- The airline’s new routes will be decided within the next 90 days
- Jet was forced to ground all flights in April 2019, crippled by losses
- The carrier owes over ₹ 8,000 crore to banks
The grounded Jet Airways will take to the skies in its new avatar by the end of this calendar year. On a day when the company’s revival plan was approved by the National Companies Law Tribunal (NCLT), a top consultant working on the airline also said that its new routes will be decided within the next 90 days.
“Based on discussions I have been having, given the order has been received today, I think it would be a fair estimate to say that by the end of this calendar year we can hope to Jet in the skies again,” Ashish Chhawchharia, Head of Restructuring Services at Grant Thornton Advisory, told NDTV.
His company was appointed to oversee the airline’s restoration by a consortium of London-based Kalrock Capital and the UAE-based businessmen Murari Lal Jalan which now owns Jet.
Jet Airways was forced to ground all flights in April 2019, crippled by mounting losses. The carrier owes over Rs 8,000 crore to banks, with public sector lenders having significant exposure.
The NCLT has now given 90 days to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and the Civil Aviation Ministry to allot slots to the airline.
Asked how many old employees Jet would be willing to take back, Mr Chhawchharia cautioned that the carrier is unlikely to stary with a 120-aircraft crew from day one.
“As it picks up and adds more aircraft to its fleet, it will require trained manpower, it will require ground handlers and pilots and crew. So they will be adding people as they move along,” the resolution professional said.
“They want to start with 20 narrow-bodied and five wide-bodied aircraft. It may not all happen at a snap on day one. But they may be able to bring in these aircraft in a short span…I think there is certainly hope for people who have stuck on and had faith in Jet Airways.”
Discussions are still on with the airports, the Aviation Ministry, and the DGCA over slots at airports and various domestic and international routes, he said. He, however, downplayed the importance of these factors saying as much as the airline needs them, airports, too, need aviation companies.
“While we are a bit disappointed at not to have got the historic slots…it doesn’t have to be the exact same slots Jet was using earlier. Even if it is something near about, we can work with that,” said Mr Chhawchharia.
“Within 90 days we should have a fair amount of clarity as to what slots are available or not available.”
Even without the present Covid situation, he said, capacities are built-in and airports are expanding. He cited the example of Delhi where a new runway is coming up, which is bound to increase the number of slots “tremendously”.
Mr Chhawchharia, a Partner with Grant Thornton Advisory, said Jet Airways mostly has wide-bodied aircraft in its possession now which can only be used for long-haul flights. The airline will, thus, need to include narrow-bodied ones in its fleet. However, he also said that the company could operate international routes, too, with the smaller aircraft if the routes cover short distances.
“Given the current situation, the entire aviation sector is going for an overhaul. I think there will be more opportunities available and it is an opportune time,” he said, referring to the Covid pandemic as a great leveller in the aviation industry.
“Today the plan has been approved. It gives the company the necessary runway, all the time, to take necessary action, to get its licence active again, to get the aircraft in, get all the crew ready…”
He also expressed confidence in the flyers’ faith in Jet Airways, giving the airline tremendous brand value.
“When they see Jet flying again, I am sure filling up the planes is not going to be a problem…I think it is an upward graph from here,” Mr Chhawchharia said.