A couple of months ago, officials at Jet Airways made headlines announcing that the airline, once fully revived, will start operations in the first quarter of 2022. One thing that stood out was Mr. Murari Lal Jalan of the Kalrock-Jalan consortium stating that Jet plans to operate 100+ aircraft in five years.
While much has been written about the carrier’s revival plans since then, only those closely associated with Jet’s top management can tell for sure about the exact nature of its future fleet planning. But we can always look back at the progress and challenges faced by Jet so far to get some idea.
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100+ airplanes in five years
Before it went bust, Jet Airways did operate a 100+ fleet of aircraft, and a diverse one at that. Its workhorse was, of course, the Boeing 737, mostly the -800s variants, that did most of the heavy lifting of the majority of its domestic routes. ATRs served Jet’s shorter regional networks, and its longer international flights relied on the usual suspects – the Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s.
So, as a brand Jet Airways is no stranger to a large fleet. However, much has changed since 2019. Jet Airways went down in a pretty dramatic fashion, with its planes being seized before departures and its fleet grounded as lessors and vendors closed in to demand payments. At that time, nobody could even imagine a resurrection, at least anytime soon.
Cut to 2021 – as the world comes to terms with the pandemic and Indian skies prepare for mind-boggling changes, the new owners of Jet Airways are preparing for its second stint. Mr Jalan stated in September,
“Jet Airways 2.0 aims at restarting domestic operations by Q1-2022, and short haul international operations by Q3/Q4 2022. Our plan is to have 50+ aircraft in 3 years and 100+ in 5 years which also fits perfectly well with the short-term and long-term business plan of the Consortium.”
Officials at Jet Airways have been busy getting all necessary government approvals in preparation for its relaunch next year. In June, the carrier cleared a significant hurdle when the National Companies Law Tribunal (NCLT) approved Jet’s revival plan. The company is also working to revalidate the carrier’s Air Operator Certificate (AOC).
While Jet aims for 100+ airplanes in the long run, it plans to start with a modest fleet of 20+ airplanes. Back in June, Ashish Chhawchharia, Partner – Advisory, Head – Restructuring Services, Grant Thornton Advisory appointed by the Kalrock-Jalan consortium, spoke to NDTV about Jet starting flights by year-end. He said it would initially operate on 20 routes, with 20 narrowbody and 5 widebody aircraft by the time 2021 draws to a close. Clearly, that plan was delayed.
This is because getting important slots at major airports has been a challenge for Jet. The carrier once had around 700 time slots, allowing it to land and depart from congested airports like Mumbai and Delhi. Since Jet hasn’t flown for over two years, it is not entitled to historicity over its previous slots, which have been devoured by other airlines since then.
Speculation is strong that Jet would probably go for the Boeing 737 series again if and when it restarts operations. The 5 widebodies that Ashish Chhawchharia alluded to in his interview to NDTV are most likely its Boeing 777-300ERs currently parked in Mumbai and Delhi.
While there’s still some time before we see a 100+ strong fleet for the carrier, Jet Airways loyalists are excited to find out what the airline’s second innings would look like.