Jet’s response was slow in coming. Probably too involved with the abortive Sahara acquisition. When they did, it was essentially gap filling:
1. In flight entertainment introduced in selected flights. I haven’t been on such a flight so no direct evidence. However, I’ve heard that its switched off the minute the landing announcement is made unlike KF where at least the audio channels continue even after landing!
2. premium treatment for the “super-platinum” customers. These are typically CXOs. jet treats them differently by marking them “MAAS” which stands for meet and assist. These people are met by an air hostess from the time they check-in to the time they enter the plane and then from the time dis-embarkation to time one leaves the terminal. These people engage you in a conversation while a porter carries your luggage.
3. The variety of food has increased in Jet’s first class.
So has jet’s response been inadequate? Or does its response say: I don’t care?
Kingfisher quickly ramped up its no of planes and routes. But the real innovative aspects were:
1. First Class
2. Cash frequent flyer advantage
3. King Club
The KF first class is really something. The experience starts from the time one enters the airport as the baggage is carried for you to the plane. The ride from the terminal to the plane is in a car or in a bus fitted with sofas instead of the usual coach. The seats are comfortable and adjustable. In addition to the being flatter compared to jet seats, the KF first seats have adjustable lumber support and foot support (though some of those haven’t worked for me many times!). A TV screen can be brought out but is a bit painful to handle. The service is excellent with more choice in the drinks and food. The presentation of the food is great. As far as food and drinks are concerned, its like being in a 5-star in the sky. The experience continues on landing with the special bus and the luggage being carried to your car.
Kingfisher also realised that Jet’s lead was essentially due to the corporate traveller who stuck with Jet because of the accumulated Jetmiles. Its attack on that aspect was fantastic. KF realised that most corporate travellers take the first flight out and are back the same day. So first they matched their flight times within 15 mins of Jet times. Second, they offered a thousand ruppees if one took a flight back the same day! Thus, one got cash of Rs 1,000 in hand instead of cashing the jetmiles later. It was of course controversial as the tickets were purchased by the company and the money collected by the employee. There were also tax issues. In the end, the scheme got dropped and a frequent flyer scheme introduced.
The frequent flyer scheme was also innovative. KF realised that the immediate benefit for most people was the ability to tele check-in and hence they lowered the entry barrier. At jet one needs 10 flights to be able to tele check-in while the king club allows one to do that in 3 flights. Another expected response which did come was to give a Gold card to anyone who had a Jet Gold/Platinum. This was done through the employers to get a good coverage.
Overall, aggressive launch followed up with aggressive ramp-up. Paints a picture of a new boxer punching the older and larger guy into the corner. So the next post on how Jet has responded.
I’ve been absent from blogging for some time. Picking up today from we left almost a month back.
Kingfisher came in when there was a lot of talk of low cost airlines. With “all economy” planes and fares lower than that of Jet, KF was clubbed into the Low cost category to begin with. But the clear promise was that of “an experience that even other airlines are going to talk about”.
And the experience was good: Planes were new, seats slightly wider, leg room slightly more. And all these counted as everything was benchmarked to pain-points of the leader: Jet. One also had in flight entertainment: 5 video channels and 10 audio ones. What also counted was the bright festive red colour compared to the conservative blue of jet. It did feel like being part of a more cheerful experience as the staff was very cheerful and friendly. Even the in-flight magazine was about fashion, parties and of course bollywood.
What I personally liked the best and made me take KF flights was its flexibility in check-in. Jet would not allow one in 30 mins before the flight even if one had a Gold Card. KF on the other hand took everyone even 15 mins before the flight!
After the first few flights, I remember thinking of Jet as a service provider with German efficiency. This was a lesson in many ways:
1. A great airline all of a sudden had a strong competitor which made it look in a bad light. “German efficiency” is not a great name recall!
2. The industry changed from airline industry to a service industry
3. The brand extension of king fisher was admirable
Jet Airways (9W) ruled the roost. Period. Shahara with its blatantly bad service and lack of punctuality was hardly a competition. State run Indian Airlines (IC) was really the second best. Almost all business travellers would travel on Jet Airways as first preference. The few I knew who preferred Indian Airlines prefeered it for its better food. having travelled on IC as my second preference, I would have to agree. IC scored over 9W in both taste and the variety of food. One aspect that many liked was serving of curd in all meals.
So 9W was effectively the de facto standard to which everything would be benchmarked. An airline that many would refer to as the best domestic airlines in the world! And these were people who had trevelled the world over!!
I fly both Jet and Kingfisher quite regularly and also have heard a lot from other frequent travelers. A conversation today at Chennai lounge reminded me that even many frequent travelers (he has a platinum on Jet), do not have a good understanding of the pros and cons of the two airlines. So here is my lame attempt in the genre of serial posts. Here is how it looks right now:
1: State of business air travel: pre Kingfisher
2: Kingfisher: A blast of fresh air
3. Kingfisher: The Rampup
4. Jet: The response
5. Jet vs Kingfisher: Does Jet need to fear Kingfisher?