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The consortium has plans to restore Jet Airways to its former glory by relaunching it as a full-service airline, but with a special focus on cargo.

Can Jet Airways take off again
Money Jet Airways Tuesday, October 20, 2020 - 09:14

With Jet Airways finally getting a final bidder, all eyes are now on the National Company Law Tribunal, which needs to approve the plan by the Kalrock Capital and UAE-based entrepreneur Murari Lal Jalan consortium to revive the airline that has been grounded for over 1.5 years now. While this is one step closer to Jet Airways returning to the skies again, there are still several regulatory and cost hurdles that need to be overcome.

For now, the consortium, which comprises UK-based Kalrock Capital founded by Florian Fritsch and UAE-based entrepreneur Murari Lal Jalan, is waiting for the approval from the NCLT before it can begin working full-swing on reviving the airline.

Kalrock is a US-based financial advisory firm that mainly works in the Real Estate, Venture Capital and Special Situations space. Murari Lal Jalan is an entrepreneur with investments in the United Arab Emirates, India, Russia and Uzbekistan among others. Jalan, who is reportedly a multi-billionaire, doesn’t have prior experience in the aviation business, but has invested and dealt in the real estate, Mining, Trading, Construction, FMCG, Travel & tourism industries, among others.

Revival plan

Speaking to TNM, Manoj Madnani, board member of Kalrock Capital, said that the consortium is working closely with all stakeholders to identify the best way forward.

The consortium intends to re-launch Jet Airways as a full-service airline, as it operated before its suspension, but with a special focus on cargo.

“The plan is to have domestic, international services and a good focus on cargo business. We see great opportunity for the airline out there, especially in the cargo market. We want to get things rolling as soon as we can. We are working towards adaptability, flexibility and optionality in our plans to ensure we get it off the ground at the earliest,” Manoj added.  

If all goes well, some experts and employees expect the airline to touch the skies again by March or April 2021. However, Manoj said that he wouldn’t be able to put a timeline to that at this point.

While the consortium’s resolution plan has not been made public, reports suggest that plans are to begin with an initial investment of Rs 1,000 crore and have domestic flights in the first stage and then international flights with narrow and wide-body aircraft.

CNBCTV18 reported earlier that the consortium’s offer includes a pay out of Rs 866 crore in total to all lenders, which includes Rs 380 crore to be paid to financial creditors and some deferred payments to creditors.

Business Standard reported that banks will get a 9% stake in the airline and employees will be offered 75% stake in Jet’s ground handling arm, as well as a financial incentive of close to Rs 20,000 each.

Employees

Another important aspect that Jet Airways will have to deal with in the process of its revival is human capital.

The airline had around 9,000 employees when its bankruptcy proceedings began and currently has around 4,000 employees still on its rolls. Employees had claims of Rs 1,428.7 crore, of which the resolution professional admitted claims worth Rs 1,265 crore.

With Jet Airways finding one winning bidder, employees are hopeful about its resurrection and believe that the airline shouldn’t perish.  

“We hear that the successful Resolution applicant is very serious in his approach towards resurrecting the airline, and we welcome their selection by CoC. This is one big development, and this could be the first private airline to revive after the advent of private carriers in India. After a long wait, there is a reason to smile,” Amit Kelkar, vice-president of Jet Aircraft Maintenance Engineers Welfare Association, who has been with the company for 22 years told TNM.

However, for employees, all eyes are now on what they would be in the approved resolution plan.

“We wish that the maximum remaining workforce is provided an opportunity in coming days to serve the airline and that their pending dues are addressed in a judicious manner,” Amit said.

While Kalrock’s Manoj didn’t comment on how many of Jet Airways' employees would be retained, he said that one needs to take into account the situation of the global aviation industry, which has seen a number of furloughs and layoffs.

“The most important thing right now is getting the NCLT approval, getting routes back and based on routes and planning, that’s when the employees will factor in. But human capital is a very important part of our process,” he added.

Challenges

However, the path to resume operations is a very tough and uncertain one, aviation advisory and research practice CAPA’s India head Kapil Kaul told PTI.

Once the approval is received, the consortium will be looking at reviving an airline at a time when the aviation industry has been hit hard due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Airlines across the globe have reported massive losses and have had to lay off scores of employees to stay afloat.

"Path to restart operations is very tough and uncertain," Kaul told PTI, without elaborating. He also said that the "terms" accepted by the Jet Airways creditors did not make sense to CAPA.

While Jet's new owners have plans to start with about Rs 1,000 crore of capital, they might need to bring in more funds to be able to successfully run operations, once resumed.  

According to Amit, getting back the slots of Jet Airways on domestic routes and international bilaterals is crucial, and also requires government support. This is also something that is crucial to ensuring Jet Airways is able to relaunch as a full-service airline, accoring to Manoj.

Employees are also of the opinion that it wouldn’t make sense to revive the company if there aren’t plans to go back to Jet Airways’ previous scale, where it had around 120-130 aircraft.

Despite the challenging global economic scenario, Kalrock’s Manoj remains optimistic.

“I don’t know what challenges there are yet, but we have our eyes wide open. We are working with stakeholders who have a lot of experience and we’re getting advice from them. The consortium we’re working with also knows the sector quite well. We are also actively engaging with the team of Jet Airways. So I would say that we’re ready to handle whatever challenges come our way,” he says. 

With PTI inputs

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