What Will Jet Airways Bidders Actually Receive?

Nearly a year after grounding all flights, Jet Airways is back in the news. With new bids for the airline emerging and the deadline for more approaching fast, it might be interesting to see what a new Jet Airways owner might get.

Jet Airways Airbus A330-300 VT-JWU
Widebodies like the A330 are some of the few remaining planes in Jet’s fleet. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

A small fleet

As things stand, Jet Airways has a fleet of just 12 aircraft. The fleet consists of six 777s, three A330s, and three 737s. The small fleet means that any new owner would need to take make some key decisions. One would be to decide whether to expand the fleet to fly to Jet’s many international destinations or focus on short-haul routes. No matter what the choice, new fleet investments need to be made if they want to restart scheduled operations.

The last ten months has seen Jet’s mostly-leased fleet being repossessed and leased out to airlines all over the world. The grounding of the 737 MAX caused a surge in demand for Jet’s many narrowbody aircraft. This demand saw a large part of Jet’s fleet quickly leased out to domestic carriers like SpiceJet and Vistara in India and even carriers like LOT Polish and GOL. Any new owner will have to lease new aircraft in order to jump-start operations, which is going to require some investment.

Slots and strategic interests

Jet Airways’ most valuable asset is still the slots it holds in India and all over the world. At the time of grounding, Jet had slots at London Heathrow, Amsterdam Schiphol, Hong Kong, and Singapore. In addition to this, Jet also held key slots in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, and Hyderabad airport.

However, since its grounding Jet has lost many of these slots, including its Heathrow slot which it returned to Etihad, and Schiphol which was suspended (their 777 is also impounded there). Jet also had many bilateral agreements with airlines like KLM, which could become viable once again.

This loss of international slots has led many to question what’s left of Jet Airways. However, Jet’s domestic slots are still intact since they’ve only been given on temporary lease till October of this year and a new owner could retake these slots to start operations. The grounding of Jet Airways has also left early 33% of its prior slots empty, meaning there is scope to recapture the market.

A solid brand reputation and loyal staff

For a long time, Jet Airways was synonymous with comfortable, international travel. These values were reflected by its loyal staff of over 16,000 who had a reputation as hospitable. Many of its employees continued working without pay with relatively minimal disruption.

Jet Airways operated on many sectors where its only competition was state-run Air India (which is also up for bids now) and offered a much better product and service. The airline also attracted many frequent, high-revenue businesses who were willing to shell out for a better product, as evidenced by their near 200,000 Platinum members (which requires at least 60 flights a year).

With this kind of a solid brand reputation, bidders could be snagging a chance to enter into the aviation sector as veterans and not rookies, capitalizing on people’s perception of the brand. This might just be Jet’s most valuable asset.

Jet Airways Heathrow 777
Jet Airways held lucrative slots at airports like Heathrow and Schiphol. Photo: Aero Lucas via Flickr

The slope is steep for a Jet Airways revival, but the past ten months has shown a void in the Indian market, one which could be filled by a resurgent Jet. However will debt in the billions, the airline need nothing short of a miracle to return.