April-end comeback target for Jet fleet

Jet officials said they had 35 planes in operation and hoped to bring another 45 into service by the end of April

  • Published 27.03.19, 2:44 AM
  • Updated 27.03.19, 2:44 AM
  • 2 mins read
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The Jet Airways will work out repayment obligations with the lessors by Monday or Tuesday and give a clearer picture to the aviation regulator. Shutterstock

Jet Airways hopes to have nearly 80 planes — almost 80 per cent of its fleet — back in the skies by the end of next month.

A day after Naresh Goyal stepped down from the board of directors, and lenders prepared to take a 50.5 per cent stake in Jet Airways, senior executives of the troubled airline met officials of the civil aviation ministry and aviation regulator DGCA.

The meeting was to lay out the contours of the airline’s plan to restore its fortunes that nosedived at the start of this year when it was unable to pay lease rentals on planes and defaulted on loan repayments that have swelled to Rs 7,650 crore. SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar — the architect of the rescue package for Jet Airways — was also present at the meeting.

At a media conference on Tuesday evening, civil aviation secretary Pradeep Kharola said the airline officials had assured them that no further planes would be grounded.

The Jet officials said they had 35 planes in operation and hoped to bring another 45 into service by the end of April.

“It is an aggressive target,” Kharola said. “We have told them to sit with the lessors, plan the details and convince them to withdraw grounding notices. Once withdrawn, Jet will need to approach the DGCA, which will then authorise them to use the planes.”

The airline will work out repayment obligations with the lessors by Monday or Tuesday and give a clearer picture to the aviation regulator.

Kharola said once they had some idea about the number of Jet planes that would return to service, the ministry would work out an interim arrangement under which unused slots of Jet Airways could be farmed out to rivals as a temporary solution in order to ensure that air fares don’t go through the roof during the busy summer season.

“We will rework the slot allotment guidelines and ensure that other airlines can use the unused Jet slots during the summer,” Kharola said. If Jet Airways is able to get its act together, then it will be able to win back the ceded lucrative slots.

“We cannot compromise on safety; nor can we allow a situation where mass cancellations cause severe disruptions and sharp fare increases on certain sectors. We have advised the airlines to stop predatory pricing and will be monitoring the situation closely,” Kharola said.

On Monday, Jet’s board of directors said they would receive immediate funding support of up to Rs 1,500 crore from the lenders. Jet has been suffering bruising competition from low-cost airlines, fluctuating crude prices and a weak rupee.

Sources said a plan would be worked out to pay the pending salaries of employees. The pilots had threatened to stop flying from April 1 if they did not get their salaries.

The National Aviators Guild, a body representing Jet pilots, has sought a meeting with SBI chairman Kumar to discuss a schedule for the payment of overdue salaries.

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