Jet Airways, which plans to enhance its services on the US routes, may ask its strategic investment partner Etihad to return two of its Boeing-777 planes which are currently on lease with the Gulf-based carrier.
The private carrier has leased out seven wide-bodied planes to Etihad, which holds a 24 per cent stake in Jet Airways, including five Boeing 777-300 ERs which are used for ultra-long haul operations.
“Jet Airways may ask Etihad to return two of the five Boeing 777s, which it has leased to the Gulf partner,” sources said here.
Under a commercial cooperation agreement, the two airlines had plans to connect Mumbai to Newark, Bangalore to Chicago and Delhi to New York, through Jet Airways overseas hub at Abu Dhabi.
Etihad had announced the launch of its second flight to New York from Abu Dhabi with a Jet Airways’ Boeing 777-300ER plane from March last year.
As per the original plan, Jet Airways was to operate this flight from May 1, 2014 but the plan failed to take off after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded India’s aviation safety rating.
The move disallowed Indian carriers from either expanding their operations to the US or entering into any code share agreement with the airlines there.
The FAA restored the aviation safety rating back to Category-I early this month, paving the way for Indian airlines to enhance their presence in the US skies. At present, only two domestic carriers, Air India and Jet Airways operate flights to the US.
When contacted, a Jet Airways spokesperson said the airline was exploring all the opportunities and final decision on all such issues would be taken by its board.
“We are currently evaluating the opportunities and any final decision will be taken only after discussion and approval by the Board,” the spokesperson said in a statement to PTI.
Restoration of India’s safety rating to Category-I by the FAA allows us to explore opportunities to enhance and optimise our presence in the United State, the statement said, adding any business opportunities will be evaluated with stringent adherence to these objectives.
According to FAA annual aviation projections, presented last month, US airlines are expected to transport 1-billion passengers per year by 2029 and a total of 1.5 billion by 2035.
Between 2014 and 2035, US carrier passenger will grow by an average 2.2 per cent every year, the forecast had said.
Jet Airways currently operates from New Delhi to Newark in the US.