The upsurge in the stock market was shortlived, the “noise” in political and commercial circles has turned to a stony silence. And as the life-support system offered by public sector banks stutters, the once-reputed Jet Airways gasps for breath. With the suspension (but later resumption) of supply of Aviation Turbine Fuel by public sector oil companies coming in the wake of even more of the leasing companies pulling out their aircraft, and the continued threat of a strike by pilots, the prospects of reviving the carrier are turning increasingly bleak.
More so since the buzz is that hardly any of the Rs 1,300 crore of the bail-out package has reached the beleaguered carrier. So have the suspicions been confirmed that the move by the banks was intended to deflect public attention away from the bursting of the balloon of a thriving economy, which would have been most uncomfortable in election season?
The public will not be taken for such a ride: air fares have sky-rocketted after the vast majority of Jet’s services have been withdrawn, added complications being the grounding of Boeing 737 Max 8 planes after the crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia.
The last piece in the politically-laced jigsaw puzzle being the misconception that removing Jet’s promoter, Naresh Goyal, would serve as a magic wand and wave away all the airline’s problems. It remains a moot question if the government should ever have got involved in sorting out a private mess, but having taken the plunge it ought to have come up with something better.
Else the NDA’s charge that the previous government was responsible for the banking sector’s floundering will get a fresh lease of life. It is also curious that there has been little recent talk in government circles of the much-vaunted Regional Connectivity Scheme ~ the airline business is too complex for the civil aviation ministry to handle. So will Jet follow Kingfisher, East West, Modiluft etc. into oblivion?
It may be trifle early to hope for a way out, but the consortium of bankers have offered no hint of moves towards roping in other aviation entities into a revival effort. The worldwide troubles of Boeing have caused the entire sector to go into a tailspin and most established carriers would be wary of picking up Jet’s burden at a difficult point in time. While it would be valid to commiserate with Jet’s staff now staring at joblessness, care must be taken to avoid any quick-fix remedy that would create problems elsewhere.
Rather than try to play “knight in shining armour” for Jet, the civil aviation ministry must seek to address the core issues that make commercial aviation a tricky business. There must be no repetition of the Air-India disaster ~ what Praful Patel scripted is taking a heavier toll than the combined shenanigans of Vijay Mallya and Naresh Goyal.