Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Wednesday made it clear that debt-ridden Jet Airways continued to fly 28 aircraft as on date.
The DGCA said, "Grounded 15 planes is already accounted for and was only informed to the stock exchange by Jet Airways yesterday."
On April 2, Jet Airways had informed exchanges that it has grounded 15 planes on non-payment of lease rentals. This is after six of its planes have not been in Operations since March 31.
Earlier, a senior government official said Jet Airways may have an active fleet of 14 planes after the airline had grounded 15 aircraft late Tuesday evening, "Yesterday it was 28 (active planes), " said civil aviation secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola. When asked on the groundings, adding that, "so it would be less than...about 15."
However, the cash-strapped airline insisted that the company is operating with a sufficient number of planes. "Jet Airways would like to clarify certain speculative media reports with reference to the airline’s ability to operate on international routes. As informed to the regulator (Directorate General of Civil Aviation), the airline is operating a curtailed schedule with a sufficient number of aircraft, and is compliant with applicable guidelines," said a spokesperson of the airline.
If the airline has less than 20 planes then it becomes ineligible to fly internationally. Hence, the civil aviation ministry and DGCA are expected to examine the matter to check Jet Airways' eligibility to operate overseas, the official added.
It is important to recall here that Kharola told reporters on March 26 that the airline has informed the ministry that it has 35 planes in operations and there would be no further groundings. In fact, the airline was to initiate negotiations with lessors to reactivate 40 more planes by April-end.
"Jet Airways have told us that they aim to fly 75 planes towards the end of April," Kharola had said last week at the press briefing.
As per senior government officials, lessors are providing a notice period of 72 hours or 3 days before grounding the aircraft on non-payment of dues. Monthly lease rentals, which are to the tune of Rs 1.5 crore on an average, have not been paid by the company to the lessors for as long as six months, resulting in groundings.
The airline also released a communication to pilots on Tuesday asking the Boeing 737 flight crew (the highest fleet size in Jet Airways) to take three days off after working for 5 days, taking into account the current operational requirements. Earlier, the schedule used to be six working days followed by 2 days off. Pilots have also been offered to take leave without pay.
The troubles don't end here. In what could result in dire consequences, all lenders still have not come on board to provide the interim funding of Rs 1500 crore to keep the airline afloat.
"SBI was to infuse Rs 530 crore. Remaining Rs 970 crore was to come from other lenders. However, all lenders are yet to reach a consensus on this and there is still no clarity on which ones of these lenders will provide what amount of sum," a person aware of the development said requesting anonymity.
"Not all lenders are ready to provide more loans to Jet," another source said.
This meeting is set to take place in Delhi on Apr 4 and will decide the plan for that crucial amount of money needed to pay the lessors for keeping planes in air and to pilots and engineers for flying and maintaining those planes.As of date, engineers and senior management await salaries of three months along with interest at market rate.