Posted by: Manjeet Krpalani on June 19, 2008
The days of exceptional, stylish air travel are over, right?
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.”