Eye on the sky: Lease dues – Jet Airways in talks with GE for payment extension

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Mumbai | Updated: October 3, 2018 2:44:07 AM

The airline owes lease charges for 17 of its narrow-body aircraft type — the Boeing 737s.

Jet Airways, Jet Airways payment extension, GECAS, commercial aircraft, commercial aircraft financing, Jet’s A330 widebody aircraftUnder discussion is the lease charges that Jet owes for 17 of its narrow-body aircraft type — the Boeing 737s.

Cash-strapped Jet Airways is understood to have initiated talks with GECAS, the US and Irish commercial aircraft financing and leasing business of GE, seeking extension for paying aircraft leasing charges, multiple sources within the airline and industry told FE. The Jet Airways board had a meeting on Monday to discuss aircraft financing issues, sources added. Under discussion is the lease charges that Jet owes for 17 of its narrow-body aircraft type — the Boeing 737s.

Sources also said that one of Jet’s A330 widebody aircraft that went for a regular C-check — an extensive maintenance check an aircraft needs to undergo after every 20-24 months — is currently parked at Joramco, a Jordan-based aircraft maintenance facility, because the airline is facing issues in its release due to default on engine lease payments. Responding to an FE query on the issue, a Jet spokesperson said, “The airline has sale and lease back relationships with leading global companies for a substantial part of its fleet and enjoys the trust of its partners. We cannot comment further on business matters due to reasons of confidentiality.”

On the A330 payment default, the spokesperson said, “The said aircraft — an A330 — is currently undergoing scheduled maintenance at a maintenance facility.” The spokesperson added that Jet Airways operates a fleet of 122 aircraft — including 8 A330s — all of which undergo timely and scheduled maintenance. According to sources, Jet Airways renegotiated a large part of its leasing contracts, especially the engine leases (power-by-the-hour agreements), at the time when the UAE-based carrier Etihad bought equity into the airline.

Etihad got 24% in Jet Airways for `2,060 crore in May 2013. “Most of these leases are now due for renewals and payments,” said a source privy to the matter. “So, technically, Jet has not defaulted on any of these lease payments but it is finding it hard to meet its contractual obligations due to the financial troubles it is in and this is the reason why it is back on the negotiating table to rework these contracts and seek an extension to possibly avoid the worst,” said an airline executive.

Lease contracts do have various clauses under which airlines can defer payments but then there are interest escalation clauses as well. Non-payment of leases gives the lessor a right not to release the aircraft to the airline as it happened in case of the now-defunct, Vijay Mallya-promoted Kingfisher Airlines.

Airline executives familiar with leasing practices say that leasing companies do have commercial negotiations with the airlines in situations like the one Jet finds itself in. In this case, GECAS has a very strong commercial relationship with Jet as apart from previous lease agreements it also committed in April this year to lease 12 Boeing 737MAX-8 to Jet, deliveries for which have already commenced along with a sale and lease back of 6 of the Boeing 737MAX-8.

Jet has 225 of this aircraft type on order. “Clearly these are crucial times for Jet Airways and the board should collectively resolve some of the more critical and glaring challenges with funding. Equity at the moment is probably the most valuable commodity whilst in contrast debt is challenging since lenders today want equity collateral. There should be a balanced trade-off between them hopefully the board approves the matter soon. We would like to remain optimistic,” said aviation analyst Mark D Martin of Martin Consulting, an aviation consultancy firm in Middle East.

As in June 2018, Jet Airways has a gross debt of `8,620 crore, of which `1,968 crore is aircraft-related debt. The airline’s accumulated losses stand at `10,878 crore and it is currently working on a turnaround plan to save `2,000 crore over a couple of years through several initiatives that the board has approved of.

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