After 25 years of treating Indians to the “joy of flying”, Jet Airways, once the second-largest airline in the country, stopped all operations last night. Jet Airways temporarily grounded all flight operations after literally running out cash to pay for daily necessities such as aircraft fuel.
At 10:19 last night, Jet Airways Flight 9W2502 pushed back from a terminal gate at the Amritsar airport. A few minutes later, the flight, operated by a Boeing 737-800, took off for Mumbai. This is the last time a Jet Airways flight will take to the skies. For now.
Earlier on Wednesday, April 17, the Jet Airways board said it was taking the “very difficult” decision of temporarily grounding all flight operations as it had run out of cash. The airline, which had come to define premium service in the Indian aviation market, had asked a group of lenders led by the state-run State Bank of India (SBI) for emergency funding of Rs 400 crore.
The lenders, who own a majority stake in the airline, however, refused, saying they were focussing on a bidding process at the end of which they hope to find an investor who can infuse fresh funding in Jet Airways and turn the airlines around.
But for now, Jet Airways has hit deadly turbulence and has become the seventh Indian airline to bring the shutter down — though temporarily for now — in the last five years. And, around 20,000 employees stare at a bleak future.
The yellow jacket-clad ground staff you see in the video below have not been paid for months. The pilots of the plane in the video have not been paid for months. The invisible air hostesses who were on this flight — Jet Airways’s last for now — have not been paid for months. And the executives of the airline have also not been paid for months.
The airline owes lenders around Rs 8,500 crore. It has been unable to pay rent for the planes it leased, forcing creditors to take over its aircraft. One such plane was seized in Amsterdam of all places.
In the end, Jet Airways was left with just five planes, an extremely sorry figure compared to its mammoth fleet of 123 passenger aircraft as of December last year.
Troubles for Jet Airways, which was founded by Naresh Goyal (who ignominiously exited the airline he built and ran for 25 years earlier this month) in 1992, began a year ago. The airline posted back-to-back losses and in order to continue operations took loans.
This coupled with high international crude prices (which directly affect the price of jet fuel) and a depreciating rupee dealt a huge financial blow to the airline, forcing it default on its payments and spiral towards this moment when a Jet Airways flight took to the skies with no clarity on when — and if — another such Jet-branded plane will ever take flight again.