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Last updated: 13 Apr, 2019  

jet-airways-employeesTHMB.jpg PMO steps in as Jet cancels international flights

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SME Times News Bureau | 13 Apr, 2019
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on Friday stepped in to assess Jet Airways' financial situation as the cash-strapped airline suspended its international operations till the weekend after further reduction in its fleet size.

The day's developments surrounding the financially challenged airline came after it cancelled even domestic flights, leaving passengers stranded at various airports.

Even the airline's unpaid employees were upset, which led to an employees' association asking the Mumbai Police to register a case against the company's founder and former Chairman Naresh Goyal, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Vinay Dube and State Bank of India (SBI) Chairman Rajnish Kumar.

In New Delhi, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola met PMO officials towards the evening to update them about the situation of the cash-strapped airline.

Kharola later told reporters that the government has advised the airline not to compromise on safety in any manner.

He said that currently Jet Airways is operating only 11 planes and has suspended its international operations till Monday afternoon.

Kharola further said that on Saturday, the airline will operate only six to seven aircraft.

According to the officer, Jet Airways will approach the lenders on Monday for interim funding.

"They (Jet) have suspended their international operations till Monday afternoon. They have approached them (banks) for interim funding and on Monday they will approach the banks again," Kharola said.

"Today only 11 planes are flying. Tomorrow it's going to be 6 or may be 7 planes," he said.

Earlier in the day, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu had directed Kharola to review the issues concerning the airline and take required steps to minimise passenger inconvenience.

On its part, the airline said it has cancelled all international operations from April 12 to 15.

"...the airline's management and its key stakeholders, including its consortium of lenders, continue to work closely towards resolving the current situation," a Jet spokesperson said in a statement.

A day before, the airline decided to halt West-bound international departures after it was left with only 14 aircraft from around 120 last year, triggering speculations over its survival as a lengthy stake sale process continued.

The airline on Thursday operated only about 14 aircraft, down from 26 last week, inviting government scrutiny over Jet's regulatory compliance for international flying.

As per rules, an airline needs to have a minimum of 20 aircraft to be eligible to operate international flights.

Till recently, the airline operated 26 aircraft, including Airbus A330s, Boeing 777s, 737-800 and ATRs, to various destinations like London, Toronto, Singapore, Amsterdam, Paris, Bangkok and domestic sectors like Mumbai-Delhi, among others.

Jet owns 16 out of these 26 aircraft.

In another development, the employees' association of Jet Airways asked the Mumbai Police to register a case against the company's founder and former Chairman Naresh Goyal, CEO Vinay Dube and SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar.

The All India Jet Airways Officers & Staff Association in its letter to Mumbai Police said: "We call upon you to register offence under cheating, criminal breach of trust, misappropriation and other offences against the Chairman, the CEO, the representative of the State Bank of India (Bankers) as per specific provisions of Section 405 and 409 and other related Sections including 420 of the Indian Penal Code."

The association urged the Mumbai Police to investigate the matter on an urgent basis and said that the Jet Airways staff will be forced to express their solidarity through constitutional means, including "calling for a strike under the provisions of Industrial Disputes Act".

Besides the employees, the airline's aircraft lessors too are upset with the current financial situation, with some of them requesting the DGCA to de-register their aircraft leased to the company.

The de-registration request section on the DGCA website showed on Friday that lessors have applied to de-register 19 aircraft owing to unpaid dues. However, some lessors have also withdrawn their de-registration requests.

Jet Airways is in the midst of a severe liquidity crisis that has affected its operations and resulted in the grounding of several of its aircraft.

The latest developments came on a day when the submission deadline for expression of interest (EoI) bids from prospective buyers for a stake sale in Jet came to an end.

At present, the airline owes over Rs 8,000 crore to a consortium of lenders led by the SBI.
 
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