Jet Airways pilots defer strike before crunch creditors meeting: report

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Pilots at India’s Jet Airways have been told by their union to put off a planned strike to give its management and key lender State Bank of India time to strike a deal to keep the debt-laden airline flying, ANI reported on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: Jet Airways aircraft parked at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai, India, March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas -/File Photo

A tweet from ANI reporting the move cited a message to Jet Airways staff from the National Aviator’s Guild, which had earlier advised more than 1,000 pilots who have not been paid for three months to stop flying from Monday.

With more than $1.2 billion of bank debt, Jet is battling for survival and has yet to receive a loan of about $217 million as part of a March rescue deal.

The crisis has deepened in recent weeks as lessors have started applying to deregister planes, signaling the planned bailout had not assuaged their concerns.

An urgent meeting to discuss the Jet situation was held at the prime minister’s office on Friday, which was also attended by the country’s aviation secretary, Pradeep Singh Kharola.

After the meeting, Kharola said the carrier had money to operate 6-7 planes over the weekend and that the lenders would have to decide how many jets it could fly after Monday afternoon, news channel ET Now reported on Friday.

Kharola said Jet will meet bankers on Monday for an infusion of funds in the interim, the TV channel added.

A Business Standard newspaper report on Sunday said Jet’s lenders, led by the SBI, are considering a proposal to infuse 10 billion rupees ($145 million) to keep the airline afloat once Jet submits a plan on how it intends to use the money.

An SBI spokesman did not immediately comment.

Jet’s lenders, who have been seeking a new investor to take a stake of up to 75 percent in the airline, hope to complete the selection of bidders by May 7 after SBI extended a deadline.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, which owns a 24-percent stake in Jet, private equity fund TPG Capital, India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund and ousted chairman Naresh Goyal are among those to have bid, the Business Standard said.

($1 = 69.1800 Indian rupees)

Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Alexander Smith