Reviews of domestic airlines in India
I noticed that ever since I put links to the web pages of airlines in India on my official homepage I got a lot of hits to it when people were searching for the airlines on Google. So I thought I would do them a service by publishing my personal experiences with these airlines. It also gives me an opportunity to rant.
I havent updated this site for years but recently someone commented on some inaccuracies in the site so I've decided to update some amount of it. The major changes in the many moons that have passed since this page was first written are that Bangalore has a new airport - which is already being expanded - and several of the airlines are dead. For historical documentation purposes I'm not going to delete my old reviews
Air Deccan - DEAD First of the no frills airlines. - I have had a reasonably good experience flying Air Deccan. It is cheap and as far as I have experienced, reliable. I think the reason for its success is that the CEO, Captain Gopinath, has a mission - unlike some of the others who are part of the `I aslo want' bandwagon. One problem I should mention is with their website - it only works with Internet Explorer or Opera - which is always a bad sign. Update - Now Air Deccan has tied up with Kingfisher - with a code sharing agreement - which is good for AD passengers as there always remains the possibility of getting bumped off onto a KF flight. Air Deccan also flies to remote places cheap - I flew to Leh for Rs. 3000, while Jet was 8100. Further Update - Kingfisher has bought a majority stake in Air Deccan and as a result it has been revamped as sort of the non-alcoholic version of KF beer. It has a new name - `simplify Deccan' - and a new improved website - with a new tag line `The choice is simple'. This is certainly an improvement over `Nobody can like Air Dec-can'. The bottom line is - if you belong to the jet set - and have a taste for Champagne but can afford only non-alcoholic beer - this is the airline for you. UPDATE - Air Deccan is DEAD.
Go Air - This is the brainchild of Jeh Wadia of the Bombay Dyeing group and is perhaps most representative of the `I also want' club. I booked a ticket to fly on this a few weeks ago. A couple of days before I left, a friend whom I had sent my iternerary pointed out that I had booked my ticket to return on the same day, a couple of hours after I arrived. This was because the web page, which once again only runs on Internet Explorer resets the date every once in a while. Anyway, after complaining about this the airline was willing to change the ticket to a later date without charging me the change of ticket fee ( of Rs 600 ) but only charging me the change in fare. I guess that was nice of them. However, the night before I left I got 20 ( and I am not exaggerating ) SMSs from GO Air informing me that my flight was canceled and asking me to call up a certain number for details. With some difficulty I got through and they told me that I had to take an evening flight. After convincing them that this was not a good idea they told me that I should get to the airport by 7 am and they would put me on a flight. I asked them to let me know which flight, pointing out that there was a 9.45 am Spice Jet flight, but they said they could not do that.
Next morning with some difficulty I made it to the airport at 7am. There was no one at the counter. At 7.10 they saunter in. At 7.12 they inform me that I will be on the 9.45 am Spice Jet flight ! So I was stuck in the airport for 2 hours extra unnecessarily. To add to my problems all flights were delayed by about an hour.
I must add, though that the return flight was pretty nice. So when I eventually flew on Go Air, it was fine. They even gave us biscuits and water !
Oh right, I almost forgot. To make a booking on their website, while it allows you to use a foreign credit card, there is no way you can input the address. So while theoretically you can use a foreign card, in reality you cannot. And apparently they cannot even do this over the phone - the agents at the call centre use the same software evidently.
P.S. On the day when they canceled my flight I emailed them asking them more details, as I had been asked to do by the person I spoke with and he said they would reply in a matter of hours. On the day after I returned I got an email from them saying that they `trust my problem has been resolved' !
Spice Jet - This is a reasonable no frills airline. I have not had any memorable experiences with it - which in this case is a good thing. I suppose with a no frills airline one cannot expect to have memorable experience in a positive way. Their website is okay and works with any browser. And they give you biscuits and toffees on the plane - which makes it better than Air Deccan, in my book.
Air Sahara - DEAD !!!I have not flown Air Sahara since the advent of the `no frills' airlines as I suppose it is not quite no frills. The times I flew it before I remember it was quite nice. They used to have this free bus service from Nariman Point to the airport which was quite nice - an almost empty AC bus with tinted glass and a host to serve you a cool drink is always better than a cramped Premier Padmini -but they stopped this one Air Deccan started. In my opinion, this was a mistake as its the little things that matter in the end. Their website is a bit messy, though I suppose it is okay. They do have a different rate for foreigners though - a practice I find a little strange, since the no frills guys dont. Update - I flew Air Sahara recently. The food was okay and the service was pretty good. The only issue was that it was over an hour late. Though the newly renovated Terminal 1-B of Mumbai airport is the best place in the country to have to wait at - as far as I am aware. Update - Sahara has been bought by Jet and is now called JET LITE.
Kingfisher Airlines -ON DEATH ROW Hmm, when talking about the little things, this airline is the champion. I must give kudos to `Dr.' Mallya for restoring the `Joy of Flying', a notion that I thought had become extinct in these post 9/11 days. They do several things which make this, in my opinion, one of the best airlines I have ever flown. The first little thing that they do is that there are people at the entrance of the terminal to help you with your bags and escort you to the place you have to screen them. They then escort you to the counter for a check in. At the counter a polite pretty girl gives you your ticket. On board, each seat has a TV to take your mind off the whole unpleasant business of flying. They also give you a small tote bag with a pen, an eye mask and a couple of toffees. The food is very good and served by very pretty air-hostesses. Finally, after landing there are people who receive you and escort you to the correct baggage claim belt. As I said before, it is these little things that matter and Dr. Mallya has gotten them all right. I must say that this is perhaps the first time I would not have minded had the flight been longer or delayed. The only negative thing I can say about the airline is the magazine. While it is quite thick ad well printed, much of it is tripe about the lives of Dr Mallya, the `King of Good Times', and his friends. But that too, can be interesting at times.
Being a `worker of the world' I haven't flown `Kingfisher First' but find it hard to imagine how much they could improve on their service. Now if only Dr. Mallya can do something about his beer. Not that Kingfisher is a bad beer, but one would like more variety - and I'm sorry, but Jaguar does not count.
No complaints about their website. The only issue is that they do not accept foreign credit cards - but for that - see below. UPDATE - Kingfisher is dead - long live the King !
Jet Airways - I have not flown Jet for years, but from what I recall, I have only had pleasant experiences. And I really like their `after mint'. I suppose it s very good, but not exceptional like Kingfisher. Their website seems okay though I havent put it to the test of actually booking a ticket. Update - I booked 5 tickets to Leh recently - and it seemed to work fine. I could use my Firefox browser without any problem. Update - I flew Jet to Mumbai and it seemed to be as good as before, except for the usual delay - but that is just normal nowadays. New Update - I flew Jet Airways internationally - BANGALORE - TORONTO via BRUSSELS. The planes were very good and so was the service. I would recommend it as there is only a two hour layover in Brussels. The only annoying thing is that while they have a link up with American for Miles, the reality of geting Miles seems to be quite complicated - you have to retain your boarding pass.
Indian - Once again, I havent flown Indian Airlines, or its new avatar, Indian, for years. I suppose its because I havent flown on any official business - for me its always been leisure travel. So I will reserve comment on this. The website is a bit messy. Update - I flew Indian last week. It was fine - especially since I got bumped to first class - and now they have very competitive fares. Of course the air hostesses.....Kingfisher. Update - Air India and Indian have merged to become Air India.
There are a few other airlines - Paramount, Indigo, to name a few. I have not yet had the opportunity to fly them as yet, so will reserve comment once again.
A very useful site - which has ensured that it is unlikely, given my thrifty disposition, that I will fly Kingfisher ever again is Fare Search which is a website which scans the various airlines for the cheapest - sort of like a local version of Expedia, except that you cannot book through them, they only link to the websites of the airlines.
A useful site, if you cannot fly , is the Indian Railways website. It has all the information you might want to book a ticket - but unfortunately you cannot book a ticket directly through them. For that you have to go to the IRCTC website and endure hundreds of credit card advertisements. And to actually book a ticket, you need to register before finding out the schedule, which is pretty annoying. One can also book tickets through the various travel websites like Yatra.com and Makemytrip.com and goibibo.com etc. The only annoying thing is that they charge an additional fee though sometimes it might be cheaper. Sometimes changes can only be made though them and for that often they charge an additional fee. So overall I think its still better to buy from the airline or IRCTC directly.
UPDATE: There is a new, excellent, front end for finding out rail schedules that can be found at E-rail. Its fast and very user friendly and does not have those annoying advts - and much easier to use. While you cannot book a ticket on it there is a link to the IRCTC website.
To book bus tickets, I have found the site Red Bus useful, though have not yet actually bought a ticket through them. They have a nice `live chat' option which is very useful. The KSRTC website is surprisingly very good and in fact I read somewhere that soon one will be able to buy tickets online. I found travel by the Airavath bus from Goa to Bangalore quite comfortable and a good alternative to flying. And I am planning on trying it once again from Chennai - assuming this Cauvery Water business doesn't washout my plans. UPDATE - Now you can actually book tickets online on the KSRTC website. KSRTC made a big profit this year - much to their surprise. it goes to show that if you sell a quality product people will actually buy it.
Apparently a problem many foreigners and foreign returned Indians have is that nowadays their credit cards are no longer accepted by the airlines directly - this is because of a few, or several incidents of fraud. However, apparently the website makemytrip.com allows one to do so. I havent done it myself - but I was told it would work. There are a few other websites - like yatra.com and ezeego1.com which promise to in the future, but do not allow it at the moment. The website expedia.com and all its local variations ( .ca, .de etc. ) works on somre routes - BOM-BLR, BOM-DEL etc. but not on all routes. UPDATE - Now it seems like Credit Cards are accepted quite universally again.
Needless to say I have no connection with any of these web sites - but if they want to give me soem money they should not hesitate to do so. Nowadays one can also get fabulous discounts on plane fares by using certain Credit Cards - ICICI, SBI etc. - on these travel websites as well.
There is a useful search tool for the best prices created by Rediff. It allows you to search for point to point flights on specific dates or the best prices over an extended period - so is quite useful for people with no fixed schedules. It also lists the cheapest fares available - so is good for last minute holidays. Once again, I am not connected with Rediff but they should not hesitate to give me free stuff or money.
As I have mentioned before I am not connected with any of the airlines or the other travel related services. I am merely a concerned consumer of these services and I found it useful to put all these links in one page. It seems to be quite popular. Its just my way of giving back to society considering that most of the time all I do is leech off it. Having said all this, however, I am not opposed to getting free stuff and free money from any of the people who I link to or any of you good people who find this site useful, so fee free to let me know if you want to give me something. For example, Dr. Mallya, if you want to supply me a lifetime of free beer or wine, let me know.
If you have any comments or criticisms of this web page - let me know.