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Jet Airways Aircraft in Mumbai (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Hemal Gosai)

One Year Later: Looking Back at Jet Airways

This past week we marked the one year anniversary of Jet Airways suspending operations. The airline flew its last flight from Amritsar to Mumbai on April 17, 2019.

The airline technically still exists as an entity since bankruptcy proceedings are ongoing. Planes the airline has leased have been repossessed and what is left is the brand name, some miscellaneous assets, and a few airplanes that the airline owned directly. Some of those planes can be seen gathering dust at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.

The Last Days

Besides lenders awaiting payment, Jet Airways also owes thousands of employees money for past due salaries. Over the past year, several groups have expressed interest in acquiring the airline and have it start flying again but nothing has panned out. There even was an attempt by employees to organize funds for the airline to take over control but this also ended up failing. Extension after extension was given to draw out the corporate insolvency process with the most recent extension approved on March 18, 2020 for 90 days.

This is the final extension and if there is no buyer by the end of this 90-day extension the airline’s assets will be liquidated. Things aren’t looking good however, COVID-19 has thoroughly wrecked any prospects of a buyer.

The airline’s last days weren’t without controversy. There were allegations of fraud and corruption. Founder and chairman Naresh Goyal was a particular target. During initial discussions of emergency funding in February 2019, Etihad was ready to throw a lifeline to the airline but there was a sticking point. The cash infusion would have diluted Goyal’s shares and would have effectively stripped Goyal of board membership and management control of the airline, something that would have been a relief to many.

Goyal stepped down and a few months later the Indian government began investigating him for alleged money laundering.

The Good Days

Outside of this, Jet Airways is remembered fondly by people. It was a classy airline focused on good customer service and ended up being the largest commercial airline in India.  It was founded by Naresh Goyal in 1992 and began flying in 1993 with four leased Boeing 737-300 as an air taxi airline. Its first flight was from Mumbai to Ahmedabad and it eventually carried over half a million passengers in its first year.

The airline operated domestically until 2003 when the government finally gave the airline and others approval for international routes. The airline grew into a powerhouse airline in India with 22.5 percent of market share in the country. It acquired Air Sahara in 2007 and later partnered up with the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines

International operations grew rapidly as well with partnerships with airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, Delta Air Lines, Air France, and KLM. It became a leading airline transporting people from Europe to India alongside connecting traffic from the U.S. to India via Europe.

The airline was a full-service carrier to the fullest extent. It won the loyalty of many business and leisure travelers alike. It, however, faced troubles similar to what Air India is currently facing. Intense competition in the domestic market by low-cost carriers such as SpiceJet caused the airline to bleed. On top of that, the lucrative international traffic to India started to be siphoned off by the three major Middle Eastern carriers. The airline faced an attack on two fronts and unfortunately didn’t survive.

In its wake, the defunct airline leaves thousands of employees without jobs, lenders clamoring for any cent they can get, and a nostalgic memory among those who fondly remember the days of flying on one of India’s better airlines.

Hemal Gosai
Hemal Gosai
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