I’ve come across more than my fair share of people who have patronised Kingfisher Airlines in the past, and still fly Kingfisher Airlines wherever they can. However, with Kingfisher Airlines no longer on the permitted list of carriers by my workplace, I’ve not been flying them for business over a period of time.
When a Kingfisher patron Arun made a trip to Mumbai all the way to be on the last Kingfisher flight from Dubai, I warmed up to the airline again. However, they were not flying to places I wanted to go to and hence I had to wait a while to get them on a Mumbai – Delhi flight which is one of the trunk routes they are still operational on. I had last travelled on this route in November 2011 with Kingfisher, and I did not exactly have a great experience then, but happy to report that things are way better now. Like I had written in my last update on the airline, at least the trunk routes were getting good and consistent service after a period where there was no meal service even on full-service flights.
I initially booked up to fly on an 8 AM flight from Mumbai to Delhi, using some KingClub Miles, however, the day before the flight, I got a message from the airline informing me that my flight was ‘clubbed’ with the 6 AM flight now. “Darn”, I said, I was not going to wake up early morning even on a holiday. So, I called Kingfisher Airlines to ask for a move to the later flight rather than the earlier flight. At first I was refused because no award space was open on the later flight, but then accommodated and I got a call back to inform me of the same. Too bad, my preferred Row 11 seats were gone at this time so I checked into the emergency exit row.
I arrived at the airport terminal 1A in time for my flight, and missed the red-shirt porters who would usually be all over the place checking if one was a Kingfisher passenger, and escort them inside. Only Air India domestic and Kingfisher operate from this building.
I found my way inside to the Kingfisher Airlines counters, which wore a deserted look. Since I am a KingClub Gold member, I proceeded to the Kingfisher First check-in counters to receive my boarding passes and check-in my bags.
Here, I was informed that me and my brother were upgraded to Kingfisher First on this flight. Perfect start to the trip! While I already had lounge privileges because of the Gold status, we were further informed that we had access to the lounge because of our upgrade now. While the Kingfisher counters were not so crowded, here is a look at what was really crowding the airport terminal, the Air India flights.
The queue for security check was long because a lot of people were travelling for the long weekend (it started on a Wednesday!), and it took a while getting past the pot-bellied security guys who were screening baggage and people.
We proceeded to the Carnations Lounge, the only lounge on the airside, and used by Kingfisher Airlines as well as Jet Airways. It is commendable that Kingfisher Airlines is trying to keep up the standard with whatever resources it has left to its disposal. I had written a bit about the Mumbai Carnations Lounge a while back, but here are more pictures since the Lounge was not crowded today and gave me a good shot.
Decorated for the Independence Day
Like you notice, the lounge was comparatively empty today, and I always love a day to fly when I don’t have to be competing with people to score a seat in the lounge or get my bags in the luggage bin first. I also noticed they had a few Samsung Galaxy tablets around the lounge now, on a few tables and some people were using them. Not sure if this was a promotional gimmick from Samsung or an investment from the lounge operator however.
That done, we checked out the breakfast on offer. There was cereal, fruits, idlis, aloo sabzi, eggs, pooris, sambar and cake slices along with a couple of juices on offer.
The breakfast spread
The greatest invention of mankind, the idli steamer
I rounded up a little breakfast for myself, all because I had a really long day the night before and had to skip a meal. I knew I was going to get breakfast service on the plane but I wanted to eat at the lounge anyways.
In a while, the boarding for my flight was announced, and I was on my way out when I noticed this little banner on the drinks dispenser in the bar side. Independence day means its a no-alcohol day, I remembered now, but why was this stuck on a Pepsi Cola fountain, I’d never find out!
To keep costs under control, Kingfisher Airlines has gone back to using the bus gates rather than the aerobridges. This meant we walked another ten minutes to come back from where we had started for the lounge (at the other end of the terminal).
Since there was a high-security alert, everyone’s bags were being screened by Kingfisher Airlines security personnel as well, which took a few minutes to get past. I missed the priority boarding which Kingfisher used to offer for their elites, perhaps the only airline in India to do so.
Mumbai(BOM) – Delhi (DEL)
Wednesday, August 15 2012
Distance flown: 708 miles
Aircraft: Airbus 321
Seat: 4F (Kingfisher First, Business Class)
Meal Service: Breakfast
We got to the plane in a bus which still had couches inside it, in red color. Arrived at the plane parked at the other end of the tarmac after a 7 minute or so drive. Some Airbus A321 planes operated by Kingfisher Airlines had a configuration with about 8 rows of business class seats, and today we were going to fly one of those planes. I think these were the planes that flew on the regional services to the Middle-East and South East Asia.
Ahead of the curtain
My seat 4F
I noticed that the business cabin was comparatively full, at about 15/32 seats filled. I could not help but notice that a lot of passengers were op-uped (upgraded) since the economy cabin was full on this flight. Maybe the same reason to upgrade us as well.
The seats had lovely pitch at about 47” , while Jet Airways usually offers a 42″ – 44” seat pitch in business depending on what B737 you are flying that day. Kingfisher Airlines has discontinued the In-Flight Entertainment screens over the past few months, but that is the least of my worry on a short 2-hour flight. What I did notice was that the cabin still carried a detailed manual on how to use the IFE system, which was unnecessary now.
While the airline is working hard on trying to get the full-service proposition in place, I missed that there was no towel service or pre-flight welcome drinks, which was standard fare in Kingfisher First.
We pushed back on time, and taxied to the runway for a couple of minutes before taking off. It was a lightweight day for traffic after all, and no congestion was expected.
Once airborne, the captain came on the PA system to welcome the guests and inform them of the flight times. We were expecting an on-time arrival in Delhi which is a nice thing to hear, always. This was followed by the flight attendant coming by to take down our choice of meals. There was exactly one menu card on board, and it was in the hands of the FA who was telling the guests what their meal options were and taking down their requests, in a very hap-hazard manner. Me and my brother both went for egg omelettes
A little while later, meal service started. Again, there was no particular order in which meals were being served it seems. It looked like most passengers who were upgraded at the gate were being given out economy meals. I waited to see what was going to come my way, almost at the end of the meal service.
The first meal, which came the way of my brother, was a business class meal, which had sausages, scrambled eggs (not omelettes as told!), mashed potatoes and fruits. If nothing else, I was glad to see that the crockery being used to serve the meals had changed for the better as compared to the November 2011 trip where it was totally chipping away.
The second meal, which I had, was an egg omelette with beans and potatoes on the side. Notice the difference between both the meals, just like I did. Now, I did not mind for one moment to eat a smaller meal, but I was surprised that there was no upfront disclosure from the crew that the meal was different.
I waited patiently for a bread basket to come around, and when it did not, i called for an FA. I noticed some passengers getting croissants with their plates, and I was obviously expecting some bread, because how was I going to eat the butter and preservatives otherwise?
I was told that there was no bread rolls on board, and they would look for some. A while later, they came back with a couple of garlic bread rolls, which I declined since I was looking for normal bread.
We discussed about the different meals, and I was informed that we were supposed to be served economy meals, however, they were trying to do their best to dish out as many business class meals as they could accommodate since only 5 were catered. Even crew meals were being served. I instantly remembered the thing I’ve always said about Kingfisher crew, that they are passionate about what they do, and which is why they are still sticking around despite the personal hardship they are going through at this point of time.
I asked for a coffee to finish off my meal, which was promptly served.
The rest of the flight was very uneventful, and we started descent into Delhi about 20 minutes after meal service got over. We collected our belongings and hopped out of the plane to get into Terminal 3 of the Delhi Airport, and by the time we arrived at the baggage claim belts, which is a 10 minute walk away, our bags were already on the belt.
Looking back at a good Kingfisher Airlines flight
Arriving at Delhi T3
So, that was a good flight on Kingfisher Airlines, and I am hearing from other flyers as well that they are having a good experience on Kingfisher Airlines as and when they have flown them recently. So, do give them a shot if you can take that little risk with not getting to your destination in time, but before or after, in case there is industrial action.
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