Domestic Air Travel in India

I traveled to multiple cities (Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Mumbai, Delhi) in the span of last 4 days. The air travel has significantly improved but there are some rough edges as well. Overall I enjoyed the pampering by the booming airline industry. Below are some specific observations:

  1. When I left India (many years ago) then there used to be only two major airlines for domestic travel - Indian Airlines and Jet Airways. This time around, I saw so many - IndiGo, SpiceJet, JetLite (nee Air Sahara), KingFisher, Indian (fka Indian Airlines) and many others. And the frequency between any two destinations is much higher with lower fares.
  2. I traveled only on Jet Airways and Kingfisher and I must say I was very impressed by the courtesy and an always smiling face of the flight assistants. This was quite a contrast with an Indian Airlines flight I took many years ago.
  3. The impressive part was that complementary meals/snacks were served even for a short flight of 30 minutes. And a typical snack will consist of sandwich, cereal bar, guava juice, brownie and some sort of munchies. And if you are taking a slightly longer flight, then of course you are treated with a full meal. In contrast, even a coast-to-coast flight in the US serve only complementary drinks ;)

    Here is a typical snacks served for 30 minutes flight in Kingfisher:

    And here is a typical meal served for 2 hour flight in Jet Airways:

  4. Most of the planes of Kingfisher are new and really trendy. Comfortable seats, good leg space, leather headrest, personal TV screens for each passenger with fancy remote controls and really nice headsets. Each passenger was also given a pen. Little goodies, but over all makes you feel treated well. No wonder they incurred a loss of Rs 577 crores for FY 07 ;-) I would definitely recommend Kingfisher till they are here.
  5. Make sure to get the baggage tag of the airline for all hand-carry luggage. This is checked at the boarding gate otherwise your bag is scrutinized heavily. Generally airline officials do a good job (they missed one one of mine) about ensuring this but it's good to make sure yourself to avoid any inconvenience later.
  6. Very few (read rarely) planes have tube access connecting directly into the airport. In my case, all the airlines stopped on a designated area in the airport and buses were used to transfer passengers from or to the airport. These are conducted very professionally but just a different way of doing things than the US where planes are mostly connected directly to the airport. I feel this is airports' way to keep up with the burgeoning airline industry.

Now some rough edges ... I don't think much can be done to change any of this but this is just to prepare you better.

  1. The flights typically are delayed, at least the domestic ones! At least all my flights were delayed. And the fun part is it that it's very reliable. Some passengers plan their arrival at the airport accordingly.
  2. At the reservation desk, passengers tend to clutter around the counter. In most cases, standing right behind you and literally peeping into your paperwork. At Mumbai airport (impressive facility), a fellow passenger conveniently jumped ahead of me and cursing me for being slow. I guess this is one way people express their frustration when they get stuck in traffic and delayed for their flights.
  3. At the boarding gate, everybody tend to clutter around the counter (yeah, once again). Nobody seems to care about this "clutter", certainly not the people who are cluttering. The surprising part was that even the airline officials also did not do anything to fix that (even after being reminded by other folks). And these people seem to get into the plane before everybody in the queue.
  4. Now the scary one - Once the plane taxis, all the passengers seem to be in a super hurry to get out of the plane. And it could be violent sometimes. For example, after the plain taxied at the Pune airport, I waited for the aisle to clear up, stood up and then tried to put my laptop in the bag. It took me probably 3-5 seconds to pull the bag from the overhead cabin, open the zipper and place the laptop in there. But that got some passengers behind me completely impatient. One of the passengers pushed me aside to the extent where I was about to fall on the floor, and he just moved ahead. And interestingly the passengers behind him just followed.

Enjoy the complete album so far:

Technorati: traveltips india airlines kingfisher jetairways airport

Comments:

Could the rough edges then be called "Miles to go"? :-)

Posted by Vasanth Vaidyanathan on December 06, 2007 at 07:34 PM PST #

You got it, even though it's the title of my blog but it's very well valid for everybody ;-)

Posted by Arun Gupta on December 06, 2007 at 07:54 PM PST #

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Posted by Bengaluru business hotels India on December 07, 2007 at 07:15 PM PST #

Hi Arun,
This is a nice blog. But, probably you could also have mentioned some thing about Air Deccan (now called "simply Deccan" after being bought over by Kingfisher). Air Deccan was the pioneer in low cost air travel (in India) and they should be credited for the change which you see today.
\* I personally would not say that "Air Deccan" at any time gave very good services. In fact most people would complain about their erratic time schedules and there were also some complaints about over booking. But, despite all these short comings, people still travel by this airlines because they make it possible for the poor.
\* Another note: Even today, Air Deccan operates on many low traffic insignificant routes and at low fares. They are making losses on these routes, but they are still committed to provide air travel across these cities. Over a period of time, even these small routes are going to become profitable (as the traffic increases), and that time many more airlines would start there operations on these sectors. But it is Deccan who is pioneering the change and making the travel reality on these routes (even if it means loss to them). They are really a poor men's career.
\* After being bought over by Kingfisher, "Simply Deccan" is undergoing a lot of changes. Some people suggest that the new management may not stick to old Deccan philosophy and close down (or hike the fares) the flights on sectors with low traffic. Though that will do some good to the company stock holder (which they deserve), but it will be really sad for us - "The poor of India".
.....
Finally, I am not sure if my comments really make any sense here. I am not sure if you were more please by the good food or low fares. Deccan (and other low cost airlines) do not serve any food on board, but they offer you low air fares, and it is because of them that we do have frequent flights across domestic sectors.

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Among the places of special interest in Delhi are the Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Coronation Durbar Site, Raj Ghat, Jantar Mantar.

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Righto! I lived in Delhi for the first 25 years and right in the middle of these places. They are indeed special to me and a different experience :)

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Posted by cicekci on June 25, 2008 at 08:25 AM PDT #

I just spent a few trips flying Emirates and I was so impressed with them. I think it's just because I haven't flown in a very long time. Although Emirates is not really a 'budget' airline (so we should expect great service and great food) I think they still deserve praise for being brilliant. Every passenger has their own entertainment screen; and on the 777's you get the most modern entertainment that you can fully control. The food was brilliant – I mean, really excellent. AND, above all, they still gave us steel cutlery (amazing) rather than the plastic stuff.

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Posted by bearshare on July 08, 2008 at 07:45 PM PDT #

according to me air india is better than kingfisher. As it is compartiively cheaper rather resonable and takes the care of all the basic nessacities of the passenger while travelling in the plane.....

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Air France is the perhaps the worst airline. The people who work for them such as the guy Girish Sharma head of lost baggage is a peon the way he talks. "Sir we cannot do this, as we are not authorised etc" is a typical reply. They should replace these unhelpful guys by something that doesnt have a human brain. This terrible airline has misplaced my bag for the last 5 days and all they can do is to give me silly answers instead of going all out and looking for my bags which contained all my clothes. My cousin also flew them and the lost her bags on a direct flight from Paris to Delhi. They eventually found her bag afte 21 days lying in Toronto airport.How it got there dont ask. Incompetent airline and its incompetent staff. A reccomendation my friends NEVER FLY AIR FRANCE.

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In most of the airports in Europe & US, they operate only a single trip of the bus between the aircraft and the airport terminal, both ways. It means everyone has to wait until the last passesnger gets into the bus. This I found was very irritating and waste of time.

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Arun Gupta is a technology enthusiast, a passionate runner, author, and a community guy who works for Oracle Corp.


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