MUMBAI: Air India chairman Ashwani Lohani held preliminary talks with his State Bank counterpart Rajnish Kumar in the Capital Friday on the national carrier's interest in leasing five Boeing 777s from the now-grounded Jet Airways, sources close to the development said.

The meeting lasted for over more than an hour at the Airlines House, the headquarters of the flag carrier in the national Capital.

"During the meeting with Kumar, Lohani discussed his proposal on leasing five B777s of Jet Airways," the sources told PTI.

As per these sources, the AI chairman will now take the proposal to the airline's board for approval, after more internal discussions and if all goes well, then the proposal will be sent to the aviation ministry for the final approval.

The AI board is scheduled to meet on April 27 and the subject may come up for discussions.

Weighed down by a mountain of debt and falling revenue, Jet Airways announced suspension of its entire operations from Wednesday night. The airline now owns 16 wide-body planes--10 B777-300ERs and six Airbus A330s.

The SBI-led consortium of lenders are now running the airline under a debt recast plan.

The AI chairman had written to SBI chief Wednesday expressing interest in taking on lease five of the Boeing 777s from Jet and deploy them in key international routes.

When asked about the next step, the source said after further deliberations, a formal proposal will be sent to the board for its approval. "If the board gives its go ahead, it will be sent to the aviation ministry which will take a final call."

Air India is keen to launch more international routes and enhance frequencies on the existing ones.

"But it does not have additional aircraft to do so. If it is able to strike a deal with Jet lenders, it can expand the international operations further," the source said.

The Air India spokesperson was not available to comment parleys.

In a dry-lease arrangement, the lessor gives out only the aircraft to a lessee, while in wet-lease, the aircraft comes with the complete crew, maintenance and insurance.

After the grounding of Jet, Air India is the only domestic carrier now operating services on long haul and ultra-long haul routes like London, Paris, New York, Washington, Chicago and San Francisco, among other cities.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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