As he prepares to revive Jet Airways, CEO, Sanjiv Kapoor has lots on his plate. This includes nailing the product details, finalising the routes, deciding the flight slots and frequencies, choosing the reservation system, augmenting the fleet strength, recruiting talent and ensuring they are well trained.
Hence, he would rather focus on the opportunities ahead than the issues the newly revived company left behind in 2019. And he believes India's aviation sector offers that plenty.
Envisaging Jet Airways 2.0 as a 'smart' full-service carrier, he aims to build a rejuvenated, people-oriented airline that pays more than lip service to the term 'digital'.
For now, he tells Outlook Business that he is completely focused on the final bout of negotiations with lessors and OEMs for new aircraft to bolster the airline's existing fleet of 11 planes. He believes this is amongst the most critical decisions an aviation company can take and one that can't be rushed.
Here are edited excerpts:
As it re-enters the aviation industry after three years, what are some challenges facing Jet Airways?
India is one of the world's largest aviation markets today. Yet, in terms of air travel, it is the lowest penetrated country among BRIC nations, with air trips per capita being one-fifth that of China. The country's domestic traffic recovery is expected to 2019 levels this year and to double pre-pandemic levels by the end of this decade.
There is a large base of Jet Airways' loyal customers that are counting the days for the airline to revive, as well as a large talent pool that want to be part of the revival. We believe there are great opportunities for new airlines in the sector. There's definitely a white space available for an airline that not just differentiates, but also finds new ways to delight and win customers.
Having said that, we are also mindful of the challenges. Due to internal and external factors, it has been challenging for airlines to make money in India.
For example, India continues to have the highest prices of Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) and the highest taxes, too. We know the Aviation Ministry has been actively studying and working to bring ATF under the GST regime to reduce the tax burden.
Measures like this will help airlines in a big way to manage costs and keep fares in control. We are hopeful that the Ministry's consultative approach to bringing about changes and addressing the industry's challenges will allow all airlines their fair share of opportunities.
What is Jet Airways 2.0 plan to compete with the growing competition from existing and upcoming players?
We will be a 'smart' full-service carrier with a two-class cabin configuration. This will include a business class cabin designed to global standards and an evolved economy class that offers digital-age customers what they value most.
Our vision is to build the most people-focused and customer-friendly airline that is in tune with the demands of the digital age. We are determined to pay more than lip service to the term 'digital', and to ensure we take care of all stakeholders' basic needs and pain points consistently and reliably using a combination of humans and technology working in sync.
There are certain expectations from the Jet Airways brand, and we not only intend to live up to those but, in fact, do better without compromising on the warmth, commitment to excellence in customer service, and sheer class that defines the brand. We believe that with a culture based on mutual respect and following the golden principle of 'do onto others as you would have them do onto you, or simply "put yourself in the customers' shoes", we can achieve great things.
How many aircraft does Jet Airways currently have in its new fleet?
Jet Airways has a fleet of 11 owned aircraft. These aircraft may or may not be deployed for commercial operations. We are in final negotiations with lessors and OEMs for new aircraft, and we will announce our aircraft choice and fleet plan once we have made a decision. This is one of the most critical decisions made by airlines and is not one that is rushed.
May 2022 saw an average of 2783 departures per day in India, which is 77% of the approved summer schedule. How will Jet Airways leverage the slots for the remaining 23%, which routes will it focus on, and what will the periodicity be?
We will share our network strategy and plan in due course of time.
In the mid-2000s' more than half of Jet Airways' capacity by available seat kilometres was on international routes, which helped it gain scale. How will the amended 5x20 rule help it recoup lost business?
The Government amended the 5/20 rule in 2016 to remove the waiting period of five years. The regulations now only require airlines to operate a fleet of at least 20 aircraft on domestic routes before going international. In many ways, this is a fresh start for Jet Airways, and we certainly intend to fly on international routes when we become eligible.
In its earlier avatar, Jet Airways was the preferred codeshare or interline partner with many international airlines flying to India. How will it rebuild these partnership arrangements and help global airline companies reach smaller cities in India?
Jet Airways' codeshare and interline partnerships with other carriers are not active anymore. We will reactivate and/or eventually enter into new alliances at an appropriate stage. For now, we are focused on restarting commercial operations in the next quarter of this calendar year (July-September 2022).
While leisure passengers currently constitute the majority of domestic flights, their overall financial contributions in net marginal terms are negligible. How is Jet Airways building a pool of profit-generating long-haul passengers who yield higher revenues?
We will share our customer segmentation and pricing strategy in due course of time.
Are you worried about the lack of experienced pilots and other skilled aviation professionals and retention since Jet Airways had to let go of all its employees in 2019?
At present, we are more than 200 of us at Jet Airways. Of this, more than two-thirds are former Jet Airways staff. We will soon begin recruiting for operational roles (crew, engineers, technicians, etc.).
Many aviation companies talk about sustainability without demonstrating action. How is Jet Airways creating a planet-positive approach that will attract a growing share of business and leisure travellers, fresh capital and talent, and new allies across the industry?
When we say Jet Airways will be an airline updated for the Digital Age, the core idea stems from how we imagine ourselves now and in the future. Sustainability is one of the most important aspects of today's digital world. For us, it is not just a matter of using the most fuel-efficient aircraft or finding new ways to reduce fuel burn and carbon emissions. That's a given in today's time.
Sustainability will be core to the decisions we make – big or small. That includes, but is not limited to, the choice of aircraft we make, the products, systems and processes we set up, what and how we serve our guests, and our everyday actions and operations.