Earlier this year, before we heard of Jet Airways’ troubles, I wrote about why I was giving a big chunk of my flying business to Jet Airways. In light of Jet Airways progressive cutbacks over the months due to their financial situation, such as:
- Jet Airways cuts meals for Deal and Light passengers
- Jet Airways passengers denied Lounge Access in Mumbai Airport
- Jet Airways meal cutbacks start
- Jet Airways lounge access withdrawal for Gold & Platinum Members w.e.f December 1
I went back to my checklist to assess if this impacted my choice of Jet Airways as a carrier. The answer largely came back as a no. Let’s see what changed and what is still the same. I think a vast amount of my preference for Jet Airways comes from JetPrivilege, and unless they end up killing the golden goose that lays the egg, this should be a condition I’d continue in, subject to tickets being priced at par across carriers.
For those of you who know, Terminal 2 is any day the better terminal to fly from as compared to Terminal 1 in Mumbai. A similar thing can be said for Terminal 3 in Delhi over Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. As this city pair is one of my most frequented routes, I would rather have a great experience at the airport, getting some work done before takeoff rather than sit in a massive crowd if I can help it.
Jet Airways has cut down on lounge access for all Jet Privilege Platinum members flying economy, but I still have the TFS Lounge, which is managed by the same guys, the GVK Lounge which is perhaps going to provide lounge access to JetPrivilege Platinum members against a fee or a Priority Pass or a Credit Card (soft policy since over a year). Also, I am hoping when the new Mumbai Terminal 2 American Express Lounge opens up, my Jet Airways American Express credit card will give access to it too, just like the Delhi Amex Lounge.
Not paying extra for baggage
Although I do not travel with check-in bags on my work trips, I do so on my pleasure trips for sure. With Jet Airways this Diwali, my relationship came handy because I was able to carry 30 kgs per person as a benefit of my Platinum tier as compared to the 15 kgs that a no-frills carrier would offer me. With a co-branded card itself, one can get excess baggage allowance as well.
Not paying extra for meals
Do you need to eat on planes? Sometimes the answer is yes. Eating on planes is not just entertainment but something business travel necessities. I have eaten breakfast all my working life on my desk, which means I need to eat, for instance at 9:30 AM. So, if I am on a plane, that means I need to eat. Jet Airways’ meals have gone down quality and quantity I understand. So I try and eat at the lounge beforehand.
Now that they’ve cut down on the Lounge Access, I hope they find some of that money to pour back into meals so that they don’t provide those lame box meals which are 50% empty and soggy on most flights.
Jet Airways can’t have both, bad meals and no lounge. Their frequent fliers will walk. I’ve heard reports of people getting better food over the past few days, but it is all anecdotal data as of now. If you have a comment, put it in the comment’s section.
Frequent flyer programs are still a large part of the consideration for business travellers, and also for leisure travellers to an extent. I look at value derived from a flight towards the cost of a future trip to be a part of the equation as well. So, every time I fly a full-service carrier, I can also earn miles which can help me allocate towards the next vacation or last-minute flight of mine.
In my assessment, as of now, Jet Airways’ JPMiles programme is safe and insulated from any of this damage. But if they end up changing the award chart for redemptions at this point of time (a devaluation) or run into a situation where redemptions are not easy to make, this would be a red flag for me since they are undermining public confidence where they can afford to hold their fort. Also, JP got a substantial advance from Etihad towards mileage seats, so JetPrivilege is flush with cash for now.
Network of Choice
It helps that Jet Airways flies all over the place to destinations I need to go to. Be it Mumbai-Delhi roundtrips to get home, frequent trips for work to the Middle-East, South East Asia, and Europe or inside India. It helps that Jet Airways has a network I need to go places. Additionally, they have tie-ups with airlines abroad which help me as well.
For instance, I have connected seamlessly at Abu Dhabi using Etihad Airways’ Partnership on my way to New York last year, and on the way back, connected in Amsterdam from Delta, all on the same ticket! The cutback of a lot of flights on the international segments does affect other people, but they are the king in the Mumbai market as of now. Disclosure here, it is not like I fly them exclusively. I’ve flown KLM, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, British Airways, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and many other carriers this year.
Moreover, there is an apparent reason to work with Jet Airways here. They have invested in a full-blown in-flight entertainment system which streams to all passengers using their phones and pads. No more the trouble of guessing if your flight has an IFE or not. Just plug in your headphones, and you are a go!
Nevermind that Jet Airways is not a member of a global alliance so far, their tie-up with Etihad Airways and KLM/Air France/Delta ensures I can earn miles across the various versions of global travel I hop through. Last year, I was able to get a free upgrade to Economy Comfort+ on Delta between New York and Amsterdam, and of course, I can get benefits across the Etihad network as well for being a Jet Airways Platinum. Earning miles on over 20 international airlines is just one of them.
Free Changes & Cancellations
Okay, I will not make this much longer. Travel plans change all the time. And when they do, you need to suck up and cancel. Alternatively, reschedule. I love Jet Airways for free cancellation within 24 hours. You get your entire money back, except the minor convenience fees. Can’t tell you how much it helps business travellers like me. I have used the benefit at least ten times in 2017 and maybe 5-6 times this year, for the simple reason that things changed by the hour. Saved huge money on the back of this everytime I got a call about a change of plans.
Not just that, as a Platinum member, I can cancel or reschedule my directly booked flights with Jet Airways for no extra money. This is one of the key reasons I have sometimes done runs to keep my JetPrivilege Platinum tier, and I have had it for more than five years running now!
What will change this for me?
A few things have to go really bad if this will change for me. Here are my red marks:
- Anything where Jet Airways / JetPrivilege can afford to keep the benefit but take it away. Such as Priority Check-in, Priority Boarding, Upgrade Vouchers. Jet Airways has already put the vouchers behind Cash upgrades in the queue, so these are the last ones to clear at the airport.
- The Award Chart and availability. Ideally, even if for business constraints Jet Airways needs to change something here, they should give us the longest timeline to be able to work with the old chart. Here, it should be many months ahead and not just one, given the crisis they are in and every negative move they do is destroying confidence.
Let us also hope that Jet Airways is not just believing in taking away right now and not giving to people later. Jet Airways really needs to build more moats such as a lifetime loyalty status to keep their frequent fliers hooked on to the program. Otherwise, it is all transactional from Jet Airways’ end and the loyalty is only expected from the users of their services.
With IndiGo reiterating that the only thing that matters is your pocket and your willingness to pay to them, and I don’t hold it against them, the question comes back to why should I stay loyal to an airline. I’m not a blind fanboy, and at least as of now, it just seems that when you add up everything, I’ll stick with Jet Airways along with a side of Vistara over being nickeled and dimed every third step of the purchase process by a no-frills carrier.
Remember, this is the view of a guy who takes about 50 domestic flights a year and is not going to be the thought process of a leisure traveller.
How do you go about picking your flights? Is it just the money or do you take the whole picture into account?
How has your travel business allocation changed over the months as we have heard more and more about Jet Airways and other airlines being in a terrible financial situation?