Jet crisis: Govt eases rule to moderate fares

New Delhi: A multi-pronged strategy has been rolled into action to minimise the pain caused by Jet Airways’ shutdown for both passengers and employees, without using taxpayers’ money to bail out the airline. The finance ministry has decided to waive the mandatory customs requirement that Jet’s grounded planes in India must first be sent to the country of registration of their lessors and then fly them back to India before they can be used by other carriers. This will speed up lease of Jet planes to other airlines.

Simultaneously, Air India and SpiceJet have started working on plans to induct Jet’s planes. While SpiceJet has initiated the process to take over 22 of Jet’s Boeing 737s, AI is looking at Jet’s five B777s, B737s for AI Express and may even consider the wide-bodied Airbus A330. In all, AI may take 10 to 12 of Jet’s planes and SpiceJet may take a few more in the coming weeks.

To operate these planes, AI and SpiceJet will take aircraft with operating crew from Jet. This, authorities hope, will help provide employment to at least some of Jet’s employees — pilots, engineers and cabin crew and the additional flights will help bring down fares.

On Friday, AI chief Ashwani Lohani discussed the issue with SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar at the airline’s headquarters in the capital. “The nuts and bolts of leasing Jet’s aircraft was discussed between the two. Facing a serious cabin crew shortage, AI has hired 500 crew members from the private sector, hospitality sector and airlines in the last one month and nearly half of them have come from Jet Airways. We plan to wet-lease five Boeing 777s and Boeing 737s for AI Express, which means we may take the planes with operating crew of Jet,” said a senior AI official. AI wants to add flights from Delhi to London, Dubai and Singapore, and from Mumbai to London and Dubai on Jet’s B777s.

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Among Indian carriers, only AI and Jet have operated twin-aisle aircraft (not counting Kingfisher and Air Sahara) like Boeing 787, 777 and 747 and Airbus A330. That means AI is the only Indian carrier that can start operating Jet’s wide-bodied planes without much delay. Tata Group-Singapore Airlines JV Vistara had last summer placed an order for six B787-9 Dreamliners (with an option to order four more) that will start joining its fleet from next January.

AI has a number of planes — two B777s, four B787s and 13 A320s — on ground, mainly for want of engines due to a crippling cash crunch. The airline is trying to get funds from the government for making these planes operational and hopes to have many of them back in the air by July. “Since that process will take time, we want to start using Jet’s wide-bodied planes at the earliest. Once our own planes are back in air, we can continue using all the planes, depending on the outcome of Jet’s proposed revival,” said a senior official.

SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh said, as his airline grows, “We will induct a large number of planes in our fleet soon. SpiceJet is making all possible efforts to minimise passenger inconvenience and serve Indian customers, who are finding it difficult to get seats this busy season.”


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