The Big Story

Deep blues

There are more fliers than ever before so why is the aviation sector stressed? The descent of Jet Airways provides a handy clue to what ails the sector


On April 17, Jet Airways announced that it was suspending all its operations since lenders rejected its plea for an interim funding of Rs.9.83 billion. For the airline that was battling a severe cash crunch, it was the final nail in its coffin. “I hate to say it, but has his own karma caught up with him?” says Jitender Bhargava, former executive director of state-owned Air-India, at the turn of events at the country’s most coveted full-service carrier (FSC) brand Jet Airways. 

Jitender Bhargava Former executive director, Air IndiaThe karmic connection that Bhargava speaks about is in reference to the 69-year-old founder who has had an inglorious exit from a business that had just last year completed its silver jubilee after having taken wings on May 5, 1993.

A typical rags-to-riches story, Naresh Goyal was the poster-boy of Indian aviation having started off his airline with a four-aircraft fleet, painted in a distinct blue and ochre livery and an oblong, serrated sun denoting speed. Over the next couple of decades, Jet not just dominated the skies, but also ensured that it could influence aviation policy and check-mate competition. “A laid-back attitude, influencing government decisions…crony capitalism. All those factors have brought about his (Naresh Goyal’s) downfall,” opines Bhargava. 

Despite all its past glory, Jet now joins a long list of casualties that didn’t survive the turbulence in the Indian aviation industry (see: Skyfall). Kingfisher Airlines was the last full service airline to go belly up in 2012, unable to pay interest and salaries. The Reserve Bank of India had prevented banks from converting the debt into the equity and, in the absence of foreign direct investment, the nine-year-old FSC folded with total outstanding of over Rs.80 billion. SpiceJet was also on the brink of collapse and would have joined the list in 2014 if its former promoter, Ajay Singh, hadn’t stepped in and taken


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