One Year On – Remembering Jet Airways

Today, 17th April marks one year since the collapse of Jet Airways. The airline suspended all operations this time last year and has since gone into bankruptcy proceedings. But what is the story of Jet Airways, how did it rise and fall, and where will it go from here?

Jet Airways
Jet Airways remains India’s only privately-owned, long-haul airline. Photo: Uday Bararia via Wikimedia Commons

An action-packed history

Jet Airways was founded by Naresh Goyal, a travel industry veteran who’d worked for many airlines before starting his own. Jet Airways commenced operations in 1993, focusing on offering high-quality service to its passengers in a bid to separate itself from the competition. This philosophy paid off in the long-run, with business passengers remaining loyal to Jet Airways until the very end, as evidenced by its 200,000 Platinum members.

Jet Airways 737-700
Jet Airways began operations in 1993 with four 737s. Photo: via Wikimedia Commons

Jet continued to grow over the years, acquiring Air Sahara in 2007 to remain competitive with newer low-cost carriers at the time. In 2010, Jet Airways became the country’s largest carrier by passenger volume, completing its rise to the top. At this time, Jet had become a significant international airline, flying to prominent airports around the world and making a name for itself. The airline even flirted with joining the Star Alliance, a deal that never went through.

The 2010s, Jet’s critical time

The real game-changer came for Jet Airways in 2013 when Etihad agreed to buy 24% of the airline for $379 million. This investment marked the first direct foreign investment in any airline and came at an opportune time for Jet. The carrier faced two significant issues with its domestic and international businesses. Domestically, Jet faced competition from new low-cost airlines such as IndiGo and SpiceJet and was fast losing market share. Internationally, the ME3, who have since dominated the market, were eating into Jet’s highly-profitable European routes. The deal with Etihad gave Jet the capital to fight domestically while partially protecting its international business.

Etihad Airways, Stored Aircraft, Maintenance
Etihad’s investment was meant to prop up Jet Airways and allow it to compete. Photo: Etihad Airways

However, the deal did not prove as beneficial to Jet as it had hoped, and the years that followed made this evident. Budget carriers in India managed to steal Jet’s market share with their rock-bottom fares in a price-sensitive market. Combining this with a string of bad calls, such as ordering over 200 new 737 MAXs and operating a mixed wide-body fleet, led the airline towards deep financial trouble.

737 MAX Jet Airways
Jet Airways ordered over 200 new 737 MAX in the years before its collapse, adding more financial stress. Photo: Getty Images

By 2018 it became clear that Jet’s growth would have to stop, and the airline had to make significant changes. Jet doubled down on its strategy to sell its wide-body fleet, selling its 777s and A330s to reduce its mountain of debt. But by 2019, it became clear that without a huge investment the airline would collapse. No investment came, and with that, Jet Airways suspended all operations on 17th April 2019.

Where is Jet Airways now?

Jet Airways is yet to officially “shut down” and is currently mired in bankruptcy proceedings, hoping for an investor to come through and buy the airline. We did see interest from a variety of countries, such as the Hinduja Group, a Russian-backed fund, and more. However, none of these plans translated into investments, and with the current travel climate, Jet’s fate seems to be sealed.

For the airline itself, most of its planes have gone to carriers around the globe. The airline still owns a handful of airplanes and offers name recognition, but sadly not much more. Regardless of its present situation, Jet Airways will remain one of India’s most memorable airlines.