Despite best efforts, it looks like MIAL (Mumbai International Airport Limited) may not be seeing the last of businessman Vijay Mallya’s uber luxe private jet that has been parked in one of the hangars since December 2013. The Airbus A319, priced at $89.6 million as of 2015, is fitted with furnishings to the tune of $90 million. And, that includes one full bedroom, a gilded bathroom, bar and even a board meeting space.
NO PLACE TO GO
In recent developments, Bombay HC directed the Official Liquidator of Karnataka HC to remove the controversial jet by February 26, while hearing the motion moved by MIAL seeking parking charges of about 3.5 crore for the same. Not only that, the bench hearing the submissions seemed to imply that the jet was an eye-sore. Justice Dharmadhikari reportedly said, “It does not augur well for India to display this private jet to international travellers. We are of the opinion that you must make all possible arrangements to remove this aircraft as expeditiously as possible.”
The Service Tax department has made three unsuccessful attempts to auction the confiscated Airbus 319 with the set reserve price of 152 crore. In the first attempt, a Dubai-based company had offered 1 crore, which was turned down and then there were slightly dubious claims of having won the bid by one G.S. Srivastava, Chairman of SGI Commex. Requests for a statement from his son Mehar Srivastava, additional director of the said company, went unanswered.
Taking into account the depreciation, since the aircraft was manufactured over a decade ago, and the financial investment needed to make the plane ‘air-worthy’ again, the rigid reserve price of 152 crore may have put off interested buyers. Rohit Kapur, president, Business Aircraft Operators Association (BAOA) agrees. He told us, “I’m not buying it (laughing), everything has takers at the right price. I think the banks have not been able to figure out the right price. It is an aircraft that has been sitting on ground for two to three years in the open, in an environment which supports corrosion. I don’t know if someone has done an evaluation of the jet to see how much it is actually worth.”
And that seems to be the popular opinion with Kanika Tekriwal of private plane aggregator Jet-SetGo vehemently shaking the thought of buying the plane when asked. “No! No! No way, I think it’s rotten and it’s going to die very soon. I also think it’s not priced correctly and is completely spoilt. It will take a lot of money to overhaul and fly it, probably a year of repair. So, I would rather buy something new than invest money in something like that.” Oh well, that’s one less buyer for the jet.
And according to Kapur, all that jazz just doesn’t cut it either, if the authorities really want to get their money’s worth from the plane. “Just to say that it’s an Airbus corporate jet which you can buy for $15 million is not right, for all you know that aircraft may be worth $5 million and it may take you another $30 million to put it back in the air. Everything has a buyer at the correct price. They need to get a professional evaluator and then need to put it out in the market, I don’t know if they’ve done that but unless you price it right, nobody is going to buy it.”