After two full days in Chennai, on May 11, 2012, it was time to return home. But no visit to Chennai is complete without a 'pilgrimage' to Sri Krishna Sweets, so I headed to Sri Krishna Sweets at T Nagar and picked up some Mysore Pak and a few packets of savouries unique to Tamil Nadu, which Neeti and I relish over a cup of tea!
And then there was the 30-minute ride to Chennai airport. Being driven on smooth roads like those in Chennai made me wonder whether Mumbai is actually run by nincompoops or is Mumbai's pathetic condition attributable to corruption. The guys running the BMC are actually smart - as the newspapers suggest they know how to stuff their mattresses with cash. But is it really different in say Chennai or Gujarat or Delhi? Perhaps, yes, because despite the all-pervasive corruption, work does get done in all these places, but in Mumbai it's a different story.
At Chennai airport, I had an hour to spare. The place was teeming with passengers, as the airport is undergoing a modernisation and spaces are rare. In the security hold area, a good number of people seemed to be headed on short haul trips - Madurai, Kozhikode, Kochi, Vizag, etc. The opening of airports at all these small towns and affordable airfares in 2004 following the Air-Deccan launch gave wings to the middle class. Those wings are here to stay.
A couple of honeymooners who had returned from Port Blair seemed to be headed back to Delhi and Mumbai, while some college kids were busy revising their GRE and GMAT guides - the cacophony in the security hold area did not seem to bother them at all.
I was flying on Jet Airways's flight 9W 468 back to Mumbai that evening, which was scheduled to depart at 1750 hours. As always I had chosen a window seat - 17F that evening.
I must say, Jet Airways has badly fallen from grace in the last 2 years. The aircraft upholstery looks old and dirty. Their cabins smell acrid. IFE - or in-flight entertainment has been taken off. The stewardesses look like courtiers in the court of the Chinese Emperor - I sometimes wonder whoever designed their uniforms must have been surely out of his mind - a confused soul. The food has become really lousy, I would say cold sandwiches are a lot better than what Jet Airways serves on board.
At one point of time, in the early and mid-2000s, Jet Airways was the preferred carrier for business travel. But their staff was too snooty, haughty and arrogant, they looked down upon the non-corporate types. Kingfisher's launch in 2005 changed all that. Jet Airways was forced to turn down-to-earth and get a bit more contemporary.
But recently, Kingfisher's woes seem to have had a bad effect on Jet Airways' standards. Sample this, when the meal service started on 9W 468, the stewardess Veena ignored my row, row 17 altogther. My co-passenger, who was seated on 17E matter of factly said "We've been ignored!"
I thought Veena would come back again with our meal trays. 10 minutes went by - the rows both behind and ahead of us were served, but we weren't. My co-passenger, who was a bit hungry called for the cabin crew. Veena came dashing to enquire what was required in our row. To add injury to our insult, she feigned ignorance and acted as though she was innocent. Such behaviour, to any passenger, let alone frequent fliers, is unpardonable and deserves one tight slap!
But we still hadn't lost our decency, though it was evident that Jet Airways had fallen from its once lofty position.
In a few minutes, our meal trays appeared magically out of nowhere - the food was really bad - aloo tikkis were almost raw and tasteless, while the channa gravy was cold.
I find it counterintuitive that Jet Airways is rapidly and consciously lowering its guard, in the wake of Kingfisher's woes. Today, I would say, the IndiGo product is multiple times better than Jet Airways', today. IndiGo is super-efficient. Not only is IndiGo's inflight product clean and neat, they are marvelous in ensuring that they convey an image of sincerity and honesty to the customer, which is where Jet Airways fails miserably.
IndiGo, today, gives a serious and more meaningful and viable alternative to business travelers.
Rather than mindlessly cost cutting, Jet Airways should maintain the quality of its product to remain in the reckoning. Besides service, maintaining a decent network is as critical - a number of questions remain unanswered - why is Jet Airways exiting the Mumbai-Johannesburg route, while South African Airways finds it a viable opportunity. Similarly, it has not yet restarted its Mumbai-Shanghai-San Francisco flights, though Chinese carriers are expanding their footprint across India - I recently heard Air China is expanding to Mumbai and Bangalore.
As these thoughts were spinning in my head, we landed at Mumbai and I tweeted my complaint to Jet Airways. Three days later, I received a response from Jet Airways asking for my Jet Privilege number to investigate further. I somehow missed the message and saw it today. In these 10 days or so, I never got a reminder that they needed more details. That speaks volumes for their seriousness.
They seem to have lost the plot completely. I am pretty sure I would shift my loyalties to IndiGo lock,stock and barrel.
The verdict is out, IndiGo is set to win hands down!