Private Indian airlines are the best carriers

Posted by: Manjeet Kripalani on June 19, 2008

The days of exceptional, stylish air travel are over, right?

Wrong.

Anyone travelled by Jet Airways recently? Do it. Jet is India’s premier airline, domestic only till last year but now international. The company has made the international city of Brussels its hub, and international flights usually stop at Brussels before their onward journey to the United States or other parts of Europe. It also flies east to Singapore and Shanghai, and west to Dubai.

It is utterly pleasurable to fly Jet. The service is exemplary, the goody-bags designer, the planes brand new.

In the course of my domestic and international travel, I have travelled most airlines, the latest being Virgin Atlantic. Lufthansa, Swiss, Delta, British Airways, Air France, Air India - it’s almost punishment to sit in their planes. On a recent trans-Atlantic trip, Jet was full, so I chose Virgin. I like Richard Branson and his branding, but I may have liked Virgin better had I never flown Jet.

Virgin’s planes - like many other western carriers - are a bit battered, the insides ever-so-slightly tatty. The goodies are American-style - basic. Socks, eye shades, toothbrush. The bathrooms are tiny and there’s hardly any difference between business and economy class loos. The television monitors are old fashioned, hip 10 years ago but a nuisance to operate now. There are flat beds, but you can’t just slide down into them - you have to get up, put the back rest of the seat down like a commode, make your bed, then sleep. The service is cheerful, and the red uniforms merry - way better than the morose, unsmiling stewardesses at Delta or Lufthansa or British Airways. But not as smooth as Jet.

Jet’s planes - like most of the newer private Indian airlines - are spanking new, the interiors are luxurious, the bathrooms especially in business class are spacious, the goody-bags are Bulgari, flat beds slide into position like silk, the stewards and stewardesses are extremely good looking and cheerful and efficient to boot, the food - and snacks and wine - superlative, the take-off and landing smooth as can be.

One feels like getting in and out of the plane in a business suit or a nice dress or saree - the way our parents travelled, in style. Of course, you pay a premium to travel Jet - but you get treated premium too.

With the Indian airlines starting to criss-cross the world - private domestic player Kingfisher is slated to go international this year - I hope international travel reverts to its old glamour. No one should have to travel on smelly, shabby aircraft as I did last year on a New York-Pittsburgh flight, so dirty that I could not put my purse on the floor. When I asked the solitary stewardess if she could clean the floor so I could place my purse on it, she said flippantly, “Oh, I’m not going to clean it, what can I tell you, it’s a plane. Hold your purse in your lap.”

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Reader Comments

Paul Woodward

June 19, 2008 01:13 PM

You wouldn't be complaining about Virgin if the alternative were United or American Airlines. Misery, misery, misery...and that's before you get on the planes which are even worse whichever class you're flying. There is almost nothing in the developing world now that matches the unbelievable awfulness of American airlines.

windward

June 19, 2008 07:00 PM

The future of air travel, like most things, looks to be brightest in Asia. All hail the Asian century!

Grounded

June 20, 2008 11:38 AM

As a new entrant into a crowded competition, how else is Jet supposed to gain customers without doing things a little better then the other airlines. We'll praise them when they can do it better 5-10 years from now.

Mani

June 20, 2008 12:09 PM

I have traveled on airlines from all the continents and without a doubt the Asian Carriers are the best. You should also tray Singapore Airlines, Cathy Pacific and Malaysian Airlines. It proves that people are willing to pay a little more for Asian hospitality and efficiency rather than pay pennies for efficiency alone and travel like animals.

Welcome top the new dawn of aviation and travel. The other carriers might as well fold up and declare bankruptcy.

Singh

June 20, 2008 01:35 PM


Here we go again!

Apparently BW has nothing better to do but blow smoke up the behind of this miserable socialist sewer - India every other day!

This is typical of these commie liberals with their motto: "The grass is ALWAYS greener on the other side of the fence!"

Of course, air travel in India will be better! You don't have hop, skip and jump while travelling by air like you have to on India's poop littered streets!

Let the Indians have an open air policy like the US, these private airlines in India will get at each others throats in no time!

With just 4-5 major players and an economy jacked-up on US dollars, even their snake-charmers can wear Gucci, what is so great if they private airlines do it?!

AirCustomer

June 20, 2008 03:38 PM

I wholeheartedly agree with what writer has to say about Jet Airways. The experience I had with British Airways, after a flight with Jet, now registers as pure misery.
Food, ambiance, courtsey, professionalism, entertainment features, cleanliness, customer focus.. you name it and Jet will ace it. Best of all Jet tickets are cheaper or same price as other competitiors. I dont know how they do it but I am not flying any other airline again... especially British Airways, no way, not British Airways.... yes, they pissed me off that bad.

karthik

June 20, 2008 04:08 PM

I want to know how if Emirates in comparison which I use most often.

Kingfisher is the other one I use for domestic travel which is good.

Roshan

June 20, 2008 05:46 PM

Bravo!! Any day the new Asian airlines would beat any of the American carriers (American,Continental, Delta or Northwest) hands down. Jet Airways might have a tough competetion from Kingfisher once they start their international flights some time end of this year.
Take a long haul flight from JFK to London in American and fly back with Emirates or Etihad , Iam talking ecomony class , u can see the sea of difference in the attitude of the staff and ground crew.

Robert Plano, TX

June 20, 2008 05:50 PM

domestic travel should use trains and international should be planes. we need the shinkansen (bullet train). the model doesn't work with present consumer needs and operational costs. if airlines are smart they would invest in alternative transportation at least in the high volume areas like NY or SF -LA, Dallas-Houston-Austin-SA corridor would be good too.

Bob

June 20, 2008 06:15 PM

Another typical posting from Manjeet Kripalani. Selective examples to push his tired line that anything Indian is superior to everything that the rest of the world has to offer.

No mention of Emirates or anyone of a dozen other small carriers that could challenge Mr Kripalani's claim of Jet being "best". Best against what?

As for Jet, they certainly don't seem to offer this standard of service on internal Indian flights! Having flown with them many times (only becuase the standard of service on the competion is even worse) through India I can certianly tell you there are far better domestic airlines in other countries.

Shashi

June 20, 2008 06:18 PM

The irrational treatment meted amidst the exorbitant rise in fuel costs can partly be attributed to trimming the corners or even chopping the service altogether.

Nothing will beat Air India in terms of the service - even for handing out water they would think twice because of needing to clean toilets. The airline obviously is rated as the worst Indian company!!.

Cost cutting is bound to hit India's Airlines sooner or later but the private airlines have managed to be creative.

But these days, the way you get treated when boarding a domestic US airline by the crew is almost like - there you come again, huh?!!.

rh mayo

June 20, 2008 08:17 PM

agree with you. Service on Jet domestic flights is exemplary and I hope they continue to maintain it.

vijay bhatia

June 20, 2008 11:55 PM

it is amazing jet airline !!
the average age of the steward or stewardess would be close to 25 yrs, while of any american airlines would be 45 plus..
they are so upbeat with the future it is unbelievable ..always smiling , laughing etc.
it is no longer developing it is developed and just going to better.

Hursh

June 21, 2008 02:20 AM

Been trvalelling on Jet within India since last few years. Having endured few of the US airlines, I was very glad to see Jet now runinng across to US. They were and still are very comfortable ( domestic / international ) clean and polite. Above all punctual.

AmExpat

June 21, 2008 06:26 AM

been flying jet for 10 years. glad to see BW is staying current.

sid

June 21, 2008 08:08 AM

Jet is definitely supreme in its class having to regularly travel Asia/Europe on business.
Peel your myopic eyes & get a life.

Sam

June 21, 2008 11:11 AM

to Bob's comment: Manjeet Kripalani is a woman, not a man.
As for Jet, I have no idea if they are good or not. As a middle class American, I only know about the outside world by TV and internet. I cannot afford to travel abroad. There is no health care, and no vacation. Basically, I just put in my 50 hrs per week slaving away at work, then recover enough energy by Monday morning to start the grind all over. So, long to the American century.

Optimist

June 21, 2008 11:52 AM

Totally agree....

There is no comparison between Asian airlines like SIA, Cathay Pacific, Jet, Emirates....and US airlines. Sometimes I wonder wny the american public endures this kind to shabby treatment.

US is a developing country in many sectors (Airlines, Mobile Phones, Public Transportation Infrastructure...)

Sudarshan

June 21, 2008 04:28 PM

Looks like a lot of you americans on this posting cant seem to digest the fact that the world is changing. Fly a domestic budget airline in India like Air Deccan and you will find it superior to any american airline!

Amit

June 21, 2008 09:34 PM

I suppose the headlines could be a little bit less breathless about Jet.

But as an Indian expat who's flown Jet since the 90's, I am glad they are flying to the US from the West coast. Connectivity to India has been abysmal for years and somehow the local airline seemed to deploy their oldest planes on the routes to India (that's you NW).

Also, while Jet has excellent in-flight service, their on-ground customer service for domestic connections can stand a bit of improvement.

flyhigh

June 22, 2008 01:04 AM

I heard someone say the grass is green & efficiency in Asia !!... Oops think again, Try flying in Air India and I swear you will give up flying forever. Thanks to rising Asia all the money is flowing into the hands of Goons & corrupt politicians, they are able to own Airlines now. No one knows who are the real owners of Jet Airways and Sahara Airlines, not even the Indian Govt, all that they know is that the money came from a company registered in Maldives.

Shantanu Chatterjee

June 22, 2008 02:31 AM

Hi bob I know chinese like to copy everything western but really I thought a 4000+ year civilization can atleast out of shame not copy western names while posting comments.

Yeah Jet and Kingfisher beat most western airlines hnds down,but a reality check they fly like what 10-15 planes on international routes today lets see what they can do when they have say 50-60 planes flying international routes.

Anil

June 22, 2008 09:15 AM

Jet and Kingfisher provide good service, but I do not like one aspect: almost all flight attendants are chosen to be pretty, young, female. Very sexist. The old thinking where the role of the woman is to please the man. Jet is bad on this, Kingfisher is worse. I have traveled both airlines a good bit. A cheerful, service-oriented person is all one needs on the plane. Age, gender, and looks don't matter. Ms. Kripalani: your comment about "extremely good looking" stewards and stewardesses is disappointing. Is it ok to discard the not-so "extremely good looking"? I respect that United, BA, or others have older and not-so extremely good looking employees on board. Life is not just about young and beautiful.

Indian Traveler

June 22, 2008 09:40 AM

Jet is losing tons of money like any other airline. I agree with an earlier comment that they must be evaluated 5-10 years from now. Any new airline will try all gimmicks in the name of "customer acquisition" costs which will be deemed necessary. In 5-10 years they will be just as bad as any other airline.

Jet's domestic service in India is no better than American Airlines in the US. It is costly and service is not that exemplary. There are other much better airlines in terms of service (eg Kingfisher, Paramount) or in terms of price (eg SpiceJet, IndiGo). I have stopped travelling Jet domestically in India.

Indian airline passenger

June 22, 2008 10:35 AM

Sir,

Your article seems poorly researched. Consider that within India, Jet is renowned for its punctuality and profitability. The flip side of this is the most cramped aircraft, ground crew who are intolerant of passenger needs and brisk, almost robotic service.

I have heard that Jet's service on flights to Europe and America is very good. However, I recently flew Jet from Bangkok to Bombay and back. The seats in business class were terrible, the aircraft was as tatty as the worst Western carrier and I can only imagine what economy class must have been like.

I don't consider Thai Airways service to be very good but Jet was much worse on this sector and it cannot be compared to Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific.

There is no evidence to support the broad conclusion suggested by your headline. Many Indian private airlines are low-cost and low-service, with frequent delays and cancellations. One appreciates your nationalistic spirit but we must face the truth about our standards if we truly want them to be the world's best one day.

AC

June 22, 2008 11:46 AM

Dear Editor,

Singh's comment calling India a 'socialist sewer' is factually wrong and completely unacceptable, to say the least. It should be taken down immediately.


Rajesh

June 22, 2008 01:40 PM

Even in a world with with a surfeit of news abt pain and agony , I see folks like Singh who can't tolerate anything which gives a feel good factor -abt flying at least. He contrives to create a negative feel about the whole article. Strange indeed ! It is hard to say but maybe BW should censor folks who cannot do self sensorship of their pathetic vile . Singh , why hide behind the facade of fictious name ? at least take your real name - we may respect you for that.

Christopher H

June 22, 2008 07:29 PM

Premium service on gas at $4 a gallon! Doesn't sound like a long term business model to me, unless your objective is a free ride to Chapter 11.

Lakshman Dalpadado

June 22, 2008 10:13 PM

It's not only the airlines- the hotels in Miami are tatty and poor value for money. The service in most places are well below par. Miami airport looks ancient, when you arrive from Madrid's spanking new art-decor Barajas airport.

thetallj

June 23, 2008 01:44 AM

JEt has just started out on international...and its way too early to judge the quality so early. We have a long way to go as far as customer service and infrastructure are concerned and all this chest thumping abt india etc needs to be tempered

KC Rupesh

June 23, 2008 06:36 AM

Scenario Now:
-Planes are new.
-Girls are just recruited, are young and attractive.
-Seat are sliding like silk, TV is sleek: aircrafts were just delivered a few months ago.
-Goodies are good, they have to win competition.
-Service is with smile.

Scenario 10 Years later:
-Planes are old and stinking.
-Girls are 10 years older now, they look tired and irritable.
-Seat are jammed with soiled cushion covers, TV is dated; nothing was actually replaced completely.
-Goodies are just useless stuffs; they have to cut cost to remain competitive.
-Service is with smile coated frown.

Ram

June 23, 2008 08:49 AM

My wife has been flying Jet for almost a decade now. She has only superlative words to describe her flying experience. British Airways, I found to be the worst when it comes to customer service. Lufthansa connections are good, but no leg room and no smile, of course.

Interconnect

June 23, 2008 09:16 AM

The future of origination of global airlines are Middle East. Travelling public, lack of rail-roads, cost effective and efficient crew, and safety. Why are we putting rail track today, when we can fly our cargoes, and people more effectively on air, with todays technology and compliance to environmental conformance. eMail: haroon.rashid@akunet.org

rob

June 23, 2008 10:01 AM

Face it, India has many enemies (Pakis and Chinese) who infest forums, adopt white-sounding names, and spew negativity.

Even if articles like this are slightly over-exuberant, so what? We need stuff like this to counter all the lies and negativity. Hateful people believe that the only thing that should ever be written about India are poverty, caste etc.


Look at the idiot who brings up India's pot-holed roads! What does road condition have to do with anything: this is about Jet Airways!!

The answer, of course, is he will find any excuse to bring people down. Even if it involves roads, in an article about Jet Airways.

Kishor

June 23, 2008 11:18 PM

It is refreshing to see that Indian companies are competing in the global marketplace- on a level field. Jet has no subsidies or any other undue advantage over others they compete with. Yes, as a new entrant, Jet will do everything right to gain competitive advantage. So did Virgin(UK), Jet Blue(US) or any new entrant who decided to get into this crowded industry. Jet will have to stay competitive (in pricing, service as well as equipment) if they want to survive in the long run.

I won't dignify comments made by "Singh" by responding. Rob said it all in his comments.

Thank you Manjeet for starting a meaning ful dialog. Next 20-30 years will be dominated by Asian economies (barring any geo-political disasters); however, US and EU countries are not going to sit on their laurels. Ultimately, "international" consumer will determine who wins and who loses.

Prashant

June 24, 2008 12:11 AM

I think it is still below the levels set by KF

Anshul

June 24, 2008 07:56 AM

I agree with the writer, I recently traveled by jet from India to Belgium and it was one of the best flights have taken in recent times. I highly recommend it to anyone.

JiaMing

June 24, 2008 12:50 PM

If the West can claim the world's greatest this and the best on earth that all the time, Indians or any other Asians are certain entitled to celebrating their own achievements.

Anil

June 30, 2008 10:30 PM

Malaysian Airlines, its great until you have a problem. Here are my two awful experiences in the same summer.

I ask for "hindu vegetarian food" and receive that on my way to India. On the return I am served chicken (in the bird flu season). I question why no vegetarian food and am rudely told that I should have requested that in writing. I come back to the USA and complain. My bright Mullah friends reply, "Malaysian Airlines' Hindu Meal is a chicken meal" That was stupidly "Islamic Al Quedaistic". Lest I say that "Pork was the holy diet of the warrior Mohammed". What can I say "Long Live Bush". My next vote is to McCain and the nukes dropping in on Iran. I am sure the Mullahs won't complain about that!

Next, the hypocrits sell my 70 year old mother a ticket to an Indian city, Ahemdabad and fly her there and then a week before her flight back, cancel all flights from that city. They want her to take a flight from Ahemdabad to Bombay ...sit at the airport for 20 hours for her next flight back to the USA. I request them to provide her a flight to Bombay from another city where she was visiting. But they would not budge although the flight time from either city is the same. This requires my mother to spend six more hours in driving and 20 hours of sitting at the exotic airport of Bombay. Thanks to the laws in the USA, Malaysian was forced to refund the full ticket with the threat of a visit to a small claims court and risk paying more.

Shame on Malaysian and its Mullah managers!

Jonathan

June 30, 2008 11:20 PM

"Next 20-30 years will be dominated by Asian economies (barring any geo-political disasters)."

Uh, that's a pretty big "barring". Be sure to include "economic disasters". Remember 1998?

You know, everyone was positive that Japan was going to own the US back in the late 80s, and then their banking crisis (which *still* drags on) hit and growth cooled below the states. Now everyone's positive the Chinese & Arabs will. We'll see... Managed economies (as all Asian ones are) will boom as they are developing, but once they are "developed", the flaws that your "managing" government have covered up for decades will be revealed, and your economy will tank until you learn better. i.e. You can't win in every industry, other countries will kick your butt in some places, you will have unemployment, just find what you're good at and stick with it.

American airlines were arguably the best in the world while the government controlled them, and rates were high too. Now they fight tooth and nail in a low margin market. I love Sing Air & Asiana & I think American airlines are pretty lousy, but a lot of you need to stop drinking the anti-American Kool-Aid and get some perspective. Asian airlines now are at a stage US ones were in the late 70s / early-mid-80s. Grow up and then come talk to us.

Rahul

July 1, 2008 03:08 AM

Read all the comments on this story. Its a shock why people start commenting based on nationality, race etc...etc... Be it an Indian or any other person. If your experience with Jet is not good say it on this forum thats it...why force your personal grudges or beliefs on others.

"Lets make the world better"

Ranjit

July 8, 2008 12:50 PM

Sir,
Jet Airways is the best airline in India,no matter who owns,from where the money has come,they are managing the airline very well,and it is growing.I regret that before three years i had a wonderful oppurtunity to be a part of that esteemed airline.I could not attend the interview as I was down with viral fever.But I have flown Jet many times as a passenger and the guys are truely amazing !May God keep them in progress path only forever !

Mekhong Kurt

October 24, 2008 09:51 PM

First, to Rahul: you've got that right!

Bob got it, too.

I've never flown on Jet, but from what I've heard, I sure would try it if the price was anywhere even halfway close to competitive, based on stuff I've read and heard, virtually all of it positive, at least regarding its international flights.

Though I'm a Caucasian American, I'm very pro-Asian. I've lived in Bangkok for over 14 years, and with the exception of 1988-1990, I've lived in China, Macau (when it still was a Portuguese colony), and Bangkok since mid 1985. That said, not *all* Asian airlines are wonderful, though most are quite good to superb. Coming up short are airlines such as Laos Aviation. Of course, Laos is a very poor country with a relatively small population, so it would be unreasonable to expect the country to operate a world-class carrier. I flew on a Combodge (Cambodia) Air a few years ago, and though the flight was routine, I was nervous the whole time. (A flight from Bangkok to Phnom Penh.) For the first time ever, I tossed the return part of the ticket -- it was discounted, and was nonrefundable -- and bought a ticket back to Bangkok on Bangkok Airways, which is a superb airline.

Even a relatively major airline such as Korean Air can fail to stand out. I flew gthe airline a few months ago Bangkok-Inchon-Dallas-Fort Worth and back, and while the flight was satisfactory, it wasn't anything to write home about, particularly in terms of service, which, while friendly, was rather perfunctory -- and cabin staff disappeared entirely for great lengths of time, especially on the non-stop flight between Inchon and DFW. Plus, rather to my surprise, the food was so-so, at best. (I know; we don't normally fly in economy class and expect much of airline food, but I did expect better than I got.)

I've found the smaller airlines both here in Thailand and in the U.S. tend to better than the heavyweights. With exceptions, of course, such as the reputedly excellent Singapore Air, which I've not had occasion to fly.

If Jet can keep it up, they should do well, and deservedly so.

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BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.

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