The new owners of Jet Airways (JAI, Mumbai Int'l) have started talks with Indian regulators about regaining access to airport slots and traffic rights held by the airline prior to its April 2019 collapse, a source close to the investors told Business Standard.

According to the current schedule, the Indian airline could restart operations at some point during the Summer 2021 season, subject to the still pending approval of the National Company Law Tribunal. Under a creditor-approved plan, the carrier will be 51%-owned by Murari Lal Jalan, a non-resident Indian businessman based in the United Arab Emirates while 14% will be owned by the fellow investor Kalrock Capital, a London-based fund.

The source said that while Jalan took interest in Jet Airways right after its grounding, he was initially unconvinced about its profit-making potential. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the industry, the cost of restarting the airline has plummeted.

"The pandemic gave us an opportunity as it has lowered the cost of acquiring the aircraft and manpower drastically. Jet Airways has the brand value, customer confidence, infrastructure like slots and bilateral rights, while the liabilities are being wiped off. We are getting a clean slate, which would not have come with Air India," the source explained.

Air India is also seeking investors. Jalan indirectly benefitted from the Indian government's ongoing, although so far dead-end, attempts to privatise the flag carrier. In the hope of attracting foreign investors for Air India, the government abolished a ban on majority foreign ownership of airlines last year. As a non-resident Indian, Jalan would not have been able to own a 51% stake in Jet Airways under the old legal framework.

The source also said that Jet's new owners have already approached Indian banks over potential funding for the restart of the carrier. Contrary to earlier reports, financial institutions and lessors are said to be willing to engage with Jalan and Kalrock Capital.