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Jet Airways flights down to a trickle, PM's office calls crisis meeting

Agencies/New Delhi 12 Apr 19 | 08:25 PM

The Prime Minister's office held an urgent meeting to discuss a crisis at Jet Airways on Friday as the airline suspended all west-bound international flights until Monday and will fly six to seven over the weekend on domestic routes.

The carrier, saddled with more than $1.2 billion of debt, has had to ground more than 80 percent of its fleet over unpaid dues to leasing companies, pushing it to the brink of shutdown and jeopardising hopes of attracting a new investor.

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Government officials have previously expressed concern about the loss of jobs at the airline and on the prospect of higher Indian air fares if Jet Airways collapses.

Jet's lenders, led by State Bank of India, are still trying to seek expressions of interest in the carrier from potential investors.

The banks have received initial bids from five to six companies, television channels reported, citing sources.

Nripendra Mishra, the principal secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, chaired the meeting, which had the aviation regulator and civil aviation secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola.

Kharola said the company had money to operate only 6-7 aircraft over the weekend and after that the lenders would have to decide how many aircraft the airline could operate beyond Monday afternoon.

Kharola said the company will meet bankers on Monday for infusion of funds in the interim.

Earlier on Friday, hundreds of Jet's employees marched from the airport to the airline's headquarters in Mumbai to seek clarity on whether they will get paid soon and if their jobs will be secure over the coming months.

Air fares have increased across India in the last few weeks due to sharp decline in number of flights primarily caused by grounding of around 90 per cent of Jet’s 119-aircraft fleet.

(With inputs from Reuters and PTI)

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