FINANCIAL COLLLAPSE OF JET AIRWAYS HAS PROVED MOST DETRIMENTAL TO AVIATION IN PUNJAB

Harjap Singh Aujla

As of this moment, Punjab’s connection to its most lucrative Amritsar –
Birmingham route, which could support two flights a day has been snapped for the foreseeable future and its indirect connection to London Heathrow Airport has also suffered a big blow. Even Punjab’s traffic to Toronto in Canada has been seriously inhibited

After the collapse of Kingfisher a few years ago, it is now the turn of Jet
Airways to go into liquidation. Air India is also sailing in the same boat, but they

have the backing of the financial muscle of the central government. Primarily due
to wrong route selection and partly due to undue stress on luxury class of travel, Jet
Airways has been slowly losing money and now they have virtually collapsed.
Another blunder of Jet Airways was to ignore several non-metro load centers. They
wanted to put most of their eggs in their Mumbai and New Delhi baskets.
Mr. Praful Patel, the longtime aviation minister during the UPA Government, had a
soft corner for Jet Airways. Realizing the tremendous load of British NRIs, Jet
applied for daily slots on the Amritsar – London (Heathrow) route. Praful Patel
sanctioned the route and Jet Airways started flying six times a week on the route.
Its Amritsar – London route became a profitable operation, mainly on the strength
of their economy class clientele. Here a story is worth telling. Air India had 21
weekly slots at London (Heathrow) Airport, out of which Air India was daily
operating on just 14 slots from Mumbai and New Delhi. The British authorities
served a notice on Air India to either utilize their full quota or lose the 7 unused
slots. Considering the immense importance of Heathrow Airport to India, Air
India, in a jiffy decided to change its daily route from Amritsar – Birmingham –
Toronto to Amritsar – London – Toronto. This temporarily impacted passenger
load of Jet Airways on their Amritsar – London Heathrow segment. Without giving
a thought to growth of traffic in future, in a hurry, Jet Airways discontinued the
Amritsar – London flight all-together. This move proved an imprudent decision in
the long run, it affected their credibility.
Etihad Airways had estimated the tremendous load on Abu Dhabi – Amritsar route.
Three of their top executives met me in New York in 2012, during an Indian
Consulate General function. I requested them to start daily flights between Abu
Dhabi and Amritsar. They told me that in spite of their survey of load and
consequent desire to fly on this route, they will not be given rights of port of call
facility at Amritsar Airport. But in order to circumvent this limitation, they will get
port of call rights to Jet Airways from Amritsar to Abu Dhabi and they got Jet all
the necessary permissions in a short period. But Jet, for some undisclosed reasons,
did not avail of this privilege and decided to transport Punjabi passengers from
Amritsar to New Delhi for transferring them on the New Delhi Abu Dhabi flight.
So New Delhi Airport got another slot.
Towards the end of February 2019, siting safety concerns, Turkmenistan Airlines
was barred to fly to any European Airport by the European Union. They were
operating four times a week on Birmingham – Ashghabat – Amritsar route. The
well wishers of Amritsar Airport like Sameep Singh of the USA, Yogesh Kamra of
Amritsar and others requested Jet Airways to start operating on the newly vacated

Amritsar – Birmingham route of Turkmenistan. Jet due to their fiscal problems
bluntly spurned this request. Air India was also operating thrice a week on New
Delhi – Amritsar – Birmingham route, after Pakistan banned Indian flights over her
airspace, Air India stopped the Amritsar – Birmingham leg of its highest
occupancy New Delhi – Amritsar – Birmingham route. Now there are no flights on
this non-stop or one stop ultra high occupancy Amritsar – Birmingham route.
Instead of at one time 13 flights per week there is none. This is hurting tourism of
Punjab too.
Earlier this year Jet Airways launched a nightly Amritsar – Mumbai – Manchester
flight, which has also fallen a victim to paucity of financial resources. Jet Airways
was also operating on the New Delhi – Amsterdam – Toronto route, by carting
passengers from Amritsar Airport to New Delhi Airport. Now, due to financial
difficulties, that flight has also been cancelled.
There is a ray of hope at the end of the tunnel. Both Indigo and SpiceJet have
applied for slots at Birmingham Airport for their non-stop connectivity to Amritsar
Airport. Their applications are awaiting a decision by the Birmingham Airport
Authorities. Hopefully during or after the coming summer, the new slots will be
allotted, and the low budget airlines inter-continental flights will begin. Similarly,
the same two low budget Indian aviation companies have applied for slots at
Gatwick and Stanstead airports of metropolitan London. They think Heathrow
Airport is too expensive. Something positive in this matter can be expected in
October or November of 2019.
As the things stand today, Jet Airways, by stopping all the international flights has
let Punjab down very badly. So far, they have been carting Punjabi passengers
from Amritsar to New Delhi for onward transfers to the British and Canadian
airports. Due to their financial problems, Jet Airways has lost all its slots at
Heathrow London Airport. These slots have been allotted to their financial backers
Etihad Airways. Some slots have gone to KLM Airways of Holland too. Since Air
Canada is also operating non-stop on Toronto – New Delhi and Vancouver New
Delhi routes, they have also put a claim on the New Delhi to Toronto slots of Jet
Airways.
As of this moment, Punjab’s connection to its most lucrative Amritsar –
Birmingham route, which could support two flights a day has been snapped for the
foreseeable future and its indirect connection to London Heathrow Airport has also

suffered a big blow. Even Punjab’s traffic to Toronto in Canada has been seriously
inhibited. We are calling upon long haul Canadian budget airlines and their British
counterparts to start services from Vancouver, Toronto, Birmingham and London
to Amritsar International Airport in India, which is the nearest airport to the
Canadian and European cities in entire India.
(The author can be reached at harjapaujla@gmail.com)

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