India’s Challenging Aviation Year: Jet Airways Bust, Air India Privatisation

2019 has been challenging for many in the aviation industry. Boeing has had perhaps the worst year of all with the 737 MAX scandal, but it’s also been a tough year for Indian aviation in general.

Jet Airways Airbus A330-300 VT-JWU
Jet Airways collapsed earlier this year. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

As this year comes to a close, it’s a good time to look back at what has happened over the past 12 months.

The aviation industry hasn’t been short of big stories this year, both good and bad.

A number of this year’s big stories have come out of India. The country’s aviation industry is growing rapidly and, as expected with any period of significant expansion, there have been some hiccups.

The collapse of Jet Airways

The biggest story in Indian aviation this year was undoubtedly the demise of Jet Airways, which ceased operations in April.

Jet Airways was by no means a small airline. In fact, it was India’s second-largest airline until January, and at the time of its last flight, it operated a fleet of 124 aircraft.

Although the story of Jet Airways’ downfall is complex, ultimately the airline failed because it could no longer secure investment to save itself from bankruptcy.

Jet Airways had taken questionable loans at various points throughout its 27-year history. When it came to securing last-ditch loans, this questionable financial history reared its head.

In day-to-day operations, Jet Airways was also struggling with rising fuel costs and the increasingly cutthroat competition in the Indian aviation industry.

Fortunately, the fall of Jet Airways has been beneficial for some of its rivals. In particular, SpiceJet has managed to fill the gap left behind by Jet Airways, posting a 788% increase in net profit in this year’s June quarter.

Air India privatization

Another big story is the ongoing struggle faced by India’s flag carrier, Air India. The airline currently sits in $11 billion of debt, which has forced the Indian government to reconsider whether it is an asset worth keeping.

In fact, the airline still hasn’t returned a profit in the 12 years it has been in operation, making it very hard to find a buyer.

Air India
The Indian government will be selling 100% of its stake in Air India. Photo: EDDIE via Flickr

On 12 December the Indian government announced it will be selling the entirety of its stake in Air India. The move has been called a “strategic disinvestment”.

IndiGo’s A320neo troubles

Another of India’s major airlines, IndiGo, has had some major issues with its fleet of Airbus A320neos this year.

In November, India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation instructed IndiGo to replace the engines on all 98 of its Airbus A320neos.

IndiGo Airbus A320neo F-WWDG (to VT-ITI)
IndiGo’s Airbus A320neos have experienced numerous engine failures. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

IndiGo had been having an unusually large number of engine failures on its Airbus A320neos. Strangely, these engine issues were not happening with any other airline’s Airbus A320neos.

After an investigation, India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation concluded that the engine failures had been caused by bad piloting procedures. Specifically, IndiGo’s pilots were found to have been throttling too hard during take-off.

While this year hasn’t been the best for Indian aviation, 2020 should bring better results as the sector continues to grow.