‘Will fly 40 additional aircraft by April-end’, Jet Airways informs government

NEW DELHI: Jet Airways has informed the government that it has 35 aircraft in operation currently and it has set an “ambitious” target of flying additional 40 aircraft by the end of April, Civil Aviation Secretary P S Kharola said on Tuesday.

For last few weeks, the full-budget carrier has been grounding its aircraft in tranches due to non-payment of dues to lessors, bringing down its operational fleet from 103 to just 35.

Giving up chairmanship after more than 26 years, embattled Jet Airways’ founder Naresh Goyal Monday quit as a board member, with the lenders taking control of the cockpit and deciding to infuse Rs 1,500 crore immediately into the ailing airline.

Addressing a press conference, Kharola said, “They (Jet Airways) were hopeful that by Monday or Tuesday, they will be able to come to some settlement with the lessors. As per the plan given by Jet, they are hopeful that by the end of next month, they will be able to fly about 40 more planes.”

“We had discussions with Jet and we asked them what is the plan now to bring the (grounded) planes back in the system. So the first thing they have assured us is that 35 planes are flying and no more additional planes will be grounded,” he added.

He said the airline would be approaching aviation watchdog DGCA to get next month’s schedule approved for these 35 planes.

“More importantly we asked them how more planes will be restored with this funding coming in now. They (Jet Airways) said the matter will have to be discussed with lessors since the planes have been grounded by lessors. So they will have to negotiate with lessors to get authorisation to use the planes,” Kharola said.

Struggling to stay afloat amid a debt burden of over Rs 8,000 crore, the board of the country’s first private full-service carrier on Monday approved conversion of banks’ debt into equity and induction of nominee directors of the lenders, who would become majority stakeholders.

Kharola said lead lender State Bank of India (SBI) will infuse funds into the airline “as early as possible” and the government is keeping a close watch on the developments.

When asked what the government plans to do with the flight slots that remain unused because of grounded aircraft of Jet Airways, the aviation secretary said that the Centre is mulling interim arrangements to allot such idle flight slots to other airlines.

In response to a question on how fast the dues of airline’s pilots and aircraft engineers would be paid, the secretary said that the airline management will take the “best possible decision”.

Jet Airways’ domestic pilots’ body, the National Aviators Guild (NAG), Tuesday sought a meeting with SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar over pending salaries.

The guild had last week announced that its over 1,100 members would stop flying from April 1 if their salaries were not cleared and a clarity on the revival roadmap was not provided by March 31.

Source: Press Trust of India

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