Passengers rage over disruptions at India’s embattled Jet Airways

Jet Airways’ market share shrank to 14.3 percent in 2018 from 17.2 percent a year earlier, even as India’s aviation market grew nearly a fifth. (File/Reuters)
Updated 15 March 2019
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Passengers rage over disruptions at India’s embattled Jet Airways

  • India’s second-largest carrier is grappling with debt of more than $1 billion
  • It has delayed payments to banks, lessors, vendors and staff

NEW DELHI: India’s embattled Jet Airways put photographs of smiling women employees on social media last week for Women’s Day, using the tagline “Standing tall; touching the skies” but few passengers reacted cheerfully.
“’Touching the skies’ is a good joke at a time when your flights are getting grounded,” said a respondent on Twitter, while others expressed anger and dismay at cancelations, delays in refunds and long response times to telephone calls.
India’s second-largest carrier, grappling with debt of more than $1 billion, Jet has delayed payments to banks, lessors, vendors and staff. Lessors have grounded more than three dozen planes, forcing hundreds of flights to be canceled.
Rising customer frustration could bring further disruption for the 25-year-old airline, as some flyers backed a boycott, while others blamed cancelations for ruining their plans.
“We had to worry about rebooking flights during our wedding, when there is already so much to do,” said Siddhant Agarwal, a 32-year-old businessman whose flight home from his honeymoon was abruptly canceled just days before his marriage.
Agarwal, who is based in the capital, New Delhi, had to pay nearly twice as much for new tickets, he said.
“They did not even offer an apology, which is disappointing and unprofessional.”
The airline, partly owned by Etihad Airways, did not respond to a request from Reuters for comment.
PLANES GROUNDED
Amid talks for a bailout led by state-run banks, lessors have forced the airline to ground at least 37 planes over non-payment of dues and some have also threatened repossession.
It had 556 flights on average in January, down from 641 a year earlier, data from the aviation regulator showed.

For an interactive graphic on Jet’s average daily flights, click https://tmsnrt.rs/2FeFDel
Jet has planned cancelations of more than 600 flights in March, said one source with direct knowledge of the matter.
Monday’s tally of about 330 flights compared with a daily average of nearly 650 in March 2018, a second source said, adding that short notice about grounded planes triggered many unplanned cancelations.
“The bigger worry is if people stop future bookings, because that will affect cash flows,” said the source, adding that cancelations in February and March outstripped prior months.
Jet Airways’ market share shrank to 14.3 percent in 2018 from 17.2 percent a year earlier, even as India’s aviation market grew nearly a fifth.
Some of the hundreds of aggrieved passengers who posted on the airline’s Facebook page and Twitter told of delays on the way to wedding and festival celebrations, and several uploaded screenshots showing telephone wait times longer than an hour for a response from the customer call center.
After a last-minute cancelation, comedian Kenny Sebastian expressed outrage on Twitter, warning his 1.74 million followers to avoid the airline.
“Best part is they made it sound like it was the passengers’ fault,” he said this week.


German firm wins mega order to build olive oil mill in Saudi Arabia

Updated 19 March 2019
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German firm wins mega order to build olive oil mill in Saudi Arabia

  • Scope of project, located in Al-Jouf, expected to encompass 5 million olive trees
  • Saudi Arabia investing heavily in developing domestic food industry

LONDON: A German company has won an order to build a massive olive oil mill in Saudi Arabia that will be the largest in Asia.
GEA won the order from The National Agricultural Development Company (NADEC), one of the largest agricultural and food-processing companies in the Middle East.
The scope of the project, located in the region of Al-Jouf, is expected to encompass 5 million olive trees from a single farm of 3,000 hectares, GEA said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Once the construction process is completed, this facility will be largest and most modern olive oil mill in Asia,” said Rafael Cárdenas, head of the Center of Excellence for Olive Oil at GEA.
Gulf states including Saudi Arabia, the region’s largest economy, are investing heavily in developing their domestic food industries in an effort to reduce their reliance on imports and boost their food security.
The contract to build the Al-Jouf olive oil mill is the second phase of an ongoing project and will enlarge the existing olive oil plant that was built in 2016.
Al-Jouf Agriculture Development Company is the largest modern olive farm in the world.