With its fleet size further shrinking to 14 aircraft, debt-ridden Jet Airways on Thursday suspended long-haul West-bound flight departures for one night and invited government scrutiny over the airline's regulatory compliance.
The development came after the once-premier airline was left with only 14 aircraft from around 120 last year, triggering speculation over its survival as a lengthy stake sale process continued.
On Thursday, senior government officials said that they were closely monitoring the operational situation at Jet to ensure its compliance with overseas flying rules.
But by the end of the day, the airline itself cancelled long-haul West-bound international departures for one night.
According to airline insiders, only long-haul West-bound international departures have been called-off from Thursday night to Friday morning.
"Long-haul international departures have been called-off for one night. The situation is dynamic but the majority of the current operations remain intact," an airline official told IANS in Mumbai.
Earlier in the day, official sources said that the airline was currently operating only about 14 aircraft -- down from 26 last week -- and this might lead to suspension of its international operations.
As per rules, an airline needs to have a minimum of 20 aircraft to be eligible to operate international flights.
Till recently, the airline operated 26 aircraft, including Airbus A330s, Boeing 777s, 737-800 and ATRs, to various destinations like London, Toronto, Singapore, Amsterdam, Paris, Bangkok and domestic sectors like Mumbai-Delhi, among others.
It apparently owns 16 out of these 26 aircraft.
In another development, some aircraft lessors on Thursday withdrew their de-registration request with the government.
If these aircraft came back to operation, aviation experts said that Jet could again have 21 aircraft in its fleet, the bare minimum required for overseas services.
On its part, the airline has cancelled operations to and from Singapore and its flights to Kolkata and the Northeast.
"#ADVISORY: @jetairways (9W) has suspended its services to and from Singapore until further notice. Passengers are advised to contact their booking agent or the airline directly (email@example.com) for available options," the Changi Airport in Singapore tweeted.
Jet said in a statement: "Jet Airways' flight 9W 615 Mumbai to Kolkata and 9W 675 Kolkata to Guwahati of tomorrow April 12, 2019, has been cancelled due to operational reasons.
"Similarly, 9W 676 Dehradun to Kolkata via Guwahati has been cancelled on the same date until further notice. Guests have been duly informed and refunds are being processed. Jet Airways sincerely regrets inconvenience caused to its guests."
Jet Airways is in the midst of a severe liquidity crisis that has affected its operations and resulted in the grounding of several of its aircraft.
The latest development came a day after lenders of the debt-ridden airline tweaked the terms for stake sale and also extended the submission deadline for expression of interest (EoI) bids from prospective buyers.
At present, the airline owes over Rs 8,000 crore to a consortium of lenders led by the State Bank of India.
Last Tuesday, the airline was served a legal notice by a section of its pilots demanding payment of salaries, due since January 1, 2019, by April 14.
Subsequently, its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Vinay Dube said that the company is working with the lenders on the balance sheet restructuring plan and will inform the employees about the progress of the process by early next week.
Besides the employees, the airline's aircraft lessors, too, are upset with the current financial situation, with some of them requesting the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to de-register their aircraft leased to the company.
The de-registration request section on the DGCA's website on Thursday showed that lessors have applied to de-register 14 aircraft owing to unpaid dues. However, some lessors have also withdrawn their de-registration request.
(Our News Desk can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)