Jet Airways cancels international flights as crisis deepens

Jet Airways planed parked at Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai on 25 March 2019Image copyright
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Jet Airways appears to have suspended all its international flights, raising fresh fears about the survival of India’s largest private airline.

The airline, saddled with more than $1bn (£765m) in debt, is seeking a financial lifeline to avoid collapse.

The Indian government said steps were being taken to ensure passenger safety after flights were cancelled.

Carriers in India must maintain a fleet of least 20 aircraft to continue to operate international services.

On Thursday, the airline grounded 10 more planes over unpaid fees to leasing firms and several local media reported the airline is now operating 14 planes.

The airline has more than 100 aircraft in its fleet, and flies on 600 domestic and 380 international routes.

It did not respond to BBC requests for comment on the size of its current fleet or operations.

India’s Aviation Minister, Suresh Prabhu, tweeted that his ministry would “review issues related to Jet Airways” and “take necessary steps to minimise passenger inconvenience and ensure their safety”.

Various reports from India on Friday said that Jet Airways had cancelled all international flights, which include services to Europe and Asia.

In a statement on Thursday, Singapore’s Changi Airport said Jet Airways had “suspended its services to and from Singapore until further notice”.

All Jet Airways’ international flights scheduled to depart on Friday from Delhi – to Singapore, London, Amsterdam and two to Kathmandu – are cancelled, the airport’s website says.

And according to the official website for London’s Heathrow airport, Jet Airways’ Friday flights to Mumbai and Delhi will not operate.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “We are aware of this situation and our main priority is working with our passenger service teams to support those affected. We advise travellers to contact the airline for the latest information.”

Image caption

Heathrow said it was aware of the situation and urged passengers to contact the airline

Callers to the customer line in the UK receive an engaged tone.

Jet Airways owes money to employees and suppliers and recent weeks it has grounded aircraft and cancelled thousands of flights – disrupting passengers locally and around the world – as its financial strains worsened.

The airline was founded by Naresh Goyal more than 25 years ago and he and his family currently own 52% of the airline, although that majority stake is expected to be lost as lenders’ restructure the debt.

A consortium of investors led by the State Bank of India (SBI) took control of the airline in March.

The group is searching a new investor to acquire a stake of up to 75% in Jet Airways. The deadline for bids had been extended to Friday, according to reports.

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Although it is a private airline, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, wants to stop the airline – which employs 23,000 people – from collapsing as elections get underway.

In a statement to the Mumbai Stock Exchange late on Thursday, Jet Airways said an “additional 10 aircraft have been grounded due to non-payment of amounts outstanding to lessors”.

There were reports in local media that India’s aviation ministry may review the regulations setting the fleet cap, which could allow the airline to resume international services.

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