Busted Airlines #8: Jet Airways

Theoretically, this series is about Airlines That Went Bust Since 2017.

In reality, it's about Montenegrin banana importers, Turkish truck drivers, false claims about negotiating with Somali pirates(!), Ibiza techno club collabs, the Indian Mafia, and the urgent government rescue of 110,000 sunburned Brits On Tour.

(all of this madness is stuff we stumbled across while updating our tool that tells you carry-on luggage restrictions for every airline in the world).

If there's any airline – or any wild story – we missed, let us know.

Jet Airways

One of the last airlines we'll cover is also one of the youngest to have gone bust: Jet Airways was incorporated in April 1992, and started out as an air taxi operator in 1993.

(Editor's note: wow, very young. Wait... that's two THREE decades ago now! Ugh, I'm so old)

Jet grew to become one of the largest airlines in India, operating over 300 flights daily to 74 destinations worldwide, mostly from its main hub: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Airport

Jet's story from that point on is classic Legacy Carrier Playbook: LCCs enter the market (in this case, SpiceJet and IndiGo), the legacy carrier enters into a fare war despite having much higher expenses than the LCCs, blah blah blah bankrupt.

(Editor's note: it's interesting how many of the airlines in this series declared bankruptcy in 2019, *just* before the Virus That Shall Not Be Named. WHAT DID THEY KNOW AND WHY DIDN'T THEY TELL US)

Though it was a pretty standard decline and collapse overall, Jet did experience one of the ultimate airline humiliations along the way, when Indian Oil Corporation stopped supplying them jet fuel due to unpaid invoices. Quite difficult to fly without fuel, innit. Will take a wild guess here and predict the executives were still getting their salaries paid at this point 🤫

So what unique Busted Airlines morsels does Jet have to offer?

Well, in 2016, flight 9W7083 from Bhopal to Mumbai was held up by a large group of passengers headed for a wedding. There were allegations from passengers that the wedding party was politically connected and attempted to bribe the cabin crew to disembark other passengers so additional members of the wedding party could board. The airline claimed it was a "technical glitch" that overbooked the flight. Real talk, we would've kept 'in-flight Indian wedding incident' off our Jet Airways bingo card since it feels a bit... culturally presumptuous? But it happened!
Indian wedding guest

On a darker note, investigative journalist Josy Joseph's book A Feast of Vultures outlines activity behind the scenes of Jet that can only be described as "extremely sketchy if true", including:

  • an internal memo from Indian intelligence agencies which stated that they had evidence that Jet Airways made financial transactions with Dawood Ibrahim, Chota Shakeel and other figures in the Indian underworld.

  • reports in 2016 that the initial investment for Jet Airways itself had been routed through shell companies from the Isle of Man, and was heavily funded by the Indian underworld.

  • allegations that Jet collaborated with an Indian family who "became synonymous with corruption" in South Africa to pressure local politicians.

If you'd like to buy the book, it's here – India's The Tribune described it as "irritatingly brilliant", which if you think about it, is quite a strange thing for a reviewer to say. Why would it be irritating for a book to be brilliant? Would it have been better if it wasn't brilliant? The mind truly, madly, deeply boggles.

A Feast of Vultures book cover

Jet Airways is aiming to restart operations in late 2022.

Regardless, as we write this, it remains inarguably BUSTED.

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