April 11 (Reuters) - India’s beleaguered Jet Airways said on Thursday it had grounded 10 more planes over unpaid dues to leasing companies and had cancelled all west-bound long haul flights out of the country for the day.
The airline had already grounded more than two thirds of its fleet and Thursday’s action suggests its operational fleet size may now be less than 20 planes, according to Reuters calculations, the minimum required under Indian regulations to be able to fly overseas.
A company spokesman said Jet Airways had proactively cancelled all west-bound long haul flights from India from Thursday until Friday morning. He would not say whether Jet’s operational fleet was now less than 20, only that it was in the double digits.
Saddled with more than $1.2 billion of bank debt, Jet is fighting for survival as it also owes money to lessors, suppliers, pilots and oil companies.
It has had to ground most of its fleet, while oil companies are tightening fuel supply terms despite efforts by the airline’s lenders to find a new investor to bail out the cash-strapped carrier.
Lenders, led by State Bank of India (SBI), want a new investor to take a stake of up to 75 percent in the airline. Initial bids were to be submitted by the end of Wednesday, but SBI extended the deadline on Wednesday to Friday.
The airline has been forced in recent months to cancel hundreds of flights to several destinations in India and overseas. (Reporting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru and Aditi Shah in New Delhi; Additional reporting by Promit Mukherjee in Mumbai; Editing by Susan Fenton)