India's largest private air carrier Jet Airways has begun operating flights to the United States as well as the continental Europe, promising its passengers a taste of premium class services.
On Monday, Jet launched its debut flight from Brussels to India, becoming the first private Indian carrier to fly to and from continental Europe. The private sector airline plans to use the Belgian capital as its European operational hub for facilitating flights to the US, Europe and Africa.
Over the weekend, Jet Airways launched its first flight from Mumbai to Newark in the US with a two-hour stopover in Brussels. The airline will fly from India through Brussels to Toronto on September 5 and to Johannesburg in November. Jet will also begin flying to New York in November, followed by Shanghai, San Francisco and Chicago.
The airline has also entered into a code-share agreement with Brussels Airlines - Belgium's main carrier - for flights from Brussels to Delhi, Mumbai, Toronto, Stockholm, Oslo, Birmingham, Geneva and Madrid. The airline expects to expand the agreement to include 25 routes ex-Brussels, Bernard Guisset of Jet Airways Belgium said on Monday.
Guisset, who heads the 35-people strong Europe office, added that the airline's future plans include 10 daily flights from Brussels to cities in India and the US, Canada and mainland Europe.
Jet Airways was looking for an opportunity to combine its expansion plan to USA and Canada with an efficient hub in Europe together with a stronger national carrier offering a wide network...we have found it all at Brussels, Jet chairman Goyal said in a statement.
The India-US market is dominated by European carriers who between them carry over 50 percent of the traffic between the two countries via their hubs, Goyal said.
Brussels Airlines operates to 50 destinations in Europe and Africa and Jet will channel this traffic into the US, Goyal said.
World-class premium airlines offer luxurious amenities, including cubicle-like personal spaces and lie-flat beds in business class. Middle East airline Emirates has first-class cabins with seats enclosed in private compartments with doors. The airline also boasts of in-flight state-of-art entertainment system 'ICE digital widescreen' that allows passengers to view their holiday photos onscreen during the flight by connecting to a USB port.
The airline also offers free transfers in luxury cars like Mercedes E or V Class, Audi A6, BMW 5 series or Chrysler on arrival in Europe. Their passengers arriving in Venice enjoy transfers in speedboats.
Air India, which has started its Mumbai-New York non-stop daily fights, is offering limousine services at the JFK airport and a shower facility at 'The Lounge' on arrival. The seats in the aircraft have been designed to offer a soft massage to combat the stress levels. Passengers are entitled to $75 and $50 worth gift vouchers for in-flight shopping.
Excluding taxes, economy class return tickets for the India-US route start from $1000 (Rs. 40,000) and the premier return fares from $3825 (Rs. 1,53,000). First class return fares are priced between $8625 and $10375 (Rs. 3,45,000 and Rs. 4,15,000).
Meanwhile, aviation authorities in the US and EU have agreed to an open skies agreement between the two continents that will allow airlines virtually unrestricted point to point flights connecting the two. European carriers are likely to benefit substantially from the new flights.
Currently seven EU carriers fly to India, while two Indian carriers - Air India and Jet Airways - fly to Europe.
Each week more than 130 flights operate between India and EU.