New Delhi: Nearly 33 per cent of the airline slots vacated by Jet Airways after its closure in April this year are still lying vacant, including in tier-1 cities such as Chennai and Kolkata, according to the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
A slot is a date and time at which an airline’s aircraft are permitted to depart or arrive at an airport.
When it went defunct, Jet Airways had 700 such slots, of which nearly 235 are yet to be filled up by other airlines. These include more than 175 domestic and 55 international slots.
A source in the Ministry of Civil Aviation told ThePrint that the Jet Airways slots are lying vacant at 30 to 35 airports at least, of the around 100 operated by the Airport Authority of India (AAI).
The vacant slots are at some prominent airports such as the ones in Chennai, Guwahati, Kolkata, Jodhpur, Pune, Lucknow and Indore among others. These airports are among the ones that offer high-yield routes.
Another source in the ministry, however, said the allocation process is likely to be completed in the next three months. “The ministry is pursuing this slot allocation process and is looking forward to filling all the vacant airports in the next three months.”
‘Govt looking at transparency’
In April 2019, the government had set up a committee of representatives from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, AAI, private operators and slot coordinators so that the slots could be allocated in a transparent manner.
“This committee would be allocating slots on a temporary basis only to those airlines that bring in additional capacity,” the government had said in a statement.
The first source quoted above said the ministry is looking at the state of airlines before allotting the slots. “There is a policy and a set procedure by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which is followed in regard to the allocation of slots,” the source said. “But in this case, the ministry had internally taken a decision to allocate slots keeping in mind certain standards of an airline.”
Jet Airways crisis
With no finances to run operations, Jet Airways, once India’s top private airline, had on 17 April 2019 decided to temporarily suspend all flights. The carrier is currently under the insolvency proceedings.
The number of total aircraft operating in the country was down to 530 when Jet grounded a total of 110 aircraft.
Following this, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had decided to temporarily allocate the domestic and international slots to other airlines till 31 December so that they could immediately launch new flight services and overcome the capacity deficit.
All airlines including Spicejet, IndiGo, Air India, Go Air and Vistara had got the slots with SpiceJet ending up with the maximum.