Less Than 15 Aircraft Of Jet Currently Operational: Govt

NEW DELHI —  Less than 15 aircraft of Jet Airways are currently operational, Civil Aviation Secretary P S Kharola said on Wednesday. 

An SBI-led consortium of lenders had taken over the management of the cash-hit Jet Airways last month.

Asked about the active fleet of the beleaguered airline, the civil aviation secretary said here that “yesterday, it was 28”.

On the airline informing stock exchanges on Tuesday evening that 15 more aircraft have been grounded, Kharola said the current fleet “would be less than about 15”.

However, later in the day, Indian aviation watchdog DGCA said in a statement, “JA (Jet Airways) continues to fly 28 aircraft as on date.” 

The watchdog added,”The 15 aircraft reported are already accounted for and was only informed to the stock exchange by JA yesterday.” 

The airline has around 119 aircraft in its fleet. In the last few weeks, the airline has been grounding its aircraft in tranches due to non-payment of dues to lessors.

Regarding funding issues of the airline, Kharola, who was speaking on the sidelines of an event, said, “The issue is between bankers and Jet management. So they are discussing with each other.” 

The private carrier Tuesday said it has grounded 15 more aircraft due to non-payment of rentals to lessors.

Till last month, the Mumbai-headquartered airline, which is now under new ownership, had taken 54 planes out of operations due to lease rental defaults.

On March 25, Jet Airways’ board approved a resolution plan formulated by SBI-led domestic lenders. Under the plan, lenders decided to take control of the airline and make a fund infusion of Rs 1,500 crore.

The aviation secretary said Wednesday that Jet Airways’ ability to fly international operations needs to be “examined”.

However, later, the airline’s spokesperson said in a statement,”Jet Airways would like to clarify certain speculative media reports with respect to the airline’s ability to operate on international routes. As informed to the regulator (DGCA), the airline is operating a curtailed schedule with sufficient number of aircraft, and is compliant with applicable guidelines.”  

Jet crisis: Prabhu rules out intervention in commercial matters of airline

Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu Wednesday ruled out any interference in efforts to help cash-strapped Jet Airways, saying that the government should not be seen to be doing any kind of deals to help an airline.

Against the backdrop of lenders set to take control of Jet Airways under a debt resolution plan, he said banks are direct stakeholders and are dealing with commercial matters of the airline where the ministry would not like to intervene.

Interacting with PTI journalists here, Prabhu said, “The ministry should not be dealing in any commercial transactions of any kind. Same thing I did for railways or for anywhere else. The issue is between banks and the management”.

He was responding to a query about the case of the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines where banks apparently did not intervene.

Days after Jet Airways’ board approved a debt resolution plan, wherein the lenders led by SBI would take control of the airline, embattled liquor baron Vijay Mallya had lashed out at public sector banks for “double standards” under the current NDA regime for their intervention to bailout Jet Airways while the same lenders made his Kingfisher airlines “fail ruthlessly”.

Mallya was the founder of Kingfisher Airlines.

In response to queries related to Jet Airways crisis, Prabhu said the ministry should not be seen to be doing any deals of any kind that would help in any way.

“It is always possible. You can help a company by bringing the other down,” he said.

“We should not be seeing to be doing anything which would be construed or seen or actually resulting in either favouritism or doing something wrong against somebody. We did not do that,” the minister said.

However, Prabhu said the ministry would be looking at the safety aspects.

When asked if the government played any role in state-run banks taking over Jet Airways, the minister said, “What role have we got? That is exactly the point. That is what Jet Airways was trying to come with us. We said we will not play any role into this”.

To another query on whether the ministry would have been perfectly fine and remained a neutral observer had the Jet Airways gone under, Prabhu replied, “That is banks’ call. There is a law which says that any company which could not service the liability – how to deal with that”.

“Our role is very clear. And that is what I have personally done actually. It is not to interfere into any commercial matter of any airline,” he emphasised.

About recent meetings between the ministry officials and Jet Airways’ executives, Prabhu said the meetings are taking place because “we are dealing with safety”.

“There is a direct issue of safety of Jet Airways, or for that matter, any other airline,” he said.

“Safety is ensured because we are telling banks that if you are taking over as management, then ensure that the safety is assured, and give enough funds for the safety,” he added.

Prabhu said his job as an aviation minister is to come with the policy, ensuring that policy allows the growth and it allows to deal with the situation of this kind.

“My policy should be robust enough to take care of situations like this… Earlier, many times, the government would be tempted to be interventionist… We are very clear that managing the airline is the responsibility of the respective board and the airline company,” he said.

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