Jet Airways India headquarters in Mumbai
An ad outside the Jet Airways India headquarters in Mumbai. | Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg
Text Size:

New Delhi: A revival of Jet Airways India Ltd., once the nation’s biggest carrier by market value, is at risk as days roll by since its operations were completely halted.

While the cash-strapped carrier awaits potential investors to pump in money, rivals are aggressively going after its most prized assets. A government desperate to limit public backlash after flight ticket prices escalated is parceling off landing and parking slots at congested airports. Lessors are also adding to the woes by allocating grounded aircraft to competitors.

“It appears to me that lenders are not very confident of getting any serious bid,” said Harsh Vardhan, chairman of New Delhi-based Starair Consulting. “You can not hold on to slots, and planes are not Jet Airways’ property. They have to find a buyer as soon as possible.”

Jet Airways, the oldest surviving private airline which broke into a monopoly of Air India Ltd., had a fleet of 124 and flew profitable routes like connecting India, the fastest growing aviation market in the world, with London and Toronto. With nearly 23,000 jobs at stake, its collapse last week couldn’t have at worse time for Prime Minister Narendra Modi who’s seeking a second term based on his business-friendly image.

While the arrangement to give Jet’s landing slots and aircraft to rivals is temporary, the process to swap them again is complicated and is the domain of airports. It may get more difficult once rivals start new flights and sell tickets in advance, and that could potentially leave close to nothing for a potential new owner.

Also read: Jet Airways employees write to President, PM seeking help in getting their salaries

New Owner

Jet Airways started flying in the early-1990s after Indian liberalized its economy, and quickly cemented its spot as a leading airline offering an alternative to Air India, while averting several downturns that forced dozens of its peers to close shop. But a boom of budget airlines in the mid 2000s, on top on rising fuel prices and a weakening rupee, kept adding to Jet Airways’ costs in the notoriously price-sensitive market.

We are deeply grateful to our readers & viewers for their time, trust and subscriptions.

Quality journalism is expensive and needs readers to pay for it. Your support will define our work and ThePrint’s future.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

The airline, which controlled 13.6 percent of the local market as recently as January, needs 85 billion rupees ($1.2 billion) to restart operations. So far, it isn’t clear whether Jet Airways will find a buyer to fly again, or if lenders will take it to a bankruptcy court. Over the weekend, local media reported Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man, and salt-to-software conglomerate Tata Group are keen to pick up a stake or purchase Jet’s assets.

Shares of the Jet Airways have plummeted 36 percent since all flights were grounded, inching closer to their lifetime low. It fell 6 percent to 154.70 rupees on Wednesday.

Local carriers have been quick to take advantage of the situation. SpiceJet Ltd. plans to induct more than a dozen Boeing Co. 737 planes, offering flights on the routes previously operated by Jet Airways. Market leader IndiGo, operated by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd. has also added additional flights from New Delhi and Mumbai, the two busiest airports of the nation which hardly had any landing slots available when Jet Airways was operating.

Ambani, who controls Reliance Industries Ltd., may partner Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways PJSC to pick up a stake in Jet Airways, while also exploring a possible bailout of state-run Air India Ltd, the Indian Express newspaper reported over the weekend. Etihad, which already owns 24 percent of the Jet Airways, has put in an initial bid showing interest in purchasing a stake in the carrier, the newspaper said.

The Tata Group may jump into the fray if the sale process fails, and bankruptcy proceedings kick in, the Mint newspaper reported separately, citing two unidentified people. The government reached out to the group, which has a majority stake in two local airlines, last year to potentially bail out the airline but it did not materialize into a deal.

A Reliance spokesman declined to comment but said the company evaluates various opportunities on an ongoing basis. A Tata group representative also declined to comment.

With lessors taking over aircraft and slots going to rivals, the value of Jet Airways has eroded, said Mark Martin, founder of Dubai-based Martin Consulting.

“The lenders should have paid some money to lessors and urged them not to take over the aircraft while the sale process is on, and should have finalized a payment plan for past dues over the next 18 months, Martin said. “But they did not, and that’s really unfortunate.”

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

News media is in a crisis & only you can fix it

You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.

You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.

We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And we aren’t even three yet.

At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly and on time even in this difficult period. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is. Our stellar coronavirus coverage is a good example. You can check some of it here.

This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it. Because the advertising market is broken too.

If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism, please click on the link below. Your support will define our journalism, and ThePrint’s future. It will take just a few seconds of your time.

Support Our Journalism

1 Comment Share Your Views

1 COMMENT

  1. Bahut mushqil hai. I am not a fan of the cronies. However, rather than relying completely on the new bankruptcy procedures, which will lead to savage haircuts, going up to 60 to 80 per cent in several cases, banks might find it more profitable to sit with the existing managements and work things out. Some businesses may no longer be viable. However, quite a few – and I would, as a loyal customer, place Jet in that category, can be saved. If bankers take fright, by the time all the big sour loans have moved through these proceedings, India’s business landscape will have as many craters as the moon.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here