GoFirst has now suspended its operations until May 23. However, according to top sources, the airline’s operations are not likely to restart from May 24 as well. At the same time, it may be staring at legal battles on many fronts.
The airline is fighting multiple battles at the moment, including cases from lessors and vendors, little free cash, and frozen consortium accounts. In a public statement on Friday, the airline said, “We regret to inform you that due to operational reasons, Go First flights scheduled until May 23, 2023, have been cancelled. We apologise for the inconvenience caused by the flight cancellations.”
Media reports had suggested that the airline may restart operations from May 24. A top official at GoFirst told businessline, “Frankly speaking, it is not possible for us to restart operations from May 24. While our efforts remain to restart operations at the earliest, because that is the only way we will survive, we need to have sustainable operations. Even if we want to, we cannot run our operations with just 18 aircraft. Until the matter of the lessors is sorted out, we may not have enough clarity.”
GoFirst’s total fleet size is 54 aircraft, of which 27 were grounded due to engine issues from Pratt and Whitney. SMBC, GY Aviation, and SFV Aviation, which have filed an appeal in the NCLT, together own 21 aircraft. “Of this, SMBC owns 10 aircraft, nine of which were operational,” the person said.
On Friday, the NCLAT heard an appeal petition from GoFirst’s lessor, SMBC. Lawyers appearing on behalf of the lessor said that GoFirst owes ₹700to ₹800 crore to SMBC. Senior counsel Arun Katpalia said: “Each day that the airline delays these terminations, there will be an addition of $20,000 for each aircraft. Given that we have 27 aircraft in GoFirst’s fleet, it will be an addition of over $4.2 million every month to the CIRP cost.” The airline has 54 aircraft in its fleet, of which 27 are owned by SMBC.
The bench did not give interim relief to the lessor and posted the matter to be heard on May 15.
The DGCA had received deregistration requests for 45 aircraft. Multiple lessors have received letters from the DGCA stating that it cannot deregister aircraft due to the moratorium implemented by the NCLT. At least three other lessors have told businessline that they are likely to file their appeals as well. In fact, lawyers on behalf of one of the lessors have said that they are likely to file a writ petition.
One of the lawyers appearing on behalf of GoFirst said that he expects the matter to go all the way to the Supreme Court.