MUMBAI: Jet AirwaysBSE -0.97 %, India's second largest airline by market share, has leased a wide body aircraft along with 60 of its cabin crew to Abu Dhabi based Etihad Airways, a move that indicates a burgeoning partnership, even before the two airlines ink an equity stake sale.
In aviation parlance, a wet lease of an aircraft is an arrangement whereby the lessor, in this instance Jet, provides crew, maintenance and aircraft for a consideration. In turn the lessor takes on the responsibility for supplying and operating the aircraft.
The cabin crew will be trained by Etihad in Mumbai over the next three months. This is the second such collaborative agreement between the two carriers who are engaged in protracted discussions for over three months for an equity partnership and a strategic alliance. Jet had earlier announced a sale and lease back of Jet's Heathrow-London slots for $70 million in February to Etihad. Confirming this, Jet CEO Nikos Kardassis said the crew was surplus with Jet as it has withdrawn flights to its European hub in Brussels originating from Chennai.
"We enter into a wet lease agreement with Etihad for one A330-200. Since we stopped the Chennai-Brussels flight, we have excess qualified A330 cabin crew based in Chennai. We will use this crew for the wet lease operation with Etihad," Kardassis texted in response to ET's query over the issue.
Jet has a fleet of over 100 aircraft, including the 11 Airbus A330-200 type that it deploys on long haul international flights. Jet took delivery of a different series of this aircraft, the A330-300 in December last year and said it will induct another three soon to expand its Airbus wide body aircraft fleet. Jet deployed the 300 series aircraft on the Mumbai-Brussels route. The A330-300 will also replace two leased A330-200 type, the airline had said.
Aviation analysts see this move by Jet to wet lease aircraft to Etihad as the beginning of many more of such initiatives to be announced by the Naresh Goyal-promoted carrier as the deal between the two is seen as a more comprehensive strategic and collaborative alliance and not just an equity deal.
The airline has sought additional seats to Abu Dhabi for its summer schedule (some reports suggest 10,000 more seats) and according to the civil aviation minster Ajit Singh, the ministry is also considering a more comprehensive code-share request by Jet with Etihad. Some aviation analysts see the manpower supply from India to Middle Eastern countries as a crucial part of the tie-up between the Indian carrier and the fast expanding Etihad.
"The HR is critical part of this deal and we expect Etihad will increasingly depend on Jet to supply trained manpower for their expansion.
The wet leasing of the crew is the just the beginning. India provides low cost and trained manpower with ability to deliver higher productivity to the Middle East (ME) carriers and is vital component of their business model. Given the size of their (ME carriers) expansion, sourcing manpower from India/south Asia will increase significantly in the near term," said Kapil Kaul, CEO, South Asia, Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation. He added that Jet has always very successfully managed to sub-lease their wide body aircraft as and when required. "Etihad will continue to provide strategic support to Jet," said Kaul.