All the Jet Airways slots that have been temporarily allotted to other airlines will be returned to the airline only if its revival plan works out. (Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint)
All the Jet Airways slots that have been temporarily allotted to other airlines will be returned to the airline only if its revival plan works out. (Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint)

Jet Airways' slots may go permanently to rivals if stake sale process fails

  • SpiceJet, IndiGo have already announced flights from Jet Airways' slots alloted to them at Mumbai and Delhi airports
  • Slots at the two airports are hard to come by for new airlines as most have already been used by legacy carriers

New Delhi: Domestic carriers that have been temporarily awarded slots of Jet Airways (India) Ltd at India’s busiest airports of New Delhi and Mumbai stand a chance to gain them permanently if the grounded airline fails to find a new buyer. InterGlobe Aviation Ltd’s IndiGo and SpiceJet Ltd are among carriers that have already announced a slew of flights utilizing temporary slots at these two airports. Slots at the two airports are hard to come by for new airlines as most have already been used by legacy carriers.

“If Jet Airways is to revive and come back with its fleet of 119 aircraft—that it operated during its peak—all the slots that are temporarily given to other airlines will be returned to them," said a senior civil aviation ministry official, requesting anonymity.

“The airlines already holding slots get preference at the time of reallocation. If Jet Airways doesn’t revive, the airlines, which are holding these temporary slots (at New Delhi and Mumbai), will get preference during reallocation of slots after three months," the official said, adding that the situation would be reviewed if Jet resumed operations.

Jet Airways, which was until recently India’s second-largest airline, suspended flights last Wednesday under the weight of high debt and a severe cash crunch. The carrier operated about 106 departure and arrival slots each, daily at Mumbai. In New Delhi, it operated about 79 departure and arrival slots each daily.

Slots are allocated to airlines, based on factors including the number of aircraft they operate. Airports in Mumbai and Delhi together handled 61.4% of India’s domestic traffic in 2018. Mumbai handled 24.5% of air traffic, while Delhi handled 36.9% last year.

“Till December 2018, the expansion of flights at metro airports has been significantly constrained on account of unavailability of slots. The impact is even more pronounced at key airports such as Mumbai and Delhi due to congestion," said Hetal Gandhi, director of Crisil Research. “This has restricted route additions at these airports. With the grounding of Jet Airways, their slots at these major airports are being made available to reduce disruption to passenger traffic. This is expected to support capacity expansion of other players without any pressure on the yields in FY20."

Airlines operating from Mumbai each received about 8-10 pairs of slots of Jet, while those from New Delhi received 4-5 pairs each, said a person requesting anonymity.

Queries sent to Air India, Air Asia India, Vistara, GoAir and SpiceJet remained unanswered till press time.

The civil aviation ministry on Tuesday said “it has been decided to allot some of the slots vacated by Jet Airways to other airlines on a purely temporary basis, for a period of three months", to add more planes and tackle the capacity shortage. The ministry’s statement came a day after the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) announced a decline in domestic air traffic passenger growth in March amid the cancellation of flights by Jet and grounding of Boeing 737 Max planes by SpiceJet. This led to a capacity shortage and rise in fares, discouraging several fliers.

Passenger traffic grew 0.14% last month, slowing from a 5.6% growth in February and a 9% increase in January, according to DGCA.

Other carriers are, meanwhile, availing the slots of Jet Airways at New Delhi and Mumbai airports.

SpiceJet on Tuesday said it would launch 28 new flights from Friday connecting Mumbai and New Delhi with other cities. “Of these, 14 will connect Mumbai, eight will connect New Delhi, while the rest will connect the two metros with each other," SpiceJet said in a statement.

The airline will be connecting Mumbai with destinations such as Amritsar, Mangaluru, Jaipur and Coimbatore, while also adding additional frequency to cities such as Patna, Hyderabad and Kolkata.

Others such as Vistara, IndiGo and AirAsia India have also benefited by getting temporary slots in New Delhi and Mumbai due to the suspension of Jet Airways’ flights.

IndiGo has announced six additional non-stop daily flights from Delhi from 25 May. “Some of the flights are temporary," a spokesperson for IndiGo said.

Full-service carrier Vistara, which is likely to start international services this year, has announced 14 new flights on the domestic network, starting 7 April.

Vistara’s new additional services are being added to Bengaluru, Kolkata and Hyderabad from Mumbai, besides on the Hyderabad-Pune route to meet the demand during the peak April-June travel season.

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