In a sense, Jet Airways is the longest surviving airline in the country, if Air India is discounted off. For once, Air India should have been consigned to history books a lot earlier but for the sustained Government support. After the initial euphoria of the Indian skies opening up that saw a host of upmarket and luxurious service carriers like East West, Modiluft and Damania that provided much relief to fliers, fed up with Air India ( or Indian Airlines as it’s domestic avatar was earlier known as) died down, Jet Airways provided stable and great flying experience. It brought swanky new fleet of Boeing 737 class of aircrafts , introduced world class inflight hospitality through a smart and courteous crew, maintained on time performance and served delectable cuisine. It spread its network far and wide, started international flights, took over Sahara and seemed to have everything going for it. Of course Air Deccan had introduced the concept of low cost flying to Indians, which was making flying a mass experience from a class experience. What started as a revolutionary new concept was actually capitalised by Indigo that laid down new standards of on time performance, efficient boarding and de-boarding, besides offering competitive fares. Soon Indigo was to take the crown of the biggest airline in the country by market share, though it was not apparent that it was also ringing death knell for Jet. Not that Jet did not try- it had its own variants of low cost flying options in the form of Jetlite and Jet Konnect. It started showing losses intermittently, but that was surely not a cause for concern because rising costs of ATF, airport duties and pressure of competition on fares resulted in almost all airlines reporting losses during a particular quarter. What was, however, apparent all through that Jet’s service deteriorated, food quality worsened, punctuality suffered and market share diminished. Etihad appeared to have come as a saviour, but the rescue was half hearted as Jet started faltering on payment of salaries to staff, lease rentals to lessors and ATF dues to fuel suppliers.
What caused the country’s best and most respected and preferred airline to rot into quagmire that it finds itself today? I am sure it’s going to be a very interesting case study, but at what cost? Can Naresh Goyal make sacrifice and step down, an action that Tatas want? Or can he cede control to Etihad? Can bankers and Government rescue the airline from doom? Can the country’s once best airline be saved from being consigned to history and becoming a case study of one of the most famous debacles?