In early January, Jet Airways and its main lender, State Bank of India met with aircraft lessors to assure them there was a plan to rescue the debt-laden carrier so it could pay them, sources familiar with the matter said.
The idea was to shore up confidence in one of India’s biggest brands, squeezed by low fares and high costs. But some lessors quickly lost patience as the bank did not provide details and Jet’s founder angrily defied them to take back planes.
At one point, the airline’s usually jovial founder and chairman, Naresh Goyal, banged his fist on a table, jarring some of the lessors who had flown to Mumbai from Dublin, Singapore and Dubai, said one person who attended the discussions.
“That meeting went horribly wrong,” recalled the executive from a global leasing firm, who did not want to identified because the meeting was not public.
Goyal’s emotional outburst and Jet’s subsequent failure to pay up as promised may have pushed the relationship between the airline and its lessors to a breaking point, two other executives who were at the meeting said, prompting some to take the drastic step of pulling their planes from its fleet.
That has led Jet, which blazed trails in one of the world’s fastest-growing air travel markets, to cancel hundreds of flights. Saddled with more than $1.2 billion in debt, and with dwindling revenue, the airline has said it also owes money to banks, pilots and suppliers.