SpiceJet plane forced to divert, seized by lessors in Dubai

Aircraft was leased by Carlyle Aviation; airline faces claims from multiple lessors

December 06, 2023 09:02 pm | Updated 09:39 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Representational file image.

Representational file image. | Photo Credit: PTI

In a dramatic series of events, a SpiceJet flight carrying passengers from Ahmedabad to Dubai was diverted minutes before landing, and seized by a lessor on November 30.

SpiceJet’s SG 15 took off from Ahmedabad at 12.12 a.m. on November 30 and was airborne for three hours, when approximately 10 minutes away from its destination, Dubai International Airport, it was instructed to divert to Dubai’s second and less-busy airport, Al Maktoum International, also known as Dubai World Central (DWC). Once the aircraft landed, it was greeted by lessors who waited for passengers to deplane and seized the aircraft.

The Boeing 737 NG aircraft was leased from Carlyle Aviation Partners in December 2018. The aircraft has since been grounded, according to information from flight tracking website flightradar24.com. A message to an official of Carlyle Aviation Partners, which has a 7.5% stake in SpiceJet after its dues worth $100 million were converted into equity in February, didn’t elicit a response. But industry sources said that an engine lessor obtained a court order to get the aircraft grounded to remove the engines.

An official spokesperson of SpiceJet said in response to a query, “The aircraft was diverted to DWC based on an ex-parte order.” To a question on what attempts the airline will make to retrieve the aircraft, the spokesperson said, “Currently, there is no restriction on bringing the aircraft back to India.”

The airline has seen its fleet size deplete as lessors have moved to deregister and procure their aircraft over pending dues. From a fleet size of 76 aircraft in April 2019, the airline was down to 65 aircraft in April 2023. The fleet is now further down to 55 aircraft. Of these, too, as many as 27 are grounded due to various reasons, including the airline’s inability to repair and maintain them.

Since May, multiple lessors have approached the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) seeking insolvency resolution proceedings against SpiceJet, including Aircastle, Celestial Aviation, Wilmington Trust, and Willis Lease Finance Corporation, over pending dues. The NCLT recently dismissed Willis Lease Finance’s plea on the ground that it was not an actual lessor but the servicer and administrative agent on behalf of actual lessors. 

In September, the Supreme Court had threatened to send chairman and managing director of SpiceJet Ajay Singh to Tihar Jail over delay in payment of $1.5 million to Credit Suisse, as part of a legal dispute since 2015 over the bank’s claim of unpaid dues of around $24 million.

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