SpiceJet manages 75 flights after paying cash for fuel

After being grounded for more than 10 hours on Wednesday, cash-strapped SpiceJet finally took off at around 4 pm with limited flights after paying oil marketing companies cash for fuel, which they were refusing to supply on credit.

The airline operated approximately 75 flights after 4 pm, out of its schedule of about 230 flights each day. Not a single SpiceJet flight in its entire network took off before that, to the dismay of passengers who had booked early for their vacation plans.

The civil aviation ministry had on Tuesday asked the oil companies and airport operators to extend a 15-day credit facility to SpiceJet in an attempt to save the airline from shutting down, at the same time asking the airline to commit capital infusion at the earliest. But the oil companies, whose past dues were not cleared, demurred.

''Flights that were cancelled earlier in the day remain cancelled. Flights scheduled to depart at 4 pm or later are operating today,'' a SpiceJet spokesperson said.

S L Narayanan, chief financial officer of the airline's parent company Sun Group, told PTI, ''We need some breathing time if we get a reprieve from the banks and Mr (Kalanithi) Maran is ready to give a guarantee we can restart the engine. Once the collection starts coming in, we will pay (the dues).''

A Reuters report quoted Narayanan as saying that the Sun Group did not have the funds to bail out the airline. ''We do not have the liquidity to invest large sums at this time, which is why we need bank financing for which the promoters (main shareholders) are willing to provide a guarantee. We cannot do more than this,'' he said.

The airline has total liabilities of Rs2,000 crore, which include dues to the public sector oil firms and the Airports Authority of India (AAI), forcing SpiceJet to cut capacity since July.

While it operated 345 daily flights in July, it came down to 232 as on 8 December.