He has nothing to do with Vijay Mallya’s critically endangered Kingfisher Airlines except that he sold his Air Deccan to the liquor king in 2007, but Captain GR Gopinath’s Deccan Charters seems to have been bitten hard by the same salary troubles. The pioneer of low-cost air travel in India, who now offers heli-tourism and executive charter flights, has paid employees only a part of their salaries since October 2011, employees said. Since August this year the part payment of salaries has also stopped, they claimed.
“Our colleagues met senior management of the company on Monday. They have been assured of timely salaries and arrears in due course of time. We have been given such assurances in the past but we have not received anything yet,” said one aggrieved employee of the charter company.
Employees allege that Gopinath has not met them ever since the problem started and that they have not been given any assurances on their pending dues. “A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows the company owes its employees between `10 crore and `15 crore by way of wages and arrears,” says one employee.
Deccan Charters’ troubles apparently started when they lost the juicy contract of ferrying passengers to Vaishno Devi shrine to another private charter company. “Earlier we were paid on time but since October last year we were paid partially, but since August we have not been paid anything,” another employee said.
Sources indicated that the company was planning to sell some of its assets to pay its employees but that has also not materialised. After Air Deccan, Gopinath launched his logistics business—Deccan 360—in May 2009. That didn’t do well either; Gopinath is looking for a suitable buyer to exit the logistic business too. Investment bankers say on condition of anonymity that Gopinath is sacrificing the otherwise healthy charter business to keep the failing logistic business afloat.
For his bulk cargo and logistics business, Gopinath had leased three Airbus A310s that have now been taken back by lessors. Left with two small ATRs, the company has stopped taking fresh orders and asked roughly 1,000 employees to start looking for jobs. Deccan Charters has a fleet of 11 helicopters, including two fixed wing Cessna Grand Caravan 208B (nine seater) aircraft.