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How Jet Airways plans to strike it big

By Aneesh Phadnis
May 04, 2016 15:04 IST
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A Jet Airways aircraft


With a Rs 20-crore campaign the airline hopes to lure fliers with in-flight and airport services, not just bargain fares

Jet Airways is launching its first large scale multi-media campaign in nearly a decade, as it looks to position itself as a carrier offering the best customer experience.

The campaign expected to cost close to Rs 20-crore (Rs 200-million) and tag-lined, “Get More” is a corporate branding initiative and a move away from the ‘special offers and cheap fares’ platform that most airlines (including Jet Airways) typically use.

The campaign will be rolled out on Thursday, across print, radio, digital, television and outdoor media and will run for two months.

The campaign comes at a time when Jet Airways faces increased competition from both full service and no-frills airlines in the domestic market.

Market leader IndiGo is expanding fast and plans to add 29 aircraft over its existing 107 planes in this fiscal year alone.

Rival SpiceJet is registering 90 per cent plus occupancy month after month.

In the full service segment, new entrant Vistara is poaching Jet’s traffic on the lucrative Mumbai-Delhi route.

According to recent industry data, IndiGo is the market leader with around 37 per cent share, Jet Airways (with JetLite) is at second spot with about 21 per cent and Air India is next with close to 15 per cent share. Jet’s load factor for the quarter January-March 2016 is 81.5 per cent.

Intense competition seems to have forced the airline to focus on brand building.

“India is a highly competitive market and we see consumer expectations are rising. So we are investing in our product and improving customer experience,” said Colin Neubronner, Jet Airways’s senior vice president (sales and marketing).

The campaign, Jet hopes, will help shift the conversation towards these factors rather than finding the cheapest flight out of a city.

“Our fares are at par with all others but we offer much more.

"Airlines cannot expect to attract passengers by lowering fares alone,” said Neubronner.

The airline began making changes in its product and service delivery nearly two years ago after Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways picked up 24 per cent stake in the airline.

It reconfigured all its Boeing 737 planes (flown on domestic and short-haul international routes including the Gulf region and Bangkok) with a standard 168-seat configuration.

It dropped its no-frills brand Jet Konnect and focused on developing the full service model across the network.

Interestingly, the Etihad international campaign featuring Nicole Kidman too focuses on the multiple meal options and the unmatched in-flight experience that the airline offers.

At Jet, over the past year or so, the focus has been on creating an overall brand strategy.

The company says a ‘guest first’ approach was introduced to enhance service delivery across all customer touch points.

Several new features were introduced to ease the online booking experience on the airline’s website and mobile app; for instance, the ‘fare lock’ feature which allows customers to block fares appeals to a large set of fliers.

The airline says that in the course of the coming year, in-flight video streaming and wi-fi facilities have also been lined up, but these are subject to government approval.

While these improvements have been taking place since December 2014 the airline is now embarking on its first integrated brand campaign.

The objective is to communicate all the changes and also perhaps remind Indian fliers that Jet has been around far longer than most of its rivals in the market today (except of course, Air India).

“We are launching the campaign to reinforce the message about the value we bring to our customers.

“Also it will help us to enhance brand visibility, increase reach and increase sales,” said Belson Coutinho, vice president (marketing, e-commerce and innovations), Jet Airways.

So far Jet’s advertising and that of most other airlines has been limited to new routes or promotional fare offers.

But three consecutive profitable quarters seems to have given the airline management the confidence to spend more on advertising and marketing.

In 2008 Jet Airways had launched a television commercial featuring actor Shah Rukh Khan to promote its new service to London.

The new campaign is different as it does not speak about one aircraft or a new destination on the list, nor does it get into specific air fares.

It talks about value-for-money.

“It is refreshing to see Jet Airways talk about its full service attributes and build its brand. Like any other full service airline, its advertising correctly focuses on its product and not so much about low fares,” remarked Devesh Agarwal, editor of aviation blog Bangalore Aviation.

Jet must hope that fliers agree and more and more customers check in for the experience, not just the fares.

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Aneesh Phadnis in Mumbai
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