Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Jet Airways shift to Full Service, how are the Jetlite flights being managed?

On 11th August in a joint press conference with Etihad, Naresh Goyal, Chairman of Jet Airways announced the shift to a Full service model. Vistara, the yet to fly full service carrier, a joint venture of Singapore airlines & TATA group and Air India, after its entry into Star Alliance was considered tough competition in the full service space.

The mixed model
As Kingfisher Airlines bought Air Deccan to have presence in growing Low cost segment, Jet Airways bought Air Sahara, then a full service carrier and converted it to Jetlite, a low cost arm of the parent. All the CRJ-200s were retired, the airline pulled out of few sectors and others were converted to ATR flights, which were operated by Jet Airways. Later, a new segment came up, flights which would be called Jet Konnect, which was low cost offering of the mainline. Many aircraft saw decals of “Konnect”, over Jet Airways titles on the fuselage and these were to operate on Tier-II routes. However, as expected, the aircraft flew all across leading to confusion in minds of passengers.

Soon there were rotations, where flights went from Origin to Destination as Full service and returned as Low Cost, carrying food to be given out in the first leg and on return, the crew would sell on board!

First Blink
What options did one have on the service front?
  • Aircraft – Jet Airways metal
    • Business Class & Economy Class Full service
    • Business Class & Economy Class – Buy on Board (BoB) in Konnect
  •           Aircraft – Jetlite (Ex- Air Sahara aircraft)
    •          Business Class & Economy Class – Buy on Board (BoB)Business

As this confusion started affecting the airline, first of many changes were made. This included having premium cabin being served complimentary food, across Jet Airways, Jet Airways Konnect & Jetlite.

The second change involved doing away with Jetlite and having two offerings, Jet Airways & Jet Airways Konnect. This also was confusing for the travelers, because the aircraft operating under Air Operators Permit (AOP) of Jetlite continue to have the light blue livery with Jetlite prominently written on the fuselage.

Just before the shift
Jet Airways was in news for planning to shift ATR fleet to Jetlite and also its plan to shift pilots creating road blocks, issues related to seniority and much more!

Thankfully, common sense prevailed and Jet Airways decided to make a move to Full service offering. The now defunct Kingfisher Airlines, had made a similar statement but it was too late in the survival cycle for them to invest, change and make the move. The airline shifted to what they called a holding pattern and later stopped operations, much before they could complete re-configuration of their aircraft and shift to a full service model.

Code share
With court cases, ruling out a merger between Jet & Jetlite, the airline resorted to code share, a common practice globally, but unique in this case since it is between the airline & its subsidiary. It involves each airline publish and market the flight under its own airline designator and flight number. Seat can be purchased on either of it but the flight is operated by only one, known as operating carrier.

The seat and revenue sharing could be done in multiple ways
  •        Set number of seats are given by the operating airline to its code share partner and the partner airline maintains a separate inventory and sells it. The operating airline gets a fixed cost for sold/ unsold seats

  •        No restriction on seats, where in both airlines open up all seats for sale. There could well be a cap on maximum seats sold under this arrangement

Code share between Jet Airways & Jetlite did have issues for the passengers, since until recently the passengers booked on 9W code with operating carrier being Jetlite were not able to do a web check-in!

Move to Full service
The move to full service on 1st December was a silent affair. An email to frequent fliers, statement on social media and the website jetkonnect.com directing users to jetairways.com was all that happened, along with meals being served on all flights, irrespective of which aircraft the flight was being flown on – Jet airways Boeing, Jetlite boeing or Jet Airways ATR.
However, due to legal disputes, the Jetlite AOP (S2 code) continues to be in operation and there are 4 x B737-700, 5 x B737-800 and 1 x B737-900 which are part of Jetlite AOP and remain in operation. Amongst them, they operate 564 flights a week. As part of this move to full service, the passenger would get complimentary food in these flights, but how is Jet Airways managing the Flight numbers, Inventory and trying to be seen as one airline ?

Complex or Simple – Code share to the rescue
Prima Facie, this is how Jet Airways seems to be managing the move. The airline had said it will throw more light on this before the move, but hardly did it give out the details of the move. The answer to how Jet Airways is managing two Air Operating Permits lies in Code Share.

Readers would recollect how an online booking engine would show flights under 9W code (9W 7xxx) and S2 code when they would search for flights on some sectors where both were operating (Eg: Mumbai – Bhopal – Mumbai or Delhi – Chandigarh – Delhi). The flight times would be same, but there would be marginal fare difference owing to how code share is handled).

After the move on 1st December, entire inventory will be managed by Jet airways code (9W 7xxx) and inventory for S2 code, the original flight number will be zeroed out. For operational reasons, the flight plan, ATC, would continue to consider the Jetlite aircraft as an aircraft operating with S2 code and S2 flight number.

A random search on online travel portals reflects these changes and now you can see only one entry for a particular flight, unlike two in the past.

Way forward
The airline has effectively used Code Share as a tool to make this one brand strategy work. However, the livery remains different for the Jetlite aircraft. They would either be moved (sub leased / leased / sold) to Jet Airways, like it happened with VT-JLJ, a B737-900 with Jetlite and now with Jet Airways or just see a chance in livery from existing light blue to mainline colors to further reduce confusion.

But in a country obsessed with food – the first cut has been made. “Jahaj kaunsa bhi honedo, khana jarur milega jee” (Let there be any aircraft, you will certainly get food)

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