National carrier Air India seems to have had a change of mind and is now understood to have decided against leasing five grounded aircraft of Jet Airways to fly on five international routes. Sources said that post the meeting between Air India chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani and State Bank of India chairman Rajnish Kumar last week, the state-owned carrier went through the technical records of the five aircraft and found that they needed some repairs for which Air India will have to incur an expenditure.
Sources said that the preliminary view within Air India is that since the five aircraft are not technically in a condition in which they can be straightaway put in operations either through wet or dry lease, it’s best not to go ahead with the proposal which was first mooted by Lohani to the state-run bank’s chairman.
Jet owns 10 wide-body Boeing 777-300 ER planes, along with a few Airbus A330s, which it operated on medium- and long-haul international destinations. While an email query sent to SBI did not elicit response till the time of going to the press, an Air India spokesperson said, “Taking five aircraft on lease from Jet Airways is in initial phase. The process is going on. It will take another few weeks to reach any concluding position.”
Air India chairman and managing director Ashwini Lohani had last week offered to operate Jet’s five Boeing 777 aircraft on dry or wet lease for flying on established routes like Mumbai-London, Delhi-London, Mumbai-Dubai, Delhi-Dubai and Delhi-Singapore.
Sources pointed out that maintenance of these aircraft has taken a hit due to Jet facing a financial crisis since the last several months before it finally grounded all its operations on April 17. Before this it had stopped flying international destinations from April 12.
“It is important for the aircraft to be in a fly-worthy condition. It needs to be safe for an airline to operate and make a commercial case,” Jagannarayan Padmanabhan, director and practice lead- transport and logistics, Crisil Infrastructure Advisory, said. Jet accounted for 14% of India’s international airline capacity share before disruption.