Sun, Apr 14, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Jet adds more cancelations

AFP, MUMBAI, India

Jet Airways India Ltd on Friday extended a suspension of all of its international flights until tomorrow, the latest blow to the debt-stricken carrier battling to stay afloat.

The development came after the Indian government said it would investigate Jet’s ability to continue flying as lenders seek a buyer to keep the airline running.

Passengers have been left stranded and on Friday airline staff protested at Mumbai’s airport.

A collapse would deal a blow to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pro-business reputation as Indians vote in a six-week-long election, which started on Thursday.

A Jet Airways source told reporters that all of its international flights out of and into India until tomorrow had been scrapped, extending a series of cancelations announced on Thursday.

Indian Minister of Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu on Friday tweeted that the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation would “review issues related to Jet Airways” and also “take necessary steps to minimize passenger inconvenience and ensure their safety.”

Jet was until recently India’s second-biggest airline by market share, but is close to going under with debts of more than US$1 billion.

The Mumbai-based carrier has been forced to ground the majority of its fleet after months of defaulting on loans and struggling to pay lessors and staff.

It told the Bombay Stock Exchange on Thursday that 10 more airplanes could not fly due to nonpayment.

The airline has a fleet of 119 aircraft, but Indian Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola said it would fly only six or seven of them over the weekend on domestic routes, after flying 11 on Friday, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.

That is below the 20 required by Indian aviation regulators to fly overseas.

Thousands of customers have been stranded in the past few weeks after hundreds of flights were canceled.

Flights to to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Colombo and Singapore were among those canceled on Thursday and Friday.

Airline staff are also in limbo. Dozens of uniformed Jet workers protested on Friday at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, where they carried signs that read: “Save Jet Airways” and “Save our future.”

Friday was the deadline for prospective bidders to express an interest in acquiring a 75 percent stake in Jet.

A consortium of lenders led by the State Bank of India started the stake sale process on Monday. Any interested parties would have until April 30 to make a formal bid.

PTI quoted Kharola as saying that bankers asked the airline to “rework its proposal” on interim funding, and a meeting with bankers is scheduled for tomorrow.

“Depending on what the banks decide, the future course of action would be taken,” Kharola said.

Several airlines, including Etihad Airways, are interested in bidding, according to reports.

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