Jet Airways India Ltd. suspended operations after the cash-strapped carrier that once ranked as the nation’s biggest by market value failed to secure a bailout.
The Mumbai-based company has taken a decision to halt flights on a “temporary” basis from Thursday, it said in a statement late Wednesday, when the last service was scheduled to take place.
“Since no emergency funding from the lenders or any other source is forthcoming, the airline will not be able to pay for fuel or other critical services to keep the operations going,” it said. “With immediate effect, Jet Airways is compelled to cancel all its international and domestic flights.”
Jet, which broke the monopoly of state-run Air India Ltd. in the early 1990s, has been in decline since a slew of budget airlines started offering ultra-low fares that hurt profits and led it to pile up more than US$1 billion in debt and dues owed to employees and aircraft-leasing firms.
The grounding came after the State Bank of India, speaking on behalf of a consortium of Indian Lenders, told Jet that they were unable to consider its request for critical interim funding, according to the statement.
The carrier added that the decision was taken after a painstaking evaluation of all alternatives, with the ministries of civil aviation and finance and the DGCA safety regulator informed in advance.
“This has been a very difficult decision but without interim funding, the airline is simply unable to conduct flight operations in a manner that delivers to the very reasonable expectations of its guests, employees, partners and service providers,” Jet said.
The carrier added that it will continue to support a bid process initiated by lenders and that it aims to return to flying “as soon as possible.” That mechanism is due conclude on May 10.
Jet has reported losses for four straight quarters despite sales holding up. Just seven planes were flying Tuesday, compared with 123 at the end of December. The airline was forced to suspend international flights last week and saw pilots agitate over non-payment of salaries.
A collapse of Jet Air would threaten about 23,000 jobs and is reminiscent of the fate suffered by Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines Ltd., another indebted airline that had to be grounded. The crisis comes at an awkward time for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is battling concerns about unemployment as he seeks re-election in national elections that started April 11.
Jet shares fell 8.1 per cent to 240.50 rupees on Tuesday before a holiday Wednesday. They’ve declined 13 per cent this year after losing two-thirds of their worth in 2018, valuing the company at 27.3 billion rupees (US$392 million).
--With assistance from Anurag Kotoky