India's Jet Airways has confirmed that some 800 flight attendants as well as an unspecified number of employees in other areas of the business are being laid off as it has "suspended" its planned expansion programme.

CEO Wolfgang Prock-Shauer says in a statement that "around 800 flight attendantshave been released", adding that "we are in the process of releasing personnel in other categories too".

Prock-Shauer says employees being let go are those who were hired for Jet's aggressive expansion, specifically "probationers and unconfirmed personnel".

He does not say how many employees in other areas of the business will be laid off, adding only that the cuts will also affect probationary and unconfirmed pilots and management personnel.

Jet, India's largest privately owned airline, has expanded rapidly in recent years, acquiring the former Air Sahara to grow domestic operations and adding dozens of new aircraft for a huge expansion of its fledgling international operations.

Prock-Shauer says the carrier's expansion "has now been suspended", adding that Jet will operate 15% fewer flights in its winter schedule than originally planned.

"This is inevitable in view of the declining traffic volumes. Jet Airways expects these difficult market conditions to continue for some time," he says.

"The aviation industry in India, a $6 billion turnover industry, is expected to lose $2 billion in 2008-9. The economic viability of the industry has been severely affected by the record-high fuel prices and most recently due to the crisis of the financial markets globally and the downturn in traffic.

"Jet Airways had planned for a continuous growth in the domestic aviation market and the implementation of the first phase of its international expansion programme. However, the domestic market has declined by double-digit figures in recent months. Apart from this, Jet Airways' long-haul expansion had to be pruned down due to international developments."

Prock-Shauer adds: "Jet has been watching the situation for some time in the hope that it may turn around, but has now reached a stage at which some hard decisions are inevitable."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news