Will Jet-Etihad work?

There is little doubt in anyone’s mind at Jet Airways about who calls the shots these days. The offices near Mumbai’s international airport have vice-presidents, captains and department heads, cabin baggage in tow, buzzing in and out. Most are either coming from or are en route to the Etihad Airways headquarters at Khalifa City in Abu Dhabi.

At the next board meeting, Jet Chairman Naresh Goyal will formally induct two new members into his board. Etihad President and CEO James Hogan and CFO James Rigney take their place along with a 24 percent stake in the airline. Goyal’s long-time friend and advisor Vic Dungca, who has been with him from the day he started the airline 20 years ago, steps down from the board.

What is not as well-known is that apart from the board seats, alignment with Etihad has begun at various other levels. Most of this is led by the new Jet CEO, Gary Toomey. Jet insiders say senior managers responsible for rolling out the integration plan have already been selected. Some are expat Indians who work for Etihad; others are on secondment from the airline. Earlier, around 40 captains quit Air India to join Etihad; 11 of them are now on secondment to Jet Airways and will be based in India to operate flights from Abu Dhabi. For many in the airline, the distinction between the two carriers is already getting blurred.

You can’t miss the irony. In the Middle-Eastern aviation market, Etihad Airways was, till recently, considered to be an also-ran with pots of gold to bank on. In India, Jet Airways is now a fading star, losing steam and starkly in the red. Their alliance is being positioned as a marriage of convenience, with both companies using the other to gain stature and viability, respectively. There it is. The irony.

Read the full report here, Forbes India


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