One of the questions I get asked very often is, what dictates my airline choices? As someone who is on the road over a 100 days in a year minimally, and on the higher side 200-250 days in some years, I find that an interesting question to answer, given my newfound public profile with this website for the past seven years.
My choices have not changed much indeed over a span of time. When I took to the skies in the early 2000s, my options were limited to three major carriers: Indian Airlines, Air Sahara, and Jet Airways. Air Deccan in its first version was just about coming up. So I tried the whole suite of offerings available to me then, and, well, started allocating my business to Jet Airways where I could. After all, it helps if you have to deal with one known beast over multiple unknown ones.
Over a period, indeed, Indian Airlines folded up into Air India, and Air Sahara folded up into Jet Airways indeed. Newer airlines did come through in the no-frills space, but I have loved my little joys for a long time, so I continued to try and give business to the full-service carriers.
There is a reason I call IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir no-frills carriers rather than low-cost carriers as today’s generic use seems to generalize the term. Indian airlines have tried to own every penny from my pocket from the word go, and more since the pricing for ancillary services was given legitimacy. Take an example here for a flight between Mumbai and Chennai, for six months out, for example:
Like you would see all the airlines are moving in the same band of pricing between INR 2400 to INR 2600, excluding SpiceJet, which is taking a bet that people would like to pay more for their flights to the tune of INR 600 per passenger. Now, with similar prices, I would pick a full-service carrier over IndiGo and SpiceJet in this case. Ask me why?
For those of you who know, Terminal 2 is any day the better terminal to fly from as compared to Terminal 1 in Mumbai. Similar things can be said for Terminal 3 in Delhi over Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. As this city pair is my most frequented route, I would rather have a great experience at the airport, getting some work done in the GVK Lounge | TFS Lounge before takeoff rather than sit in a massive crowd if I can help it.
Not paying extra for baggage
Although I do not travel with check-in bags on my work trips, I do so on my pleasure trips for sure. Sometimes, for instance, right after my wedding, I moved a lot of stuff from my parent’s home to my own. With Jet Airways then, for example, my relationship came handy because I was able to carry over 30 kgs per person as a benefit of my Platinum tier as compared to the 15 kgs that a no-frills carrier would offer me. With a co-branded card itself, one can get excess baggage allowance as well.
Not paying extra for meals
Do you need to eat on planes? Sometimes the answer is yes. Eating on planes is not just entertainment but something business travel necessities. I have eaten breakfast all my working life on my desk, which means I need to eat, for instance at 9:30 AM. So, if I am on a plane, that means I need to eat. I would instead not buy that sandwich but partake in a hot meal if I can. Anyways if I pay anything above INR 100 for that sandwich, I am equalizing the fare, right?
Frequent flyer programs are still a large part of the consideration for business travelers, and also for leisure travelers to an extent. I look at value derived from a flight towards the cost of a future trip to be a part of the equation as well. So, every time I fly a full-service carrier, I can also earn miles which can help me allocate towards the next vacation or last-minute flight of mine.
However, I still have two options, and I need to boil it down to one. Between Jet Airways and Air India, I would need to whittle down my choices. In most cases I would go with Jet Airways, and here is why…
Network of Choice
It helps that Jet Airways flies all over the place to destinations I need to go to. Be it Mumbai-Delhi roundtrips to get home, frequent trips for work to the Middle-East, South East Asia, and Europe or inside India. It helps that Jet Airways has a network I need to go places. Additionally, they have tie-ups with airlines abroad which help me as well. For instance, I have connected seamlessly at Abu Dhabi using Etihad Airways’ Partnership on my way to New York last year, and on the way back, connected in Amsterdam from Delta, all on the same ticket!
Paxex Counts. Moreover, there is an apparent reason to work with Jet Airways here. They have been the only airline who’ve invested in a full-blown in-flight entertainment system which streams to all passengers using their phones and pads. No more the trouble of guessing if your flight has an IFE or not. Just plug in your headphones, and you are a go!
Nevermind that Jet Airways is not a member of a global alliance so far, their tie-up with Etihad Airways and KLM/Air France/Delta ensures I can earn miles across the various versions of global travel I hop through. Last year, I was able to get a free upgrade to Economy Comfort+ on Delta between New York and Amsterdam, and of course, I can get benefits across the Etihad network as well for being a Jet Airways Platinum. Access to the First Class Lounge and Spa of Etihad in Abu Dhabi, just one of them! Earning miles on over 20 international airlines is another.
Free Changes & Cancellations
Okay, I will not make this much longer. However, travel plans change all the time. And when they do, you need to suck up and cancel. Alternatively, reschedule. I love Jet Airways for free cancellation within 24 hours. You get your entire money back, except the minor convenience fees. Can’t tell you how much it helps business travelers like me. I have used the benefit at least ten times in 2017, for the simple reason that things changed by the hour. Saved huge money on the back of this everytime I got a call about a change of plans.
Not just that, as a Platinum member, I can cancel or reschedule my directly booked flights with Jet Airways for no extra money. This is one of the key reasons I have sometimes done runs to keep my JetPrivilege Platinum tier, and I have had it for more than five years running now!
As another email dropped through my mail or Twitter about how I work on my flights, I figured there was enough to write a post about it. I am only too glad we are in 2018 and writing this because finally, we will get new 737 Max airplanes on Jet Airways as well this year.
How do you go about picking your flights? Is it just the money or do you take the whole picture into account?