Jet Airways collapse: What to do if your flight has been cancelled

Hundreds of people are in transit and do not have visas for India because they were not expecting to go through passport control


Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Friday 12 April 2019 16:31
Simon Calder on Jet Airways cancelled flights as Indian carrier on brink of total collapse

Jet Airways, once India’s biggest airline, has grounded all its international flights as its financial problems intensifies.

Friday’s three departures from Heathrow – two to Mumbai and one to Delhi – have been cancelled, along with the corresponding inbound services.

While the carrier claims the groundings are only temporary, past experience suggests it will be difficult for Jet Airways to recover.

These are the options for travellers booked to fly on Jet Airways – or in the middle of trips with the airline.

What is Jet Airways – and what went wrong?

It was founded in 1993 as India’s first significant privately owned airline, competing with the poorly run state-owned Indian Airlines on domestic services.

Initially Jet Airways flew domestic services, but within a decade expanded internationally with flights to destinations in the Indian sub-continent, and – in 2005 – London Heathrow, in competition with Air India, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

It was highly regarded for inflight service and reliability, especially compared with the state-owned carriers.

Jet Airways has continued to grow, building passenger numbers – which have almost doubled in a decade – but at the same time its debts grew.

By 2012, intense competition from budget airlines Indigo and Spicejet began to damage Jet Airways’ financial position.

In 2013, when foreign airlines became able to buy shares in Indian carriers, Etihad of Abu Dhabi bought 24 per cent of Jet Airways. It was one of several investments in struggling carriers by the Gulf-based airline.

Since the start of 2019, the leasing companies that own Jet Airways’ aircraft have been repossessing much of the fleet. Staff have gone unpaid and promised refunds to passengers have been unforthcoming. One example of the problems at the airline: Jet Airways launched Manchester-Mumbai flights in November 2018, but they were abruptly cancelled in March 2019.

On Friday 12 April, all international flights were grounded and all but a handful of domestic services were shown as cancelled. The budget subsidiary, JetLite, is also cancelling most of its flights.

What happens to people who are stranded in India?

Many thousands of British travellers are in India with Jet Airways bookings that are supposed to bring them home.

The airline says that international flights have been grounded for only two days, but past experience – as recently as the collapse of Wow Air last month – shows that when departures stop on a troubled airline, they rarely start again.

Passengers with Jet Airways domestic flights in India can switch to other carriers – there appears to be reasonable capacity available. If the flight was booked direct, card issuers should provide refunds upon receipt of proof of the flight cancellation.

Travellers on international flights from India to the UK are in a more difficult position. Fares are extremely high for immediate departures, with the cheapest available deal from Mumbai to Heathrow bookable direct appearing to be £726 on Ethiopian Airlines via Addis Ababa. If Jet Airways formally closes then other airlines will step in with “rescue fares” for stranded passengers – which will typically be around £300 one way.

Passengers in other locations – for example Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kathmandu and Colombo – may also be offered rescue fares. But alternative tickets will not be so expensive because there will not be the same spike in demand as in India.

What about passengers who have reached India but cannot fly to their final destination?

Hundreds of people are in this position, and do not have visas for India because they were not expecting to go through passport control there. They can try to buy flights on other airlines. Alternatively it is possible that the Indian authorities will help arrange emergency visas for stranded passengers to leave the airport.

Will passengers be able to claim their fares and other costs back?

Travellers with scheduled airline failure insurance should be able to recoup reasonable expenses and alternative flights. But other passengers will not be so fortunate. Those who booked direct with Jet Airways with their credit cards can reclaim the payment.

Many passengers, though, have booked through travel agents. Their contract is with the agent and they may be able to secure alternative flights. But past experience suggests that some online travel agents will prove little help to travellers.

The relatively small proportion of passengers who are booked as part of a package holiday can expect the travel firm to make alternative arrangements under the terms of the Package Travel Regulations.

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I have a forward booking with Jet Airways and it has not officially been cancelled. What are my options?

If you booked through a codeshare partner, notably Virgin Atlantic, you have several options. Virgin is saying: “Due to the possible cancellation of Jet Airways services, we are offering our customers with connecting flights with Jet Airways the options to rebook, reroute or refund their tickets.

“This applies to Virgin Atlantic ticketed bookings only.”

Passengers who have yet to begin travelling can get a full refund.

They could rebook to a later date on Jet Airways, which looks an over-optimistic course of action.

On Heathrow-Delhi flights, they can switch to Virgin Atlantic on the same route.

Passengers can also choose an alternative Virgin destination, “subject to any fare difference being paid”.

Other travellers are in a very difficult position. Unless and until the airline formally closes, your card issuer or travel agent will be reluctant to refund or rebook you. All you can do is wait and see what happens over the coming days.

I have a claim against Jet Airways for a delayed flight which they have not yet paid. How can I get what is due to me?

Regrettably in the event of Jet Airways’ failure you will become an unsecured creditor with very little prospect of seeing the cash that you are due under European air passengers’ rights rules.

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