India's Jet Airways quarterly losses narrow

India's second-biggest private airline Jet Airways has reported its quarterly loss narrowed by 86 percent from a year ago as it benefited from troubles roiling rival Kingfisher Airlines.

Jet announced late Friday a net loss of 997 million rupees ($18.5 million) in the second quarter, down sharply from a 7.13-billion rupees loss posted in the same period a year earlier, as operating income surged.

The results surprised aviation analysts who expected the airline to post a 2.6-billion rupee loss for the three months to September.

"An improvement in yields has helped the group to post an operating profit," Jet chief executive Nikos Kardassis said.

But he added an industry wide "slowdown in passenger traffic due to a weakened economic scenario and high fuel prices" pushed the carrier into the red.

The airline owned by Indian tycoon Naresh Goyal -- a former travel agent -- posted its first profit in 18 months in the April-to-June quarter.

Jet is among the carriers which have gained passengers from cash-strapped Kingfisher Airlines owned by liquor baron Vijay Mallya that until last year was India's second-largest airline but now is its smallest.

The airline industry's regulator last month suspended debt-laden Kingfisher's licence until it came up with a "viable" revival plan.

Jet's income from operations climbed 20 percent year-on-year to 37.5 billion rupees while overall revenues jumped 25 percent to 41.37 billion rupees.

Sale and leaseback of aircraft and scrapping money-losing routes helped buttress performance, the carrier said.

Jet is the second-biggest private airline in India by the number of passengers carried with a near 24 percent share of the market.

All of India's airlines barring two -- low-cost IndiGo and SpiceJet -- are losing money and struggling to cope with heavy debt, intense competition and hefty fuel prices.

The government recently cleared a $5.75-billion bailout package for state-run Air India, which has debts of $8.3 billion.

Declining passenger numbers are another problem facing India's once vibrant aviation sector. The number of passengers flying shrank by one percent between January and September, according to aviation regulatory data.

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