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Jalan Kalrock Consortium expects to restart Jet Airways in 4-6 months after NCLT nod

NEW DELHI: Jalan Kalrock Consortium, the winning bidder for Jet Airways, expects to restart operations of the defunct airline in four to six months after receiving approval from the NCLT for its resolution plan.

Jet Airways, the once-storied full-service carrier was grounded in early 2019 and subsequently is undergoing proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).

Against the backdrop of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) likely to take a final call on the resolution plan for the airline, the winning consortium’s lead member Murari Lala Jalan told PTI that “everything is on track” as far as the revival efforts for the carrier are concerned.

Stressing that he is very positive about the Indian aviation sector, which is recovering from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Jalan said that initially Jet Airways will resume flying with around 25 aircraft.

“After NCLT decision, we will be able to start the airline within four to six months. I am very positive about Indian aviation and the future is bright, ” Jalan said during a telephonic interaction.

“We are very hopeful that it (NCLT nod) will come,” he said, adding that that a delay of one or two months here and there would not make a difference for such a big thing as reviving the airline.

In October last year, the consortium comprising UK-headquartered Kalrock Capital and Jalan, a UAE-based entrepreneur, emerged as the winning bidder for Jet Airways, which has not flown since April 17, 2019.

According to Jalan, the airline is likely to resume services with roughly 25 planes as per the revival plan submitted to the Committee of Creditors (CoC), within this year.

The fleet is expected to be a mix of narrow-body and wide-body planes.

“We will start with passenger services. All options, either it is cargo, or international (services) or anything, are open,” Jalan said.

The CoC-led by State Bank of India (SBI) has approved the resolution plan and under the IBC, the clearance of NCLT is required before implementing the plan.

Noting that for resuming overseas services, a lot of things need to be worked out, Jalan made it clear that while there will be hundreds of things, including getting a lot of permissions, the consortium’s “interest is to come (bring Jet Airways) to the sky”.

“Everything is on track. In the future also, it (things) could be delayed but we are very much on track,” Jalan said.

Justifying the consortium’s decision to relaunch Jet Airways at a time when the aviation industry globally is in financial distress, he said the pandemic is the “best” time to foray into the airline business as there is a cost advantage.

“This is the best time for anybody to enter the airline business since because of the pandemic, everything (such as) prices of inputs are down. On output, when we start, things will be in a normal situation,” he pointed out.

Sounding optimistic, Jalan said that in the four to six months, domestic air travel will be absolutely normal.

“We have already reached a 70 percent level. So, our income is going to be in the normal situation and all our expenses, including buying aircraft, will be on the lower side,” he noted.

About business plans, Jalan said the consortium will be looking flying people from places like Ranchi and Patna to destinations where they want to go.

“If required, we will go to Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong. We are quite open. I would like to see people from small towns directly fly to destinations they want to fly,” he said.

In December last year, the consortium had said that Jet 2.0 hubs will remain in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru like before as the revival plan proposes to support Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities by creating sub-hubs in such cities.

In preparation for restarting the airline subject to NCLT approval for the resolution plan, the consortium has already held discussions with the civil aviation ministry on the issue of airport slots.

Once the airline resumes operations, Jalan said concentrating on proper aircraft and human resources will be the two most important challenges. Deciding the routes will be another important thing in the beginning and also there is a need to keep a check on cost.

“We see healthy competition, India is a great market. I feel there are a lot of opportunities. We have the cost advantage. We bought the airline at a very attractive price,” he said.

Jalan also emphasised that he is not “concerned” about the competition at all.

When asked about the optimism on reviving Jet Airways, he said, “we are entrepreneurs. We are always looking at opportunities wherever possible. I am fortunate to get this opportunity in a very proper time”.

However, specific details about the consortium’s business plans for the airline were not disclosed.

About his business activities, Jalan said there are two smart city projects in Tashkent and among other interests, he is a shareholder of Medanta Hospital in Gurgaon.

Stating that he should be described as an “entrepreneur”, Jalan said, “I have come from a small city of Ranchi. I don’t have a background of Delhi and Mumbai people. Although I left Ranchi 30 years back, I am looking at whenever and wherever there are opportunities. I have businesses in many countries, including Russia, Uzbekistan, UAE”.

To a question on the possibility of the consortium onboarding a strategic investor for further funding, he said,” I don’t think I am ready for that. I am not looking at any opportunities like that. But nothing can be ruled out”.

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