India’s first private airline Jet Airways is now staring at a total grounding after lenders failed to reach a consensus on interim funding. The 25-year-old full-service airline has run out of cash and currently has only seven aircraft flying out of a fleet of 119. The rest have been grounded because of non-payment of rentals to lessors and lack of cash to pay for jet fuel.
It reportedly has fuel to run its operations only for Tuesday and overseas flights have been suspended until April 18.
Monday’s emergency meeting of the airline’s lenders, led by the State Bank of India, failed to reach a consensus on the immediate infusion of 10 billion rupees (just under US$144 million).
Meanwhile, SBI Caps is vetting expressions of interest for buyers who want a stake in Jet Airways and a shortlist will be ready soon. It has so far received at least eight bids from prospective buyers and final bids need to be submitted by the end of April.
Jet Airways has not paid its 20,000 employees their salaries for March and pilots have not been paid since January. Dues to other employees like aircraft maintenance engineers and senior management have also been pending for several months.
The cash-strapped airline has not paid its vendors and lessors and defaulted on payment to banks and oil marketing companies. It needs to immediately pay around 40 billion rupees ($575 million) to vendors and other business partners.
If Jet goes down, it will be the second pan-Indian operator to go belly up. Kingfisher Airlines was grounded in 2013.
Meanwhile, low-cost carrier SpiceJet appears to be making the most of the crisis at Jet Airways. It is now hiring engineers and pilots from Jet Airways at much lower pay. Pilots from Jet Airways are reportedly taking a pay cut of 25-30%, while for engineers it is even steeper at 50%.
SpiceJet shares have surged 65% over the last month on hopes that the airline will be able to increase capacity as Jet Airways battles for survival. Analysts expect that SpiceJet may lease more planes and grab a higher market share.