Is It Final Landing For Jet Airways?
Just a couple of hours ago, I read a tweet that today will be the last flight of Jet Airways. I could not believe my eyes. I am no financial analyst to know in and out of Jet Airways’ inside numbers, nor do I claim to be in the know of the latest happenings in the world of aviation. But I have many fond memories of Jet Airways that are coming back as this sad news sinks in. After the turbulent start of private airlines in India, we had seen many an up and downs. Who remembers airlines like East West whose MD was murdered? Or NEPC airline that bought the Damania Airways or even Air Sahara that was acquired by none other than Jet Airways itself, and I am not even talking about Kingfisher here.
With deep sadness and a heavy heart we would like to share that, effective immediately, we will be suspending all our domestic and international flight operations.
— Jet Airways (@jetairways) April 17, 2019
I have always liked Jet Airways, I mean who would have not liked the brand new planes, smiling air hostesses, who actually looked after you as guests and not like those Indian Airlines Mousees who would have loved to slap you if allowed because you did not finish the greasy meal in a box they wanted to force feed you? Truth be told my loyalties changed for a few months when Kingfisher came to the Indian Skies, but for some strange reason, I gravitated back towards Jet Airways. This actually proved to be a good decision as I lost many of my frequent flyer miles with Kingfisher.
I am not sure if this shutdown of Jet Airways is a temporary thing while they work on a turnaround or it is permanent only time will tell. My heart says it better be a short term thing to rework on strategy, loans, routes, etc. and then come back as a leaner meaner airline. For unlike other players in the Indian aviation history who had closed down due to various reason Jet Airways is not a case of shoddy service which led to abandonment by customers. Even in these days of low-cost carriers given a choice, most business travelers preferred to travel by Jet. All said and done Jet was a product of rising India in the mid to late 90s when the effects of the opening of the Indian economy has started bearing fruits. Every day a new MNC was entering India, every day a new IT park was being sold to capacity even before the foundation stone was laid.
I remember in those days I use to travel almost every single day of the week, sometimes coming back to my home only by a late night flight, get a change of clothes and then take the first flight out to the next city. We were scouting for places to open our offices in different cities and wherever Jet Airways will take us I will go. We scouted and later opened offices in many cities Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Coimbatore, ( they started one of the first ATR services to Coimbatore from Bangalore I guess, ) while some others we could not open office due to various reasons but it gave me chances to visit places like Mumbai, Ludhiana, Goa, etc. There were days I would take 3 Jet flights, early morning flight to Mumbai to check on the office space then take a flight to Bangalore for some meetings and then take a late night flight to some other cities where I will have meetings next day. Many Jet staff at the airport as well as in the flight recognized me and we soon were on first name basis they knew my favorite seat ( 2 A), and what I liked to eat.
I have many fond memories with Jet Airways like our daughter’s first flight when she cried almost all the time or when we first went to Goa as family. Even when I was not regularly flying Jet my relationship with Jet continued as I had so many accumulated miles that we took many holidays from those miles on Jet Airways flight. A couple of years ago one of my articles about Petra by Night was also published in Jet Wings International.
There are many memories that I have about Jet, but one stands out and it is surprisingly not about my family. I clearly remember I was taking a flight from Delhi to Trivandrum, and I was on my favorite seat 2A. The flight to Trivandrum was not a direct flight and we had to stop at Mumbai. It was early October and still fairly warm and the plane on Delhi airport was full the air hostess even took a headcount and said we will be taking off soon. But then nothing happened, and I was wondering what is the delay. As the door of the plane was open we were getting a bit antsy, I had an important meeting in Trivandrum and did not want to get late. So I asked ( and so did many fellow passengers ) the cabin crew what is the delay about. She just smiled and said sir just a couple of minutes and we will take off. Then suddenly the pilot called the cabin crew to the cockpit and I could sense a change in the body language. As I was in the window seat I saw a Jet Airways car came to a screeching halt next to the plane ladder and a short slightly plump man emerged out of it with a leather briefcase in his hand that one of the Jet Airways staffers tried to snatch but the Armani clad man had a firm grip on the briefcase and would not let go. The man hastily climbed the stairs, greeted the staff and then stood next to me and gave me his hand. Hello, I am Naresh. Now I have never been a very social kind of guy but this gentleman in spite of his Armani Suit and a very expensive watch had a certain degree of “desi” oozing out of him. I gave him my hand and instinctively said ” Hello Sir, I am Prasad” Soon a prominent politician from the seat behind us came and greeted him, then a big Mumbai Industrialist and came and they exchanged cards. By now it has sunk into me that I was sitting next to ” Naresh Goyal” the owner of Jet Airways for all practical purposes.
As the flight took off to Mumbai, one of the cabin crew after serving us our food came to him and asked what he wanted, and he said, ” Kuch Khana nahi hai par thodee chai le aoo, or haan wo dip walee mat lana, mere liye glass may lana please” The staff knew what he wanted and soon brought a glass full of kadak desi chai for him, which I am sure was made from the tea bags and powdered milk only but it was presented in true desi style in a glass.
As I was enjoying my meal he asked me” How is the food ?” While my memory is a bit hazy, I remember saying something like, ” It is good sir, aap apnee hee airline main khana nahi kha rahe ?”
So he just laughed and said, in Hindi, “” Are Nahin aisa kuch nahi, I was in Europe for a week and just came back , I could not get a flight to Mumbai so came to Delhi and am going to Bombay, wahan I wahan jaa kar, main aram say khaoonga” or something like that. We briefly talked and he enquired where I am going etc. the regular pleasantries and then the politician hijacked the conversation with him.
Anyways long story short, I was pretty impressed by the earthy nature and simple mannerism of Mr. Goyal and just before the landing of the flight was announced requested him for his autograph, which he promptly signed on a copy of Jet Wings on the ” Chairman’s Message” page. Remember this was long before cellphones had the ability to take selfies.
All said and done, I do hope that this closure of Jet Airways is only a temporary one and soon they will come back and continue to fly us around the country and beyond. Let us not forget that Jet Airways was one of the first globally visible brands that emerged out of India after the opening of the Indian economy. It would be a shame if such a wonderful airline that literally brought back the joy of flying to India skies will go down in history in such a sad way. As I pray for coming back of the Jet Airways, I also hope that the 16000 + employees of Jet Airways will have the emotional and financial strength to tide over these tough times and will have minimal impact on their lives.
Here to wishing the very best to Jet Airways and the team and hoping to fly with you soon, very soon for it was with you Jet Airways that India learned to really fly