Jet Airways can redeem loyalty reward points as Naresh Goyal-airline scrambles for cash after Q1 loss

By: | Published: August 28, 2018 2:47 PM

Jet Airways can redeem some loyalty points. After another quarterly loss, India's second-largest airline badly needs cash. It laid out a long list of planned fixes, including somehow tapping its frequent flyer programme for funds.

Jet Airways has 5 million of loan repayments due this fiscal year, according to ratings agency ICRA. (Image: Reuters) 

Jet Airways can redeem some loyalty points. After another quarterly loss, India’s second-largest airline badly needs cash. It laid out a long list of planned fixes, including somehow tapping its frequent flyer programme for funds. That won’t solve its fundamental engine trouble, but can help smooth out near-term business turbulence. Like peers in one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets, Naresh Goyal’s carrier has been battered in recent months by rising fuel prices and a weak rupee. Jet’s costs are high compared to rivals, yet cut-throat competition keeps fares at rock bottom for everyone.

Worse, it has $445 million of loan repayments due this fiscal year, according to ratings agency ICRA. The company now faces a crisis of confidence among shareholders, aggravated by an unexplained delay to its earnings release that battered shares, which are down 65 percent this year. It’s not all bad news. Fares were roughly stable, and costs dipped slightly if one excludes fuel. And Jet has taken steps towards recovery.

Details are thin, although the company hinted at pricing changes and $285 million of cost cuts over two years. But it is also exploring a more creative salve: getting more cash from its 8.5 million-member Jet Privilege programme. Other airlines have managed to unlock value from frequent flyer points – although doing it without sacrificing marketing advantages and steady revenue streams is tough.

Service can suffer too. Indeed, Air Canada spun off its Aeroplan programme in 2002, only to buy it back later. Jet’s part-owner Etihad holds 50.1 percent of Jet Privilege, making it harder to sell much more to interested parties like Blackstone and TPG, named in local newspaper reports as potential new investors. Roping in a new banking pal, or expanding deals with existing partners might help more.

Citigroup, for example, bailed out American Airlines to the tune of $1 billion in 2009 by pre-purchasing miles. But a partial sale won’t fix Jet’s woes. The loyalty programme’s total value is around $1.1 billion, according to the Economic Times, but Jet can only tap around half of that and owes much more. Nor will money fix poor cost management. Most fundamentally, nobody will pay much for air miles redeemable for flights on a crashing airline.

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