Thursday, November 06, 2008

Consumer Insight : The end of air travel as I see it !

This October 2008, in a move that surprised India Inc , Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines announced an alliance for sharing their resources and network. According to a report in Deccan Herald, the company announced that this alliance will share their resources in seven critical operational areas including routes and even employees but both these airlines will maintain their legal and brand entity.

Jet and Kingfisher controls approximately 60 % market share . While pundits and media glorified the swift move by the mavericks who head these companies, I see the formation of a cartel.

As a consumer I see it as the end of my air travels.

Both the companies cited the sluggish environment as the core reason for this deal. The rising fuel cost, the looming recession is definitely going to take a toll in the industry. It makes terrific sense for two major players to come together and share resources and cut costs. I also think this as a unique event when two competitors come together to face the looming threats.

But cartels are bad. Its very bad for a consumer.

I live in the state of Kerala where every sector is ruled by cartels. Where else do you find the Bus Owners forming a cartel in the name of union, auto drivers/owners forming cartels, Taxi owners forming cartels , Film stars have cartels, Film producers have cartels, Contractors have cartels, hotels have cartels, traders have cartels, jewelers have one and even the scavengers have formed cartels.

And Keralites suffer the highhandedness of these cartels. They hold the un-organized citizens at ransom to meet their demands. So we see buses off the road, traders shutting shop and even movie production getting stopped .

India currently lacks sufficient laws to identify and regulate such cartels. Sadly there is no political will to prepare one.

Coming back to the Jet- Kingfisher alliance.

What is going to be the result of such an alliance ? I foresee a significant drop in the competitiveness of the industry as a whole.

I am not a fan of Air Deccan but I credit the boom of Indian Airline industry to that brand. And the death of Air Deccan is going to be detrimental to the growth of this industry.( my personal opinion ).

I am not an expert in this domain but as a consumer I will try to defend my point. Please feel free to comment your thoughts.

I am not a frequent traveler ( not even a regular one ). My first flight where I paid from my pocket was with Air Deccan. Why I chose to fly was that it was affordable ( not cheaper).

There are three main customers for Airlines -

The rich travelers : These customers have the income to afford the travel. They either pay from their pocket or their business foot the bill. So whether there is a slowdown or not these guys will fly.
The Executives : These customers fly frequently but the bill is paid by the company. I feel this segment of consumers form a large chunk of air-travelers. When the economy slows down these class will travel less depending on the austerity measures of their organisations.

The ordinary ones : Well, I belong to this class. I would love to fly if its affordable. This category of customers may not travel regularly.

Air Deccan targeted the ordinary ones and that too successfully. But there was an interesting bonus to that strategy. Lot of corporates began to enable their executives to travel by air . The ceiling of air travel for executives have come down since the airline rates became affordable.

There was a time where an executive who earlier had only the eligibility to travel by First Class train was given the sanction to fly since the rate differential was negligible.

This saw a spurt in airline passengers. Both regular and first- time fliers. Those who have never flied before started looking for better rates.

And look at the way the infrastructure reacted to this new boom. New airports began to come up, jobs in the sector boomed and lot of new business catering to this sector began to evolve.

I agree that much of this boom can the attributable to the economic prosperity that we say in the recent past but the low cost airlines contributed significantly .

Now what is the scenario ?

With virtually no low-cost airlines , the entire industry is in turmoil. Companies have cut the eligibility for air travel why because it is now not affordable. So less number of regular fliers. Airports which came up anticipating large number of consumers see very few and they began to hike the airport charges which again is going to put off many fliers.

And the formation of Jet- Kingfisher is only going to make things tougher. This alliance is going to be a major entry barrier for any new player. And using the commanding postion, these two can silence the current competitors.

Rates will be high, service will be bad and ordinary people will travel by train...

Related Brand
Air Deccan


  1. Currently the size of the alliance doesn't worry me so much given that the threat of subsitutes is always there. Rail and bus travel (for short haul) are very comfortable and even cause less hassles - think no UDF, no exorbitant taxi fares and long waits in airlines.

    Another thing to consider - both the players might get along well initially. But if one of the airlines starts to extract more out of the relationship than is comfortable to the other, this alliance will break down. Also, other players forming the balance share can form a counter-cartel! Then things can get really interesting!

    But a regulator on Air travel (airlines, airports etc) with sufficient power is definitely the order of the day.

  2. I am a student in Bangalore who goes home to Lucknow every three months(semester break)and its rather interesting the way my fellowmates and I monitor air-fares as if it were some hot stock in the sharemarket.However,this time the predictions dint work that well..the fares were expected to drop(due to plummetting ATF prices)but instead they went up drastically REASON: Escalated transaction fees being charged by all the serice providers..(which were mandated from November 1,2008)..While our hearts sink each time the prices rise,we continuously wonder what happened to the 'common man' who wanted to fly??


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