Jet Airways cancels huge number of flights as bailout fails

Two airlines popular with British travellers are in difficulties.

Jet Airways, a big Indian carrier, is cancelling flights and some entire routes – including the recently launched link between Manchester and Mumbai.

Meanwhile, Wow Air of Iceland has announced that talks over a potential rescue bid have been called off.

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The Indian carrier, Jet Airways, has seen two-thirds of its fleet grounded at the insistence of aircraft lessors.

Last month, the chief financial officer, Amit Agarwal, told investors that relations with overdue creditors were good: “We are working very well with our various stakeholders, be it vendors, lessors, partners in terms of managing on a win-win situation.”

But as it falls behind with payments, the owners of its aircraft are demanding that they stay on the ground. Some pilots and engineers say their wages have gone unpaid since this year.

The link between Manchester and Jet Airways’ hub began only in November 2018.

At the time the aviation minister, Baroness Sugg said such connections “are key to Britain’s economic future”.

The five-a-week flights have been abruptly grounded. The last departure of Jet Airways flight 129 from Manchester to Mumbai touched down shortly after midnight on Saturday morning. Subsequent arrivals and departures are shown as “cancelled”.

The airline said: “Due to operational reasons, our flight schedule has been impacted. We realise that this has affected our guests’ travel plans and truly regret the inconvenience.”

Jet Airways says its customer-support teams are working around the clock “to ensure that our guests are re-accommodated on to alternate flights or provided with a full refund”.

The airline’s Twitter feed is full of messages from anxious travellers.

Prabhat Singh, whose flight from Delhi to Mumbai on 1 April has been cancelled, wrote: “Your numbers don’t work. What am I supposed to do? That’s some hard-earned money there. Please have the courtesy to at least reschedule my flight.”

Jet Airways responded: “Our Contact Centre, Guest Relations & Social Media teams are receiving high volumes of queries which may lead to extended wait/response times for some guests. We seek your understanding and support.”

In its last quarterly results, the airline flew just over 7 million passengers but lost £80m.

The airline has told business travellers that they can no longer have access to a lounge at Delhi airport, serving the Indian capital.

Wow Air said that Indigo Partners, the US firm which was in talks about a potential rescue bid, has pulled out: “All negotiations between Wow Air and Indigo Partners have been cancelled.”

The airline has now resumed talks with its bigger rival, Icelandair, about a takeover. The pair appeared on the brink of a deal in November 2018.

Icelandair Group announced: “The discussions will be based on the doctrine of competition law regarding the failing firm defence.”

The “failing firm defence” is used to urge regulators that the usual rules on competition and divestment should not be followed on the grounds that, if the deal does not go through, the weaker party will cease trading.

Icelandair added: “The discussions will take place in cooperation with the Icelandic authorities.”

In October 2018, another Icelandic airline, Primera Air, went bust.

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