MUMBAI: Jet Airways’ CEO Vinay Dube, its finance chief Amit Agarwal and other employees along with Maharashtra finance minister Sudhir Mungatiwar Saturday met Arun Jaitley to appeal for government support for the distressed airline.

India’s oldest private carrier suspended all operations temporarily on Wednesday, with no money to fly and banks refusing to lend any more. It has left more than 15,000 employees in the lurch.

“Arun Jaitley assured the Jet executives that the government will do whatever it can to protect the future of these employees. He said he will talk to banks and ask them if they can release some funds to even partly clear the pending salaries of employees,” said a person in the know.

“He has said fullest efforts will be made to finish the bidding process (for a new investor for the airline) in 4-5 weeks,” he added. ET couldn’t immediately confirm these assurances from Jaitley’s office.

Jet hasn’t paid its employees from January. It has defaulted on loans, been forced to ground planes since last year after it defaulted on payments to plane lessors. It has also laid off staff. In its statement announcing the suspension, Jet said it was unable to raise Rs 983 crore of loans for which it had appealed to the banks.

Immediately after its suspension of operations, global airline lobbying body International Air Transport Association (IATA) suspended all ticketing activity from its billing and settlement plan, essentially meaning travel agents will not be able to issue Jet tickets. Refunds to passengers whose flights have been cancelled too have become uncertain.

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Meanwhile, Jet’s lenders led by the State Bank of India, will Monday start a due diligence process for qualified bidders before they submit their binding bids for investing in the airline. The lenders and SBI Capital Markets, which is running the bidding process, have selected Etihad Airways, TPG Capital, Indigo Partners and National Investment and Infrastructure Fund as qualified bidders. The potential investors have however asked banks to take as much as an 80% haircut on their loans and severely criticised them for not providing interim funds for Jet. Jet’s net debt is over Rs 8,500 crore.



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