Go First to suspend flights on May 3, 4; files for voluntary insolvency resolution proceedings

Wadia group-owned Go First will temporarily suspend flights on May 3 and 4 amid severe fund crunch, the airline's chief Kaushik Khona said on Tuesday.
Go First to suspend flights on May 3, 4; files for voluntary insolvency resolution proceedings

Mumbai | Wadia group-owned Go First will temporarily suspend flights on May 3 and 4 amid severe fund crunch, the airline's chief Kaushik Khona said on Tuesday.

The budget carrier has also filed an application for voluntary insolvency resolution proceedings before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), Delhi.

Speaking to PTI, Khona said the airline has grounded 28 planes, more than half of its fleet, due to non-supply of engines by Pratt & Whitney (P&W). This has resulted in a fund crunch.

"It is an unfortunate decision (filing for voluntary insolvency resolution proceedings) but it had to be done to protect the interests of the company," he said.

The airline has informed the government about the developments and will also be submitting a detailed report to aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

Flights will be suspended on May 3 and 4. Once the NCLT admits the application, then the flights will be restarted, Khona said.

Go First has more than 5,000 employees.

Nearly two years ago, Go First filed draft papers for an initial public offering worth Rs 3,600 crore amid the pandemic headwinds.

The fund-raising plan did not take off, engine supply woes mounted and two years later, the Wadia group-owned airline has run out of funds to fly. And ironically, the decision to seek voluntary insolvency resolution proceedings has come at a time when the country's aviation sector is on an upward trajectory.

Flying for more than 17 years, Go First, earlier known as Go Air, has remained relatively ambitious in terms of expansion of fleet and network compared to its more aggressive competitors.

The no-frills carrier flew 109.02 lakh domestic passengers and the market share stood at 8.8 per cent in 2022.

"We don't like the whole decision (filing for voluntary insolvency resolution proceedings)...it will be very painful for employees and stakeholders," Go First CEO Kaushik Khona told PTI on Tuesday but was quick to add that the decision has been taken in the interest of everyone.

Currently, the airline has liabilities of nearly Rs 9,000 crore.

The cash-starved airline reported a loss in the range of Rs 1,800 crore, including an Rs 800 crore notional loss due to accounting standards in the financial year ended March 2023.

The developments at Go First on Tuesday also came weeks after the airline asserted that its promoters -- Wadias -- are not looking to exit from the loss-making aviation business.

The budget airline started domestic operations in 2005-06 with the first flight from Mumbai to Ahmedabad and then in 2018-19, launched international operations.

Since commencing operations, Go First placed two orders for 72 A320 neo planes each with Airbus, one in 2011-12 and another in 2016-17.

On May 13, 2021, when the coronavirus pandemic headwinds were blowing strong, the airline announced rebranding itself as 'Go First' with a focus on an ultra-low-cost business model.

As it filed an application on Tuesday for insolvency resolution proceedings, Go First said it has been forced to take the decision due to "serial failure" of Pratt & Whitney engines resulting in the grounding of 50 per cent of the fleet and is no longer in a position to continue to meet its financial obligations.

To keep the airline afloat, promoters have infused funds worth Rs 3,200 crore in the last three years and out of the total amount, Rs 2,400 crore was injected in the last 24 months. An amount of Rs 290 crore was pumped in April this year.

"This brings the total investment in the airline since its inception to approximately Rs 6,500 crore," the airline said in a statement.

Further, Go First has received around Rs 1,000 crore from the government's Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS).

Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said Go First has been faced with critical supply chain issues with regard to their engines and that the government has been assisting the airline in every possible manner.

The issue has also been taken up with the stakeholders involved, he said, adding that it is unfortunate that this operational bottleneck has dealt a blow to the airline's financial position.

While domestic air traffic is soaring, Go First is grappling with turbulence due to engine supply woes while the once-stories Jet Airways is struggling to restart operations despite finding a bidder under the insolvency resolution process.

"It has come to our knowledge that the airline (Go First) has applied to the NCLT. It is prudent to wait for the judicial process to run its course," Scindia said.

More than 180 Go First flights will be out of the skies on Wednesday and Thursday. 'What next' is the question before the airline, stakeholders, authorities and passengers as the aviation space encounters another turbulent episode.

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