Cash-strapped Jet Airways has grounded two of its widebody aircraft — a Boeing 777-300ER and an Airbus A330-300 — due to insufficient funds for the engine and other spares, industry sources confirmed to FE.
These aircraft are grounded at the government-run Chennai International Airport, ironically behind the disputed aircraft of the now defunct Vijay Mallya-promoted Kingfisher Airlines.
While the Boeing 777-300ER has been grounded for the last 10 days, the A330 has not flown for the past one week, sources said. “The aircraft are also being cannibalised,” a source added. Jet has 10 Boeing 777-300ERs and four Airbus330-300s in its fleet of 124 aircraft.
Cannibalised aircraft, or an aircraft that is a ‘Christmas Tree’ as it is called in aviation terminology, is a practice where grounded aircraft is used as a spares pool, and if parts are needed for flying another aircraft that has reached its minimum equipment list (MEL) and need a change of parts, spares are taken from this aircraft.
In response to an email query, a Jet Airways spokesperson said, “The airline’s fleet undergoes scheduled maintenance and operational rotation from time to time. MEL allows the dispatch of an aircraft without affecting its airworthiness and the safety of the aircraft and passengers on board. Issues under MEL being fairly common to airlines are resolved on a time bound basis within agreed duration”.
Sector regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation declined to comment on airline-specific operational issues when FE approached it for a comment.
It is to be noted that Jet does not have a hangar at the Chennai Airport and its aircraft maintenance facility at this airport is basic.
Jet has hangars at its bigger bases at Delhi and Mumbai airports, where maintenance for these aircraft is done; for engine and advanced maintenance cycles Jet sends its aircraft abroad.
The grounding of these aircraft also means that Jet will have to downgrade certain sectors — both domestic and international — which were flown using these aircraft to a smaller Boeing 737 aircraft type, or will have to rework its schedule.
Sources in the airline indicate Jet has already done this as it has taken off its Mumbai–Delhi daily flight that was done on the A330; its flights from Delhi to Amsterdam that were done for two days in a week on the A330-300 are now all on the Boeing 777-300ER, the Doha sector that was flown on the Boeing 777-300ER is now on a narrowbody Boeing 737.