Kingfisher Airlines — coming soon to the U.S.

I always find it a little suspect when people try to do novelty airlines, maybe because I’m one of those paranoid people who, even after years of flying and hundreds of flights, still routinely thinks “We’re all going to die!” at least two or three times on any given flight. Thus, I will never fly the now-grounded “Hooters Air,” even if it does come back. (Guys, keep your eyes on the… cockpit? please?)

Kingfisher Airlines might end up as a better bet, but as might be proper in an airline that emerged out of a beer company, if I do ever fly with them I’ll still probably feel compelled to smell the pilot’s breath before I take my seat. Apparently, Kingfisher Airlines, one of India’s newer domestic carriers, has signed a deal with Airbus to buy several jumbo and superjumbo planes, with an eye to entering the international market. The move is part of a general boom in international travel to India (which has been up by about 40% this year alone).

The New York Times article about the event spends as much time talking about the lifestyle of Kingfisher’s flamboyant CEO Vijay Mallya, as it does considering the economic viability of the venture (they do note that Kingfisher Airlines has yet to turn a profit as a domestic carrier in India):

Mr. Mallya personally is the sort of unfettered corporate czar that many American boardrooms have not seen in at least half a century. He surrounds himself with a close group of longtime advisers, wears copious diamonds, holds business meetings at his house until 5 in the morning, winks at female journalists and flaunts the “good times” corporate motif in most aspects of his life.

At home, a Mercedes, a Ferrari and a Bentley are parked in his driveway. His ornate living room is filled with silver gilded furniture and art objects like a marble statue of a nymph-like woman, as well as a Picasso sketch. His CD collection includes dance, lounge and party music.

A group of largely silent young women clad in white deliver drinks, answer phones and clean up ashtrays. (link)

Kya baat hai. Vijay Mallya seems to be a mix of new-school Indian self-confidence and ambition (this is a huge endeavour), and a kind of old-school, “ladies’ man” absurdity that seems to have come out of some 70s Bollywood movie. Even the attractive female flight attendants are a big part of the company’s marketing campaign, which seems like an obvious Vijay Mallya touch (see this article).

In general, I have to say that Kingfisher’s “keep the good times rolling” marketing campaign simply isn’t appealing to me. From an airline I really want the boring things — professionalism, competence, and yeah, safety — not so much “party time.”

But is he perhaps appealing to a real demographic, one that’s a bit less stodgy and paranoid than me? Are people really going to fly Kingfisher “Good Times” Airlines to go to and from the Desh?

75 thoughts on “Kingfisher Airlines — coming soon to the U.S.

  1. Not sure how recently some of you have flown KF but there’s been a sea change in the airlines sector in the last few years in India. KF is no longer low cost — in fact it is now a premium airline (hence their decision to buy Deccan as a low cost alternative). Their food is top notch and so is their service. They are also undeniably the most expensive of the lot (comparable or a little bit more than Jet). Most people, when given a choice even between Jet and KF, choose KF. They also have the hottest women in the skies. Mallya comes across as an insufferable boor who needs a sound thrashing and a lesson in low key humility — its not as if he built all of this from ground up, inheriting his vast wealth from his father Vittal Mallya.

  2. Can we look at his effin balance sheet? Kingfisher has not turned a profit since inception — and it is unlikely that this extravagance is going to be any better. Further, it is not true that Kingfisher is the only luxury airline offering international flights to Bombay, as anyone who has stepped on an Emirates flight will attest to. Frankly, while the short-skirt routine is outrageous and novel in India, it does not…er…fly well in the west. I agree with Amardeep’s assessment that auntie-uncle types and family people making the US-India trip would like to get Kingfisher. Also, unless he really ropes in deals with American Express travel and others, it is unlikely that Corporate travel (which is more interested in reliability, punctuality and 180 degree seats than cleavage) would be interested in KF Airlines. That just leaves the graduate student/single traveller market and we all know how price sensitive they are! Market share much?

  3. HA HA HA You are right NUBAMOUNTAIN When I flew with the 2 kids to Delhi from Bangalore even the travel agent said “wasting” 8000 rupees on a new airline was not worth it :-) At that point KF was just a year old! That was the difference between Sahara/Jet and KF for round trip tickets. Even though I was willing to pay it!! So we went with Sahara and decided NEVER again to fly Sahara. KF is worth it or stick to Jet.

  4. and if I had to choose between one less packet of moongfalli and gorgeous lady in skimpy red, it’s an easy choice dude! Well, maybe I choose differently because the way to my heart is through…

    Word. Especially if that’s masala moomphali with pyaaz (kanda to bombaywallas), mirchi and nimbu. Mmm.

  5. In the olden days, and I am somewhat an expert, flying was certainly a glamorous undertaking reserved for the well-to-do and flight attendants were called air hostesses. Today, the appropriately named Airbus is nothing but a bus in the sky and as affordable by the masses as Greyhound.

    Floridian, my mother used to room with Pan Am stews years ago, and back then it was such a glam job. The girls who used to work on the flight that circumnavigated the globe would be gone for ages, as they often had two-day (and more) layovers on each leg of the trip.

    Years later, she was working in the airline industry (tho on the ground) and we often flew for free on stand-by tix, and I remember what a big deal it used to be, and even how dressed up people got. As things started to change, and track suits became de riguer, we would still have to dress well (no jeans, no sneakers, etc etc), as you often got upgraded to business or first class when economy was full, and the irony was, you could often spot the “non-revs” (non-revenue pax) because they’d be the only ones still flying in less casual clothes.

  6. Agreed about the Singapore Airlines attendants’ still being very attractive, but there seems to be a key difference between SA and how KF is being described: nothing inappropriate in the SA attendants’ dress. As I recall, they all wore form-fitting — but not tight — traditional East Asian dress (qipao, I think). I noticed that they looked younger and prettier than the average American flight attendant, but I didn’t think of them as coming across in a “coffee, tea or me” way. In fact, they definitely had the aura of women who would have been offended by a request for sexual favors. I am afraid that modern India has too much of an association of “attractive” with “Western,” particularly trashy sort of Western-ness. I would much prefer to see KF attendants in sleeveless punjabi dresses than in short skirts — garb that allows a woman to show that she has a fit body, without exhibiting her bare legs, cleavage, etc. I think this also would avoid much of our “semi-single” commenter’s concern about tempting men away from their commitments.

  7. agree with #57 and #58. some people look like they rolled out of bed and onto the plane. i think the world has just become a lot more sloppy in general, in speech and in presentation. singapore airlines and air india used to have (and to a certain extent still do) have some of the most attractive and elegantly dressed flight attendants (i think they topped some sort of list years ago) – i think a french designer designed the SA uniform. some of the newer airline uniforms veer between somewhat trashy to outright dowdy western (men and women).

  8. 56 SP

    mmmm indeed. And it’s sacrilege to remind one of these things, suddenly I feel hungry. Specially cause now I am thinking street side golgappe and aaloo tikki in Delhi and baraf gole at Juhu.

    But then, thats a whole different ballgame vis a vis airlines… then the stomach may easily prevail – with food like that I would be too busy stuffing myself to care about the flight attendants. However the delicious flavor comes from the numerous dust grains and microbes.. fat chance we gonna get that in an airplane.

  9. I used to be a frequent flier with Jet, but since then have shifted allegiance to Kingfisher. Their service is impeccable, right from taking care of your baggage when you enter the airport to the nice clean planes. They also have introduced live television in some of their flights. Another thing I like about Kingfisher is the kind of crowd it attracts. Very pleasant and well behaved, quite unlike the crowd in Sahara or Indian. I would totally fly with them if they start service from the US. I bet they would hv an awesome entertainment system.

  10. My uncle used to be the..well im not really sure, but he bought all the planes for Jet Airways but when kingfisher was starting up they headhunted him and now he’s the director of operations at Kingfisher. Kingfisher just bought Air Deccan and Kingfisher is now the biggest airline in India. I loved flying Jet and was excited to hear about their new “luxury cabins” and I will most likely be flying Kingfisher when I go to India in December. And by the time I become a marketing Intern for Kingfisher Airlines (got to love nepotism) next summer they will have started their international flights! :)

  11. Interestingly enough, Jet Airways has a full-page color ad in the NYT today announcing their daily service from Mumbai (via Brussels) to Newark starting on August 5th.

  12. Are people really going to fly Kingfisher “Good Times” Airlines to go to and from the Desh?

    I would not be one of their customers for reasons other than drunk pilots ;) and free calenders.

    Personally, I fly more here, in the US and once every couple of years back home. Having reaped the benefits of a airline miles, I am never going back.

    So unless KF has a partnership with a Major American Airline company, or if they sold tickets for half the price, I am not going to switch and other regular travelers might think the same way.

  13. I’ve flown Air India only once, but was completely put off by their bad attitude to everybody from 10 year old kids to 75 year old grandparents.

    We flew Air-India to India many years ago when I was kid – the service to Indians was so crappy as compared to service to Americans/Europeans that we never used Air-India again. I thought they might have changed their ways considering the amount of competition they have now.

  14. no. 55

    So we went with Sahara and decided NEVER again to fly Sahara. KF is worth it or stick to Jet


    We are traveling on Sahara from Delhi to Cochin and than Cochin to Hyderabad in a few days. Can you tell why you have such a bad opinion of the airline? Sahara had the most convenient flights for our tour.

  15. In case folks are interested, here‘s a site, called Skytrax, that has a ton of passenger comments on all and sundry airlines, including Sahara, Jet and Kingfisher.

  16. Yes convenience was one of the 2 reasons we took Sahara. The other was that my son wanted to see what the bidding for various items was all about. We rarely fly since both sets of grandparents live in ‘bussable’ distance :-) . We take the JET (rt)every year to get from Bombay to Bangalore. The quality is somehow poorer on this flight(both ways).

    Also, there was some trouble on the return from Delhi to Bangalore and almost all the men just stood up and screamed and entered the cockpit and started yelling at the pilot! The trouble was with one of the tow-trucks(?) that pushes the plane out of the door onto the tarmac. Since that was not working the pilots had to wait for a spare one to come and push us out. But all these guys were up and yelling obscenities and screaming and walking in and out of the cockpit. I was scared since I was travelling with 2 kids. AND it was a Sunday morning. Almost nobody came into the plane to explain the problem or why the plane was shut down with no a/c in July in Delhi! No water… I will stick with Jet. Alternatively, my friend uses ONLY Sahara to fly Madras–Bangalore–Hyderabad sectors and loves it :-) . My friends kids used KF last summer and loved it.

  17. Hi !

    It is rather interesting reading up the comments , though there are a few points i would like to add in a) The talk of KF red hot girls :- if i am not mistaken a lot many of the girls are all ex Jet girls who have been picked up and out fitted with red short skirts , now is it the girl or the skirts that is hot ? b) Jet is flying to newwark from aug this year as well as toronto from sep , yes it is via brussels c) KF is more of a marketing blitz than aviation professionals , yep they do have a good product but still miles away from the jet standards , i guess KF is more of a flying bill board for Mallaya and his beer d) In case you are wondering if i am an insider , yep i am was in KF and am with a top european airline now !

  18. I think Karthik touches on a very important issue – Kingfisher will have to find a way to work its way into one of the major airline consortiums (i.e., Star Alliance, Skyteam, etc.) if it wants to succeed. For long haul trips, whether I can use miles for an upgrade is as important as the price itself. Unless it can attract high margin business travelers, Kingfisher will be competing as a budget international airline. And I’ve not seen that work out so well, yet (putting aside the ridiculously subsized EU carriers).

  19. DDIA #53,

    Why such rage? KF is barely two years old and it is a capital intensive business, the company gets consolidated in UB holdings and is still not a public company and hence no separate FS. There is definite promise in the model and flying overseas is obviously better for their bottom line. I am not sure why and from where you get the idea that they are not tying up with frequent flier programs at this time. Jet used to be with Lufthansa and has recently added Qantas and here is a list of their other partners. I am sure Kingfisher will soon follow. All I am saying is keep an open mind and it can’t be worse than Air India can it?

  20. Have I been in a coma for the past 50 years and it’s 2057? I was under the impression that it’s 2007 and Donald Trump is still in an American boardroom. Not to mention American moguls that made their fortune in entertainment.

  21. hi iam gomti sharma graudate of B.B.A ,and had pursued 2 years diploma in global avition and hospitality management from air hostess accademy,currently iam learning german iwant to join airline industry as acabin crew ,how should i be selected in this job.

                        THANK YOU

    Yours truly gomti sharma

  22. hiya, mr Vijay Mallya is the man, branson move over Vijay has landed in heathrow waitin to connect to the US. iv flown kingfisher few times now to and from bhuj and mumbai, the service is exelent and yes the crew or HOT, hotter than Virgin. ‘what do u expect we in india have the hotest women in the world and thats a fact. my next trip i will go with kingfisher all the way. Ps hope a find a member of crew who wants to 2. HAVE FUN U NEVER NO WHAT 2MRO WILL BRING,LIVE LIVE LIKE THER IS NO 2MRO DILIP KABRIYA LONDON UK