Breaking Travel News interview: Vinay Dube, chief executive, Jet Airways

Breaking Travel News interview: Vinay Dube, chief executive, Jet Airways

Following a successful decade at Delta Air Lines, Vinay Dube was appointed chief executive at Jet Airways in August this year.

As the head of the management team at the airline, he will be responsible for driving its growth by strengthening business and positioning it in both domestic and international markets.

But speaking to Breaking Travel News as the carrier launches its third daily departure on the London-Mumbai route, he is coy on how much change he expects under his leadership.

“It is hard for me to characterise whether my leadership is radical or not,” he says.

“We need to change by growing, at a rapid pace of ten per cent per year for the next five years, so that is very different.

“We need to rejuvenate our brand. We changed the face of Indian aviation 25 years ago, but it is time to continue to invest in that.

“We need to restructure our cost base to be more successful in the domestic Indian market.

“So these are all reasonably fundamental changes that need to be made, without losing our most important aspect, which is our DNA and culture of service.”

All of which, of course, sounds fairly radical.

But Jet Airways is also coming from a position of strength, poised as it is to exploit the explosive growth in the Indian aviation market.

In October this year the carrier unveiled plans to buy 75 Boeing 737 MAX planes to increase its domestic and international footprint to meet growing demand.

And, as Dube reveals, this is just the start of the acquisitions. 

He adds: “We will be looking to order a further 75 narrow-body aircraft by the end of our fiscal year, which ends March 31st, 2018.

“We have been looking at both major manufacturers for this order.

“These aircraft will be delivered over the next five years; so from 2018-2023 we will be looking to take delivery of the 150 aircraft.

“The first Boeing 737-800 MAX, which is part of our first order of 75, will be delivered in 2018.”

The new planes, as they arrive, will allow Jet Airways to bolster the product on offer to passengers, while also growing its route network.

“These aircraft are not all net additions to the fleet,” Dube continues.

“Today we have roughly 78 narrow-body planes, 737, 737-800, and 737-900s, a mix of these.

“For us, of the new 150, 75 will be replacements, and then the second 75 will be growth.

“As for routes, it is a case of everything we fly today, and then some.

“There is no shortage of growth in the Indian aviation market; it is growing at numbers that would make any other country jealous.

“We will not have a shortage of places to fly our aircraft.”

The UK will play a key part of the Jet strategy, with the carrier leveraging historic connections between London and India to fill its planes.

On board, guests can choose from a carefully-curated international cuisine and immerse themselves in cutting-edge entertainment, experiencing the best in long-haul travel experience accentuated further by the airline’s trademark and highly acclaimed spirit of Indian hospitality.

“This is our third flight from Mumbai and our fourth flight each day from India to London,” Dube explains, in a nod to the existing daily departure from Delhi to London.

“There are strong ties between the two countries, the UK and India, and I can tell you that whenever people in India think about travelling abroad, the very first city that comes to mind is London.

“There is absolutely no question about that: if you have not been to London then you have not really been anywhere at all as far as most Indians are concerned.

“At Jet Airways we try and follow our customers.

“If they want to go to London, we try and make it convenient for them to come to London – and certainly we are very happy to take Londoners back to India as well.”

The new London-Mumbai flight will also augment Jet Airways’ Cargo capacity on the route, strengthening its presence in both the UK and Indian markets.

By helping expand connectivity, the flight will promote greater access for cargo, from London Heathrow to destinations in India, as well as the SAARC and ASEAN regions.

Not even the much maligned Brexit process casts a shadow over the future for Jet.

Dube explains: “My view is that under almost any scenario, at either end of the Brexit debate, the impact on UK-India traffic will not significantly affect Jet Airways.

“This, however, is still two or three years away.

“We offer one thousand seats a day; that is not a lot for the size of the market, and the growth of this market.”

Europe more widely is also proving fertile ground for growth for Jet, with new routes recently unveiled linking Chennai-Paris and Bangalore-Amsterdam, as well as the new frequency on the Mumbai-London departure.

“That is quite a lot of capacity, so our first priority is to absorb that, and make sure that it performs well, and then look to grow,” continues Dube.

“The good news is we have partnerships that we continue to deepen, with Air France-KLM, Delta, and Virgin Atlantic, and these will be extremely good for business.

“These partnerships will also be extremely good for consumers, providing many more travel alternatives as they connect through these gateways into Europe and on to North America.

“This has been a catalyst for growth at Jet Airways and over time you will see us looking at the UK and Europe with growth ambitions.”

However, with the collapse of airberlin and as Alitalia enters administration, concerns have been raised about the sustainability of the partnership with Etihad, which owns nearly a quarter of Jet.

No such thing, argues Dube.

“With Etihad, we have future plans to work together.

“To date, it is has been an incredibly useful partnership for Jet, and we will continue to find ways in which we can further grow and mould this – as both a partner and equity owner.

“This model is beneficial for us, even with the airberlin and Alitalia situation.

“Quite honestly, there was not a lot of traffic that went from Jet to Etihad to Alitalia, or from Jet to Etihad to airberlin.

“We did not have a frequent flier programme that really had punch.

“For us, we have not been affected by it.

“If anything it has brought both Etihad and Jet to the table, realising the value we create for each other, and allowing us to redouble our efforts in finding ways to keep the partnership fresh.”

In China, too, Dube sees room for partnerships to develop.

In his previous role with Delta, Dube oversaw the acquisition of a stake in China Eastern Airlines and served as an observer on the board of the Chinese carrier.

This is a relationship he is now keen to develop further.

“We have been building our partnership with China Eastern, building the number of codeshares there.

“Whenever you ask somebody in Indian aviation on which markets are growing, there is growth in every market – and that is just India today.

“The population is growing, the economy is growing, and Indians want to fly.

“This is a very similar story to China and as the traffic between India and China grows, we will continue to further that deep, strong relationship with China Eastern.

“We do not fly to mainland China today, we fly to Hong Kong, and via Hong Kong we transit passengers into China.

“Someday we will fly directly to China,” Dube concludes.

More Information

Jet Airways is the premier international airline in India, operating flights to 64 destinations, domestically and overseas.

Jet Airways’ robust domestic India network spans the length and breadth of the country covering metro cities, state capitals and emerging destinations.

Beyond India, the airline operates flights to key international destinations in south-east Asia, south-Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America.

Find out more on the official website.