India's second largest airline by market share, Jet Airways has leased a wide body aircraft along with 60 of its cabin crew to Abu Dhabi based Etihad Airways, a move that indicates a burgeoning partnership, even before the two airlines ink an equity stake sale. In aviation terms, a wet lease of an aircraft is an arrangement whereby the lessor, in this instance Jet, provides crew, maintenance and aircraft for a consideration.
Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on March 14 said neither Jet Airways nor Etihad Airways has approached the government with a formal investment proposal. Sharma said that the government has so far not received a formal proposal from Etihad for investing in Jet Airways. Jet has been in talks with Etihad to sell 24 per cent stake for the past few months for around $300 million.
With the government withdrawing Kingfisher Airlines' international flying rights and domestic slots, the Jet Airways has approached the Aviation Ministry to acquire six of the vacant slots. The airline company has applied to the government to acquire six slots from Mumbai. Of these, it is looking at four domestic and two international routes, Jet Airways sources said in Mumbai.
For Indian aviation industry that has always been inherently vibrant, last week was unusually eventful for aviation. It began with the news that a sale of stake by Jet Airways, India's second-largest carrier by passengers carried, to Abu Dhabi's fast-growing airline, Etihad Airways, will be delayed.
Air India is the only one domestic airline that has not joined fare war on February 19 morning. Jet Airways announced one of the biggest fire sales in domestic aviation with low ticket prices of Rs 2,250 on 20 lakh seats on the day. Within hours, IndiGo had matched JetÂ’s fares on many sectors; SpiceJet has already completed a similar firesale last month where it sold 10 lakh tickets at Rs 2,013 each.
Airlines are now striving to woo travellers. On February 19, Jet Airways and IndiGo slashed airfares. Jet is offering 20 lakh seats from Rs 2,250 onwards. These seats can be booked till midnight of February 24 for travel till December 31. IndiGo slashed fares on select routes by about 30 per cent.
Now, a silent fare war among Indian airlines is appears to be on. SpiceJet's recent mega sale has triggered a tussle between other Indian airlines who are dropping fares discreetly. Air India dropped fares on January 21 night, taking them lower than rival full-service carrier Jet Airways and matching the prices of the three budget carriers on every route.
Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways will finalise a deal to buy a stake in Jet Airways on January 25, according to a television report. If it materialised, it would become the first such investment by a foreign carrier in an airline in India since rules were relaxed last year. A deal may be announced as early as January 25 or by the first week of February, sources were quoted as revealed.