New Delhi/Mumbai: Budget airline SpiceJet Ltd and national carrier Air India Ltd have stepped in to stabilize India's aviation industry and ease the pain from wage losses caused by Jet Airways (India) Ltd’s descent into insolvency and operational shutdown.
SpiceJet is making all possible efforts to soften the blow to the aviation industry caused by Jet’s suspension of operations on Wednesday, said the airline’s chairman and managing director, Ajay Singh. That includes offering employment to those who have lost their jobs and scaling up the inventory of seats by adding new planes, in turn helping keep ticket prices stable.
Air India has, on its part, volunteered to temporarily use some of Jet Airways’ grounded planes on key international routes. Other airlines too are in talks with aircraft lessors to use Jet’s grounded planes.
“As we expand and grow, we are giving first preference to those who have recently lost their jobs due to the unfortunate closure of Jet Airways. We have already provided jobs to more than 100 pilots, more than 200 cabin crew and more than 200 technical and airport staff. We will do more," Singh said on Friday.
Jet Airways' grounding has resulted in a big gap in aviation capacity—impacting fares, passenger convenience and travel experience—and has added to the financial woes of lenders, aircraft lessors and other service providers.
Other airlines have come forward to try and bridge the gap in the air travel market but a realignment of slots at airports and other operational issues is a complex affair.
Jet Airways had 119 planes in its fleet before the liquidity crisis hit it last year. About 280 airport slots in Mumbai and 160 in Delhi fell vacant because of Jet halting operations, according to government estimates.
“We will induct a large number of planes in our fleet soon. SpiceJet is making all possible efforts to minimize passenger inconvenience and serve Indian customers who are finding it difficult to get seats in this busy season," said Singh.
Air India has written to the State Bank of India (SBI) seeking permission to temporarily operate on lease five Boeing 777 aircraft owned by Jet Airways, which are grounded.
Using Jet Airways’ slots at airports as well as aircraft lying idle until a rescue plan for the distressed carrier is implemented could prove to be a win-win situation for all. Aircraft lying idle for more than a week could weaken the electronic assemblies in them, said industry experts.
“We are, therefore, exploring the possibilities of operating five of the grounded B777s on the following established routes, hitherto being operated by Jet Airways—Mumbai-London-Mumbai, Delhi-London-Delhi, Mumbai-Dubai-Mumbai, Delhi-Dubai-Delhi, Delhi-Singapore-Delhi," the airline’s managing director Ashwani Lohani said in a letter to SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar. A copy of the letter has been reviewed by Mint.
Air India is examining the possibility of taking the B777s on wet/dry lease basis from SBI, the terms for which can be mutually thrashed out, Lohani said in the letter.
The national carrier on Thursday announced special fares to stranded international passengers of Jet Airways. These have been offered to passengers at airports such as Paris, London Heathrow, Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Jeddah, Dammam and Muscat.