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Why Tatas Did Not Bid For Jet Airways?

Tata Sons’ bid for debt-laden national carrier Air India has much to do with its legacy, mostly linked to the group’s patriarch JRD Tata, than just being a business decision. But why did Tatas turn a Nelsons’ eye to Jet Airways, another beleaguered carrier which got all approvals overnight by the Civil Aviation to start operations from January 2022? That’s one topic on which many articles and books have been written on over the years. Even the movie Udaan (Soorarai Pottru in Tamil) had a passing reference. The story goes, in 1997, the then civil aviation minister CM Ibrahim scuttled Tata group’s plan to start an airline jointly with Singapore Airlines (SIA). This was allegedly to support Naresh Goyal’s Jet Airways. The blocking of its application by the minister surprised Ratan Tata as he was about to close the deal with SIA. Perhaps, that bitter experience may have kept the Tatas from bidding for Jet Airways, insiders say. The group already holds stakes in two carriers – 83.67% in AirAsia India and 51% in Tata SIA Airlines (operating as Vistara) – and the acquisition of Air India will help the group to dominate the skies. The group pioneered India’s aviation with Tata Air Service in 1932 which became Air India in 1953 after it was nationalised. If Tatas win Air India then the wheel would have come full circle.