Air India chairman Ashwani Lohani on Friday held preliminary talks with his State Bank of India (SBI) counterpart Rajnish Kumar on the national carrier’s interest in leasing five Boeing 777s from Jet Airways, which announced temporary grounding of its operations earlier in the week. Weighed down by a mountain of debt and falling revenue, Jet Airways, which owns 16 wide-body planes, 10 B777-300ERs and six Airbus A330s, announced suspension of its entire operations from Wednesday night. The SBI, which is the lead lender of Jet Airways, is currently running the airline under a debt recast plan.
The meeting between the two lasted for over more than an hour at the Airlines House, the headquarters of the flag carrier in the national Capital. Speaking to the news agency PTI, sources close to the development said, "During the meeting with Kumar, Lohani discussed his proposal on leasing five B777s of Jet Airways".
As per the latest reports, the AI chairman will now take the proposal to the airline’s board for approval, after more internal discussions and if all goes well, then the proposal will be sent to the aviation ministry for the final approval. The AI board is scheduled to meet on April 27 and the subject may come up for discussions.
Earlier on Thursday, there were reports that Lohani has written a letter to the SBI chief expressing interest in operating Jet's five wide-body Boeing 777 aircrafts. The meeting between the two for furthering proposed plan is expected to take place in New Delhi this evening.
However, there were no immediate words either from SBI or Air India on the development. In a dry-lease arrangement, the lessor gives out only the aircraft to a lessee, while in wet-lease, the aircraft comes with the complete crew, maintenance and insurance.
The airfare on most of the foreign routes such as India-Gulf, India-UK and Mumbai-London witnessed a sudden surge ever since Jet Airways suspended its international operations earlier in the week. In the meantime, the tactical move by the Air India to deploy the additional capacity is considered to be an attempt to capture the traffic, catering the peak demand on those international routes.
After the grounding of Jet, Air India is the only domestic carrier now operating services on long haul and ultra-long-haul routes like London, Paris, New York, Washington, Chicago and San Francisco, among other cities.
Last week, low-cost carrier SpiceJet also announced to induct 16 B737 into its fleet which were earlier operated by Jet Airways. The airline is in talks to take another six aircraft and operate them on domestic routes in near future.