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Jet Airways crisis: Government relaxes mandatory customs requirement for grounded planes

Ministry of Finance has decided to waive a mandatory customs requirement, which needs Jet Airways' grounded planes in India to be first be sent to the country of registration of their lessors and then fly them back to India before they can be used by other carriers.

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Jet Airways crisis: Government relaxes mandatory customs requirement for grounded planes
Cash-starved Jet Airways announced a temporary suspension of operations on April 17.

To speed up the lease of Jet planes to other airlines, the Ministry of Finance has decided to waive a mandatory customs requirement. The requirement needs Jet Airways' grounded planes in India to be first be sent to the country of registration of their lessors and then fly them back to India before they can be used by other carriers.

To further minimise the pain caused by Jet Airways' shutdown for both passengers and employees, without using taxpayers' money to bail out the airline, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had formed a committee on Thursday comprising airport operators, Airport Authority of India (AAI) and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to temporarily re-allocate Jet's slots. The government plans to allot Jets' 280 slots at Mumbai and 160 at Delhi as well as those at other airports to other Indian carriers for three months.

While the SBI-led consortium of lenders are running Jet Airways under a debt recast plan, Air India and SpiceJet have started working on plans to induct Jet's planes on either dry or wet lease. Where in a dry lease, the owner provides the lessee with an aircraft without a crew, in a wet lease, the organization (who owns the aircraft) provides that aircraft as well as the crew members to the lessee and also promises to conduct adequate maintenance and procure the insurance necessary to operate.

Leasing Jet's planes on wet lease would provide employment to at least some of Jet Airways employees, including pilots, engineers and cabin crew. This could further help in bringing down fares. SpiceJet's chairman Ajay Singh said in a statement on Friday that the airline is giving "first preference" to Jet Airways employees in recruitment.

Singh added that SpiceJet has already provided jobs to more than 100 pilots, over 200 cabin crew and 200-plus technical and airport staff and it is open for inducting more as it adds more aircraft and routes in the times ahead. The airline has already initiated the process to lease 22 of Jet's Boeing 737s.

"We will induct a large number of planes in our fleet soon. SpiceJet is making all possible efforts to minimise passenger inconvenience and serve Indian customers, who are finding it difficult to get seats this busy season," Singh said.

In a separate development, after Jets' shutdown, Air India becomes the only airline that can operate twin-aisle aircraft among the Indian carriers and that can start operating Jet's wide body without much delay.

Yesterday, Air India (AI) chairman Ashwani Lohani held preliminary talks with his counterpart from State Bank of India Rajnish Kumar on the national carrier's interest in leasing five Boeing 777s from the now-grounded Jet Airways. In all, AI may take 10 to 12 of Jet's planes in the future.

Facing a serious cabin crew shortage, AI has hired 500 crew members from the private sector, hospitality sector and airlines, in the last one month and nearly half of them have come from Jet Airways. The national carrier plans to wet lease five Boeing 777s and Boeing 737s for AI Express, reports suggest.

Weighted down with a debt of over Rs 8,500 crore, cash-starved Jet Airways , which had been flying for over 25 years, announced a temporary suspension of operations on April 17.

(Edited by Rupa Burman Roy)

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