India’s Jet Airways is facing gale-force headwinds as its financial status reaches dire straits. The airline has entered discussions with lessors waiting to repossess its aircraft for a delay in payment of dues, an assertion Jet has denied.
Jet Airways reported to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) on Wednesday that it remains “actively engaged” with all its aircraft lessors, including Gecas, due to the scheduled expiration of their respective lease terms. “To date, we have not grounded a single aircraft due to any grounding notice received from Gecas,” it said.
“One aircraft is grounded for scheduled termination of an engine’s lease and another for technical reasons,” said Jet. “Further, three aircraft have been temporarily grounded to carry out an engine normalization exercise. Once the engines are normalized all three aircraft will be ready to fly. We expect this process to be complete by February 1.” Boeing 737s account for all but one grounded aircraft.
Fortunately for lessors, India had partially ratified the Cape Town Convention, which enables repossession of their aircraft with the regulator’s clearance within five days. However, a bill awaiting passage in parliament to enable easier financing of aircraft remains pending. “This is because India’s elections are to be held this year and aviation is not a priority at the moment,” Aerointellect Aviation Capital director Amit Mittal told AIN.
The groundings have resulted in cancellation, chaos, and concern. The airline canceled some 20 flights on Tuesday. “The company is making all efforts to minimize disruption to its network and is proactively informing and re-accommodating its affected guests,” said Jet in a statement to the BSE.
A delay in the payment of interest and principal installments due last December 31 to the consortium of Indian banks, led by State Bank of India, has led to speculation about the possible change in ownership status of the airline. Creditor SBI could, if it turns debt into equity, own 15 percent, and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, which presently owns 24 percent, could own up to 40 percent if it decides to inject more funds.
Following consecutive losses of more than $150 million each of the past three quarters, Jet has delayed payment to lessors and salaries to its senior staff including pilots and technicians.
During a recent media meet, International Air Transport Association director general Alexandre de Juniac said his organization is closely following the situation. “We will try to see their problems because they participate in our billing and settlement plan system," he said. "So we are monitoring them as we do [other airlines] everywhere…In Asia, and particularly in India, the balance sheet has heavy debt, which is a problem."