Ground Report | New Delhi: Jet Airways to fly again soon; Indian grounded airline Jet Airways plans to fly again by the end of 2021, as the Colourock-Jalan consortium, which owns the company, on Tuesday (June 22) filed a resolution plan for its resolution plan in the bankruptcy court of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCL).
Jet Airways to fly again soon?
The consortium, led by UAE-based businessman Murari Lal Jalan and London-based ColorRock Capital, had announced in December 2020 to revive the airline as a full-service carrier. An air cargo industry expert noted that the very important slots of Delhi and Mumbai may not be on offer for Jet Airways, although it is going to take some time for Jet to take off again.
“At a time when the aviation industry is down with respect to passengers, the cargo business is gaining steam for this industry. SpiceJet has made tremendous inroads into this and is the first time an Indian airline dedicated to cargo. Indigo is soon following. With the arrival of the jet, there will be more space. We will see rate war in this too which is a good sign for a supply chain professional,” he said.
Meanwhile, he also warned, “But hopefully this news is true and not to shake the stock market and will benefit some people holding the shares of Jet Airways. Grant Thornton Advisory is overseeing the resumption of the airline on behalf of this consortium.
The first airline to be revived
Due to the paucity of funds and the inability of the then promoters Naresh Goyal and Etihad Airways to infuse more money into the company, Jet abruptly ceased operations on April 17, 2019. On June 22, 2021, the bankruptcy court – National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) approved resolution plans (subject to certain conditions) for grounded airlines, allowing 90 days to implement the revival process. Jet Airways is the first airline in the country to revive after the shutdown.
After several discussions (among several investors and creditors) and failed deals, a consortium of UK-headquartered ColRock Capital and UAE-based Murari Lal Jalan won the bid for Jet Airways in October 2020. The implementation of the resolution plan will be monitored by a seven-member committee. According to the new CEO Sudhir Gaur, the airline has already hired 150+ full-time employees and will hire over 1,000 employees in the current financial year.
What is the solution plan?
Against total claims of INR 15,432 crore by operational and financial creditors (including banks), the consortium has offered to pay INR 1,183 crore over a period of 5 years. At commissioning, Jet Airways had 3,600 employees on whom the airline owes a total of INR 1,265 crores, for which a settlement amount of INR 52 crores has been proposed. However, 95% of employees would have to support the plan for it to be implemented. Banks and employees will also get a 9.5% and 0.5% stake respectively in the airline.
Only 35% of the workforce voted in favor of the proposal and thus rejected the proposal. In August 2021, employees demanded a stay on the scheme, expressing concern over their dues and reinstatement. Further, on September 3, 2021, Punjab National Bank (PNB) appealed to the NCLT regarding irregularities in the claim amount deposited by the resolution professionals. The hearing is to be held on 21 September 2021.
Securing slots should not be too much of a hurdle for the airline as the Airports Authority of India has no problem in allotting new slots. Delhi airport is ready to offer 15 slots for both departure and arrival, while Mumbai airport is open for discussion. Due to the current drop in travel demand, slot availability does not seem to be a problem.
However, getting premium slots early in the morning from Delhi and Mumbai, which Jet had earlier, could pose a problem.
Domestic passenger numbers fell from 140 million in FY20 to 53 million in FY21. The pandemic has forced airlines to ground 50-70% of their fleet and fly half-empty planes. IndiGo, the country’s largest airline, reported a ~60% drop in revenue for FY21.