We meant to post about Kingfisher Air when we first flew with them last year, not long after they started up and were maha-impressed. But then, we told ourself, hey, everyone launches with their best foot forward (to mangle a few metaphors), let's see what they're like next year.
Well, we flew the airline again a little while ago, and we're happy to report that they still rock.
Before we go on to tell you why, let's tackle the hot flight attendants bit. People—well, okay, male people—like to say that all Kingfisher flight crew look like models.
Some of them look like supermodels.
Right, now that we've got that out of the way..
We're not a frequent flier by any stretch, and we're pretty nervous about flying in the first place, but we've flown quite a few of the domestic airlines: IA, an Air India connector, Jet, Sahara, Deccan, even Vayudoot (and there lies a tale—and it also shows our age), and Kingfisher kicks butt big time when it comes to service.
It starts before you get to the airport. Their site isn't fabulous, but it's easier to get around in than the other airline sites. When you actually get out of your car / rickshaw / cab and walk in to the terminal, there are alert chaps on the lookout for people clutching KA tickets. They offer to help you with your bags, haul up a trolley, lift your bags onto the X-ray machine for you, get to the other end before the bag does, usher you to the check-in counter.
The check-in is prompt and polite, and their counter is spic-and-span (and yes, that does make an impression when, as in Delhi, it adjoins the peeling Air Dakkan—as we refer to it—counter). While you're looking for a tag for your hand baggage, a polite chap standing by with a full supply is already slipping one on for you.
Inside, you get a little goodie bag—no biggie, a pen, earphones, and the wee bag itself—but none of the others give you more than your boarding pass. Crib here: we like the damp towels that some airlines give you as you sit down—there's something very refreshing about them, and you're able to cover much more skin than you can with the wee packed tissue in the goodie bag.
The earphones plug you into the inflight entertainment system. The video (which you watch on LCD screens built into the seat-back in front of you) isn't much to write home about; recorded stuff, of course, some unfunny comedy show, Walk the Talk, and old cricket footage is all we remember. We much preferred the graphic that showed the plane's position, speed and altitude. But the audio is much better. There's pop and bollymix for those who like it, but also some seriously good jazz and lots more.
The down-side: everthing on audio and video gets overridden by Mr Mallya's booming welcome address. We think the bit about instructing his staff to treat us all as guests in his own home was a bit over the top, but that's because we've heard about his parties. The safety lecture comes to you on the screen instead of live. Mixed feelings on that one: no legit excuse to stare attentively at the lady doing the demo, but then the lass on your screen is a super model.
Food: we've heard complaints, but we actually like the food.
Oh yes. And despite *ahem* hot competition from the cabin crew, the thing that really made converts of us? We first took a KA flight to Delhi. We do not have happy thoughts about Delhi's airport, as a rule. But here, in pushy, rude, inefficent Delhi airport, as we got off the flight and looked for our flight number in the baggage conveyor section, we saw KA staffers (listen carefully now), lining up trollies around the right conveyor before the passengers even got there!
And the experience continued even outside, in the taxi line. More staffers, ushering passengers into cabs.
Irritants: the lousy stuff on video. And the announcements that said things like "hum land karne ko aa rahe hain (or something like that). And the inflight mag sucks. Basically an extended Page Three on glossy paper and bound. Mr M, we're passengers, not, despite your welcome, the kind of guests you have at your parties.
Wish-list: How about a power outlet for laptops? Our battered machine runs out of juice very fast, so we're always on the lookout for electricity. Even the Rajdhani gives you plug points these days.
Oh yes. As we were scribbling this in our note pad, we asked for another coffee. We were asked how we'd like it, and it arrived shortly, as per specs, and accompanied by a large chocolate biscuit.
Mr Mallya, your airline has class.