FLYEasy took Rs 37 lakh from each candidate, but has left them hanging for over one-and-a-half years.

Bengaluru-based airline leaves pilots in lurch after collecting Rs 14 crore as training feesWIkimedia Commons
news Crime Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - 15:13

For 28-year-old Suhail*, a promising career in aviation was all he had hoped for. He grabbed an opportunity to apply for a training programme with FLYEasy, a low-cost airline company founded in 2014.

Just like Suhail, 37 other aspiring commercial pilots had paid Rs 37 lakh each to FLYEasy for their training programme.

“It is a common practice in all airlines where an aspiring pilot pays the training fees. Earlier, bonds were signed where a pilot had to pay the airlines a certain amount ranging between Rs 30 to 50 lakh on defaulting the employment agreement. Now we do not have to sign bonds but pay for our training instead,” Suhail said.

It has been over one-and-a-half-years since the 38 pilots paid their training fees. They have not received any training, and neither has the company returned the fees they have paid.

“We were hired for training in December 2014. The DGCA does not authorise the purchase of aircraft unless the said company has its crew intact. For six months, FLYEasy authorities kept telling us that the governmental permissions are yet to come through. Most of us had taken bank loans and now we have no money to pay the interest and the company is refusing to give us our money back,” Suhail said.

By June 2016, the agitated pilots began getting suspicious of the company and demanded answers from FLYEasy’s management.

Several trainees approached the management and expressed their plight and difficulties in paying the EMIs on loans they had taken.

The company then offered to pay them a stipend of Rs 35,000 per month until the airlines was up and running.

“They paid the stipend for two months and then the payments became irregular. By December 2016, the payments stopped. Some people have got only two months stipend, a few lucky ones have got about four or five months’ stipend. In January, the pilots approached the company’s management and demanded a refund of the trainee fees,” Suhail said.

The management dodged the pilots by sending them emails assuring them that the money would be returned. In February this year, a meeting of all the stakeholders was held where company officials promised that their fortune would turn for the better as they had adopted a new business model.

“These were all false assurances to keep us from going to the media or filing a complaint. We were done with them dodging us. The MD of the company has absconded. The Chairman is on the verge of doing so,” said Narayan* another pilot affected by FLYEasy.

On the night of September 13, four licensed pilots, who said that they had paid the airlines their training fee along with 34 others in 2015, held a protest at the FLYEasy office on MG Road.

The airlines had to move out of their office space at Kempegowda International Airport. The protestors stayed overnight at the office on Wednesday, refusing to budge until the management talked to them in person.

“We have received threats from the company. They warned us that we will not get our money back if we go to the media. When we protested at the office on September 13, some of us were even beaten by company staff,” Suhail adds.

On September 14, speaking to mediapersons, FLYEasy Managing Director Rajesh Ebrahim said that the airlines did take that amount from the candidates, but had paid 60% of the employees despite the company’s financial crunch.

He also assured that company officials would meet them on September 26, and that Rs 6 crore has already been used to pay the employees despite the company’s cash crunch.

Bengaluru-based FLYEasy is part of ABC Aviation and Training Services. The 38 pilots were split into four batches and only one batch received the training in Bahrain, but even those pilots claim that they were not given the certificate after training.

“FLYEasy had not paid the training institute it had hired. Hence, we are being denied our certificate,” Narayan said.

On September 14, an FIR was filed at the Cubbon Park Police Station against FLYEasy India and Shikha Developers (the aviation firm’s parent company), and its top management Sanaulla Zulfiqur Ahmed Khan, Rajesh Embrahimkutty Beevi, Mohd Azee Nabeel Ali Baig, Sundaram Subramanian and Felix Thomas.

“Those who could manage to join other airlines left the company but those who could not afford to were stuck with the company begging for a refund,” said Narayan.

“The career of a pilot is based on seniority that comes with flying-time records and our two years have gone. We would have been captains by now,” Suhail added.

Pilots allege that FLYEasy had signed an agreement to buy a 74% stake in Air Pegasus in January 2017, but that too did not work out as the investors backed out.

The pilots have now resolved to fight it out legally. “We will intensify the protest and are also planning to write to the DGCA to intervene and help us out,” Suhail said.


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