Seven lessors have secured access to their aircraft after the High Court of Delhi ordered Go Air India Ltd, trading as Go First (GOW, Mumbai International), to grant the lessors immediate and ongoing access to their aircraft for maintenance and inspection purposes.

It is a partial victory for the lessors, who had been seeking to overturn an Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) decision not to proceed with their de-registration requests. The lessors - SMBC Aviation Capital, CDB Aviation, Aviation Capital Group, SKY Leasing, DAE Capital, Merx Aviation Finance, and Carlyle Group, using various special purpose vehicles and other corporate entities, sued Go Air, the DGCA, and the Indian government, after the DGCA declined to de-register 30 aircraft belonging to them following a National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) ruling on May 22, 2023, that upheld an earlier decision by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to accept Go First's insolvency application and placed a moratorium over its assets, including its leased aircraft. The High Court heard that lease defaults on some of these 30 aircraft have been occurring since 2020, and that for much of this year, Go First has made no complete lease payments on any of the aircraft. Specifically, the contested aircraft are;

  • VT-GOO (msn 5811), an A320-200 leased by the Carlyle Group via Accipiter Investments Aircraft 2 Ltd;
  • VT-WDB (msn 11111), an A320-200N leased by Merx Aviation Finance via EOS Aviation 12 (Ireland) Ltd;
  • VT-WGN (msn 7858), an A320-200N leased by CDB Aviation via Pembroke Aircraft Leasing 11 Ltd;
  • VT-WGL (msn 7813), VT-WGP (msn 8146), VT-WGQ (msn 8152), VT-WGR (msn 8209), VT-WGS (msn 8273), VT-WGT (msn 8382), VT-WGV (msn 8458), VT-WGW (msn 8464), VT-WGX (msn 8482), and VT-WGZ (msn 8503), all A320-200Ns all supplied by CDB Aviation, this time via GY Aviation Lease 1722 Co Ltd.
  • VT-GON (msn 5675), VT-GOQ (msn 5990), VT-GOP (msn 5809), and VT-GOR (msn 6072), all A320-200s, as well as VT-WGA (msn 7047), VT-WGB (msn 7074), VT-WGY (msn 8498), VT-WGE (msn 7330), VT-WGD (msn 7205), and VT-WJF (msn 8656), all A320-200Ns leased by SMBC Aviation Capital Ltd;
  • VT-WDD (msn 11160) and VT-WDA (msn 11052), both A320-200Ns leased by DAE Capital via DAE SY 22 13 Ireland Designated Activity Company;
  • VT-WDC (msn 11130), an A320-200N leased by SKY Leasing via SFV Aircraft Holdings IRE 9 DAC Ltd; and
  • VT-WGI (msn 7594), VT-WGJ (msn 7737), VT-WGK (msn 7753), and VT-WGM (msn 7859), all A320-200Ns leased by Aviation Capital Group via ACG Aircraft Leasing Ireland Ltd.

Harish Salve, appearing for Go Air, argued that the NCLT and NCLAT have exclusive jurisdiction regarding insolvency when entities have entered into the corporate insolvency resolution process, saying that civil courts have no role to play. He also pointed out that if the aircraft are repossessed, it will undermine the goal of getting Go First back into the air. Anjana Gosain, appearing for the DGCA, said the agency was compelled to follow the court's instructions, and once the NCLAT ruled, it had no choice but to reject the deregistration applications.

Each of the lessors had advocates appearing on their behalf, who variously argued that the lease terminations were not because Go First went into voluntary administration, but because the airline had a history of payment defaults before that (lessors sent Go First a total of ten termination notices before the NCLT accepted the voluntary administration application in early May). The arguments centred around the role and validity of the NCLT and the appellate tribunal to block aircraft repossessions when the Cape Town Convention, which India is a signatory to but has passed no local laws enabling, provides a process for repossessions.

While the lessors are ultimately seeking the return of their aircraft, in the interim, they want access to the planes for inspection and maintenance purposes. "Petitioners have prayed that they be granted interim relief, with a view that these aircraft, which are no longer in a position to be operational or used for flying, be preserved. It is contended by the petitioners that if the mandatory maintenance and preservation tasks are not regularly carried out, the aircraft will become unworthy of flying, and as such, the petitioners will incur losses."

The court's July 5 ruling dealt with the interim relief, saying that the settled law is that the civil courts do not interfere with insolvency proceedings underway and under the supervision of the NCLT. However, the court ordered that Go First and the DGCA allow the lessors (and/or their agents) access to the aircraft within three days for inspection purposes. The court further ordered that the lessors be allowed to inspect and carry out any necessary maintenance at least twice monthly until the deregistration and repossession matter is settled. Go First was also barred from interfering with or removing any parts or property from the aircraft.