Jet Airways in talks for an order of at least 100 aircraft.
The new owners of once-bankrupt Jet Airways India are in talks with Boeing and Airbus to purchase at least 100 narrowbody jets for the carrier’s fleet in a bid to revive what used to be the biggest private airline in the South Asian nation before it collapsed under a pile of debt.
The winning bidders for Jet Airways in a state-run bankruptcy resolution process — Dubai-based, Indian-origin businessman Murari Lal Jalan and Florian Fritsch, the chairman of London-based financial advisory and alternative asset manager Kalrock Capital Management Ltd. — plan to start flights in the first three months of next year, Ankit Jalan, a representative for the consortium, said in an interview with Bloomberg News.
The group will invest around 15 billion rupees ($200 million) via equity and debt in the airline over the next six months, half a year earlier than originally planned, Jalan, who is Murari Lal’s nephew, said earlier this week.
The potential revival of Jet Airways, which forced creditors to take a 95% haircut, will be the first for any airline under India’s bankruptcy laws and will intensify competition in one of the world’s most cut-throat aviation markets. Founded by ticketing agent-turned-entrepreneur Naresh Goyal after India ended a state monopoly on aviation in the early 1990s, Jet Airways became popular among fliers as an attractive alternative to Air India Ltd., offering full-service flights to cities including London and Singapore, before a bunch of low-cost airlines ushered in cheap fares for no-frills services.
“The reaction that we saw of the Jet Airways brand coming back was motivation in itself,” 37-year old Jalan, who’s leading the consortium’s airline venture, said from the old offices of Jet Airways just outside of New Delhi on Wednesday evening. “That’s exactly why Jet is coming back; to serve the loyal fan base, to serve the people who miss Jet Airways.”
Jet Airways — which had almost 21,000 creditors seeking claims of around $6 billion under the bankruptcy process — is reentering a notoriously tough market. Kingfisher Airlines Ltd., founded by beer tycoon Vijay Mallya, ended operations in 2012 after failing to clear its dues to banks, staff, lessors and airports. SpiceJet almost collapsed two years later before its founders returned to gain control and revive the company. Singapore Airlines Ltd. and AirAsia Group Bhd. have also set up local affiliates, but they aren’t making any money.
Jet Airways is now left with a fleet of 11 planes, including Boeing 737s and 777s, as well as Airbus A330 jets. But those aircraft are mostly old and need to be sold and replaced with newer, more fuel-efficient ones, Jalan said. A deal for the most popular model of Boeing 737 Max jets could cost more than $12 billion, although discounts are common in large orders.
Options for the plane deal includes both outright purchase and leasing, Jalan said. While Airbus is looking at possible early delivery of its most popular A320neo jets, which are already sold out for several years, Boeing may potentially relook at an old 225-plane order for 737 Max aircraft, which Jet Airways had placed before going belly up, Jalan said. A decision is expected by early next month.
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