India's National Company Law Tribunal has sought a new opinion from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) given uncertainty concerning the ownership of slots allocated to Jet Airways (JAI, Mumbai Int'l) prior to the airline's suspension of operations in April 2019.

The NCLT gave the authorities until May 11 to submit an affidavit clarifying their position. The court issued the formal order after numerous meetings between the prospective investors, Kalrock Capital fund and entrepreneur Murari Lal Jalan, and the government did not bring about any resolution.

The dispute over slot ownership is crucial to Jet's revival, as the investors have repeatedly said that they are the airline's most precious assets and that without them, their interest would be voided. In April 2019, the DGCA redistributed Jet's slots, in particular those at the notoriously congested Delhi Int'l and Mumbai Int'l airports, to other airlines, although it said that this was on a temporary basis pending Jet's potential restart.

As the search for a new investor dragged on, the question of whether Jet Airways would regain the slots or not has become the biggest procedural, and still unsolved, hurdle. But despite this, the Kalrock Capital and Murari Lal Jalan consortium decided to submit a binding bid and garnered creditor approval in mid-October 2020.

However, the formalisation of the acquisition still requires the approval of the National Company Law Tribunal, which has deferred its verdict for months now, waiting for the resolution of the slot dispute. In March, the DGCA indicated that it saw no grounds to return historical slots to Jet Airways due to the amount of time that had passed since its grounding. It suggested that the revived airline would instead have to bid for slots on equal terms with other airlines. However, this position is not binding and remains challenged by the investors.

At the time of its collapse, Jet Airways had around 750 slots at the busiest Indian gateways, which were redistributed mainly to other Indian carriers with SpiceJet the biggest single beneficiary.

The new investors hope to launch by the end of 2021 with five narrowbody jets. Besides the ongoing slot dispute, recent reports have indicated that the acquisition might even require national security vetting due to the alleged ties between Jalan and the Gupta brothers, who have been designated by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control concerning multiple corruption charges in South Africa. Jalan has denied these links.