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Q&A: Jet Airways pact expands Delta's global network

Jet Airways India Route Map

Delta and joint venture partner, KLM, have struck a codeshare deal with Indian airline Jet Airways that will open up destinations throughout the Indian subcontinent for customers flying from North America. Subject to government approvals, customers flying to India via Delta’s hub at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport will be able to connect onto Jet Airways’ daily services to Mumbai and Delhi, with onward connections including Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Kochi, Kolkata and Amritsar in India; Kathmandu, Nepal; Colombo, Sri Lanka; and Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Combined, Delta and KLM serve the top 16 markets between North America and India, which will soon be available one-stop via Amsterdam. Nat Pieper, Delta's Senior Vice President for Europe, Middle East and Africa, explains what the alliance means for Delta customers.

Q: Why is India an important market for Delta?

NP: With around 11,000 passengers flying between North America and the Indian subcontinent each day, India is a white spot in Delta’s network and a missed revenue opportunity. Partnering with Jet, which is a full-service airline, will give us access to 12 destinations throughout the region, enabling us to fly customers where they want to go.

Q: Why is Delta embarking on a codeshare agreement with Jet?

NP:  The primary reason is because government-subsidized Gulf carriers now dominate international travel to India, meaning U.S. airlines can no longer economically serve the Indian market directly from North America.  India is a major business and trading partner with the United States and because the Gulf carriers have dumped subsidized capacity in the market, we are forced to find codeshare partners to be able to transport our customers to the region.

Q: Given that Etihad Airways owns a 24 percent stake in Jet, and those two airlines operate a strategic alliance that includes codesharing across their networks, is it hypocritical for Delta to partner with Jet when it is fighting to push Etihad out of U.S. markets?

NP: Etihad’s minority investment in Jet doesn’t change the fact that Gulf carriers have deeply distorted the playing field on international flights to India, in violation of the Open Skies agreements. We are asking the U.S. government to open consultations with the UAE and Qatar to address the subsidy issue. But in the meantime airlines like Delta are forced to find ways to adapt, and this codeshare is beneficial to our customers as well as Jet’s.

Q: Why is it a three-way agreement with Delta, KLM and Jet?

NP: Delta and KLM jointly operate a vast network between Amsterdam and North America, with up to 19 daily departures to 21 cities in the U.S. and Canada. Delta previously operated services from Amsterdam to Mumbai, however this route was suspended earlier this year. By using our combined network to serve the U.S. - India market in partnership with Jet, we can maximise our revenues while keeping costs down – offering more destinations without growing our own operations in the market.

Q: What are the benefits for customers?

NP: Another value of codeshares is reciprocal loyalty offerings, meaning customers enjoy the same benefits as they would on Delta. The codeshare agreement gives our customers onward connections to 9 key destinations in India, as well as Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh.  Meanwhile, Jet customers will benefit from both Delta and KLM’s networks to North America and a large number of KLM’s intra-European destinations.  Passengers will have a single ticket and will be able to check their bags through to their final destination.  Plus, for eligible customers there will be lounge reciprocity and Delta SkyMiles members will be able to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles on codeshare routes operated by Jet.

Q: Are any more destinations planned in the future?

NP: Additional destinations across India and beyond, as well as an expanded codeshare agreement across the trans-Atlantic are planned, subject to government approvals.  In the meantime, Jet will place its code on eleven routes from Amsterdam operated by Delta and KLM - New York-JFK, Newark, Chicago, Washington D.C., Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Edmonton  - which represent the key markets that customers want to fly to. Jet will also put its code on 30 European destinations operated by KLM.

Q: In the past Delta has formed codeshare agreements with airlines in the SkyTeam alliance, why is this not the case for India?

NP: India is a white spot in Delta’s network and SkyTeam’s, which has no Indian member airline.  So we’ve looked outside the alliance to find a partner. Delta has a track record of filling specific network gaps through commercial partnerships with airlines around the world; the cooperation with Jet will give us access to the Indian market which, due to unfair competition, we are unable to offer on our own.

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