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India to 'protect' Jet's rights as slots temporarily released

India's aviation ministry has moved to allay fears from potential bidders for Jet Airways by stressing the latter's historic slot rights will be retained despite temporarily allocating some of these to rival carriers.

Cash-strapped Jet was forced to suspend flights on 17 April amid its mounting liquidity crisis, but a sale tender process in a bid to secure fresh investment is under way.

Following the grounding a number of new services have been announced by rival carriers to help fill the void. That includes 24 daily domestic flights being added across Mumbai and Delhi by SpiceJet, the first of which start from 26 April.

In a press statement issued today, India's ministry of civil aviation says it has taken the decision to reallocate some of Jet's slot on a temporary basis.

"To reduce the inconvenience of passengers and to facilitate induction of additional capacity, it has been decided to allot some of the slots vacated by Jet Airways to other airlines on a purely temporary basis, for a period of three months," the ministry says.

It notes a committee has been set up to allocate these slots in the "most equitable and transparent manner" to those airlines that bring in additional capacity.

Whilst it does not specify SpiceJet as one such airline, the low-cost carrier on 18 April said it was leasing in six more Boeing 737-800s within two weeks.

But the ministry stresses: "The historic rights of Jet Airways will be protected. These slots will be made available, as and when they revive their operations, as per the [slot rules] guidelines."

Reports in the Indian media had suggested potential bidders for Jet Etihad Airways and private equity firms Indigo Partners and TPG are among those linked with interest - were pulling their interest amid concerns slots would not be part of the Jet package.

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