Jet Airways lost, Sanjay Mandavia on course to launch his own new airline

Topics Jet Airways | airlines

FSTC has pilot training centres in Gurugram and Hyderabad, and are all set to unveil the new airline, FlyBig
Sanjay Mandavia says he now has more time to focus on his regional airline venture, FlyBig.

Despite losing the bid for Jet Airways, the pilot-turned-airline owner Mandavia and his partner Biraja Jena, who is chairman of UAE-based fund Imperial Capital, say they will launch the airline which has secured 16 routes under the fourth phase of UDAN, government’s regional connectivity programme.

The consortium lost out to the consortium of UAE-based entrepreneur Murari Lal Jalan and London-based fund Kalrock Capital.

The FlyBig and Imperial consortium promised Rs 770 crore to lenders and an additional Rs 292 crore as cost of resolution process. It had also promised 20 per cent equity to lenders. Kalrock-Jalan consortium has offered Rs 380 crore to financial creditors, and another Rs 391 crore in the form of non-convertible debentures (NCDs).

In 2012, Mandavia along with his partner Dilawer Singh Basraon took the plunge to set up FSTC - the country’s first privately held simulator training centre. They acquired two simulators-—one for the B737 NG and another for the A320. They took a one-acre plot on the Delhi-Gurugram national highway and 50,000 square foot was built up to house the simulators.

Pilot-turned-owner Sanjay Mandavia
FSTC has pilot training centres in Gurugram and Hyderabad, and are all set to unveil the new airline, FlyBig. They are in the final stages of getting approvals from the civil aviation regulator DGCA.

Though the resolution plan of consortium of Kalrock Capital–Murari Lal Jalan were approved by 90 percent of the lenders, both Mandavia and Jena believe their plan of integrating FlyBig and Jet Airways and focusing on domestic routes before gradually expanding to international was a sound plan.

An executive of a bank which has exposure to Jet Airways said, operationally both the plans were almost identical but the lenders believed that Jalan had higher capability to pay.

“Though we offered a sound plan and still believe that it held promise for everybody--lenders, the company, employees--I wish the best to the new owners. FlyBig’s focus will be on unserved or less served routes. We will start with four ATR-72 (planes) and the first one is already here. The other three will be in India soon. We plan to have 20 aircraft in the next four years,” Mandavia says.

Most of the routes that FlyBig won under UDAN are in North East including Guwahati-Tezu, Tezu-Imphal, Guwahati-Rupsi, Rupsi-Kolkata, Aizwal-Tezpur, Agartala-Dibrugarh, Shillong-Passighat and Passighat-Guwahati.

“Along with Jet Airways our plan was FlyBig would have acted as a feeder airline from regional routes while Jet Airways would have done the metro routes,” Mandavia says.

Jena says while they are still analysing the Jet Airways situation. On being asked if he would challenge the lender’s consortium choice, Jena says he has not thought about it. “We are running ahead towards starting flight operations of FlyBig. Domestic flights hold a lot of promise and it is still time before international operations flights work on normal basis. Hence, our resolution plan on Jet Airways was primarily focused on flying domestic,” he says.

Support of Jena will be crucial to Mandavia’s aviation entrepreneurship dream as the business requires fund. “As of now Mandavia is dependent on UDAN subsidy. He definitely needs a cash-rich partner for his airline dream to get fulfilled,” an executive of a consultancy firm which has worked with the consortium said. 

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