Flying Kingfisher: First impressions amongst the ongoing turmoil

Kingfisher: The Emperor with new clothes? (No clothes!)


Last weekend I embarked on a BOM-DEL-BOM roundtrip on Kingfisher Airlines after a very long time. I explained the reasoning behind booking Kingfisher in my earlier post on that topic. I must admit I shuddered when the flight cancellations became a flood from a trickle around the time I was all set to return on DEL-BOM, considering I had a very important meeting the next morning, but I decided to play along. I must have been crazy to do that, but it all worked out in the end. The completion of this trip made me believe that miracles do happen, and a lot of them while at it.

When I arrived at the airport, I was surprised to see the porter service offered by Kingfisher being still around. Basically it’s a bunch of contracted staff (off their rolls!) hanging out in Red shirts willing to walk your trolley for you to the check-in counter. I do remember them having offered this service a few years back when they launched, but I’d have assumed someone smart at Kingfisher got rid of it as soon as turbulence hit. Come on, we all can wheel our luggage inside the terminal and I am sure we are used to it. No one would miss this at all!

Porters: Wasteful expenses?

The flights really did take off only with a 10-15 minutes delay both ways, while I’d always heard from others that they would usually be delayed big time. This happened while the incoming flight was an IXE-BOM-DEL flight and took off with a 30-35 minute delay from the IXE airport.

I guess the moment of delight they managed to create was the upgrade I got on the DEL-BOM sector on the gate. It might have been an operational upgrade, but I figured it was still useful to be elite with them at least for this trip. That gave me a sampler to try out the business class product also, and I may say things were not so bad up in the front (but not so great either!)

The seats looked a little tired, both in Business and Economy. On the way out, I was seated in Economy, and I could not help but notice the horrible in-plane advertising which one would be subject to sitting on the back of the plane. That too, of liquor brands owned by the same parent company. Have a look at the picture below (top left and top right). Apologies for the bad picture quality.

Sorry, not interested in Black Dog whiskey, not on a plane at least!

Dysfunctional seats. Broken controls!

The IFE did not work on both the legs, though the screen in front of me claimed again and again that I could view some direct TV feeds apart from the usual stuff they served up. This was not surprising considering their finances. However, I know of enough people who used to choose Kingfisher Airlines over other carriers just for the IFE system on the domestic routes. So, I bet it was a disappointment for them at least to not to be able to watch the telly while flying.

Food, in the Economy segment looked and tasted better than that of the Business Class. I guess with their stated ambition of being full-service, they really need to work hard on serving good meals on their planes. Take note that it was only a snack on the BOM-DEL flight as it was in the evening, while on the DEL-BOM flight, it was a night flight and hence dinner was served. In the looks department, I had to give it to the economy meal for being just about the right size and taste and warmth.

Economy Snack meal

I am not going to put up that lobster dinner meal here right now (wait for the trip report!), but this picture right here shows you how Kingfisher is no longer a full-service airline. I won’t have minded them serving me in paper/plastic plates, but hey, if they really wanted to serve it up in Bone China, I bet I’d like a proper show put up. The gold plating was chipping away on everything, including the mugs, the plates and the salt and pepper shakers. These plates were embarrassing to eat in, they almost reminded me of the Emperor’s new clothes story, where the Emperor had no clothes on. This picture, right here, shows how they are in tatters.

Kingfisher First Dessert: The service tray gives away the story...

Service, was not with a smile. The cabin crew really did not care! They were just doing their job. It took them an hour to clear the trays on my onward leg, and I twiddled my thumbs, gave them the bored look and even pressed the call button on the way back to BOM. Yet, those ugly plates took time to go away, and the coffee mug was there right till 5 minutes before landing. While this is not pointed at one or two individuals, I think the current financial stress is definitely affecting the morale of the crew as much as of the passengers who fly them. It was a minor inconvenience, but I don’t know if future OW clients are going to think similarly.

Overall, it looked like the airline is trying to get the job done, but it no longer remains the ‘King of Good Times’ as it was earlier. I would rate them a 3/5. It really needs to do a lot more do gain the trust of passengers and crew, to make sure it survives in the long run. But the dishes, they should be real high priority after flying the planes and retaining the staff!

All is not lost yet, and they should really try and wriggle out of this mess for me to fly them more often this time around!

About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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