Whoa! Air India wants to lease Jet Airways’ 777s

On April 17, 2019, Jet Airways suspended flight operations. Meanwhile, 28 aircraft including 2 A330-300 are already de-registered, and lessors have applied to de-register 19 more aircraft. SpiceJet was in talks with lessors to take up to 50 Jet Airways aircraft on a short term lease up to 3 years. Embed from Getty Images

SpiceJet meanwhile secured a deal with lessors to take 22 Jet Airways 737-800 within 10 days, and they even added several domestic flights from Mumbai and Delhi. Vistara and Air Asia India were the first to add new domestic flights temporarily when some Jet Airways slots got redistributed.

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IndiGo announced a massive capacity addition from Mumbai and Delhi. While GoAir didn’t add any new flights, Air India only added a single new flight from Mumbai. Perhaps GoAir and Air India weren’t interested in the prized slots at Mumbai and to some extent Delhi airport.

And why bother, when you can aim bigger? Coming out of nowhere, Air India wrote a letter to SBI, exploring the possibility to induct some Jet Airways 777-300ER into their fleet. Air India would like to add 5 Jet Airways 777-300ER on dry or wet lease to add flights on some routes which were operated by Jet Airways.

Air India London

Letter to SBI Chairman for taking Jet Airways 777 on lease

This is slightly on slippery slope to say the least because I’m not sure how SBI fits into the picture as Jet Airways still owns those planes. We know that Jet Airways defaulted on the loans backed by US EXIM bank last month, which were given to the airline to purchase those aircraft from Boeing. So, the banks who loaned for the purchase of those aircraft want to repossess all the aircraft (10 Boeing 777-300ER) which were bought using the loan. However, there are no new developments and we don’t know how this will work out.

Air India wants to operate Jet Airways 777-300ER aircraft on the following Jet Airways routes which are now out of operation

  • Mumbai – London
  • Mumbai – Dubai
  • Delhi – London
  • Delhi – Dubai
  • Delhi – Singapore

2 777-300ERs are required for daily rotation on London to Mumbai and Delhi routes. 1 777-300ER is required for Dubai-Delhi-Singapore rotation. The rest will be used on Mumbai- Dubai route and probably add more frequency on one the above routes.

Before suspending operations temporarily, Jet Airways was operating 6-7 777-300ER out of 10 777-300ER. Others were grounded including the one seized at Amsterdam airport. Out of the 6-7 777-300ER, some were due for maintenance.

All the above routes suffered a huge loss when Jet Airways stopped flying internationally. Jet Airways was the largest Indian carrier on India – London, India – Singapore and India – Dubai routes. Jet Airways stopping flights to London meant a loss of 9688 weekly seats one-way. That’s a huge void.

RouteJet AirwaysAir India
Mumbai-London3x daily 777-300ER1x daily 777-300ER
Delhi-London1x daily 777-300ER2x daily 787-8
Delhi-Singapore3x daily 737-8002x daily 787-8/A321
Mumbai-Dubai7x daily 737-8001x daily A321
Delhi-Dubai5x daily 737-8001x daily 787-8

Also, Jet Airways operated daily Pune-Singapore and 2x daily Bengaluru – Singapore flights with their 737-800s.

But groundings of Air India aircraft lead to a decrease in capacity on Singapore routes. Air India reduced Delhi – Singapore route to daily and downgraded Mumbai and Chennai routes to A321 till April 30, 2019. And now they want to add capacity using Jet Airways 777-300ERs.

Air India is a Star Alliance member and doesn’t have any partnership with Air France-KLM and Delta. So there is no way Air India would have added capacity to Amsterdam. Jet Airways banked on its partnership with Air France-KLM and Delta for Amsterdam routes as there were a huge number of transit passengers, something which Air India won’t get.

What is Air India trying to do?

Air India wants to add capacity on existing routes which were operated by Jet Airways using Jet Airways 777-300ER. It won’t be of much help by upgrading existing Air India 787-8/777 routes with Jet Airways 777-300ER, especially to London. It would lead to a marginal increase in seats.

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To operate additional flights if that’s what Air India is suggesting, you need slots which Air India doesn’t have, sort of. Air India did secure an extra 3x weekly slot pair at London Heathrow for Summer 2019. But they haven’t added any new flights to London Heathrow. We don’t know if they still have those extra slots or not.

Jet Airways had already transferred 14x weekly slots back to Delta in March 2019. In April, Jet Airways moved 42x weekly slots back to Etihad. Etihad cannot add new 3x daily flights from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow especially on such short notice. They will incur massive losses by doing that. There is no guarantee Etihad will be able to fill any of the new 3x daily flights.

Air India London

Grounded Jet Airways 777 at Mumbai airport

One way to protect the slots would be to give it on lease to Air India on a temporary basis. This will be a win-win situation for both as Etihad won’t lose slots, will get money from the lease and Air India would be able to add capacity on lucrative India – London routes. Let’s see if this is indeed the move that Air India is hoping for.

Does Air India actually need Jet Airways aircraft?

Air India has 24 aircraft grounded at the moment including widebodies. You may find it interesting that Air India has grounded several aircraft including some 777 and 787 for more than 5 months now.

Aircraft typeAircraft RegisterationStatusAirport Grounded AtLast FlightLast Flight onNotes
A319VT-SCNOperationalKolkataAI 628 NAG-BOMFebruary 7, 2019Back on March 6, 2019 AI 705 CCU-DIB FlightAware shows only 5 flights operated from November 28, 2018 to February 27, 2019
A319VT-SCROperationalMumbaiAI 626 LKO-BOMApril 07, 2019A few one off flights in June and July 2019, back from August 7, 2019
A319VT-SCSOperationalMumbaiAI 662 GOI-BOMFebruary 10, 2019Back on June 29, 2019 as AI 54 BOM-COK
A319VT-SCTGroundedDelhiAI 821 IXJ-SXRJanuary 14, 2019Before that operated AI 812 LKO-DEL on 12-11-2018
A319VT-SCUGroundedMumbaiAI 668 TRV-BOMDecember 26, 2018Operated one-off flight HYD-BOM on March 15, 2019
A319VT-SCVOperationalDelhiAI 1764 DEL-CCUJanuary 17, 2019Operated one-off flight BHO-BOM on March 23, 2019. Back on June 7, 2019 as AI230 CCU-DAC
A319VT-SCXGroundedDelhiAI 628 NAG-BOMFebruary 3, 2019FlightAware shows only 5 recorded operated flights since 13-11-2018
A321VT-PPLOperationalHyderabadAI 542 HYD-TIRFebruary 2, 2019Accident at Tirupati Airport. Before that operated last flight AI 24 DEL-BOM on 12-01-2019. Back on July 27, 2019 as AI 661 BOM-GOI
A321VT-PPMOperationalDelhiDEL-BOM (Cancelled)June 21, 2018Back on May 8, 2019 as AI 91 BOM-AMD
A321VT-PPNGroundedHyderabadAI 541 TIR-HYDJanuary 29, 2019
A321VT-PPTOperationalMumbaiAI 683 BOM-GOIAugust 11, 2018Back on March 8, 2019 AI 618 HYD-BOM
A321VT-PPUGroundedMumbaiAI 665 DEL-BOMSeptember 20, 2018
A321VT-PPWGroundedMumbaiAI 614 AMD-BOMApril 3, 2019
A321VT-PPXGroundedDelhiAI 806 BOM-DEL (Cancelled flight on November 28, 2018)Maybe July 22, 2018 as AI 630 NAG-BOM
A320VT-EDCOperationalDelhiAI 820 BDQ-DELFebruary 19, 2019Back on July 2, 2019
A320VT-EDFOperationalDelhiAI 840 HYD-DELFebruary 13, 2019Back on March 20, 2019 AI 439 DEL-MAA
747-400VT-ESPOperationalMumbaiAI 5226 MED-BOMSeptember 18, 2019Back on March 9, 2019 as AI 144 BOM-DEL
747-400VT-ESOOperational MumbaiAI 966 HYD-BOMMay 28, 2019AI 1
747-400VT-EVAGroundedMumbaiAI 191 DEL-BOMMay 13, 2019
747-400VT-EVBOperational MumbaiAI 966 HYD-BOMJanuary 29, 2019Back on June 24, 2019 as AI 144 BOM-DEL
777-300ERVT-ALOGroundedMumbaiBOM-BOMAugust 9, 2018
777-300ERVT-ALUOperationalNagpurAI 1469 DEL-NAGSeptember 22, 2018Back on June 6, 2019 as AI 144 BOM-DEL
787-8VT-ANBOperationalMumbaiAI 349 DEL-BOMJanuary 7, 2019Back on May 24, 2019 as AI 31 BOM-AMD
787-8VT-ANGOperationalMumbaiAI 331 BKK-BOMApril 7, 2018Back on May 22, 2019 as AI 31 BOM-AMD
787-8VT-ANJGroundedMumbaiAI 865 DEL-BOMOctober 9, 2018
787-8VT-ANKOperationalMumbaiAI 331 BKK-BOMJuly 8, 2018Back on April 6, 2019 AI 330 BOM-BKK
787-8VT-ANMGroundedMumbaiAI 863 DEL-BOMJanuary 2, 2019
787-8VT-ANNOperationalMumbaiAI 349 DEL-BOMFebruary 25, 2019Back on April 13, 2019 AI 310 BOM-DEL
787-8VT-ANOOperationalMumbaiAI 315 DEL-BOMApril 28, 2019Back on July 12, 2019 AI 687 BOM-DEL
787-8VT-ANUOperationalDelhiAI 121 DEL-FRA Suffered mid-air decompression.March 6, 2019Back on May 31, 2019 as AI 20 DEL-CCU.

Air India could have reactivated the grounded aircraft and added capacity on both domestic and international routes naturally. But they didn’t except for one new route. Neither is there news that Air India secured slots to add capacity from Mumbai Terminal 2 which is now Air India’s stronghold. It looks like they weren’t interested.

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Also, some Air India widebody aircraft are grounded for many months. That implies it wasn’t a case of scheduled maintenance as no checks take more than two months. So it will take Air India some time to bring back those aircraft in flying condition.

The slots that Jet Airways transferred to Etihad come in effect from April 28, 2019. Then there is the 80% slot utilisation rule. Maybe that’s why the urgency. Also, it would be easier to negotiate with Etihad for slots if Air India is taking Jet Airways 777s on lease.

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It is interesting to note that Air India has kept the option of wet lease open so that Jet Airways crew can operate those routes. Both carriers have some of the best crews in the world, especially on international sectors.

Operational issues due to different configuration?

Jet Airways 777-300ER has 346 seats: 8 first class, 30 business class (1-2-1 configuration) and 308 economy class seats (3-4-3 configuration). Air India 777-300ER has four first class, 35 business class (2-3-2 configuration) and 304 economy seats (3-3-3 configuration).

Air India London

Business class onboard Air India 777

Jet Airways 777s are better maintained than Air India’s 777, though economy class will be more comfortable on Air India due to 3-3-3 configuration. But for the first time, if Air India does get Jet Airways 777s, passengers may have a way better chance of having a working IFE screen on Air India than Jet Airways. Jet Airways had to shut down IFE as it hadn’t paid dues, which I think won’t be reactivated any time soon.

Air India London

Economy class onboard Jet Airways 777

There may be some issues with the booking system since it isn’t Air India’s forte. But I don’t think so Air India will have any operational issues since it is taking Jet Airways 777s for specific routes only.

No doubt, Air India has thought this through, and it is, in fact, a good move. It’s just that, they could have used their aircraft if they hadn’t grounded them in the first place. Or probably they are saving the grounded widebody for routes like Delhi – Los Angeles? Let’s see how this unfolds. And if it is even legally permissible.

What are your thoughts on Air India trying to add more flights using Jet Airways 777s?


  1. Nobody wants to fly Air India from the likes of it. Everyone’s flying private airlines. They’re not even bothering to ramp up capacity or leasing/selling their grounded aircraft to some other operator and earning some bucks out if it. A grand waste of aviation.

    The 747’s are utilised about 3 or 4 times a year for special occasions during holidays or when travel patterns take a sudden spike due to natural calamities.

    The rest of the 319’s and 787’s seem to be in deep neglect and will mostly be cannibalized for spares for the 320 ceo family and any new dreamliner in the AI fleet.

  2. Classic case of chrony capitalism , first of all , AI should have been happy that a competitor left the market , instead it is sympathizing with them… next instead to taking advantage of the situation like other private airlines , it is turning to socialism by selling cheap tickets to jet passengers… now being deeply saddened by the situation , it wants to help foreign companies make money on their aircraft by dry/wet leasing them when their own aircrafts are grounded for various reasons , AI being in heavy debt , it wants to take on more debt

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