Notwithstanding a debt restructuring plan being approved by the board and shareholders of Jet Airways, the lack of fund infusion into the airline has sent jitters across its lessors that are grounding their aircraft leased out to Jet. As of Friday, the airline had grounded 49 aircraft out of a fleet of 119, mainly due to non-payment to lessors. Since February 7, Jet Airways has announced grounding of aircraft eight times – putting 28 planes out of service. On Thursday, one of the lessors of Jet Airways – FLY Leasing – said that it will take its grounded aircraft back and redeploy them elsewhere if the airline fails to gain approvals for a restructuring plan this month.
“…we have three fairly young (Boeing 737-)800s there (Jet Airways) that represent about 3 per cent of our revenue at FLY. We’ve been a long-time lessor to Jet and to Etihad, and we’re a big believer in the Indian aviation market. I mean you look at the metrics of that market, it’s phenomenal, so any major lessor has to play in that marketplace, it’s — long-term it’s the place to be. So we have grounded our aircraft, we have control over our aircraft but we have not terminated the leases, and we were waiting for the airline to approve all its restructuring with the State Bank of India. And if that goes through at the end of the month, obviously, we will stay with Jet. If they can’t get that done then we’ll take our aircraft back and redeploy them,” Steve Zissis, President & CEO of FLY’s parent company BBAM said during a post-earning conference call. The transcript of the call was accessed from seekingalpha.com.
Other global aircraft leasing companies that have exposure to Jet Airways include AerCap Holdings NV and BOC Aviation among several others.
The grounding of a chunk of the India’s second largest airline’s fleet has also led to the cancellation of hundreds of flights while causing a domino effect on the aviation sector leading to significant rise in last-minute fares. As per a senior official at the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the airline that was operating about 100 aircraft early December has been told to ensure that passengers do not suffer because of flight cancellations resulting from this situation.
The official added that the airline has been told: “In case the flights are being cancelled, the passengers should be properly compensated or given the alternative flight. We should not be receiving any complaints regarding that.” Jet Airways has proposed selling a majority stake to a consortium led by the State Bank of India at Re 1 per share, under regulations that permit banks to convert debt to equity in a defaulting firm.
The stake sale will be followed by an equity raising, debt restructuring and the sale and leaseback of jets to help plug a $1.2 billion funding gap, but plan needs approvals from several stakeholders, including major shareholder Etihad Airways.