Employers at India's stricken Jet Airways protest

Several hundred employees of India's beleaguered Jet Airways held a protest at Delhi airport on Saturday demanding to be paid and calling for the company to be rescued (AFP Photo/STR)

Several hundred employees of India's beleaguered Jet Airways held a protest at Delhi airport on Saturday demanding to be paid and calling for the company to be rescued.

Jet has been in a tailspin for months. All but around half a dozen of its 119 aircraft are grounded and all international flights are suspended until Monday.

Once India's second-biggest airline by market share, the Mumbai-based firm has defaulted on loans and struggled to pay aircraft lessors and staff.

Thousands of customers have been stranded in recent weeks after hundreds of flights were cancelled, in some cases with little or no notice.

"We need the infusion of funds today, not after one week when it's too late," said Raman Sharma, a pilot at the protest.

"We need to get the funds back, pay the people, get the planes in the air, make it convenient for passengers, and let's start earning revenue," he said.

"Now the feeling is also of despair, frustration. Like, we want our salaries, at the same time we want to save our airlines," added Shilium S., a maintenance worker.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, for whom a collapse of Jet would be a blow as it seeks a second term in ongoing elections, convened a crisis meeting on Friday evening, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported.

Close of play Friday was the deadline for prospective bidders to express an interest in acquiring a 75 percent stake in Jet, which has debts of some $1 billion.

Etihad Airways, which owns a 24 percent stake, has submitted an expression of interest to buy a controlling stake of up to 75 percent, according to media reports.

Naresh Goyal, who founded the airline but quit as chairman last month, has also lodged a bid, as have several private equity groups, newspapers said.