Nearly 260 Jet Airways pilots appear for SpiceJet interview ahead of April 1 strike

Jet AirwaysReuters

About 260 pilots of the crisis-hit Jet Airways have reportedly appeared for an interview with SpiceJet, the only other Indian carrier that operates the Boeing 737 planes. Of the 260 pilots who appeared for an interview in Mumbai on Wednesday, March 20, 150 are said to be captains.

The move comes days before the April 1 deadline that the pilots have set to stop flying for Jet unless their dues are cleared or a letter of intent is signed saying that their dues will be cleared. The staff — pilots, aircraft engineers and the senior management — is known to have three months of payment due.

"About 260 Jet Airways pilots including 150 captains appeared for SpiceJet pilot interview held in Mumbai Wednesday," the Times of India quoted its sources as saying. Not just SpiceJet, IndiGo is also trying to hire Jet's pilots and is said to have been offering profitable salaries.

Jet's loss, SpiceJet's gain

Meanwhile, it is not just Jet's pilots that may soon be flying for SpiceJet. Several Boeing 737 aircraft — previous generations — have been grounded by Jet due to non payment to lessors and most of the lessors have reportedly not deregistered these planes in India yet. It is, hence, now being said these planes may be offered to SpiceJet.

"Last Saturday, three companies that leased Boeing 737 NG (new generation, not Max) to Jet and grounded them for non-payment met SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh. The aircraft are in India and in terms of processes it is easier to deregister them from Jet's name and lease them to SpiceJet so that they can start flying the planes at the earliest," sources told TOI.

This would, in turn, work in favour of SpiceJet, which has already been forced to ground 12 737 Max aircraft after the model has been banned in most parts of the world in light of the two air crashes involving the Max in the last five months that claimed about 350 lives.

An aircraft of India's Jet Airways lands
An aircraft of India's Jet Airways lands during rain showers in Mumbai on September 20, 2017PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images

"We have to make good the 12 grounded Max so these many planes we will like to have on board as early as possible. The grounded B737s are being offered for dry lease (without operating crew) for one to 3 years at good rates," TOI quoted a SpiceJet source as saying.

"The overall lease rentals for B737 NGs has gone up since the grounding of the Max due to which everyone is now looking for the non-Max B737s. Once the deal is finalised, Jet's livery will be removed from these planes and they will adorn SpiceJet livery."

Jet Rescue plan

After the National Aviators Guild (NAG) wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi talking about their dues and how Jet Airways may be on the "verge of collapse," the government has asked banks to take all the measures possible to save the carrier. In tune, state-owned banks including the State Bank of India and Punjab National Bank are said to be trying to work out a plan to save the brand.

Naresh Goyal
Jet Airways has defaulted on its repayment of the loans for several times in the pastReuters

However, promoter Naresh Goyal, his wife Anita Goyal and the directors nominated by Naresh will be asked to step down from the board, sources told Business Standard.

The buzz around how Jet could be taken to insolvency is also gaining momentum. The Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code (IBC) would not just lead to Goyal being shown the doors, but will also help the brand realise its market value. Experts also believe that it would make more sense for Jet to be owned by a new promotor than being controlled by lenders, who are known to be inexperienced when it comes to the aviation industry.

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