Sunday, April 30, 2006

Come Fly With Me (Updated with Part II)

Part II

Thanks to this article, I got inspired to complete the second part of this post - Part I is at the end of Part II.

While in the air, you observe the most outstanding differences between Indian and Jet Airways.

I always considered Indian to be a very concerned airline, for many reasons. One of the main reasons is that they always believe in "safety first". I have seen ,at more than one instance, the airhostess literally shouting at passengers for not wearing their seat-belts when the sign is on. This is quite a "healthy" practice, and passengers cannot really complain.

Talking about health, again here Indian scores over Jet. At Indian, they believe in a healthy diet. So they do not give you the option of a Veg or Non Veg meal, but insist you have a Veg meal. Its healthy after all and reduces your cholesterol, thereby minimizing the chances of a heart attack - which you have all the chances of experiencing on-board their flights. Last I heard, they were considering a fruitarian meal. It is also funny how during an Indian flight, whether it is a 40 minute flight or a 4 hour one, there is always a scramble to clear the trays just before landing. You have the hostesses screaming "sir, gimme the tray, we are about to land!!" or "m'am if you dont give the tray now you are gonna keep it on your lap and land!!"

Anyway, it is only during landing that you realise why Indian has chosen its tag-line. Landing is always a very uncertain proposition in an Indian flight. I would suggest you carefully listen to the "assuring" noises of the landing gear and wheels locking-in from around 15 mintues before you destination. If you do not hear these noises and the loud thud of the wheels locking, pray hard. If you are lucky, then the landing gear works fine and you are all set to land. Else you might have "unexpected" circling around the airport, with technical guys and engineers trying to push out the gear or something. Okay this doesn't happen too often, but I know atleast 3 or 4 such incidents in the last 10 years or so.

Once the gear is down, you have the plane descending, but swaying side to side.. as though the pilot is unsure which runway to land on..Finally if you have prayed hard enough, the plane lands on a runway and not on a field. And always be aware that more than 50% of the Indian airlines flights land twice which means that after the first touch-down the flight usually bumps off and touches down once more. I guess its because the shock absorbers are excellent. After touch down you again experience great turbulence with the pilot trying to keep the aircraft on the tarred portion of the airfield. I am proud to say that 95 out of 100 times they manage to do it. God be with you, if you are in one of the 5 planes who do not stay on the runway. As you celebrate your landing, smile in relief and kiss your co-passenger, you remember the tag-line for Indian Airlines and make sense of it all... "Let your heart fly". I am sure it truly did, especially during landing. 10 on 10 for their tag-line!

Well, to cut the long story short, I feel Jet has struggled and worked hard to give their tag-line "Joy of Flying" a lot of meaning. You notice that at every step their customers are taken care of, and that too in courteous and respectable manners. It is no wonder then during a survey, out of 10,000 customers, only 9 people responded with minor negative comments giving a satisfaction rate of 99.99% for Jet Airways. Now that is one company I have learnt to respect. And I hope they maintain the same standards and principles forever.

Part I

Around two weeks ago, I missed my Jet Airway's flight because I managed to reach the airport only 10 minutes before departure by which time they had seated someone else instead of me, closed the boarding gates and started warming the engines as well. The lady at the ticketing counter apologised and said "Sorry sir, we were overbooked today and you won't be able to fly with us, but that I can put you on Air Deccan". Suddenly I felt light headed, as though I was losing balance, people around me blurred, my head spun..I saw oxygen masks dropping, and I thought I heard someone shout "may day!".
"No miss, I will take your flight tomorrow" I said recovering from the shock.
She smiled and scribbled something on my ticket and asked me to come the next day, and assured me I will fly tomorrow.

The next day I reached an hour early, not wanting to risk another shock treatment. I was promptly greeted at the entrance by the Jet Airway's Airport manager who escorted me to the check-in counter, apologising profusely despite my assurance it was entirely my fault. He checked me in through the priority counter, upgraded me to first class for free and put a fluorescent "priority" tag on all my luggages. I was pretty sure if I gave him anything less than a big smile and incessant thank yous, he woulda placed another tag on me as well! Anyway I boarded the plane all pampered..and that inspired me to complete this post, which I had left half way long time ago.

Now I have always wondered how and why airliners choose their tag-lines. I figured most of them out except for Sahara Airlines, which said "emotionally yours"!! I mean I have felt sad for them at times, but never had the luck to fly with someone so sentimental. Air Deccan started off the transformation of the Indian aviation industry with its "Simplifly" planes, but it didnt take long for them to realise it wasnt that simple. As much as I remember in terror their first flight, which caught fire while taxi-ing on the runway, I really appreciate the Captain and his team for the guts to single-handedly open up the skies for the common man. I also remember the other "also flew's" like Modiluft, East West, Damania and others who couldn't live up to what it takes.

So now we have Jet Airway's which is now comparable to our own Indian (Airlines) in size and scale of operations, and one cannot help wonder what differentiates this public vs private thingie everybody talks about, as well as what it takes to be a good and respected airline.

The difference actually begins at the time you begin booking your ticket, but I will not get into that assuming that you do it through your travel agent and you are not adventurous enough to do it yourself, or try something like e-ticketing! If you are, I am sure you know its another story altogether.

Anyway, if you manage to get to the airport on time you will begin to appreciate the horrors, and it is usually "the earlier, the worse". Indian airports also require a separate post altogether, if not a series, and we shall refrain from getting excited and talking about the IAAI. At the airport you will find a stark contrast between the Jet vs Indian counters. Jet is always manned by neatly dressed staff carrying wireless sets to communicate with eachother, always smiling and receptive. But Indian is always a commotion, with the staff screaming at eachother, from one corner of the airport to the other. Right from the time you have arrived to check-in, to baggage allowance, to security check, Indian is always trying to give you a "No" for answer.

"No saar, you have come 5 minutes late, someone else has been given your seat so please pay 50% of the fare"

"No no no..impossible sir, you are carrying 21 kilos while the limit is just 20 kilos. Please open your bag and lets see what I can take"

"Please come back after 10 minutes, you canNOt do security check now!"

But ofcourse, all this is for your own safety, so we dont mind.

Phew!! You manage to make it past the security check and you await boarding call. This is the one time you really dont make out any difference whichever airline you fly. You just wait. And irrespective of the airline, you get to see all the pilots, captains and (ehemm!!) hostesses parade by. There is hardly anything else you can do in any of our airports, and I dont have the faintest idea why anyone with even an iota of sense would oppose airport privatisation.

And then they wake you up with that call for boarding. There is a slight difference in the language, accent and clarity of speech but thats pardonable and usually not too evident when it all comes out through the mike and speakers of IAAI. Now the boarding call at Indian literally means another havoc at the gate. You have over 100 passengers suddenly going into frenzy and rioting to form a line! And for some reason, if one of them lost a place in the line its enough to set off a mini-battle! It dawned upon me suddenly why they say Indian Airlines is still a Crowd Puller! Jet again in contrast, first boards the front section of the flight, then the mid and only then the third section.

8 out of 10 times, I have walked in the sun to an Indian Airlines plane to board, while 10 out of 10 times I have been driven in a bus to the Jet aircraft.

Only 2 out of 10 times have I been greeted with a smile while boarding an Indian (despite me making an effort to smile and wish), while 10 out of 10 times on a Jet airline I have been greeted and welcomed aboard. The two times they did supposedly say "welcome" and "namaskar" on Indian to me, they were looking at someone else or had their backs towards me. But I have to admit there was this young lady on Indian who was one of the most well behaved hostesses I have ever met. But I dont see her these days, so she has probably quit or been poached.

Now that we are on-board Indian, we are seated (literally!!) by a stern looking grumpy 45 year old Kokila at the forward section, 28 year old harassed and unhappy looking Sweta at the first class and 54 year old Matilda who works at the rear and just gives everyone a glance from back there. All three have "dont mess with me" written allover their faces! They double up as deterrent for any hijacks and unruly behaviour. At the same time, on board Jet there is Melissa, Shreya and Tina, all three in their early 20 somethings, to welcome you on-board with a smile, hello and "can I take your bag, sir?"". Oh! I forgot to say, Tina is apparently Matilda's second daughter.

Soon you are served coffey bites on Indian, which most of our Indians stow away by the dozen into their pockets, while on Jet you are given a warm face towel and a welcome fresh lime drink. While you are being served, you get generous doses of "sit!!!" "put your seatbelts!!!" and "no!!" from Indian hostesses, while the Jet staff always prefix a "please" or "kindly" and most of the times speak in full sentences.

Jet: "Ladies and gentlemen, this is Tina and I'm your chief flight attendant. On behalf of Captain Siddharth and the entire crew, I would like to welcome you aboard Jet Airlines flight JWXXX, from XXX to XXX. Our flight time will be of 2 hours and 15 minutes....... We advise you that as of this moment, any electronic equipment must be please turned off. Thank you."

Indian: " "Ladies and gentlemen, On behalf of Captain Kusni (????!!) and the Asst in Command (long pause while she finds out the name) Karthik, I would like to welcome you aboard Indian Airlines flight ICXXX, from XXX to XXX. We apologise for the delay and it is due to the late arrival of this aircraft from its previous sector (coughs and clears her throat). Switch of any electronic equipment you have."

Jet: "Ladies and gentlemen, we have just been cleared for take-off. Cabin Crew, please be seated and prepare for take-off."

Indian: "Crew..pre (static) ga ba la...takeoffff"

Of late, there is a serious concern that I have while on-board Indian. They now say "keep your windows up for safe landing and take off" !!!!?!?!??!?! I have heard stories(and even experienced once) of wheels falling off Indian Airlines flights and engines catching fire. Is this an official warning that such instances are possible any time and it is for the responsible passenger to spot these?? So keep an eye or two!

Anyway, if you are lucky enough you are off the bumpy asphalted runway on time, if not it might take upto 1 hour or more and at times a few skid offs.

But it is not until you are up in the air ,that you begin to realise the true differences between Indian and Jet Airways! But then theres no escape!

To be continued...


quills said...

You have successfully captured the subtle and not so subtle differences between Jet ( a pleasure to fly) and Indian (a pain to fly, and too bad this is our official domestic carrier). I don't think rebranding would do the trick unless basic services and attitude changes along with the brand.

Flying Air India was not that great either, at least the last time I flew a few years ago. Callous attitude on the part of the flight stewards and stewardesses, who would not even respond to a request for water or a blanket. But I still remember a time ( I was around 5 years old) when Air India actually had friendly smiling air hostesses greet you at the door with a lovely Namaste, toys and coloring books for kids, nice yummy food and really lovely service. And seeing those graceful ladies in uniform, I wanted to be an airhostess myself when I grew up.

I am hoping at least some competition would scare/motivate these folks into offering quality services with a smile. But don't think that will happen unless they are privatized. And I guess this would be the same situation in anyother country for that matter. I know another national carrier (public-owned) that is also in financial trouble, no doubt due to folks avoiding it, if it can be helped, that certainly would give Air India a run for its money.

MC, I see that you actually took notes and did thorough research before writing this post. ;) Good one!

Sarah said...

as someone who had to endure, air india and indian airlines froma very young age.. I hv to say. I promised myself when I was 10.."when I make my own money, i will never fly in either of these 2". I still keep my promise.
I was scolded royally for spilling my glass of water in air india flight by a woman hostess older than my grnadmother..
I was told that if you asked for chicken and got mutten, imagine it is chicken and eat.
there were convinced me further why I hate AI and IA..

Sarah said... spelling gone all kaput today..mutten...

Anonymous said...

I too had a pleasant experience when I landed on an international flight and had not re-confirmed my flight on jet airways ( i did not know you had to reconfirm).

The check-in lady gave me first class seats and tears were rolling down my eyes.

Brijesh Nair said...

U r fully correct!U can easily understand what is meant by professionalism if u travel in Jet Airways and lack of it in Indian.

the airhostess while serving food in Indian are like "if u want take it" attitude. Even if u r hungry ur appetite will go after seeing the way they keep their face while serving food.

I think there was a rule earlier that at certain age airhostess in air india and indian airlines has to retire. But the parliament struck that rule down saying that discrimination of women based on age is unacceptable. This happened when one of the Hindi news reader in Doordarshan (Salma Sultan, I think) was asked to retire as news reader because she looks old. Then it became a big issue in parliament and from that time onwards I think all these old ladies with "dead" expressions on their faces continued as air hostess.

Good post!Enjoyed reading

Mind Curry said...

@ quills - yeah the sad part of most government organisations is that it never changes with the times. they are always looking at settling down on some comfort (comfortable for them) plane and then refusing to make any change!

@ IiC - man..that sounds so rude..cant imagine a 10 year old forced to making such promises..terrible. and now its not even like IA and AI are the "cheaper" options. they have monopolised and really squeezed the people while they could.

@ jk - man...tears were rolling??? i think you should try Sahara then..i am sure they will be "emotionally yours" :)

@ brijesh - you are spot on about the attitude. i mean, i think more than the age aspect, it is the attitude. i mean older women can also act with grace and compassion. but its their sheer rudeness and scowls that really put you off!

Babin said...

The way they rip off poor Keralites working in the gulf is the worst.. Really shameful for India's flag carrier.
Good Post, Mind.

starry said...

ON my next visit to India its going to be Jet Airways for me.had fun reading this post.

Mind Curry said...

@ babin - i think the idea of Air Kerala was borne out of that rip-off.

On another note though, Indians, particularly on the Gulf and South East Asian sectors, behave quite badly with the hostesses and in general. The attitude of the staff has to some extent been conditioned to such behaviour over years.

Just as we demand better service, we also need to display a general sense of decor and discipline. I once was unfortunate enough to travel to Dubai on and AI flight and was ashamed to see how some of the passengers downed their quota of unlimited alcohol and then started misbehaving. i was too small then, but even then i felt like slapping these people.

@ starry nights - Jet away :) thanks!

Raj said...

lol :) good one!

Raj said...

God's own country it remains but with devil's own people :)

PC said...

At the risk of being labeled anti-Indian, let me tell another story which happened to me. A few years back I was returning to Bombay from a trip abroad. I wasn't a graduate at that time and hence before making the trip had to stamp a "Emigration Clearance Not Required" (ECNR) on my passport for 30 days. When I entered the Bombay airport, the first thing the airport officer noticed might be my typical "Malluish" looks. Having tasted the Marathi babudom before, I started talking in Marathi to him. I was trying to avoid looking like a naive "Madrasi" and let some one taking me for a ride. But this made a reverse effect on him. From the time he was taking to go through the documents, I knew that a screw-up was inevitable. Suddenly he got the point - I had overstayed a day after the ECNR expiry date in the passport. "You cannot enter the country, you have overstayed". From the very little I knew, I could tell that emigration clearance was some thing that the govt. introduced to avoid non-graduates getting employed abroad. I was on a visit visa and also had returned from the trip. I said to him, "What are you going to do? Send me back? I did not know that I was trying to illegally immigrate to India". I was just plain angry, but this guy was pissed off too. He made me stand aside and let all others go. It was three o' clock in the morning and I realized that not only horses but human beings too can sleep while standing. He still did not relent. Humbleness wasn't my middle name either. I had to stand there till the shift change which came 5 hours later. I let you guys decide who is the saint and who is the sinner.

Unknown said...

Well written ...u have summed up the blaring gap that exists between the public and private sector...clearly the public sector has to improve a lot if it plans to continue competitively..

One thought....with more and more airlines coming in by the minute...and schedules getting tighter and tighter, i have a gut feeling that these new guys who offer air tickets at the price of a bottle of coke are flouting maintenance norms..I somehow feel that the rules in India are always broken...and unless there is one big accident, people wont wake up to this...i dont think this accident is too far away!

another point... Indian Airlines has some of the best pilots in the country. These guys have enormous amounts of experience in terms of flight hours. It is just unfortunate that IA is not able to retain this talent pool as most of them leave for greener pastures...
Most rookie pilots aiming to make it big in India still look to join IA for the kind of experience it gives them...If he joins Jet as a rookie, he would probably be cleaning a cargo plane and flying it to timbuktu for the rest of his life! :)

Mind Curry said...

@ raj - true..we are trying to isolate the devils :)

@ PC - i dont think fighting for justice or what you believe in is "anti-indian".

you will find idiots like that official almost everywhere, and its more due to ego and shallow mindedness than anything else. glad you were brave enough to withstand his nonsense. you should have also complained against him.

@ anoop - you are right about the crowded skies and about the concern of airline safety and standards. thats why i singled out Jet Airways, as it is the only one comparable to IA in terms of standards and safety.

demand always causes a lack in supply. and hence to meet this shortage of pilots more and more schools will come up. but regulating the standards is the equal responsibility of the school, airline and the government.

if Jet can do it, others CAN too.

Mind Curry said...

@ masoud - thank you masoud...nice to see you here.

silverine said...

Comment to Part II

as though the pilot is unsure which runway to land on ROFLAO
Damned funny post. There was this time when we were waiting at the airport and we heard that the landing gear of a landing IA plane would not descend. The Pilot flew low over engineers in Jeep who were trying to pull down the stuck nose wheel. I was about 9 or 10 then and refused to get on the plane :))
Another incident, my brother had to rush to Chennai and could get seats only on Deccan.The hostess came and whispered to him to keep an eye on the wing for any sign of sparks =))

Mind Curry said...

@ silverine - haha..thats sooooo funny i cannot stop laughing!!

The Pilot flew low over engineers in Jeep who were trying to pull down the stuck nose wheel. I was about 9 or 10 then and refused to get on the plane
goshhh!! who wouldddd fly again after hearing such things?? am imagining engineers on jeeps jumping to pull down the wheels!!!

am sure sparks flew from your brothers face then!!

silverine said...

My Brother wanted to get off immediately but the doors were already closed LOL
In the same flight he over heard an NRI kid asking his parents " is this the same airline where people get standing room?"

rauf said...

What's this got to do with 'God's own country' or 'dog's own country' or saving Kerala ??

Mind Curry said...

@ silverine - lol..i dont blame him..funny..

@ rauf - well..until we begin "air kerala" we are using the same indian airlines and jet and air deccan in kerala i guess.

rauf said...

Mind Curry :
Do you think Having 'air Kerala'
the 'dog's own country' would become 'god's own country ?

Mind Curry said...

@ rauf - not at all..i was just saying indian and all other airlines affect kerala as much as it does others..and hence the post.

i have a feeling air kerala if it comes, without proper standards, will be another flying horror for the malayali.

Sarah said...

I liked the part of double landing.. almost all the time i flew on Indian landed twice and my heart did scary land..

quills said...

LOL. I loved the update as well. I wanted to comment earlier, but got caught up at work.

Anyway, laughed a lot reading about the final landing of Indian and the huge sigh of relief by the the scared passengers, whose only crime was to purchase a ticket from Indian.

And fruitarian meals I better pack some solid meals if I ever fly with them , before they get the idea of liquid diets.

I hope someone from Indian customer service is reading this and reporting back to HQ. But wonder if that will do any good. One can hope. :)

silverine said...

Congratulations on making it in the news!!!

And kudos for keeping "Save Kerala" so 'unpolitical' :))

If you know what I mean. I meant you have kept this blog free of biases, rancour and mud slinging. Your moderation of comments too is excellent. I have seen many a trivial comment raise it's ugly head in the hope of a fight only to whimper and disappear because you dind't give them the ammo they were looking for. That was also a strong statement that this was no place for "keralising'( read 'trivialising') pressing issues.

Now that is no mean feat for a political blog.

Rose said...


Very interesting name u have there for ur blog...



Smith said...

While I agree that Jet Airways outdoes Indian in most departments, I have to say that the best landings are generally on Indian flights. There are two reasons for this. First, IC has the most experienced pilots around. Second, Most of the older generation Airbus A320s were ordered with "double-bogeyed" landing gear, which means that there are double the number of wheels in the landing gear at the rear, if you compare the A320s of IC, with those of Kingfisher, Deccan or even the newer A319s and some of more recent A320s that IC appears to have got from Latin America or Iberia (the VT-EY_ series), you observe the difference.

I agree that the older IC aircraft shake and shudder after landing when the thrust-reversers are engaged, but this is a reflection of the age of the aircract, and only a matter of degree...all planes do it...the newer ones do it less..

IC has the largest and most experienced crew of maintenance engineers among all the Indian airlines, you might say their record necessitates such prudence, but it is a reassuring thought!

As far as food is concerned, it's pretty uniform, IC rotates between TAJ-SATS and Ambassador in the metro sectors, so if you are on a TAJ-SATS flight you get good food, if it's ambassador...tough luck!!

IC these days does offer cold towels at the time of take-off, and they also offer a tetrapak drink instead of the nimbu-pani on Jet...which is not bad...

Ali Thanikkal said...

...Matilda who works at the rear and just gives everyone a glance from back there...
i can so well imagine this...ROFL -;)))
Dr, I envy ur task when it comes to isolating devils in kerala, i guess its just too easy... had it been the otherway round... u wud had it real tough -;))

aria said...

Very nicely written . .quite witty .. descriptive - with enough dabs of sarcasm .. nice one in your style :)
I'm not much of a traveller - have only taken Indian (Airlines) flight for domestic travelling .. and never took Air India for international flying ..
but hmm .. Jet sounds good - gonna keep this in mind when I gotta travel next ..

Mind Curry said...

@ IiC - thanks sarah :) let your heart fly..ofcourse..

@ quills - absolutely essential to carry some snack atleast :) liquid diet! ughh! cant imagine that..yeah we are always left hoping..

@ silverine - thank you so much silverine..i am glad you saw the other side of blogging..i mean, when people have different opinions its easy to get into a tiff and forget the objective. i am really glad to read your comment..and thank you! your support has been crucial. may the brand silverine rule! :)

@ rose - hello..welcome here..are you the new kid on the blog? :)

@ smith - wow..are you a pilot? or an aviation engineer? i really loved reading the very technical aspects and differences..

yes i do agree IA has many plus points, but the sad part is despite being around for over 50 years they are not maturing into a professional service organisation, but just displays total indifference. i mean the hostesses and the people who come in touch with passengers are the flag bearers, and if they act ugly the airline is going to keep going down, irrespective of its experienced maintainence engineers, double bogeyed landing gear and all those good things.

and ofcourse, you are right..there are aspects about IA that i respect. but i was trying to bring out the lacunaes in a fun way, and hopefully ease the shock of our readers when their "heart flies" next.

i really really enjoyed your long comment and it helps to see the other side always as well. thank you smith..hope to see more of you here.

@ alit - thanks alit..welcome here..

had it been the otherway round... u wud had it real tough
you mean the devils isolating me? ouch!! :) i will have to become one among them then! lol..

Mind Curry said...

@ aria - thank you :) welcome here..yeah it just depends whether you want your heart to fly or you want the joy of flying ;)

silverine said...

@mind curry: Thank you for the kind words.

Somejobs like that of an Air Hostess, Hospitality Professional and or Nurses, need an inherent ability to get along well with people. This quality is promoted as a culture in other airlines while in IA and AI the job of a hostess is just another govt. job. This is what makes the big difference in service.

@Smith: I agree that IA pilots and engineers are one of the best.

Vijay Ramamurthi said...

nice read, I was going thru a few comments such as Indian has aging fleets, and experienced pilots.

Well then they shud give option of picking the crew and aricraft during booking tickets. Otherwise, every body is level playing field, u have 10K hours exp pilot, and he lands his plane in a thud, he is an insult to all his co pilots and a pathetic pilot unless it is a one off incident.

Once when I flew indian arilines, the only runway in madras was in a bad shape, cudnt believe it, they landed in a taxi way with heavy breaking, infrastructure improvements will help all these physical problems.
Then customer service? privatize indian, govt has nothing to do with customer service. They cant serve any body properly, how will they have stewardesses???

Smith said...

@Mind Curry, I am very flattered, but I am just a lover of flight (i won't even say aircraft enthusiast, because i know some and their passion is frightening!). Even after flying so much it still feels magical everytime the plane lifts off. It's because of this love that I try to observe every aspect of a flight including the aircraft registration numbers (and the landing gear).

Another thing I like (i guess i'm weird) about Indian is the soviet-ness of its operations. Huge sprawling, scary offices (like the in Nariman Point in Mumbai, or in Egmore in Chennai) where processes are inefficient, staffing is inadequate and service is with a resolute frown...

I guess that appeal will only last till I really get screwed over in a time of need!

Anonymous said...

Air Kerala? Another white elephant? Instead the gulf sector should be open for private/international players. While most other sectors have open sky policies, this sector alone is kept aside as monopoly for Air India & Indian so that they can keep on robbing the Gulf Migrants for all their wrong doings. If you look at the tariff for Telehone calls to Gulf & other regions, the difference remains there too, Dunno the reasoning, may be again to rob the people

Anonymous said...

I am here because of search results for blogs with a related topic to mine.
Please,accept my congratulations for your excellent work!
I have a air tran airlines site.
Come and check it out if you get time :-)
Best regards!

Terms of Use and Disclaimer