“I just tried to endure it. It was so painful but I persevered to survive,” said Jang Moon-ki, a senior member of Eastar Jet’s maintenance division and member of the workers’ consultative body “Workers’ Alliance,” when asked how he is doing these days. “Now that I have come out of a tunnel, I feel more motivated. Now I am just thinking about taking a leap forward.”
An Eastar Jet employee described the past year and a halfㅡthe time it took for the takeover processㅡas a “living hell.” No one could predict whether the company would survive or a buyer would emerge because the aviation industry took the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Employees, who were unpaid for over a year, had to protect themselves and their families. They did everything they could find to make ends meet, including courier service, delivery service, chauffeur service, part-time job at cafes, and day labor. Some employees had to offer their resignation to receive unemployment benefits while others were in tears looking for a private loan.
Eastar Jet once operated 23 aircrafts. When the company became financially strained, aircraft leasing companies started to collect their planes one by one. “Leasing companies said they had no choice but to take their planes. Fortunately, some leasing companies believed that Eastar Jet would resume operations and did not take their planes. We really appreciate it,” said Lee Jin-ho, a manager of the maintenance division.
The Seoul Bankruptcy Court selected Sung Jung Co. as the final bidder for Eastar Jet’s acquisition least month. “After the news of acquisition broke out, leasing companies are contacting us again,” said Jang. “I feel like I will be in tears when Eastar Jet starts operation again.”