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After suspension of operations, lenders explore ways to lease Jet Airways’ aircraft

FE Bureau
jet airways, spicejet, jet airways crisis, aviation sector, aviation industry

Lenders of the now-grounded Jet Airways are looking at raising funds through leasing of the aircraft owned by the carrier, which include 10 Boeing 777 aircraft.

Jet owns a total of 16 aircraft, comprising three Airbus A330 and as many Boeing 737 apart from 10 wide-bodied B777-300 ER.

Meanwhile, rival carrier SpiceJet, which has been adding aircraft to its fleet currently to expand services, has started hiring more pilots, which includes those from Jet s stable. We have already provided jobs to more than 100 pilots, more than 200 cabin crew and more than 200 technical and airport staff, Ajay Singh, SpiceJet CMD, said in a statement on Friday.

Even IndiGo and GoAir have recruited around 100 pilots from Jet in the last few weeks.

With regard to utilising Jet s aircraft, lenders headed by State Bank of India met Air India chairman and managing director Ashwini Lohani on Friday.

No final decision was taken as it was just a preliminary meeting to discuss the scope, an Air India executive said.

As reported earlier, Lohani had written to SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar on Wednesday offering to operate the Mumbai-London, Delhi-London, Mumbai-Dubai, Delhi-Dubai and Delhi-Singapore sectors.

Subject to approvals and financial viability, we can examine the possibility of taking five B777s on dry/wet lease basis from SBI, the terms for which can be mutually thrashed out, Lohani stated in the letter. The wide-body fleet is typically used for flying international medium and long-haul operations.

SpiceJet will also be adding Jet-operated aircraft which have been de-registered by lessors for non-payment of dues. Low-cost carrier SpiceJet had announced that it will induct 27 aircraft in the coming weeks including, Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft, on dry lease.

Jet, which announced temporary suspension of all operations on Wednesday, operated key slots at domestic and overseas airports which are critical in determining its valuation for qualified bidders.

The civil aviation ministry has allocated vacant slots to other airlines for an interim period of three months. Jet will have a right on these slots when they resume operations, civil aviation secretary Pradeep Kharola told reporters on Thursday.

The bidding process for Jet Airways is expected to end by May 10. Jet’s equity partner Etihad Airways, India’s sovereign wealth fund NIIF, US-based TPG Capital and Indigo Partners are the four suitors in the fray to acquire 31.2-75% stake in the beleaguered carrier.

Banks on April 17 rejected a request from Jet Airways for emergency funds of Rs 400 crore, compelling the airline to ground operations later in the evening. The airline had been carrying out curtailed operations for the last several weeks and last week suspended its international operations due to cash crunch.

Jet, which made losses of Rs 3,208 crore in the nine months to December 2018 had a gross debt over Rs 7,654 crore in December 2018. It owes nearly over Rs 5,000 crore to lessors and passengers’ refund.

Also read: Attention, Jet Airways passengers: Air India is offering special fares on 19 international routes

Jet has not paid employees March salaries; pilots have not been paid since January while dues to other employees aircraft maintenance engineers and senior management also remain unpaid. The airline has not paid its vendors, lessors and also has dues to oil marketing companies.

Under the banks-led debt resolution plan approved by the Jet board on March 25, lenders were to acquire an equity stake in the airline and infuse Rs 1,500-crore. The carrier s founder and promoter Naresh Goyal and his wife Anita Goyal, accordingly stepped down from the board. However, the lenders did not infuse the funds as they demanded more collateral.