Monday, January 7, 2008

Hyderabad Diaries: Flying the Good Times

The operative in the phrase ‘Hyderabad Diaries’ is Hyderabad and the prerequisite is for me to be in Hyderabad. And thanks to my employer, I am getting there in India’s favourite airline (2007) – Kingfisher Airlines. I have seen the hype…today I get to experience it.

Bangalore Airport is bustling as usual as I walk towards one of the numerous check-in counters that Kingfisher has lined up. A member of the staff motions for me to move to an emptier counter. She asks for my ticket…I think I missed a smile and a “Good Morning”. She does not ask for the mandatory proof of identity along with my e-ticket…I think she missed a procedure. I show it to her anyway. She hands me my boarding pass…I think I missed the “Any Seating Preferences?” part. I walk off with the pass and a hand-baggage tag. There was no “Have A Nice Flight” either…I think I missed a lot. But then it could just have been me.

I have neither had my regular cup of a morning beverage nor breakfast and I decide to have coffee first (since I am expecting breakfast to be served on-board and I want to be able to form an opinion about it). I reluctantly walk to the Airport Café Coffee Day, since I tried the Grand Ashok coffee the last time I was here and I would rather deal with the caffeine withdrawal symptoms than with their coffee…urgh!. The CCD coffee is not much better and what’s worse, it is even more overpriced than the outlets in the city. I am thoroughly disappointed…it just keeps getting worse between CCD and me.

Anyway, by the time the security check is done, I have a bad taste in my mouth due to more reasons than one, I am hungry and I just want to get on the flight. I am not left waiting for long and soon I am walking towards the Kingfisher bus – a Volvo B7R. And the Kingfisher experience truly begins now…

The bus has leather-lined chairs and great interiors complete with O2H media televisions. It cruises on the tarmac and we reach the rather small plane we are to travel in. The surprise of the day awaits me as I see the airhostess welcoming the guests – it’s my friend! And I think…this is going to be good after all.

We are welcomed with facial tissues, a bottle of water and a pen (What For?!) each boldly flashing the kingfisher logo. The carrier, although small, has been made as comfortable as can be. The chairs are lined again with beautiful red leather and offer a world of comfort. In-flight entertainment is provided through tiny retractable LCD screens. Vijay Mallya makes a guest-appearance in the flight through those screens and proudly talks about his airline and the standards he has set for it. Shortly after, the screens come alive with the antics of Tom & Jerry – not quite in sync with the corporate status of more than half of the guests on the flight yet highly relaxing and an effective stress-buster. The airline pockets full points from my side for this.

Guests have a choice of vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisines even when it comes to breakfast and the food served is delicious. There is variety by way of a fruit-basket, croissants and Idli-Dosa to complete the fare. The Idlis and Dosas are warm, just the right temperature to be consumed at. The portions are well-sized too for a breakfast. Coffee or Tea served is the regular kind with sugar and whitener provided separately, but I found it to be much better than the CCD coffee at the Airport. So I am not complaining.

The only dampener is the fact that a meal on board the aircraft we were in can be quite a cramped experience with next-seat neighbours struggling to keep their elbows from engaging in a fistfight. The tray tables are miniature and so are the trays especially from the point of view of accommodating such an elaborate fare. But I don’t see how that can be helped given the size of the aircraft.

Before landing, Vijay Mallya requests one’s feedback about the Kingfisher experience and forms are passed around (now I see why the pens were distributed!). The form is exhaustive and one can give feedback on everything right from the check-in experience to the captain’s announcements, the staff’s hospitality and even the time of serving the food with respect to the time of the flight. I thought it was a very well designed form and only a business serious about improving itself constantly and being the best will solicit such feedback from the customers.

Before I know, Hyderabad’s landscape is discernible from the sky and we are preparing to land. I am a little sad that the Kingfisher experience has come to an end…I was really enjoying myself. It is the kind of experience that one can easily get used to and long for. I experienced the hype around Kingfisher and I feel that it is completely justified. Vijay Mallya has set high standards for his business and stands by them…

Truly flying Kingfisher is flying the good times.

1 Footprints:

deepocean2k said...

I second this! I travelled Mumbai - Bangalore couple of years ago (when KF was all new) and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Thank God, they care!