Airline executives getting hefty pay rise despite crisis in aviation sector

      The crisis that has hit India's aviation sector over the last couple of months has not, it seems, affected the pay packets of airline executives and other officials. Despite claims that the airlines are doing everything possible to come out of the red, the officers continue to earn big bucks, and appear not to have a care in the world.

Take for example the CEO of the crisis-ridden Kingfisher Airlines, Sanjay Agarwal. He has emerged as the second-highest paid among all his peers at the Vijay Mallya-led UB Group. Among the country's three listed airlines also, Agarwal's pay package was the second highest in the last fiscal ended March 31, 2012, as per the remuneration details provided in their annual reports. It maybe recalled that Kingfisher had to announce a temporary lockout due to employee unrest, triggered by non-payment of salaries to the staff. As per the annual reports of seven listed companies of the UB group, its Chairman and main promoter Vijay Mallya was paid a total amount of about Rs. 1.43 crore (mostly in sitting fees) from various group companies. While Mallya was not paid anything at Kingfisher and another group firm UB Engineering, he got sitting fees of Rs. 1.2 lakh from United Spirits, Rs. one lakh each at United Breweries Ltd and Mangalore Chemicals and Fertilizers, Rs. 34,550 at McDowell Holdings and Rs. 1.4 lakh at United Breweries (Holdings) Ltd.

Besides, Mallya received remuneration from two overseas subsidiaries, amounting to USD 120,000 (nearly Rs. 63 lakh) and 89,600 (about Rs. 76 lakh) British Pound during the year 2011-12. According to a report by NDTV, two of the seven listed companies - McDowell Holdings and UB Holdings Ltd - did not pay any remuneration to their Managing Director (MD) Harish Bhat while Mangalore Chemicals and Fertilisers' MD Deepak Anand took a token salary of Re 1 per month. However, Harish Bhat received remuneration of Rs. 1.31 crore as an executive of an associate company of UB Holdings Ltd. Among other group firms, UB Engineering paid its MD J K Sardana a remuneration of Rs. 65.5 lakh, up from Rs. 39.1 lakh in the previous year. This included salary, perquisites, allowances and companies contribution to Provident Fund.

The television channel further reveals that United Spirits Ltd Managing Director Ashok Capoor was paid total remuneration of Rs. 3.41 crore, while United Breweries Ltd MD Kalyan Ganguly was the highest paid among his peers at the group. Ganguly's remuneration rose from Rs. 4.51 crore in 2010-11 to Rs. 6.7 crore in the last fiscal 2011-12, but his pay increase in percentage terms at about 60 per cent was lower than that of the Kingfisher CEO at about 90 per cent. Kingfisher said in its annual report that Agarwal's stated remuneration "excludes accrued leave encashment and gratuity since the same have been recognised for the Company as a whole and cannot be determined at an employee level."

Among Kingfisher's peers in the Indian airline industry, the pay package of Neil Raymond Mills, the chief of the Kalanithi Maran-led group's Spicejet rose even more sharply from Rs. 1.75 crore to Rs. 4.98 crore. At the third listed Indian airline, Jet Airways, Saroj Datta, who stepped down as the company's Executive Director in September 2011, was paid Rs. 2.11 crore in just six months of the last fiscal 2011-12 - representing an increase of about 25 per cent from his remuneration of Rs. 1.69 crore in the entire 2010-11. Jet's annual report for 2011-12 did not disclose any remuneration paid to its CEO Nikos Kardassis, while only Mr Datta's pay package was mentioned among the executive directors.

Its Chairman and key promoter Naresh Goyal was paid sitting fees of Rs 60,000 as a non-executive director. Jet has a provision for non-executive directors being paid commission based on the company's profits, but due to the losses made for the year ended March 31, 2012, no commission was paid for 2011-12.

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