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Flying To India Like A Maharaja

August 2007
Flying To India Like A Maharaja

This is not about Air India—whose iconic logo is a smiling, bowing maharaja—but about Jet Airways, which wants to take passengers to India in royal style. In a bold move, Jet Airways, the largest player in the domestic market, is now challenging Air India's dominance of international flights among Indian carriers. Starting this month, Jet is upping the ante on service by providing ultra-comfortable flights between Newark and Mumbai. The entire journey, with a two-hour layover in Brussels, takes 18 hours. The new Boeing 777 on this route has eight first-class suites, each large enough to accommodate a seven-foot seat-cum-bed, a decent-sized entertainment monitor, dual credenzas that can be used for dining or work, and a wardrobe.

Naturally, this kind of luxury doesn't come cheap. Passengers, whether well-heeled or not, will have to fork out a minimum of $10,085 before they can kick off their shoes and, as they fly to India by first class, casually sip Krug or Dom Perignon. Other classes, too, have seen improvements. Premiere passengers, according to the airline, get an oversized table, laptop power, telephony, SMS, email and live text news, whereas economy travelers have ergonomically designed seats and more leg room. Air India also, by the way, has upgraded the comforts it offers on international flights.

Though India's airlines have been struggling of late in the face of increasing competition, costs and congestion, Jet Airways is doing better than most and it continues to make a profit. Other international destinations include Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and London, and it is adding New York and Toronto to the list. Often seen as India's best-run airline, Jet is also planning to expand on the home front. Just recently, CEO Naresh Goyal, announcing that he's open to an alliance with Air India, has said that he'd like to increase the market share for Indian carriers from 20 to 50 percent over the next few years. And in partnership with Sahara, he's launching JetLite, a budget airline that will rival Air Deccan.

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