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Best Indian Domestic Airline?

Mon Dec 01, 2003 9:53 am

Hello all -

I was wondering which domestic airline in India you think is best. It's really been amazing to see these past 10 years how domestic air travel in India has grown so much. Whats even more amazing is that the domestic airlines in India are far better than most other domestic airlines in other countries. There service is world class and keeps improving. I love how there now introducing regional jets for the smaller cities in India.

The competion also is getting to be a lot. Jet Airways has somewhat changed the way domestic air travel is in India but Air Sahara and Indian Airlines is QUICKLY catching up.

So with that I was wondering which airline do you think is the best? Air Sahara, Jet Airways, Indian Airlines, Air India or even Deccan Air.

My some-what favorite is Jet Airways. I say that because out of the five times I flown to India these past four years I've only flown Jet Airways. But I'll have to admit the last time I flew with Jet Airways will be the last. The only reason why I've flown with them is because at both DEL and BOM there first flight in the morning is to HYD, always my final destination. Jet Airways is still a great airline but I need to really try Air Sahara next time. I'm hearing good things about them and I really see Jet Airways losing there touch in the near future.

Farhan Ali
Seattle, USA
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RE: Best Indian Domestic Airline?

Mon Dec 01, 2003 9:56 am

When i was flying for TEA to Goa, we dead-headed on Air Sahara and I thought they were so good! Even in Europe I didn't find an airline which matched the courteous and classy service provided by them!
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RE: Best Indian Domestic Airline?

Mon Dec 01, 2003 10:02 am

Aren't they the best? Love all of 'em

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RE: Best Indian Domestic Airline?

Mon Dec 01, 2003 10:18 am

From a service perspective, all the Indian carriers provide far above international standards.

Unfortunately, Jet Airways and Air Sahara have overextended themselves financially. We have seen plenty of posts here about Jet's dire financial straits and Sahara's model is even more unsustainable. However whereas Sahara will always be cross-subsidized by the parent company, Jet does not have the same luxury.

Indian Airlines and Air India are handicapped significantly by govenment constraints and interference but have both revamped their structure significantly over the last 4-5 years to create sustainable business models.

Deccan is way too small and way too new to even be considered at this point, whereas Air India's impact in the domestic sector is too small to be considered except on a handful of trunk routes.

Bottom line - expect Jet to struggle and possibly even shutdown over the next few years unless they begin to radically change how their business is structured. Naresh Goyal proved himself to be a visionary with his startup acumen in the early 90s, but now appears to be even more of an egomaniac as his top management quits at regular intervals when they realize how hard it is to work for him. Sahara lives in its own world unconstrained by reality, kinda like a badly run version of Emirates, and will likely continue to do its thing as long as the Sahara Pariwar's pyramid scheme keeps growing. Indian Airlines will continue to earn back their market share at the expense of Jet Airways, especially once their fleet renewal is finally approved.
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RE: Best Indian Domestic Airline?

Mon Dec 01, 2003 11:04 am

It doesnt appear that ANY Indian domestic carrier is or can be profitable. IC's domestic operations are bleeding money, and the airline's bottom line would be significantly worse if it were not for the free international route handouts given to it by the Indian government. I don't know why Jet is losing money, but the high ATF surcharges must contribute to their being in the red.

"From a service perspective, all the Indian carriers provide far above international standards."

True. But with the domestic carriers in the red, the Indian domestic traveller may eventually have to learn to do without 3-course meals in Economy on a 45 minute flight !
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RE: Best Indian Domestic Airline?

Mon Dec 01, 2003 11:09 am

I dont fly very often, maybe only 5 round trips a year. My first few flights with 9W were in 1998 and I found them to be over-hyped.

Maybe it was just bad luck, but on all my flights with 9W (5x 737-400,2x 737-700) they have been either delayed or they have lost checked-in baggage. And the bimbettes at the check in and in the cabin may look attractive, but I have seen them goof up badly in stressful situations, in the air and on the ground.

I personally prefer IC because I find the service more homely. Even the food service is NOT BAD, though they have often run out of Veg meals and stuff like that. This is one area where IC could definitely improve. I must say i liked S2 in the food dept, but overall I did not feel very comfortable with S2. I dont know why, but there is something negative negative about them. In the food dept, I would personally rate 9W as no 3. Would love to hear what others think on this.

Between IC and 9W: IC flies to a lot more destinations domestically than 9W. IC oeprates to more than 60 destinations at last count from Mumbai to Tezpur, whereas 9W operates to just 38, and that too the bigger stations only. However 9W does have a better frequency on routes like BLR. However if I am travelling, say to the north-east, then I much travel IC since I geta single airline for my round trip. IC has these flights running hop scotch between CCU and GAU, and NE airports, whcih is a gr8 way to travel to the NE. No such luck with 9W.

However for someone who travels only between the major detinations, and needs frequency, then 9W is probably better. 9W has 7 flights between BOM and BLR daily, while IC has just 4.

However IC provides a better fare structure as well which is excellent value for money. Though full fares on both carriers are pretty much evenly matched, there is huge diff in the APEX fares. The D21 APEX on IC between BOM and COK is just Rs.2950, which is Rs.450 more than the 2T AC Train fare! 9W's D21 APEX is 4100 on the same route. Which one is better value then?

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RE: Best Indian Domestic Airline?

Thu Dec 04, 2003 8:13 pm

Any day Air Sahara, with their mix-n-match of B-737 and CRJ aircraft, low fares on internet purchase, auctions on board, decent food . . . and gracious true Indian hospitality. (Not the sort made infamous by a patronising Western media . . .).

Though their schedules in and out of HYD aren't all that hot, as yet . . .
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RE: Best Indian Domestic Airline?

Thu Dec 04, 2003 8:45 pm

'Best' needs to be looked at in various perspectives :

1. 'Best' inflight service : for sure, 9W and S2. Way above IC. Especially 'J' class service. Recently, a friend from Singapore was here and he flew 9W BOM-HYD-BOM and was completely bowled over by the service. IC has improved but still has a long way to go to reach the levels Jet and Sahara have achieved.

2. 'Best' on time performance : all domestic airlines, including IC, have achieved very high standards of on time performance. In the past, however, IC was well known for delays, the times when it had the sky all to itself. With the advent of the private carriers, this is one aspect of IC's performance which has changed.

3.'Best' aircraft : when all airlines fly similar class of aircraft (ie below 175 seats) there's not much you can compare. Jet and Sahara both use 738s, 737s and 734s. IC uses the 320. When it comes to 'fleet age' however, the private airlines score over IC. IC's oldest 320, VT-EPB (c/n 2435) was registered on 5/8/1989 and is now 14.5 yrs old. Not to speak of its A300s, the youngest of which is over 20 years old. However, IC does have an advantage of 'spaciousness' over the narrow bodies when it uses the A300 on domestic flights. When it comes to interiors of the aircraft thing like seats, toilets, overhead bins etc. Jet and Sahara score over IC. In most of IC's planes you will find cracked seatrests, very loose or soiled mealtrays, badly maintained loos etc. I flew on VT-JAE, Jet's oldest 737-400, a few months ago and was quite amazed at the excellent condition of the interiors of the plane.

4. 'Best' safety : again, the private airlines score here but it can also be said that since they haven't been around for too long, their safety record cannot be compared with IC's. IC's record of course is not too good, several aircraft have been lost over the past 20 years. I know one thing - when I fly Jet (which is most of the time) I always take the emergency exit row and always get briefed by the crew (which is mandatory) on how to operate the exit in case of need. The same does NOT happen on IC. This small example may provide an insight into the safety awareness standards of the airline/s.

5. 'Best' inflight meals : mixed bag. I've had great and lousy meals on Jet, same on S2 and same on IC. I guess it's more to do with the time of the day and what you like on the menu. But I'd say this - food standards have improved tremendously over the past 5-6 years.

6. 'Best' Frequent flyer program (FFP) : Here the prize goes to IC. I'm no fan of IC's but I do give credit where it is due. Their biggest advantage is the possibility of redeeming miles for all international sectors flown by IC and AI. This, coupled with their aggressive schemes, would give them the top honors in this category. Jet's and Sahara's programs are good too, with their upgrade vouchers and free access to J-class lounges for silver card passengers, but they lack the flexibility and reach of 'Flying Returns'.

7. 'Best' looking crew : An important consideration for some of the traveling public. Jet and Sahara win hands down with young, efficient and highly motivated crew - both girls and boys. Most of IC's crew are mostly 'aunties' and 'uncles' in comparison but I did see some young faces on a recent flight. Maybe they're recruiting youngsters, which is great.

Well, that's my checklist for 'best'. What I will say, however, is that Indian domestic Airlines will provide an international visitor a great experience - one which the person has probably never had with domestic travel in his/her country. Welcome to India!

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