Indian Airline Bets on Service That's Better

Jet Airways' 'bold' growth plans target North America

Lufthansa is the biggest European carrier from the USA to India. It just announced Orlando as its 17th U.S. city and added service from Germany to a sixth Indian city, Kolkata. This year, Lufthansa's carrying 20% more customers than last year while expanding capacity by 6%.

"India is a key market for Lufthansa," says Dirk Janzen, a Lufthansa executive who oversees its India business. "It's a $2 billion travel market, so it's natural that you see new entrants coming in."

U.S. airlines mainly serve India through partner airlines, allowing customers to earn frequent-flier miles. Some have launched their own non-stop flights to capitalize on growing demand. American has a non-stop flight from Chicago to Delhi. Delta now flies daily between JFK and Mumbai, while Continental flies daily between Newark and Delhi.

Once service is established, Goyal expects to increase the frequency of flights on some routes and later add non-stop service.

'It's my first choice'

Customers are watching Jet's launch as closely as Jet's rivals. Chekitan Dev, an associate marketing professor at Cornell University, for instance, flies Jet almost exclusively when in India.

"It's my first choice, because they've established a reputation for service and on-time performance, the two priorities for me," Dev says. But he's torn about switching from Lufthansa and the mileage benefits of its Star Alliance.

Bala Subramanian, a cardiologist based in Orlando and Delhi, says he will stay for now with OneWorld alliance carriers British Airways and American Airlines even though he thinks that Jet's "service is better than British Airways."

Frequent traveler Bala Vasireddi, who works for a U.S. company in Hyderabad, India, and travels several times a year to the USA, considers Jet one of the best airlines in the world. For him, price will be one of the deciding factors in whether he switches from Lufthansa and KLM to Jet.

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