I recently had a chance to travel out on business to Boston and London. While overseas travel is eye popping stuff at this time, I was called on to travel because of business critical reasons. One of the key considerations when I had to make the booking was obviously cost. I am a big fan of booking tickets online – sadly though, my preferred airline, Jet Airways, didn’t hop through direct and with date issues across, I didn’t have a choice but to use an agent. I started the haggling process asking them to come back with options and obviously, rock bottom fares!
With a line on the bottom line, the option that I chose was the Jet Airways offer with options to hop on to code share flights operated by American and Kingfisher! Yes – I wonder how KF fitted in, but it did! I get laughed at for taking a few hops to get to Boston quite often. While I know straighter options exist, my preference is to fly with Indian carriers! It’s not the patriotism to tell you the truth though; it’s just the fact that a veggie like me is guaranteed good Indian food! Good to go, I was speaking to my boss who casually enquired about my schedule - hearing KF in there, his eyes popped up too.. “Good on you mate” said the Aussie with a sheepish smile, pausing to add that he too had heard a lot of good things about the airline! Isn’t it time to compliment the KF marketing guys? If I ever had to hire a marketing chap, I know where to poach on from!
I did on onward legs, hopped on a crazy 6 hour, overnight flight that eventually made it to London in a little over 5 hours, thanks to tail winds! Jet lagged, I finished by busy schedule and hopped on to this much awaited flight of mine! I felt like a 7 year old hopping on to his first ever flight! I am assuming that all this excitement was because of the hype that has been created about the airline and their service – 5 star says an ad with some of India’s prettiest faces! Having never flown on this airline before, I was super excited. Anyone seeing me would have for sure wondered if I was smoking pot!
I checked into a front row seat, was given a lounge card and given the opportunity to also pass through the fast track for the security check. Travelers from London’s Heathrow will tell you what a nightmare it can be to get through security. Fast track was super cool though – I was out in less than 3 minutes and found myself comfortably seated at the “ holi deck”, waiting to get on to the plane! Did the wait seem eternal?
The moment when the rubber hit the road did arrive! They announced boarding and I was one of the first guys to get to the gate. Finishing off the itsy bitsy paper work, I walked right through to the gate where I was welcomed by a stunningly pretty girl. “Welcome sir!” she said escorting me to my seat. I followed her wondering where do these folks stay in Bangalore – I never get to see them in most places that I go to!
The next few moments were a sense of déjà vu! Most of the procedures were what I thought were just an attempt to ape Jet!
- Hot Towels – same temperature, same cologne!
- Drink – Slightly different choices, different shaped glasses, KF being better though
- Comfort Kit – Bvlgari in Jet Vs Salvatore Ferragamo in KF, my vote is for Bvlgari, maybe because it is a better known brand!
- This one is different! – Welcome video from the chairman of KF with a personal commitment to hiring every single air hostess and having them treat us as his personal guest!
- Gender Diversity – Jet wins, though the visual aspect on KF will make heads turn! I saw one male as a part of the crew, but won’t complain
- Cutlery – for starters, I was served food on cutlery that had some fancy gold design. I don’t know if they were faded or was it design, especially since these days, everything is design! But the cutlery on jet wins here
- Main course – KF any day! They served a meal on a silver thali as opposed to the standard wares on Jet! I made sure to come and tell my mom that! She never did that to me!
- Quality of food – Jet! The food they serve is just lovely!! While the lead up to the food in terms of presentation and style is high, the taste was pretty disappointing
- Wine List – I don’t know if these guys use the same printer and same suppliers, maybe the same caterer, but that can’t be because the food tastes different!
- Deserts – I’m convinced that HÄAGEN-DAZS has a global contract with all airlines
- Seating comfort – The seats on Jet are in a herring bone design, meaning more privacy and a flat bed. At KF, these are shared 2+2+2. While the flat bed option is there, certainly not as user friendly as Jet
- In-flight entertainment – Jet will win hands down here
- In-flight shopping – Same printer, different prices! Jet is cheaper!
- Take off and landing – Ah, sorry, I forgot I had to stop!
The staff is certainly friendly. Mallya sets the cue on this one saying food is his passion and drinks his business! They have a bar with a bar tender serving drinks at a little seating area that has been designed! Aiya! I got it now! Was this why the lone male staff was hired?!
Dealing with jet lag is a little hard. Unable to get some sleep and being a bit distracted, I walked around and was instantly in a conversation with the girl who welcomed me in. She introduced herself to me as the in-flight director, talk about sexy designations! I was pretty curious to ask her about Mallya. There are local versions of how the airline hires and I don’t know how authentic they are. I dare not ask her the obvious, but very casually checked with her on the authenticity of Mallya’s commitment to hiring! “ Yes sir! He does. You don’t get hired into the airline as a cabin crew until you have an interview with the chairman. Amazing isn’t it?”. I was like, Yes! Yes!! What kind of a HR guy am I? Isn’t this best practice!??
I realize I can go on and on. But the essence for me was how I “felt” on the flight back home after a grueling week of meetings, jet lag, lack of good veggie food and of course, some unbelievably cold weather! Through the flight and in hind sight, I’d stay loyal to Jet. They truly are Indian – have the elements of style and comfort to actually make you feel at home, compared to the pomp and style that makes you feel very artificial and uncomfortable at heart! I don’t know if this is just me, but my first experience will remain my only one for a long time coming!
Image Credit: Jim Reeves
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