Air India

Shares in Jet Airways dipped more than 12 per cent on Monday morning on Friday’s decision by India’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) to defer approving Etihad Airways’ plan to buy a stake in the Indian airline.

They recovered later in the day to close up 1.3 per cent to Rs476.5 afte investors realised the delay was just that – a temporary glitch – and wouldn’t stop the deal going ahead. No problem, then? 

After months in the pipeline, a deal has finally been announced between India’s Jet Airways and Etihad.

The UAE’s national carrier will pay Rs754.74 per share for a 24 per cent stake in Jet, valuing the deal at Rs20.6bn ($380m). It’s good news for both parties in the deal. But it’s very bad news for Jet’s main competitor – the state-owned Air India. 

IndiGo AircraftIt turns out cheap is, indeed, cheerful where Indian airlines are concerned.

According to a new global ranking, low-cost carriers IndiGo and SpiceJet expanded capacity by 34.6 per cent and 16 per cent respectively in 2012, while standard carriers Air India and Jet Airways trimmed back operations. The contrast is stark – and that’s even before the dormant Kingfisher enters the picture. 

Will the Indian aviation industry ever learn? Last year, as beyondbrics reported, the industry was is turmoil after state carrier Air India initiated a price war that caused the airlines to spiral into a $20bn collective debt hole.

Now it seems, they’re at it again. Air India started the cutting, announcing its jaldi jaldi scheme last Thursday, an early bird program that offers up to 40 per cent discounts on certain routes booked in advance. Let another price war commence. 

Air India’s bosses were in Charleston, South Carolina this week to collect the first of their 27 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, six years after they ordered them and following a four-year delay in delivery. It marks the end of a long dispute over compensation for the delay, settled recently for an undisclosed amount. But anyone dreaming that the late arrival of the first aircraft in India on Saturday will reverse the fortunes of India’s struggling flagcarrier needs to wake up. 

Flying through a period of renewed turbulence following a protracted pilot strike, troubled state airline Air India is now looking to its valuable collection of high art to help keep it aloft.

The state carrier hopes to raise money through its valuable art collection, which includes Indian antiquities – including woodcarvings and sculptures – and around 18 works by contemporary masters such as the late MF Husain. 

Anyone who has ever tried to fly Air India and found themselves delayed by hours, or harangued by surly staff, knows that the state carrier has been on life support for ages – and has probably thought that it was time for the government to pull the plug. (Alas, less than a month ago the government threw it yet another lifeline by clearing a $5.7bn bailout package to help the carrier cope with its $8.3bn debt.)

But this week, it was Air India’s pilots who seemed to be in need of medical attention, as an epidemic of inexplicable illness swept through their ranks, knocking out first 100, then 200 and now, according to some reports, upwards of 400 international-route pilots

Air India’s pilots have a message for their employer: if you force us to share our toys, then we’re not playing!

That was the attitude expressed by around 100 of the company’s pilots who fly internationally who stayed home late on Monday night in a protest over the national carrier’s plans to train Air India’s domestic pilots on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. 

Things might just be looking up for India’s two worst-performing airlines, Kingfisher Airlines and Air India. The former may be on the verge of being rescued by a foreign airline. The latter – no surprise – will be rescued by its usual savior, the government. 

Just two month after having its bank accounts frozen for failing to deposit service tax payments, debt-ridden national carrier Air India on Wednesday saw its fuel supplies halted by state-owned oil companies citing overdue payments. 

India’s private airlines were allowed a brief moment of schadenfreude on Wednesday, when the state-owned Air India had a debt restructuring rejected, while their shareprices soared on the growing possibility of foreign investment.

Air India, hardly a stranger to government bailout, was dealt the blow when a consortium of 26 banks put its foot down, rejecting a proposal by the investment arm of State Bank of India. At the same time, the stocks of private carriers SpiceJet, Kingfisher Airlines and Jet Airways spiked after the civil aviation minister said a government panel has recommend the increase the limit of foreign airline direct investment in the industry. 

Tuesday was a sort of good news/bad news day for India’s embattled private airlines.

Even as the civil aviation ministry announced that it would recommend lifting the limit on foreign direct investment in the Indian airline sector from zero to 26 per cent, a consortium of banks reached an agreement on the restructuring of $3.45bn of state-carrier Air India’s massive $9bn debt.

The bad news: no such lifeline has so far been extended to India’s debt-ridden private carriers, whose current precarious position is partly due to Air India’s price-cutting tactics. 

Arvind Jadhav, the managing director of Air India, has launched a ferocious broadside against Boeing, the US aircraft manufacturer, from the UK’s Farnborough Air Show.

Jadhav faces the enormous challenge of reviving the fortunes of India’s loss-making national carrier, which is up against fierce competition from local rivals Jet Airways and Kingfisher in the country’s liberalised air travel market.