It is this ability to forge partnerships that helped Jet to secure a $379-million investment from Etihad Airways in 2013 (first foreign direct investment in an airline after relaxation of norms) and enhanced commercial cooperation agreement with Air France-KLM in 2017 — a first such extensive collaboration by an Indian carrier.
Goyal has been known as a tough negotiator and suave businessman who helped sway policy environment to suit his airline.
The other abiding trait is hankering for control, something which was seen during negotiations with Etihad Airways in the last few months. The issue of control was one of the sticking points between the two sides. The talks collapsed and eventually the lenders took majority control of the company on Monday.
Goyal’s legacy has been to create a world-class home-grown airline. Jet raised the bar on products and services and also has many firsts to its credit in India — the first to launch 24-hour reservations, tele check-in facilities, frequent flyer programmes, co-branded credit cards, streaming of in-flight entertainment, among others.
"Today is indeed a sad day for Indian aviation.
By launching a truly world class airline, Naresh and Anita Goyal made India proud. This is also wake-up call for Indian policy makers. We urgently need to address structural challenges that make India's airlines uncompetitive around the world," said SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh in a statement.
Two significant decisions — the acquisition of Air Sahara and an aggressive international foray in 2006-07 — continue to impact the airline to date. Goyal, it is said, was advised by his close colleagues against the Air Sahara acquisition. It was not worth the price the airline was paying, he was told. But Goyal persisted and eventually Jet acquired Air Sahara. The airline management tried restructuring and rebranded the airline JetLite, but the acquisition has been a drain on its resources. Three years ago, Jet wrote off its entire Rs 1,800-crore investment in JetLite.
Goyal faced his first crisis in 1997 when the government changed rules to disallow foreign airlines from owning stake in Indian carriers. Back then, Jet had stakes from Gulf Air and Kuwait Airways and many thought the airline would shut operations. It did not. Goyal acquired stakes from two Gulf airlines. Years later, Goyal and Jet would face accusation of underworld links. Questions were raised in Parliament, too, but the charges were never proved.
With the airline negotiating many storms and Goyal emerging stronger each time, supporters were certain that the “chairman” would pull the airline through yet another turbulence. He has managed to save the airline but at least for now it will be Jet with Goyal.