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My last flight on Kingfisher Airlines April 2, 2012

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Branding, India, Marketing, Social Media, Travel, UAE.
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I’m a loyal customer of India’s Kingfisher Airlines. I first flew Kingfisher in Jan 2011 but since then I have flown them 15 times. I fly them as much as possible. I often pay a premium to fly them even when I have cheaper or non-stop flights available. I even recommend it to those who are looking for flights to India. The only time I flew another airline to India instead of Kingfisher I felt like I was cheating on a partner.

What I like the most about Kingfisher is how they make me feel special when I fly with them. Another reason I love to fly them is their social media engagement. I became a loyal Kingfisher customer because of how they engaged with me on social media the first time I flew with them and have been connected to me since then.


I have watched with growing unhappiness the decline of the airline over the last few months. In my mind, Kingfisher has been one of the finest airlines in the skies, truly deserving its 5-star rating by Skytrax.

So when Kingfisher announced that they would be pulling out of Dubai, I knew I had to be on the last flight, just for the sake of good old times. So I flew Dubai-Mumbai-Dubai, leaving on Friday, 23rd of March and returning on Saturday, 24th of March.

On Friday evening as I was getting ready to leave for the airport, I got a call from the Guest Relations Manager based at Dubai. When he introduced himself, my first fear was that he was calling to tell me that my flight was canceled. Thankfully not. What he told me blew my mind away. “Sir, I’m calling to let you know that your favorite seat 9A has been booked by another passenger. I have blocked 9F for you. I have also kept aside Row 12 for you should you like to sit there. We will try to talk to the passenger who has taken 9A and try to get it back for you.” I said in my mind “Whoa, you really didn’t have to do this. Especially not in a difficult time such as this.”

So, this is the deal, whenever I’m flying Kingfisher, they know what my favorite seat is and always block it for me, no matter what the aircraft type. If it is an all-economy Airbus A320, it is 9A. At airports across the world, I have walked up to Kingfisher check-in counters and asked for my favorite seat, only to be told that they have already been pre-assigned for me. Score.

Jeffrey, the Guest Relations Manager who had called me earlier, was waiting with a complimentary lounge access card for me at the check-in counter. We spoke about the current state of affairs at Kingfisher and his words to me were ‘We are hoping for a miracle’, ‘pray for us’ and ‘we wish we had more passengers like you’. I got my boarding pass, shopped at the Duty Free and ambled to the Marhaba Lounge were I downed Chardonnay. Soon it was time for boarding and Jeffrey walked me to the waiting plane and ensured I was comfortably settled down.


IT044 flown by Airbus A320, registered VT-KFF had 50 odd passengers and was soon up in the air. The in-seat screen videos were conspicuous by the absence of Kingfisher chairman Vijay Mallya’s cheerful address. The captain made an announcement highlighting that the safety of passengers was Kingfisher’s priority and wouldn’t be compromised, perhaps an allusion to the negative press about the airline’s operational concerns.

Dinner was soon served by the Kingfisher damsels in red. I went for Chicken Biryani with Kheer. I’m usually not a huge fan of Kingfisher’s in-flight meals but this dish was gobsmackingly delicious. Dinner was followed by a drink of Whyte & Mackay Scotch Whiskey with club soda and ice. Soon we commenced our descent into Mumbai and upon landing I was on a bus to Mumbai CSI Airport Terminal. I then proceeded to kill a day in Mumbai.

I reported for my return flight IT043 to Dubai at 530pm. The once buzzing Kingfisher check-in counters at International Departures bore the look of a deserted ghost town. IT043 was Kingfisher’s last outbound flight to Dubai. I walked up to the counter and gave my passport to Avilon, the Guest Relations Manager whose face lit up on seeing my passport. “I saw you standing in the line and knew that would be you, Mr Rajagopal.” I’m often told that I’m bit of a celeb flyer among Kingfisher staff.

He then went on to hand me a bag with a beautifully wrapped gift. I just remembered that I had tweeted to Kingfisher the previous day before booking my journey about where I could get a Kingfisher plane model to keep as a souvenir of my travels with them. That was the plane. He then gave me a complimentary access to the Celebrations Lounge. My preferred row was already blocked on the plane. I think my eyes welled up at this point.
 

He then walked with me to Immigration where we again spoke about the airline and its declining fortunes. I knew my words of solace would not have been of any help.

My flight was delayed by more than an hour, but I wasn’t complaining at all. I ambled around the expansive duty free at Mumbai Airport. There were around 50 odd passengers on the last flight, Airbus A320, registered VT-KFV. We took off and the crew went around with their business in a nonchalant manner trying hard not to show the worries of their carrier. Dinner was a repeat of the yummy Biryani and Whiskey fare. I was exhausted and dozed off, only waking up as my flight touched down at Dubai International.

I boarded the bus to Terminal 1 and thought of all the good times. When they held back a plane once at Bengaluru so that I could board after running late. The time I got a special tour of an Airbus A321 cockpit. When they chased me down at Chennai Airport to ensure that I had lounge access while waiting for my connecting flight. When the charming guest relations agent at Kochi told me how I was famous among them and then added that ‘we would have never left without you’ (another running late incident). When I discovered at Bangkok that they had my fav seat blocked without even me asking for it. When they served me first in the cabin on my first flight with them and asked me ‘Mr Rajagopal, what would you like to have for your meal?’, probably the first time the crew of any airline addressed me by name in 28 years of flying. About the numerous times I have been personally dropped off or fetched from a plane by their guest relations agents. About the times I have never had to stand in long security lines because I would always be escorted by a staff. All while flying Economy.

Thank you, Kingfisher for all the good times. You will be dearly missed. Thank you to all the Kingfisher staff who have served me well over a year. You have been truly exceptional in both the good times and the not so good times. I hope it works out for you. Safe travels!

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Comments»

1. bikeal - April 2, 2012
2. Sarah - April 2, 2012

Aww. Ive never had an airline treat me like that. Emirates aren’t bad, but they don’t upgrade me enough ;)

3. Bama - April 2, 2012

Sounds like you’re Kingfisher’s #1 fan! And it’s so commendable seeing how engaged the airline is with its loyal passenger. No wonder they got the 5-star status, a status which our national carrier, Garuda Indonesia, is trying hard to attain.

4. TransitionMarketing - April 2, 2012

Unbelievable. What a great example of the most important aspect of branding – products/services rendered. Here is a company that knows what matters – SERVICE!

I know a couple of companies that could learn from this!

Well done Kingfisher!

5. Mary Paulose - April 7, 2012

more than anything, a very touching post. 1) your real love and passion for flying and airlines 2) a brand’s true commitment to social media engagement and translating it real life experience in these days when the term is just popularly bandied about 3) the airline’s stoic and dignified bearing even in the face of their downturn

6. Top 7 Aviation News & Analysis Resources on the Web « Vishal Mehra & Co. - August 7, 2012

[...] is full of marvelous information about aviation & his trip reports (Read this with a tissue: His report on last kingfisher international flight), this article, more so a plane spotter’s guide, as Arun explained me himself, has been [...]

7. fozylet - December 27, 2012

Great post. Kingfisher is without doubt the best airline in India and among the best world over. How I wish they sort out all financial issues and come back stronger.

8. Yahya Logday - March 3, 2013

Dear Sir,

I was working with KINGFISHER Airline as a Cabin Crew. I Would like to thank you for giving us a chance to serve you and also pray that our Kingfisher Airline makes a come back with a BANG and would love to serve all our loyal guest with pride.

Thanking you once again for flying us and for so valuable post towards our airline.

Sincerely yours

Yahya Logday

9. Sudha Rao - March 3, 2013

Amazing article. It was very endearing. Having spent the last few years with Kingfisher, it really feels like family. And reading such posts complimenting my airline among ridiculing ones brings a smile on my face. Thank you :)

10. Manjit Karmokar - March 5, 2013

Mr. Rajagopal I am so happy to read this blog about kingfisher airlines and it brought me tears when I read this.same as you even I am missing working with KFA a lot and I really wish we had more guest like you.I read this and I couldn’t stop myself commenting.

11. danny - March 6, 2013

No wonders every indian passenger acts like he should treated like a celebrity on every flight they take. I have worked for jet airways, a much better airline than kingfisher and can assure you what most of the indians expect is just not fair at times. Ofcourse there are exceptations as its a big country. I have flown with some real nice ones too with a lot of class.

12. meenakshi - March 6, 2013

Thank you so much Mr Rajagopal for sharing the experience of our airline, we are praying for the same to come back with great hopes.

Meenakshi

13. JERRET - March 8, 2013

FEEL SAD FOR KF, PRAYING IT TOUCHES HIGHER GLORY .. THAN ITS EARLIER NICHE , IN THE TIMES TO COME

14. Asger Vasowala - March 25, 2013

Dear Mr Arun,
Thanks a lot for the kind words, especially when we find very few supporters and believers that we KINGFISHER will bounce back ONCE again.

With Dr Mallya’s firm committment, you will see us back in skies very shortly.

Thanks, once again

Asger S V.

15. vicky - March 26, 2013

sir it bring tears into my eyes after reading your whole story.thanks for sharing.thanks for your love you have shown for kfa.

16. g.sivakumar - March 27, 2013

A great one to read and feel also. Yes I felt it while reading it. Very sorry to say good bye to Kingfisher Airlines. May god make them to play again.

17. subash - April 15, 2013

It is on d way brother…that day is.not so far..u
Ll again see red bird flying

18. rizwiz - April 15, 2013

Feeling proud after reading this. Served Kingfisher for 4 & half years!

19. All that Glitters - June 22, 2013

This is a rare story. This doesn’t happen very often. Jet and KF were considered competition at a point. I still wonder why ? See KF is gone..

20. nitu chaudhary - June 25, 2013

Dear Mr Rajgopal,

Firstly many thanks to you for taking out time from your schedule and writing these wonderful compliments for us and are beautiful Kingfisher airline.
I have served this airline for 6 years and I always believe if staff like our’s and the guest’s like you will be there than this King of good times will boom back again.
Thank you very much for your kind words again and please give your little support also by praying to God that it revives soon, I am actually tearful reading such a wonderful message from you it reminds me of every single thing I did in this journey with them.

Stay Blessed
Regards
Nitu

21. Swaneet Bhatia - June 25, 2013

Thank You!
I was working with KFA till the last, and yes, I, like a lot of others was hoping that KFA would make it! I miss those days.
And yes, they did it all, to make each one feel special.

rashmi Sharma - July 7, 2013

Thanks Alot!!
Thanks for taking out your time….even we all miss the airline alot!!!we all felt special!


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