Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Jet Airways: A personal obituary

As I listen to the hard facts about the life and death of Jet Airways, I hold at the back of my mind the picture of a silent row of Jet tailfins at Chennai airport last week. I thought then of the 1000-odd grounded pilots they represent, and wonder if one of them had flown my first flight. It was also my first business trip, my first film shoot, my first trip to Bombay, long enough ago to simply walk into the airport and out to the plane.

The end of Jet is the end of an era for those of us who started our careers in the nineties. We had emerged into a corporate India that had itself just started to unfurl new and wonderful petals. One of them was dark blue, with a yellow sun. I could list the exemplary service, the impeccable planes, the track record, the food, the fact that our highest praise today for the delightful Vistara is “It’s what Jet used to be”. But, as with any good brand, it is more than the sum of the parts; a personal relationship.

Like so many of my peers, I moved on in my profession, to other countries. Brands like Emirates and Singapore Airlines became “my airline”, but the fact that Jet Airways held its own even in those circles was a metaphor for ourselves. At the formative stages of our adulthood, it was one of a select group of homegrown brands that set a standard for India’s Generation X. They gave us pride, taught us to prize high quality and a job well done, set a standard for what we could be. That’s what patriotism meant to us.

Now, as airports get better and better, the grace of air travel somehow grows less. But I still love flying, even on the worst airlines (as a veteran of weekend trips in Southeast Asia, I am something of a connoisseur of these). The seed that was planted in those early days on India’s first private airline invokes the same sense of shared purpose whenever I step aboard any plane.

As I write, attempts are being made to resuscitate the airline; the brand may yet live. Meanwhile – with somewhat the same feeling I had as the last Concorde touched down – all that remains is to say thank you Jet Airways, for the joy of flying.

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