The Growing Jet Setter

Jet Airways has been a soaring success since it's first flight in 1993. Founder and Chairman, Mr. Naresh Goyal talks to Asian Enterprise about how he's only just started redefining the way people fly

In 14 short years, Jet Airways has quietly emerged as India's largest private domestic airline and has been acclaimed by frequent travellers as the most preferred carrier offering the highest quality of comfort, service, standards and reliability. The airline currently operates more than 355 daily flights and has a network connection of 55 domestic and international destinations.

 Mr. Naresh Goyal, founder and Chairman of Jet Airways, started creating his airline at a time when Air India and Indian Airlines were the country’s only domestic carriers. But after 37 years of experience in the aviation industry, he confidently manoeuvred his way through a seemingly impossible system to create an airline that for all intents and purposes has redefined the experience of flying for many Indians. That’s a lot of ground to cover in such a short period and Mr. Goyal has only just begun.

Jet Airways has recently embarked on a rapid international expansion plan and commenced its operations to North America. This is the beginning of a new chapter for India’s highly acclaimed airline. Using Brussels as its hub, Jet Airways will increase its international operations exponentially to other North American destinations. It also plans to expand its operations to other destinations in Europe, Africa and Asia in the near future.

“Jet Airways believes in continuously redefining and enhancing the customer experience,” Mr. Goyal comments. “This multi-million dollar investment in its international product reflects the same. Jet Airways’ vision is to emerge as amongst the top five carriers globally in the next few years.”

Mr. Goyal’s sky-high optimism is natural. After beginning commercial operations in May 1993, the new airline flew to 12 domestic destinations with four Boeing 737-300 aircraft leased from Ansett Worldwide Aviation.
Three years later Jet Airways was signing a purchase agreement with Boeing for the acquisition of 10 B737-400/800 aircraft becoming India’s first private airline to acquire its own fleet of new aircraft. In October 1998, Jet Airways became the first airline in Asia to fly the Next Generation Boeing 737-800 into the United States.

It was also the first to fly the Modern Generation, fuel-efficient Boeing 737-300 aircraft in Indian skies.

In 2006 Jet Airways set a new record in the history of Indian Civil Aviation by flying 36,406 passengers with a seat factor of 86 per cent. The fleet has an unbeatable record of on-time performance and provides world-class frequent flyer benefits to its passengers, through alliances with British Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Northwest Airlines, Lufthansa, Qantas, SN Brussels and other premier airlines. It caters to various points in India to Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide via Singapore as well as serving several European routes.

The company has also received the Boeing Company’s honour for consistently maintaining the highest technical dispatch reliability [TDR] in excess of 99 per cent for 2002 and 2003. In 2004-05, the airline achieved TDR of 99.4 per cent. The high degree of reliability enables air travellers to repose faith in Jet Airways to keep crucial appointments, as flights are rarely held up on account of technical snags.

“Using cutting-edge technology has been at the forefront of Jet Airways’ marketing and operations strategy,” emphasises Mr.Goyal.

However, it hasn’t always been smooth flying for Mr. Goyal and he had to invest a lot of hours in every department to make Jet Airways a model airline. As someone who doesn’t hesitate to lead by example, in the early years, Goyal even took up janitorial duties. "Even the pilot would clean the toilet to keep the aircraft clean," he says. "I had never cleaned a toilet in my life. I just would never do it, but I did at that time."

With a clear focus on high-quality, reliable service and aggressive marketing the airline has today managed to differentiate itself from competition. It is also constantly pitching for new routes to meet customer needs and demands and has recently been allocated traffic rights to operate on the India-Gulf routes, flying to Doha, Muscat, Kuwait and Bahrain.

As part of its international foray, the airline has introduced a new First Class product and service offering on its Boeing 777-300 ER’s, which features a customised suite, with over 26sq ft of usable space that will offer customers the ultimate in privacy and luxury. Each First Class suite includes dual sliding doors that create complete privacy and the world’s longest First Class bed at 83 inches. In fact, TravelBiz Monitor’s Award recently honoured Jet Airways for the “Most Innovative Product Launch“ for its First Class product on long-haul flights.

Other passenger perks include value-added services like the ‘JetMobile’, which sends out text alerts on flight status; ‘JetKids’ a programme to entertain younger flyers; ‘Jet Escapes’, travel packages covering the airline’s network and ‘JetBoutique’ which offers premium inflight shopping on international flights.

The frequent flyer program, ‘JetPrivilege’, has been the recipient of the prestigious Freddie Awards for three consecutive years, from 2005 onwards. The programme was made robust by offering various tie-ups with leading brands including international airlines, hotels and car rental facilities.

The airline also plans to refurbish its existing domestic Boeing 737 fleet to reflect progressive customer needs. The new cabin layout will offer more space and enhanced features, including a state-of-art inflight entertainment system from Panasonic.

The utmost importance given to cabin crew training and grooming has helped the airline to create a unique reputation for world-class service. Goyal says, “Human resources is my biggest issue. My biggest challenge is to train Indians to take over the most senior roles.”

He adds, “All over the world I would like Indians to take over the best jobs. If you have Indians in NASA, why can’t we make our airline the best in the world? It’s not rocket science.”

In 2006 it was this dedication to improve India’s prospects that led Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to present the first NDTV Profit Business Award to Jet Airways, which salutes the men and women who fuel India’s journey to the forefront of the world economy.

Mr. Goyal in his capacity as Chairman, Jet Airways has also won the first BML Munjal Award for Excellence in Learning & Development in the Private Sector category from the Honourable Minister for Civil Aviation, Shri Praful 2006. He also received the prestigious TATA AIG – Lifetime Achievement Award at the Abacus-TAFI Awards in 2007. And then there’s the ‘Travel Entrepreneur of the Year’ award at the TTG (Travel Trade Gazette) Travel Awards in 2007.

He was also the first Chairman of an Indian private airline to serve on the Board of Governors of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), from 2004-2006.

The future of Jet Airways couldn’t look more promising. With additional national and international routes in the pipeline, 10 new Boeing 777–300 ER’s have been ordered, of which eight have already been delivered, and the carrier has exercised the option for acquiring three more Boeing 777-300 ER’s and five Airbus 330-200’s. The airline is also leasing seven ATR 72–500’s between November 2007 and December 2008 and has signed a MOU with ATR for six turboprops for delivery during May 2009 to July 2010.

“We have been working on these plans for more than two years,” Mr.Goyal explains. “Having changed the way people fly in India, we will now take our very own brand of service, style and the spirit of new India, to the rest of the world”


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