India's Jet drops plan to lay off 1,900 employees

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India's Jet Airways has dropped plans to lay off 1,900 employees following protests by sacked staff and growing opposition from politicians.

The carrier's chairman and majority owner, Naresh Goyal, announced the surprise reversal at a late-night news conference in Mumbai that was broadcast live on many of India's television networks.

Insisting that the decision to reverse the layoffs was not made because of any political pressure, Goyal said he had made the decision as "my conscience does not allow me to look at economics alone".

Like all Indian carriers, Jet has seen its losses grow as a result of rising costs and a drop in demand for travel. Earlier this week the airline said around 800 flight attendants had been issued layoff notices and it later said another 1,100 employees would be laid off, bringing the total to 15% of its workforce.

The announcements immediately led to protests from laid-off employees and public complaints from politicians, including from one influential politician who even threatened to bar the carrier's aircraft from flying out of its Mumbai base.

There is widespread speculation in India that civil aviation minister Praful Patel stepped in to express his disappointment to Goyal over the layoffs, although the Times of India quotes Goyal as saying: "I swear on my dead mother that I have not spoken to any politician."

Goyal apologised during his news conference for the layoffs, saying: "My daughter is 19 years old. They [laid-off employees] are 20 or so. I cannot see their trauma and agony."