be used by the airline for critical expenses, Ajmera told the committee of creditors.
Go First on May 24 informed its employees that the April salary would be fully paid to them before the carrier restarts operations. “The CEO has assured that the salary for the month of April will be credited to your account before the commencement of operations. Furthermore, from the coming month, the salary will be paid in the 1st week of every month,” Captain Rajit Ranjan, Go First vice president, flight operations, had said in an email sent to the employees.
Wadia Group-owned airline halted operations.Go First had around 7,000 employees at the time it declared voluntary bankruptcy on May 2. The Wadia Group-owned airline halted operations and applied for insolvency resolution citing a financial crunch due to the absence of engines and spares that have grounded half of its fleet.
The airline also sought interim directions to restrain lessors from taking back aircraft and the regulator from taking adverse action against it.
Khona had in May told Moneycontrol that Go First was burning about Rs 200 crore every month since November and could no longer afford it and had to file for insolvency before the National Company Law Tribunal.
Go First needs at least 20 aircraft.The airline hopes to resume operations as soon as possible. Khona said Go First needs at least 20 aircraft to return to service and break even on daily operations.The airline blamed Pratt & Whitney for supplying faulty engines and failing to replace them in a timely manner, resulting in half of its 54 aircraft fleet being grounded.
In May the airline had moved a plea before a court in Delaware, United States, seeking enforcement of an order issued by the Singapore International Arbitration Commission (SIAC) against American aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.
Emergency petition moved before the Delaware
Federal Court Go First, in the emergency petition moved before the Delaware Federal Court on April 28, called for a legal order to force Pratt & Whitney to comply with SIAC’s two arbitral awards, issued on March 30 and April 15.
The SIAC had, on March 30, ordered Pratt & Whitney to provide Go First with at least 10 serviceable engines by April 27, 2023, and the remainder by the year-end.Go First will be able to return to full-scale operations by September 2023 if Pratt & Whitney provides the airline with the engines, as stipulated in an arbitration order, Khona noted.
By ASC Priya