After a full day of hectic negotiations and an assurance by Spicejet promoter Kalanithi Maran of coming with a revival plan, the government on Monday evening gave the beleaguered low-cost carrier another week’s time to finalise a payment plan. A top government official said the olive branch was offered to prevent massive job losses and inconvenience to passengers, who had already booked tickets for the peak travel season.
The airline, whose previous deadline to clear almost Rs 200- crore of dues to Airports Authority of India (AAI) had ended on Monday, will now not be put on the cash and carry mode for the time being. However, oil companies HPCL and IOC have already put the airline on the cash and carry mode, where they have to make payments every time an aircraft takes off. Spicejet has to clear Rs 2,000- crore dues in all, of which Rs 1,400 crore need to be cleared immediately to keep the airline afloat.
“They have asked for relief and we are putting it before senior people in the government in the PMO, finance ministry and petroleum ministry. We have not given any assurances, but will have to take a decision based on the wider interest of passengers,” Mahesh Sharma, MoS for civil aviation, said after meeting top Spicejet officials, including COO Sanjiv Kapoor and promoter Sun Group CFO SL Narayan.
Spicejet officials, who had met DGCA Prabhat Kumar earlier in the day, has reportedly sought removal of the ban on offering ticket bookings beyond 30 days. Because of the ban, the airline’s cash flow has been severely hampered. In fact, catering services to Spicejet flights have also been stopped from Monday morning. “There is nothing new in terms of a revival plan in what the Spicejet officials said today,” a DGCA official said.
DGCA had previously given the airline time till Monday to release pending salaries of employees. However, pilots and senior management in the top 15% pay bracket are yet to be paid for last month. The regulator has also asked the airline to submit a revival plan and a schedule of how it expects to clear dues.
Till date, SpiceJet has gradually reduced flights across its network from 332 daily to 239 till date, according to latest official figures. It has cancelled over 1,800 flights a month. It has shrunk its fleet from 58 aircraft to nearly 37.