I believe this is the first trip report for a revenue Kingfisher Airlines flight on Airliners.net, so feel free to post comments and let me know any questions. Some photos were taken in restricted areas, so please excuse the poor quality.
I flew Kingfisher for the first time in September 2006. Flight is a short hop of 50 minutes between Bangalore and Mangalore. Mangalore is an industrial / port city and also upcoming IT
hub like Bangalore on the west coast of India on the Arabian Sea.
Incidentally, Kingfisher owner Vijay Mallya hails from Mangalore region. His earlier attempt at private airline - UB
Air - flew 15 seater Dornier between Bangalore - Mangalore in 1990s before getting liquidated.
However, this time Kingfisher experience totally blew me away. Read on..
Bangalore (BLR) to Mangalore (IXE)
ATR72-500 VT-KAD Delivered June 2006
BLR Scheduled Departure: 09:40
BLR Actual Departure: 09:45
IXE Scheduled Arrival: 10:45
IXE Actual Arrival: 10:45
SEAT: 10A Sequence Number: 35
Royal treatment right from the curb
As soon as my cab arrived at usual Bangalore departure area chaos, lads from Kingfisher Airlines wearing red uniform came over asking if I am flying Kingfisher and took my bags to security. I had three large bags and they were lifted and tagged by Kingfisher team and taken till check-in counter. Note this is not a paid service, but service offered by Kingfisher to all its passengers. However, I tipped the guy as I had many heavy bags.
Typical Bangalore airport departure area mess
No wait here. Check-in agent indicated there will be overweight fee, but once I said I flew in last night on Singapore Airlines from US she waived all the fees and issued the boarding pass. Kingfisher booking was independent of my international itinerary, so that was nice.
Security lines were quite long even on Saturday morning, so I went straight away to security and after a wait of 10 minutes or so was done with it. The Maglite in my laptop bag as usual caused Indian security guys to go crazy. Officer also confirmed that my Mont Blanc pen is indeed a writng instrument by twisting it on (apparently there is a known threat from pen pistols in India)
There are three scheduled flights to Mangalore from Bangalore every morning, all leaving within minutes.
Jet Airways Boeing 737-700 at 9:15AM
Air Deccan ATR 72-500 at 9:20AM
Kingfisher Airlines at 9:40AM
And fourth daily flight between Bangalore and Mangalore will be operated by Air Deccan with an evening schedule later from this month.
The National Highway between Bangalore and Mangalore has degenerated for last one year resulting in delayed bus journey, so it appears people are flying more to avoid painful and bumpy journey via bus. All four flights (2 on Kingfisher, 2 on Air Deccan) I took between these cities were completely full in Sept 2006.
Jet and Air Deccan alternatively started announcing / boarding call for Mangalore passengers and once they departed Kingfisher Airlines started the boarding process. We had to take a bus to remote area where ATRs are now located in Bangalore. So after a quick tour we arrived at Kingfisher VT
-KAD, brand new plane delivered to Kingfisher in June 22, 2006.
Was wished by a beautiful FA
on boarding the plane through rear stairs. Plane interior looked good. Red leather seats in an ATR. Interesting touch on seatbelt - Kingfisher logo.
Now a note on FAs - it is said chief honcho of Kingfisher Airlines, personally selected all check-in staff and FAs - most of them models. And King certainly has some nice taste.
Here is a file photo when Kingfisher took delivery of their first plane in France. This photo is taken from the net / Kingfisher PR
We were given bottled water, brand - what else but Kingfisher.
Kingfisher logo on seat belt
Last bus came and all passengers were accounted for. Saw check-in lady again here and she was furiously working on calculator near the luggage hold.
Pilot today was a Russian (or from one of the CIS countries) with an Indian co-pilot. On the Air Deccan flights I took a week later pilots on both those flights were Russian sounding names. Pilot informed that we are on time for departure and ended his note with "Hope you enjoy your Kingfisher experience". Flight was full and a uniformed Kingfisher employee (Air Marshall?) sat in the row in front of mine.
In-flight magazine - I forgot to take photo as it looked very worn down and dirty - basically contained Page 3 type of photos of Kingfisher boss Vijay Mallya and articles which did not hold my attention for long.
FAs came distributing English newspaper - choices were Times of India Bangalore Edition and Economic Times.
Once the door was closed we were given in-flight amenity kit and in-flight dining menu - yes sir, for a 50 minutes hop! Push back began soon after.
In-flight amenity kit.
Amenity kit contained a pen, timetable, two moist towelette.
As we taxied, pre-recorded safety announcement was played both in English and Hindi. Interestingly it mentioned "Photography is prohibited in some Indian airport"
We waited for a Kingfisher A320 to land and soon after began our take-off roll and off we went. Cloudy day out of morning so climb was bit bumpy. Chime to FAs after 10 minutes and off they went setting up food trolley.
FAs have to be quick as this was a short hop - so quickly they started distributing lunch. Choice - Vegetarian or non-Vegetarian. I opted for Vegetarian and here is the photo. Food was very tasty.
It was interesting to see FA
's opening cockpit door and entering the cockpit with lunch for the crew. She just opened the cockpit door casually, so I was bit surprised. May be they call ahead to unlock the door?
Meanwhile our flight continued its hop over Western Ghats towards Arabian sea. Scenery outside was lush green as it is end of the monsoon season - even otherwise this region very green, though humid. I saw a prominent dam in Hassan and within minutes our pilot chimed again indicating we have started our initial descent to Mangalore.
Seconds before touchdown. Runways are on hilltop
Mangalore airport lies on a hilltop at a place called Bajpe, thus runways are table top runways. Runways are at an altitude of 336 feet above sea level. In other words, at the beginning and end of the runway are deep cliffs, so makes for interesting landing - especially on the older shorter runway.
Runway orientation - my first Airliners.net photo. Yippeee
(this was taken from another trip I made with Air Deccan) You can see the old short runway starting at right corner (in the shape of V with new runway)
This was the first time I was landing on the new runway at Mangalore. We touched down with a hard landing on new runway as it was raining.
Unlike landing on the old runway there was no immediate braking on new runway as new runway is quite long at 2.9km. As we started our long drive back to terminal, on the old runway Air Deccan ATR72-500 was taking off for Bangalore.
New runway with oil refinery in the background
If you look closer at the background you can see a huge oil refinery (for Indian airnetters - it is MRPL - Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited). One of the many reasons security at Mangalore Airport is very strict as there are several industries, port establishment within miles of the airport.
Jet Airways Boeing 737-700 from Bangalore was already here, getting ready for its departure to Mumbai. Jet's Bangalore - Mangalore used to be ATR flight as well, but Jet now flies 737-700 which takes less than 30 minutes - so jet now servers only small snack on this leg.
On the only negative note I was asked to stop taking photos after landing by a polite FA
. I did not argue as I had already taken what I wanted.
Tiny Mangalore Airport terminal.
I never dreamt this small airport where I took my first plane ride years ago when I was 7 years old, one day would have two active runways. Hey it is not San Francisco yet, but to see this airport grow from daily one departure to dozen departures now is amazing. (and on October 3rd this airport became an international airport with arrival of Air India Express from Dubai which flies 3 weekly flights now)
Rain had stopped by the time we arrived to a complete stop. Later I came to know that if it is raining while deplaning, Kingfisher provides an umbrella to each passenger which he or she is free to take home.
Photo of the plane with Jet Airways 737-700 in the background getting ready for Mumbai.
Kingfisher ATR will continue its journey from Mangalore to Chennai and return in the evening from Chennai to depart for Bangalore. So timing of this flight is very convenient to folks who have a day's work in Mangalore. Air Deccan is starting second daily Bangalore - Mangalore - Bangalore in evening effective this month end.
Terminal in Mangalore however remains pretty much the same, though massive expansion is currently going on now. There is one small luggage belt.
Baggage claim area of Mangalore Airport - single belt.
My bags arrived within minutes - beauty of a small airport - you can see your bags being unloaded from the plane and loaded to the cart and then loaded to the belt. This is a well managed airport - whole area is maintained very clean and neat and full credit goes to Airport Direct Mr.M.R.Vasudeva who has taken personal interest in development of airport and according to local press was instrumental in getting international flights here - a long time demand from people of this area. Local Chamber of Commerce, politicians cutting across party lines and overseas Indians primarily in Gulf put their might too to make this possible.
Return trip from Mangalore to Bangalore few days later was identical in all aspects, so without much ado here are photos from that trip and that concludes this report with summary at the end of photos!
Mangalore (IXE) to Bangalore (BLR)
IT 2442 VT-KAA (first Kingfisher plane!)
IXE Scheduled Departure: 17:05
IXE Actual Departure: 17:00
BLR Scheduled Arrival: 18:10
BLR Actual Arrival: 18:00
SEAT: 13A Sequence Number: 49
I requested a window seat and was assigned one. Flight had already arrived from Chennai, so was on time to Bangalore. Along with us, there were passengers for Alliance Air to Mumbai whose flight was delayed in the departure area.
Boarding started at 16:15 itself.
Walking towards the plane. VT-KAA was the first plane delivered to Kingfisher Airlines.
As we were walking towards the plane, Alliance Air Boeing 737-200 landed 75 minutes delayed from Mumbai.
Alliance Air 737-200 VT-EGH delayed arrival from Mumbai at 16:30 (Scheduled arrival - 15:15)
Uniformed gunmen near planes is a regular fixture in all Indian airports.
Gunman guarding the plane
In what must be a rapid turnaround, this 25 years old Alliance Air 737-200 was scooting out for takeoff within 30 minutes of landing!
Alliance Air 737 departing to Mumbai after a rapid 30 minutes turnaround.
Captain again was a Russian or from CIS countries. We took off from new runaway towards Arabian Sea and after a big U turn started our ascent. In the below photo you can see the end of the new run way at top.
New runway ending with a steep drop.
Another look at the new runway and old runway
Menus for in-flight dining were distributed again and we were given amenity kits identical to the ones given earlier.
I again chose Vegetarian option - it was Indonesian Nasi Gorang - was quite tasty, though Indianized!
Nasi Gorang with rice roll
Since this is such a short hop, FAs again raced towards collecting everything back. And those who had not completed eating, they stood near them - not forcefully, but indicating "I will wait till you finish, so you better finish quickly" mode.
One thing interesting about this flight was automated, taped announcement to tighten seat belt whenever seat belt sign was turned on - announcement both in English and Hindi.
Smooth landing at airport and the Indian co-pilot welcomed us and thanked for choosing Kingfisher. And after a minute, we heard his taxi conversation with tower on PA!
While heading back to remote stand, saw Jet Airways 737-700, Bluedart 757 (?) and Advance Jet Trainer built here in Bangalore.
We were again taken by two buses to arrival lounge and bags arrived within minutes.
Well, what can I say except that I was blown away by Kingfisher. Kingfisher style indeed!
Vijay Mallya has indeed pioneered new kind of luxury travel in India with Kingfisher Airlines and it does stand apart from rest of the airlines.
Let us see:
* free help with bags from departure to check-in
* all leather seats on all airlines
* free unlimited water, newspapers on seating
* Amenity kit
* Filling tasty lunch even on short hops
* Polite FAs (not to mention "model" looks
* Keepsake umbrella if it is raining while deplaning
* Flights were on time
Flying the good times indeed! All this for $110 (round trip)
I can only imagine how luxurious the long haul flights will be when Kingfisher gets approval to fly overseas.
As someone who is used to flying coast-to-coast in USA regularly surviving on peanuts / pretzels and soda, this was a mind bogglingly different experience and I am glad I was able to experience it. I sincerely hope Vijay Mallya and Kingfisher keep their promise of starting San Francisco - Bangalore non-stop.
Big question however, is can this model be sustained in the long run? This route certainly is doing well for Kingfisher (not sure about Mangalore - Chennai however as I counted hardly 15-20 passengers one day).
Kingfisher experience certainly brings back heady memories of earlier luxurious air travel.
Agreed, Kingfisher has lot of money (its parent UB
Group is World's number two spirits company - Kingfisher Beer, McDowell's Whisky among 140 brands they sell), but the recent news about massive loss is not a good news. I certainly hope they survive and maintain same level of service.
So all I can say now is fly and enjoy "Kingfisher Experience" while you can!
My earlier trip reports:
TACA Peru and LAN Peru: Lima-Cuzco-Lima
LAN Los Angeles - Lima - Los Angeles
United San Francisco - Beijing - San Francisco
ATA San Francisco - Honolulu - San Francisco
Silk Air Singapore - Siam Reap Cambodia - Singapore
Singapore Airlines Singapore - Bangalore Inaugural
Air Deccan First week Bangalore - Mangalore - Bangalore