Monday, July 09, 2007

Avion à la Mallya

Posting has been slow, because of work and travelling. A few days ago I took my first Kingfisher flight. Before I flew, a friend in Bangalore told me that it's an excellent airline -- and never late, not even in crowded airports like Delhi. But there's always a first time. This flight was late by 45 minutes.

Like Paramount, Kingfisher does not advertise an "economy class". They have "first class" and "Kingfisher class" (Paramount has "business" instead of the latter). And as with Paramount, the only improvement I could discern over, say, Jet's economy class was leg room: it really is quite a bit more. But elbow room is much the same, and the food quality is good but not noticeably better than economy food in other airlines in this country.

But the most interesting difference was the in-flight magazine. Where other airlines offer articles on travel and tourism, Kingfisher offers a hundred or so pages of page-3 material. And the prime focus seems to be Dr Vijay Mallya himself. I counted at least a half-dozen photos of the great man, posing with a racing team, with politicians, with various others, and by himself, unfailingly referred to with doctoral prefix intact.

Dr Mallya's editorial mentioned their recent acquisition of a 26% stake in Air Deccan, and crowed that while Kingfisher had promised to be the country's largest airline by 2010, they had already managed it by 2007. I don't quite see how acquiring a minority stake equates to becoming the country's largest airline, but perhaps that's why I didn't go to business school.

But grabbing your attention at the outset was not Dr Mallya, but the man featured in the fawning cover story: Union civil aviation minister Praful Patel. In between hailing his contributions to the boom in India's airline industry, the article found the space to praise his dress sense (apparently he's his own fashion designer), his numerous educational institutions in his hometown, his twenty luxury cars, his self-assurance at cocktail parties, and his ability to be universally liked across party lines.

Perhaps the adulation is mutual. No doubt Kingfisher hopes so.

(Speaking of Dr Mallya: on my last trip to Bangalore I spent a pleasant couple of hours with a college friend at a bar on the top storey of the Barton Centre on M G Road, staring at the city's skyline. And in a south-westerly direction was a blot that I hadn't seen before: a complex of skyscrapers that included what looked very much like New York's Empire State Building, and nearby, another that somewhat resembled that city's Chrysler Building. I am told that for these latest additions to Bangalore's skyline, too, we have Dr Mallya to thank.)


Anonymous said...

That was the first time I saw the "blot" too. Something about Mallya repulses me, that's why I refuse to fly Kingfisher. And I don't drink the beer either. :)

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Well, it's hard to avoid UB in this country, unless one goes teetotal, isn't it?

km said...

He has the planes AND he has the skyscrapers.

I'm not going to complete the rest of that joke.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

km - one very much hopes that Dr Mallya won't complete that joke, either.