| Goyal: Sky’s the limit
Mumbai, May 5: At a time when some global aviation giants are in a tailspin and others are nose-diving into bankruptcy shelters, Jet Airways is ready to take off with a scheme that cuts fares to levels that will lure more first-time fliers and leave its rivals fluttering.
The carrier’s Tenth Anniversary was celebrated today with announcements of a fleet expansion that will see the latest Boeing 737-900 planes flying into its hangars.
The Super Apex Fares, as the bargain-basement tariffs have been dubbed, will be announced over the next couple of days, but will come into effect from June 16.
Speaking on the sidelines of the anniversary bash for Jet employees, company chairman Naresh Goyal said the airline hopes to attract a new segment of travellers to opt for air travel with a price that is pegged below the existing fares. “The new strategy is aimed at optimising the utilisation of our capacity,” he added.
The last two years have been very tough for the industry, but Goyal said his airline has weathered the storm pretty well.
Jet had announced apex fares in response to similar schemes unleashed by its price-warrior adversaries. “The string of apex schemes announced last year created a market by itself or else we would have gone down by 8-9 per cent,” he said, adding the fares were aimed at new customers who travel by road and rail. The move is expected to generate additional revenues, without diluting the unique selling proposition.
Indian Airlines, Jet’s principal rival, was caught off guard by the move, but put on a brave face by saying it already has special schemes to encourage flying.
Goyal used the occasion to spell out his ambition of taking his airline global. “I hope the civil aviation ministry would allow our airline to operate flights to foreign destinations.” Currently, the domestic aviation sector in the country is utilising only 32-33 per cent of its bilateral rights. “We are also an Indian airline,” he said in remarks that betrayed a sense of alienation.
Incidentally, these ten years has seen the fledgling airline from the private sector carving up around 48 per cent market share in the domestic airline industry, where its main competitors are the government-owned Indian Airlines and Sahara Airlines.
Admitting the last year was one of the worst, Goyal said: “Whatever happens in the rest of the world also affects us. Earnings were down considerably for the year 2002-03.” He blamed the spate of travel advisories, the SARS threat, the lingering global downturn, and rising fuel prices for the turbulence faced by Indian carriers. “Still, Jet has been able to maintain its earnings,” he said.
A representative of the Boeing company presented Goyal a memento lauding his airline for notching up the highest technical despatch reliability of 99 per cent in 2002.
Noted lyricist Javed Akhtar, a director of the airline, talked about the difficulties the airline faced during its ten years in the industry. “Kahin yeh saheb se, kabhi who sahib se,” he said in a tongue-in-cheek remark about the travails faced with bureaucracy.
The Jet employees did not miss the pun with the airline embroiled in a recent controversy involving Sahib Singh Verma, the labour minister in the ruling NDA government. Later, Goyal said he would stand by his employees, who he described were “like my family”.