'Best' needs to be looked at in various perspectives :
1. 'Best' inflight service :
for sure, 9W
. 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
'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 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
. 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!