Yesterday, a while after my post on the new JetPrivilege program went live, I had a chat with Manish Dureja, who is the head of the company which owns and operates the JetPrivilege program. Both of us were working on a Sunday, but what to do, JetPrivilege had just brought out changes to the program which were far reaching, and these will go live within a month. If you haven’t read the post, have a look here.
Manish was there to clarify a few points and tell me more about the thought process behind the move. We all know now, that Jet Airways will move to the Etihad way of looking at fares, where fares will be divided into various categories depending on:
- How flexible you need it to be
- What baggage allowance you need
- How many miles you will earn
- What other benefits you value when you travel – priority check-in, upgrade eligibility and so on.
Etihad Airways had moved to Fare Choices as of 2015, and had steered all members of the Etihad Airways Partners to move as well within a year. This is well underway now. We should be hearing from Jet Airways within a few days about the move to Fare Choices as well.
These are the restrictions imposed on various classes typically (across Economy, Business & First). This is a very simplified version here:
- Deal Ticket: Lowest fares possible but no provisions for cancellations, upgrades or other features. Earns lowest miles in the class of service.
- Saver Tickets: Typically higher fares than Deals, but still discounted. Eligible for upgrades and cancellations, however, earns lesser than full miles.
- Classic Tickets: The regular fares, not discounted usually. Eligible for upgrades, cancellations and a good bounty of miles.
- Flex Tickets: More like last minute high fares (or full fares), offering the possibility of changes & cancellations without fee. Good amount of miles as well.
The Thought Process
We discussed the need to do this, and I was informed this is the way the airline world is moving forward. So, at some time they had to do this. I do concur with Manish, since American Airlines, Etihad and Delta, amongst others have moved to this paradigm a while ago. Indeed, then it struck me that if I paid less, I should have the flexibility to sit anywhere on the plane (as long as I am on the plane!) as compared to the guy who picked a much higher fare class than me and should get first dibs at sitting in the bulkhead seat.
Essentially, status trumping fare is over was what I made out of the conversation, and the need to do it was to align with the way business was being done worldwide. I have to agree, that sometimes airlines are paying more for my trip to the GVK Lounge than the fare they’ve charged me altogether, and then giving a lot of facilities took away the opportunity from the airline to sell more of those to me or other passengers. Having said that, I asked him why some of the things that could come for free could not be given out. For instance, Seat Select. He said, it was more about implementing the philosophy of Fare Choices where Deal tickets would not be getting seat assignments or upgrades for anyone, and not just for the high end elites. Similarly the baggage allowance cut was more a matter of sticking to a thought process than taking away from elites.
Manish did emphasize that there are a lot of initiatives in the works, and more good stuff should come out of the JetPrivilege stable soon along with Jet Airways. Of course, he was not in a position to share many details at the moment, so we left it at that. He promised the program should be stable here on, and any changes would come more tactically as they refine the framework.
On Carrier Surcharges, I asked him about what was the thinking. Manish agreed that introducing another cash component in the mix puts the customer in a bind about using miles or using cash, but he simply pointed towards it being a cost of doing business. I could not get much more out of him on this one.
Clarifications on B, D & X fares
Manish informed me that when we will hear more from Jet Airways, we’ll hear that the B fare class is going away for good and won’t be used going forward. I asked him and informed him too, that what about B fares already booked (I have 4 of those booked between me and Shipra for a date after 17 August). Manish informed me while no more of those fares will be bookable going forward, and hence they were not included in the announcement, the fares already booked would be classified as Deal Fares, and be treated as such. So, you will still get 25% miles and a tier point for your B fare tickets and not nothing.
On D fares (Business Class Upgrade/Redemptions), he said lounge access was included, and on X class (Economy Class Redemptions), your status would dictate if you got lounge access or not. He mentioned that since the announcement was about revenue fares, hence the redemption bookings were kept out of scope of it. Perhaps they could have included them anyways.
While these are all valid arguments, from my perspective, I also think that loyalty is a two-way street, and given the complications of running an airline, and the focus on P&L which is important especially when you run an Indian airline, I stand in the middle. I would have been happier if the airline would have taken away some benefits from elites, but not all, for lower fares. Those that cost them real money and not opportunity. Because in the current situation, I don’t see how I can give my loyalty when I frequently travel on them for work, but don’t expect to earn their loyalty benefits when I use them for a family vacation, and everything is unbundled.
I’m sure a lot of people are in this quandary, and I just thought I’d inform you all about the thoughts behind the (re)making of the program as well.
If there are other questions, I’d be happy to try and address them myself or take them to the program to come back with replies. Drop me a note in the comments section