Just like that, the two decades I spent in aviation disappears. Jet Airways ceased operations a few days ago. Between Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines, two of India’s best airlines, I had a superb career spanning across various functions. Here’s me turning back time.

I am just sad, that the industry is not a stable one, where there is no recourse for filing Chapter 11 to restructure debt

I still remember when I walked in as a 19 year old for the interview as a cabin crew just after Christmas of 1993. I was shy, introverted and totally unsure of myself. Waiting to be called, we were asked if all of us had valid passports and those that didn’t have it could leave. Since I had mine, I stayed. It would take Jet ten years to fly international.

CONTEXT TO THE CRISIS

  • Jet Airways Crisis: Employees have been protesting about not getting paid and now losing their jobs suddenly
  • Government has assured that other airlines will offer them jobs and absorb them
  • Jet Airways was forced to shut down operations as it ran out of funds, and banks refused to lend

For every question asked during the interview, I made lucky guesses as I had not really done my homework and had reluctantly gone for the interview. I had always wanted to join an airline, just not an Indian one. Especially not Jet as I wasn’t impressed that their first flight had landed at the wrong airport instead of Coimbatore.

But a friend sent in my application and I received a call for the interview. So here I was, with a big pimple on my face. I explained it away, as eating too much pork during Christmas. The lady nodded in agreement.

She then asked – What is our logo and what does it mean? I could not answer that as I just could not recall it. We later would joke about it being a cracked egg. The logo signifies the last impression of an aircraft against the sun.

What is the colour of our uniform? I responded saying I suppose blue and white like the other airlines. Of course not! The skirt was navy blue but the blouse was bright yellow with a variety of colours.

What aircraft do we fly? My heart sinking, I replied I didn’t know. In frustration the interviewer asked me, so what do you know about Jet? I promptly replied, that whilst I didn’t know much, I did hear it was the best in the Indian skies and I wanted to be part of it. I was then given a lecture about how young girls like me get duped into joining companies; that I should have gone to a travel agent, posed as a customer and been well informed. I was so sure that I would not progress to the next round.

Guess what! Not only did I get selected, I went on to thrive in Jet. I was one of the first few batches so the airline was scaling up operations quickly thus giving me exposure to quite a few areas – setting up new bases, being part of the training team and more. I went on to become a Safety Instructor training hundreds of cabin crew and pilots on Safety and Emergency procedures which included fire drills, ditching drills and responses to hijack, bomb threats and drunken passengers.

My heart goes out to my ex-colleagues, many of them are friends and family to me. I feel your pain -Elsa

We were extremely proud of our Safety standards. When passengers see a cabin crew, most of them think of you as their personal slave on the metal tube. I don’t blame them as in the 1990s, Indian airlines served passengers tons of food and for part of the time free alcohol before it was banned on flights. Rarely, do people look at cabin crew as trained professionals who can give you first aid or get you out of a crashed plane in less than 90 seconds.

I am also grateful to Jet Airways for believing in me and selecting me as one of five people within the company for a fast track career programme Jet Growth. This gave me insights into the other aspects of the airline business. After six months of project work, some with Board mandates, I helped set up the Revenue Management Department. With this new knowledge and confidence, I was then head hunted to join Kingfisher Airlines where over eight years I worked my way to Vice President Network Planning & Charters overseeing a portfolio of over 500 daily flights.

I am so proud of both the airlines I was part of – world class for sure. I am just sad, that the industry is not a stable one, where there is no recourse for filing Chapter 11 to restructure debt and revive flailing airlines where profit margins are thin and costs are high.

As I listen to the news and watch my social media feed, my heart goes out to my ex-colleagues, many of them are friends and family to me. I feel your pain. Together we created a product that set high standards for many and gave Indian and foreign customers a glimpse into Indian hospitality. I hope and pray that you can get through this crisis with minimal distress. Cherish the good times as this too shall pass.

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