Two years after ceasing to fly, Jet Airways awaits NCLT clearance

“I was hoping not to see the second anniversary of Jet’s grounding and instead see them in the air. However, under the current circumstances and the continued impact of Covid-19 since last year, we are moving in the right direction, ”says Ashish Chhawcharria, the resolution professional who deals with the sale of the airline in part of the insolvency process.

April 17 marked the second year since Jet Airways was grounded for multi-crore delinquencies after 25 years of operations. Six months ago, on October 17, 2020, the Creditors Committee voted in favor of the United Arab Emirates-based consortium Kalrock Capital and Entrepreneur Murari Lal Jalan.

The airline had drawn the curtains on its operations on April 17, 2019 on unpaid bills amounting to Rs 8,000 crore. Shortly after its grounding, the State Bank of India took the airline to insolvency court.

Captain Sangeeta Joshi, an employee of Jet Airways, said that on the one hand, it is heartwarming to see that even after two years of grounding, people are missing the “joy of flying” with the “flying sun”. On the other hand, “It’s been over six months, with countless court hearings, but the sword of ‘slots’ still hangs over our heads.”

In 2019, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had ceded the slots of Jet Airway to other airlines “temporarily”. The authorities had assured “positively” that the slots would be returned to Jet if and when there was a firm business proposal.

Chhawcharria says he is “optimistic about progress” and hopes the consortium can get approval from the ministry soon.

However, there is no clarity on the time slots and necessary approvals. In previous hearings, lawyers representing civil aviation authorities said the consortium should reapply for all licenses and slots.

Sources close to the CoC wondered what there was to gain for the winning consortium to take on such a large debt, if it had to reapply for everything. Another source said: “It was fervently hoped that by the time we got to this day – the second anniversary, the relaunch efforts would have paid off and the teams would be actively involved in getting the airline back into the air. . “

Two years later, employees, lenders, vendors, the resolution professional and the winning consortium eagerly await NCLT’s approval of the resolution plan submitted by the winning consortium. Unfortunately, the process is taking longer than expected and is hampered by the second wave of the pandemic.

The consortium planned to restart the airline by April 2021. Amid delays in approvals, in a recent interview with BusinessLine, Jalan said the consortium plans to restart the airline within four to five months of the changes. NCLT approvals.

At its peak, Jet Airways had nearly 22,000 employees, including more than 6,000 contractors. To date, over 3,000 employees have remained.

Speaking of the snail-paced approval process, Captain Bijoy James said, “The NCLT process is far from perfect, but we have found ourselves a serious buyer. Unfortunately, the process is lengthy for no reason. The law protects slots, and customs clearance should have happened some time ago. “

The consortium has offered more than Rs 1000 crore for investment. However, the catch is that, like previous bidders, the Jalan-Kalrock consortium also wants the premium slots that Jet had at domestic and international airports.

To iron out these things, the UAE-based bidders had set up a camp in the capital, Delhi and had a series of meetings and negotiations with civil aviation authorities to get the approvals at the earliest.

The NCLT’s Mumbai bench has scheduled the next hearing on May 3.