Thursday Dec 06, 2007

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

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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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