Indian carrier Jet Airways' two new routes – a daily Bengaluru-Amsterdam service and a five-times weekly Chennai-Paris service on 29 October – demonstrate two things: that it is serious about Europe, and is building ties with SkyTeam members.
Data from FlightMaps Analytics shows that Chennai will be the second Indian city with a connection to the French capital after Mumbai. Bengaluru will be the third Indian city to connect to Amsterdam after Delhi and Mumbai.
FlightGlobal schedules data shows that Jet will be the only operator on the two routes, on which it will use Airbus A330s.
Jet Airways' Route Network, May 2017
Jet's Bengaluru-Amsterdam flight is consistent with its plan to grow its Amsterdam services. In March last year, carrier chairman Naresh Goyal argued that "commercially it made more sense" to use the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines hub. As such, Jet transferred operations from Brussels to Amsterdam a month later.
"Schiphol is a gateway to Europe.... As an airline, we have a responsibility to our shareholders to make money," said Goyal at a launch event. "KLM's network is far bigger than most airlines in Europe." However, Brussels Airlines' network has been "reduced" since the Belgian airline began co-operating with Jet in 2007, he added.
Jet has arranged codeshare agreements with KLM for 30 European routes and with the SkyTeam carrier's partner, Delta Air Lines, for 11 transatlantic routes from Amsterdam Schiphol to North America.
Capstats, based on FlightGlobal schedules data, shows that when combined, Jet's Delhi and Mumbai services to Amsterdam generated a total of 1.1 billion ASKs, with over 164,000 seats, between March and December 2016.
However, there has been little improvement on the figures when comparing against Jet's previous Brussels base. Over the full year, Jet's seats provided and ASKs accounted for just over 200,000 seats and 1.4 billion ASKs per year from 2014 to 2016.
The figures will make a big jump when the daily Bengaluru-Amsterdam service kicks in.
On the Chennai-Paris route, Jet appears to be capitalising on demand to the French capital. Again, Capstats shows that over two years, the carrier doubled its ASKs from Mumbai, from 345.2 million to nearly 690 million. Similarly, the number of seats increased from over 49,000 to over 98,000 between 2014 and 2016.
This was helped by the upgauging to a Boeing 777-300ER from the Airbus A330-300s, as of October 2016. Jet attributed the aircraft change to "growing demand on this key sector”.
Chennai will be India's fourth connecting point to Paris after Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru.
As a whole, airlines have been adding more capacity on routes from India to Paris, growing capacity at an average of 16% from 2012 to 2016, according to Captstats. As of May 2014, the amount of ASKs stand at 2.6 billion – equivalent to full year 2014.
Of the three carriers that operate between Paris and Indian cities (Air France, Jet and Air India), the French airline still maintains dominance on the sector, with 155 flights a month. Jet and Air India, meanwhile, operate 61 services each.
FUTURE ALLIANCE MEMBERSHIP
Jet's attraction to the Skyteam hubs of Amsterdam and Paris could foreshadow its joining the alliance. If it does so, it will be the second Indian carrier to join a global alliance after Air India joined Star Alliance in June 2014.
Delta Air Lines will codeshare on the two new services, while KLM will put its code on the Bengaluru-Amsterdam route, and Air France on the Chennai-Paris route. Delta and KLM both signed codeshare pacts with Jet in December 2015. Air France has been Jet's codeshare partner since before the Delta and KLM agreements.
In an Economic Timesinterview, KLM chief executive Pieter Elbers says that it will be "a logical next step" for Jet to join the SkyTeam alliance – which the Dutch carrier and Delta are already part of.
Elbers adds that KLM and Jet are also set to deepen their co-operation with "20 domestic codeshares" that will soon be announced, which "have the opportunities to connect to Hyderabad and Kolkata".
He elaborates that "it's a good time now to review" the results of Jet's move to Amsterdam: "Has it been beneficial? What are the opportunities? What has gone well and what should get more attention? And looking at the numbers, we can only be satisfied so far."
Should Jet join an alliance, it would also be in the interest of equity partner Etihad Airways, which owns a 24% stake in the Indian carrier. Etihad owner Abu Dhabi appears to be growing impatient with the carrier's far-flung investments. Restructures are under way at several airlines in which it has invested, and James Hogan, the architect of Etihad's investment strategy, is to step down as group chief executive in the second half of 2017.
As Alitalia and Air Berlin continue their struggle to escape financial troubles, Jet has already returned to profit – and traffic flows between the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent make it a logical partnership.
"Our investments had an immediate impact on the revenue side, delivering hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenues and allowing us to fill our onward connecting flights," said Hogan at the Global Airfinance Conference in Dublin in January. "We also believed our minority investments would unlock an additional advantage that the global alliances were simply unable to use. We could work on joint procurement and other business synergies which would save us – and our partners – hundreds of millions of dollars."
With the apparent "green light" from Etihad already given, any alliance membership in the near future will not come as a surprise for Jet, which has been on a recent spree bolstering its partnerships. In February and March this year, the carrier signed for three codeshares with Fiji Airways, Hong Kong Airlines and Jetstar Asia. Earlier last month, Jet expanded its codeshare agreement with Virgin Atlantic Airways to include US flights operated by Virgin from its London Heathrow hub.
Source: Cirium Dashboard