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Web exclusive: Jet Airways expands eastwards

13 Feb 2008 by Mark Caswell

Last year was a notable one for Jet Airways, the private Indian airline. It established a European hub in Brussels, launched transatlantic flights, boosted its London services with new Airbus A330-200 and B777-300ER aircraft, and introduced some of the best premium products aloft.

But this year sees Jet concentrate on expansion to the East, with more opportunities for passengers booking its flights to Asia and across the Pacific to the US.

Raja Segran, the carrier’s newly appointed vice-president for Europe and the Americas, told Business Traveller that his airline “will inaugurate a new service to Shanghai and San Francisco this May. We have traffic rights to carry passengers both between Mumbai and Shanghai, as well as Mumbai to San Francisco and Shanghai to San Francisco”. 

The move will enable Jet to tap the fast-growing market in mainland China. It will be the first transpacific flight by any Indian airline.

Closer to home, Segran says: “Flights to Asia have been expanded by upgrading the existing Singapore route from Mumbai and Delhi from a B737 [a smaller short-haul aircraft], to the larger A330-200 [a medium to long-haul plane]. By May and June we will have launched two new routes to Hong Kong from both Mumbai and Delhi.” Flight schedules will be published soon.

With all these developments (Jet also serves Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur), might Jet be looking to better co-ordinate its schedules so that European travellers would be able to make connections at Mumbai and Delhi for destinations in South East Asia?

“It’s a little premature to suggest this,” replies Segran. “Our infrastructure isn’t as good as it could be. It’s not just a question of the terminals; it’s also to do with runway and ATC (air traffic control) capacity. Another fact is that our flights on these routes are already busy [so Jet has no need to woo extra passengers]. Nevertheless, we can’t run away from the fact that these developments could happen over time.”

There are also no plans to serve Australia. Segran says: “We rely on feeding passengers to the Qantas network at Singapore [from where Qantas serves numerous cities Down Under] rather than flying there ourselves.”

Here in Europe, Jet indicates it would like to move from London Heathrow’s T3, to T4 (currently used by British Airways, but soon to become the home of the Skyteam alliance), to take advantage of better lounge facilities for its passengers. But don’t read too much into this and assume Jet is certain to join Skyteam. Segran says: “We are currently non-aligned and are keeping our alliance options open.”

But most of Jet’s European flights operate not from London, but from its mini-hub at Brussels. This came into operation last year and enables Jet not only to connect passengers with India, the US and Canada, but serve the UK regions and mainland Europe as well, thanks to a marketing tie-up between Jet and Brussels Airlines.

Segran says: “In an ideal world we would love to serve many major European cities, but we simply don’t have enough planes to do so. Our Brussels hub enables us to cover over 50 destinations with relatively few planes.”

What happens in Brussels is that three Jet Airways flights from Mumbai, Delhi and Madras all arrive early in the morning. Within a couple of hours, all three planes continue to New York JFK, New York Newark and Toronto. During that time passengers either remain booked to their original destinations or switch services, and those with connections in Europe will transfer to Brussels Airlines.

Segran says: “Brussels acts as a complexing airport for us. No sooner have the first three westbound services departed, than our three overnight flights from North America arrive and passengers are switched to Mumbai, Delhi or Madras.” Business is good (Jet claims a load factor of 70 to 80 per cent during December and January) and premium transit passengers have use of a large lounge with shower facilities.

The quality of Jet’s Indian catering for its flights out of London has been widely praised for its authenticity. That’s because it sources its in-flight food from London’s popular Bombay Brasserie restaurant. But there’s no similar restaurant in Brussels from which Jet can source Indian cuisine for its six flights a day.

So it’s typical of Jet’s high standards and attention to detail that it’s opted to obtain its Indian catering from the Bombay Brasserie here in London, from where it’s trucked all the way to Brussels airport. How many other airlines would take the trouble?

For more information visit jetairways.com.

Report by Alex McWhirter

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