Naresh Goyal-led Jet Airways has laid down an ambitious expansion plan for its global operations that would see the airline connect 23 Indian cities to Abu Dhabi. The airline plans to use Abu Dhabi as a hub for launching flights to North America, West Asia and North Africa.
The airline has sought an extra 42,000 seats-a-week to Abu Dhabi in addition to the 4,500 it is currently allowed to operate. All Indian carriers combined have an entitlement of 13,300 seats per week to Abu Dhabi and the two countries are likely to meet next week to renegotiate the bilateral seat entitlements.
While Jet’s plan to connect close to two dozen destinations in India with a single country may be unprecedented, sources said the airline had done a detailed study before coming up with the proposal and the Gulf route was considered “recession proof” for Indian carriers.
International operations contribute around 55% of Jet's overall revenues. According to industry experts, Indian carriers should control at least 50% of the international traffic to and from India like most European and Gulf carriers do from their respective countries. At present, Indian airlines have a 20%-odd share of international traffic.
Jet plans to replicate its "Brussels-model" in Abu Dhabi and aggressively use the fifth freedom rights that Indian carriers are entitled to. Fifth freedom rights means picking up traffic from an outside point and discharging it at another outside point.
Brussels is used as a hub by Jet for flights from Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai to Toronto, Newark and New York. The Brussels-model worked well for Jet as the three flights would arrive at around the same time giving passengers the chance to change flights to their desired destinations. So, if a passenger wanted to travel from Delhi to New York he could change the flight at Brussels for which bookings would be done from Delhi itself. The Chennai flight has been discontinued now.
The airline plans to start daily services to Abu Dhabi from the smaller Indian cities and operate multiple flights from metros and southern Indian cities.
Abu Dhabi would be used as a cross-connecting gateway from where Jet would operate flights to Iraq, Iran, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Istanbul. These places are all within 4-hour range from Abu Dhabi and the airline plans to deploy narrow body planes on these routes. For connections to North America, Jet would deploy bigger jets.
The airline plans to use services of its code share partner Etihad to transfer passengers who wish to travel to places including Najaf in Iraq. Etihad is in talks to acquire a 24% stake in Jet Airways.
Indian private airport operators have expressed concern over the proposal, saying the move would make the West Asian city a hub for flights from India.The Airports Authority of India has backed the move.
Jet has assured that it would continue to use home hubs to connect Europe and Far East destinations, sources told HT.
The airline has 43 Boeing 737s in the pipeline, 5 long-haul B 777s and 10 Dreamliners for delivery and has the option of taking deliveries of five long-haul A330s, so getting aircraft for the additional routes won't be a problem.