'Is Deccan's DNA under threat'? asks Mint.
Well, I certainly hope so!
The Air Deccan-Kingfisher alliance is something like the pauper and the prince coming together. The airline poorest at keeping its customers satisfied and the airline whose cup of goodwill runneth over...
Having travelled Air Deccan last month I would say there is definitely a 'Kingfisher effect'. There are improvements in a few areas, although in many others problems continue.
The main problem with Deccan is not on board the plane (the aircrafts are actually quite new and shiny!) but the process of getting there.
The first thing you notice is the looooong queue to get your check in baggage screened. Why, pray, is there only one machine if Deccan has more passengers?
But getting your boarding card is much worse. At both ends of the flight - Bombay and Bangalore - there was a passenger with excess baggage. Not 2-3 kgs mind you, 15, 17, 20 kgs excess baggage. And, they were refusing to pay.
Now you can't blame the airline for these adiyal passengers but surely a supervisor needs to step in and sort out the mess instead of holding up the rest of the line for half an hour. Without apology or explanation.
Some might say, "These are railway mindset passengers.. what can you do?" The point is Deccan is not the only budget airline. But somehow, there is always an altercation going on at the Deccan counter. People have a very belligerent attitude towards the airline.
The callous behaviour of staff over a period of time is the stuff of story swapping legend. "You are on a budget airline, be grateful we sell cheap tickets to you... don't expect anything more" has been the attitude all along.
With such a 'DNA', Air Deccan is in urgent need of genetic engineering!
Current improvements include sharing of infrastructure (Deccan using the aerobridge enabled parking bay of Kingfisher). And a little more common courtesy. But tons of scope for improvement remains.
Something as simple as seat numbers. Didn't the DGCA insist Deccan had to issue them? Well see the fun. Your ticket has a seat number but when you get into the plane they tell you "Never mind, you can sit anywhere."
Vijay Mallya hopes to hike prices - in fact the airline already has done so already, by 8-10%. But apparently flights are increasingly flying empty.
I think it' not just price sensitivity but the fact that people don't see enough value in the product. The overall experience on Deccan is so poor that as a brand it attracts little or no loyalty. Its only USP was price.
In fact many travellers prefer to pay 10-20% more and fly 'any other airline'. Until one fine day you find the Deccan flight is most convenient or the only one available or the only one flying a particular sector... and you sigh, "let's try it one last time".
Only to add to your 'Air Deccan horror story" collection.
The bottomline is a 'budget' product need not make people feel cheap. If Kingfisher makes people feel like kings, at the least Air Deccan should make us want to be its loyal subjects!