Jet Airways, the Indian carrier which was a partner of Etihad Airways and shut down in 2019, has been charting out its restart strategy since 2021. They indicated that plans were underway, under a new owner to which the creditors of the airline intend to sell the airline to the Jalan Kalrock consortium on the orders of India’s National Company Law Tribunal. The airline is preparing for a restart and has recently hired new management. But it does not look like they will take off in the summer 2022 schedule.
Over the past few months, the Jalan Kalrock consortium has ramped up appointments at the airline. Realizing that they wouldn’t be able to move forward without an accountable manager (a role that was being filled by an acting CEO), the airline’s to-be-promoter has started to roll out appointments to people who they wanted to lead the airline. The airline has shifted its headquarters to Gurugram from Mumbai, and there was already a skeletal team assembled to revive operations.
The consortium, earlier in March 2022, announced the appointment of Sanjiv Kapoor as the new CEO. Kapoor has decades of aviation experience, having worked at Northwest Airlines, before moving into consulting at Bain & Co for the aviation practice. He’s worked at other marquee names such as Temasek as well before he arrived on the Indian aviation scene, first as the COO at SpiceJet, and then moving on to take on the role of the CSCO at Vistara, where he stayed till 2019. He will join Jet Airways on April 4.
In February, the consortium also announced the appointment of Vipula Gunatilleka as the Chief Financial Officer at the airline. Gunatilleka was the CEO of SriLankan Airlines until January. He was appointed by the Board of SriLankan in 2018 to restructure the airline and in less than two years after assuming the duties as the CEO, the airline recorded positive EBITDA. Prior to joining SriLankan Airlines, Gunatilleka was the CFO & Board Member of TAAG Angola Airlines from November 2015 to July 2018 under Emirates Management. He played a pivotal role in turnaround the loss-making national carrier of Angola.
Gunatilleka qualified as a Chartered Accountant in the year 1987 after which he did his MBA from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. He is also a qualified Chartered Management Accountant (FCMA) from UK and Certified Public Accountant (FCPA) from Australia. He has knowledge in aircraft financing, strategic planning, cost-efficient business modeling.
Jet Airways restart postponed
However, the initial plans of Jet Airways 2.0, as it is referred to in India, are not going as quickly as originally intended. The airline intended to restart operations in early 2022, with a fleet of six narrowbody aircraft, and indicated as much in their early interactions. However, the airline is going to have to complete the regulatory activity behind receiving its Air Operators Certificate, and this is still not completed.
A section of the Indian media has indicated that the delay has happened because Jet Airways has been unable to complete the process of induction of aircraft and proving flights to the regulator. Jet Airways had initially intended to lease aircraft in India, using the newly created GIFT City where aircraft leasing businesses are being encouraged to set up shop in India. However, now, the airline intends to have the leasing process completed outside the country.
Jet Airways said: “We are working closely with the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India, and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on the approval process and timelines for proving flight, following which the Air Operator Certificate (“AOC”) of Jet Airways will be re-validated. The resumption of scheduled services will follow soon thereafter.”
“Restarting an airline is a complex exercise that must be done meticulously, in coordination with the Regulatory Authorities and we are well underway with the process. The timeline reflects the typical duration of an AOC process however we fully expect to have the proving flight and AOC well in advance of the filed timelines.”
“It should be noted that the extension of the timeline has nothing to do with where aircraft are registered and deregistered or the cost of leasing. Further, there is no regulatory requirement of taking an aircraft outside India for the purposes of re-registration. We are working with multiple aircraft lessors as well as aircraft manufacturers to source aircraft that will be inducted into the Jet Airways fleet over the next three to five years.”
While the airline is working on the right path, however, it looks like we will have to wait a bit longer for the airline to take to the skies again.
Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe.