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Home / Opinion / Views /  Why the headwinds against the Jet Airways relaunch are too daunting

Sudhir Gaur, acting chief executive officer, and part of the initial team selected by the Kalrock-Jalan consortium, which secured the National Company Law Tribunal’s (NCLT) approval last June to revive Jet Airways, has quit the company. Finance head M Shivakumar and head of management information system Farazad Patrawalla left a few weeks earlier. Reviving Jet Airways, India’s best-run airline a few years ago, has looked like an impossible feat right from the time it “temporarily ceased" operations in April 2019.

And, although there has been no let-up in media speculation about Jet Airways about to restart operations since then, the chances were and remain bleak. As Rajnish Kumar, former chairperson of the State Bank of India, also wrote in his recently released book The Custodian of Trust: A Banker’s Memoir: the beginning of the end of the airline started when its promoter Naresh Goyal, accompanied by an investment banker, approached the bank in 2018 to shore up its loans.

Jet Airways was sent to the NCLT Mumbai bench. The resolution plan was approved in June 2021 which is when Kalrock and Jalan were mandated to restart the airline. But nothing has moved on the ground in all this while.

Jet Airways seems a case fit for obituaries, rather than flight schedules. Essential to running or reviving an airline is, well, aircraft. Little is known about where or when Jet Airways is going to get its fleet of aircraft. The same goes for the aircraft parking slots at various airports. Probably the worst bit of bad news for the airline is that there are just about 11 months left for its low-cost subsidiary JetLite’s operating license from the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the regulatory body) to expire. Jet’s operating license is also valid only till February 2023. Renewing licenses is a time-consuming and painstaking exercise.

Also required to run an airline are lots of cash, and trained pilots, technicians, engineers, and crew members. It is not clear how a non-operational company will afford to maintain such technically proficient staff on its rolls—that too at a time when Covid has badly hit air travel. Pilots must undergo training six to eight months before the start of flying operations. Jet Airways has seen incessant exits from senior positions, although airline head-hunters have been active in the market scouting personnel for it. A communication earlier this month from the Jalan-Kalrock Consortium, which is trying to take the airline back to the skies, said the “company has not yet appointed its CEO."

There are other hurdles to cross. Before it can start operations, if it is able to, Jet Airways will have to go through a five-stage process under CAP 3100 of the DGCA. The process includes a pre-application phase in which Jet will be required to make a case to the DGCA for it to even agree to allocate resources that the Air Operator Certificate’s revalidation will consume. The lengthy and numerous security and safety approvals obligations include those that will be required for its revised documents, to account for the new management and personnel in key positions. Prior to certification, there demonstration and inspection—of the airline’s aircraft, maintenance facilities and arrangements—stages will have to be crossed to show the airline is in a position to conduct its proposed operations in accordance with the DGCA’s laid down manuals. An evaluation of the airline’s training facilities, programmes and training personnel will also be undertaken. It’s a long haul for Jet Airways to even get to the starting point of these technical approvals.

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