Independent Indian carrier Jet Airways has recently deepened its relationship with United Arab Emirates (UAE) national Etihad Airways, a deal that many informed industry sources believe is a pre-cursor to an eventual equity alliance in the short-term. Many Indian news sources have reported over the past month about discussions over Etihad Airways becoming the first international airline to invest in the local market following the Indian government’s momentous decision last year to permit foreign companies to buy up to a 49 per cent equity stake in Indian carriers. Both Jet Airways and Etihad Airways refuse to comment on the speculation although it is understood that a formal decision on any future agreement could be just a matter of weeks away, with it widely believed the Gulf carrier holds the higher ground in the discussions.
The recent deal between Jet Airways and Etihad Airways has seen the Indian carrier sell the three slot pairs it utilises at London Heathrow for its double daily Mumbai route and daily New Delhi service to Etihad for $70 million. The UAE carrier will lease these back to Jet Airways for the forseeable future. This arrangement could form part of a revised long-haul strategy at Jet Airways and could suggest the carrier is considering modifying its activities in the UK market and perhaps in the future serving London via Etihad’s expanding hub at Abu Dhabi International Airport. The London routes are flown using Boeing 777-300ERs, an aircraft type that Jet Airways is reported to be considering reducing, with a deal to lease three of its ten aircraft to Turkish Airlines (THY) on the cards.
London is actually Jet Airways’ secondary European market. Its prime network point is the Belgian capital Brussels, which acts as a regional hub with its flights from Mumbai and New Delhi connecting on to the North American markets of New York and Toronto. In the past couple of weeks Jet Airways has upguaged capacity on the Delhi – Brussels – Toronto route switching from an Airbus A330-200 to one of its brand new A330-300s to meet growing passenger demand. This represents a 33.2% increase in capacity with an additional 73 seats on each sector. The A330-300 is configured with 293 seats including its new Première cabin with space for 34 passengers.
Speaking ahead of Routes Asia about the aircraft deployment plan, Sudheer Raghavan, Chief Commercial Officer, Jet Airways, said: “We are happy to deploy a bigger and better, state-of-the-art aircraft with additional capacity on the popular Delhi – Brussels - Toronto sector which has seen a steady growth in traffic, be it tourist or business travelers. Not only have we continually strived to transform the in-flight experience for our guests, but have also endeavored to set industry benchmarks in comfort, safety, security and convenience.
“The new aircraft offers the latest in state-of-the-art cabin products like the new seat belts incorporating an air bag for guest safety. All these advanced features bear testimony to Jet Airways’ commitment to offer its guests an enriching in-flight experience, while delivering excellence in service quality through constant product innovation,” he added.