About two weeks back, a VC & I were traveling back from a start-up event in Hyderabad. Unfortunately (well fortunately too), both our flights were delayed by a couple of hours. After the usual biz-talk over a hot plate of idli’s, the conversation drifted towards my ‘now popular ‘ airline jinx. I was rather surprised to see a man of his stature giving the “first right of refusal’ in air travel to a low-cost airline – Indigo… that really got me thinking.
“Someone once said running an airline today is more excruciating than getting a root canal without anesthesia. Rahul Bhatia’s (Indigo) seems to have found the magic portion that makes this root canal as pleasant as a Venetian gondola ride.”
Most corporate travel is influenced by the color of the tag on your bags (or should I say the complexion of the hostess 🙂 ) or by the best laid out – eye candy baits in the form of miles, free tickets, lounge access & the ever so elusive free upgrades. Indigo seems to have cracked that code. And now a season of back to back hat trick of unreasonable flight delays have made me go Indigo!
A. Indigo model healthy, profitable & sustainable : I find it hard to expect great service from an airline under losses. I hear Kingfisher doesn’t have money to pay for fuel – lo behold! last-minute flight cancellations! Jet canceled the most popular 17.30 & 19.20 flights out of Bangalore. You are now forced to take the 20.25 – always delayed – Jet lite or pay a 3x premium for the 19.00 kingfisher. It sure seems like a cartel to me.
B. Indigo exceeds expectation: They seem to be consistent in exceeding expectations. Well, frankly how often does a guy like me gets personalized, last name based greetings!
C. Doing things differently: There are many “Ah I’ve not seen that before” things. Here’s just a 10 of them
i. Handheld PDA’s to scan your boarding pass – Saves time!
ii. Recorded welcome messages in transit buses.
Ah, no more funny questions – “Are sure you are going flying to Bangalore? Are you sure? Lock Kardhun? ” – No you moron I am flying to Timbuktu! I just hoped in for a free ride in your bus.
iii. Ramps instead of steps for boarding – Saves time, is convenient & is disable friendly.
iv. The hostesses actually do a lot of work! – Quick turn around time.
v. Never heard any other airline include the term “boys & girls” in their welcome messages.
vi. Hostesses slip out of high heals into flat shoes for easy in-flight movement.
vii. All travelers are advised to check for trash in their seats and hand it over to the hostesses – lesser time to clean the flights!
viii. Preferential Seat Selection while booking – Be ready to pay for long leg room – well I really don’t mind a Rs.400 premium for that.
ix. Creative in-flight announcements: The hostess walks right in to the walk-way, makes eye contact with the passengers before any announcements, instead of sitting in a corner reading out from that worn-out pocket diary. Some not-so-critical announcements are done post take off to save time. Not just that, I even found some warm & genuine sounding statements in their script. They even mention the languages the hostesses can speak! Wow.
x. ‘Corporate’ treatment: A flat fee commitment across the country (at least for my employers). You also get treated like a business class passenger. I attracted some angry stares from fellow passengers mumbling –“what’s he got that I ain’t got!
D. And here’s the big one: On time service – When punctuality is being seen as an achievement by the biggies, these guys are making a habit out of it.
But then like a Jet-Platinum, King-Gold colleague of mine mentioned, Indigo doesn’t have too many flight options, they don’t fly in peak hours and they don’t have any loyalty programs.
Agreed! But then, there is no denying that very soon most corporate travelers will look beyond loyalty programs & will make Indigo their first choice for these three main reasons.
Reason 1: Fundamental thing about air travel is on time arrival – these guys are making a habit of it. IndiGo just owns 8% of the market share in terms of operating flights but a market share of 16.5% in terms of passenger traffic – doesn’t that explain a lot. Now add to that a profit of 550 crores while spice jet just makes 67 crores & the others are still red!
Reason 2: It’s sensible to expect good service only from a profitable airline. They are unlikely to cancel, delay flights for “unavoidable reasons’.
Reason 3: Customer service is not lip service here. They seem to be serious about it.
So here I go ….I go I go Indigo ! Viva la Indigo