Vijay Mallya made a quick stop at the Farnborough air show last week to unveil Kingfisher Airlines’ new long-haul product but it was hardly a high profile media soirée which one would expect from the flamboyant Mallya.
Kingfisher decided to have a very low-key event with a small group of journalists at the same time Etihad Airway’s announced its mega order for 55 Airbus aircraft. Only a handful of Indian journalists and a few European-based aviation journalists got the privilege of a personal tour from Mallya while a few hundred of the other journalists covering the show packed in at the media centre to see Etihad chief executive James Hogan sign a contract with Airbus chief executive Tom Enders.
It’s amazing myself and our online editor, Michael Targett, were able to find our way onto the Kingfisher A330, parked next to an A380 test aircraft at the static display, after being told informally of the unveiling just a few minutes before the event was to begin. Security around the aircraft was tight and no one at the mini Airbus chalet in front of the static area seemed to know a press event with Mallya was planned. A few phone calls later and Mike and I and were finally escorted to the aircraft with the small group of journalists, which unbeknownst to us had been waiting in another room.
Security was so tight Kingfisher and Airbus executives later told me Etihad chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saif Al Nahyanand and Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal stopped by the static area after the Etihad-Airbus press conference concluded to see if they can get on the aircraft. I’m told security told them no, apparently not knowing who there were.
It’s a shame as when I spoke to Goyal earlier in the afternoon he was eager to see what his competitor was up to. As Goyal was only at Farnborough the one day I don’t think he had a chance to get a sneak peak of the Kingfisher long-haul product. But I think he would be pleased at what he would have seen because Jet Airway’s first class product, which was unveiled last year on Jet’s new fleet of Boeing 777-300ERs, is clearly better. To be fair Jet has three classes while Kingfisher only has two but Mallya claims “Kingfisher Class” is “for all practicable purposes a full first class product” with the exception of the partition and individual cabins which Jet and other carriers have in first class. Jet has a high partition and a door in first class, providing a totally private and suite-like experience. The seats in Kingfisher First are also only 20 to 24 inches wide, falling short of what Jet and other industry leaders such as SIA offer.
The bar installed on Kingfisher’s new widebody fleet (you can see the bar in the photo above from the event with Mallya as host), however, does give Mallya something to rightfully boast about. It is well stocked – with naturally lots of Kingfisher beer although I’m told other types of beers will also be offered as well as the full range of spirits. It will be staffed by one of Kingfisher’s friendly and beautiful flight attendants which Mallya literally handpicks. There are several bar stools and two super comfy couches next to the bar to relax while in flight. Not a bad experience as a whole and perhaps the overall Kingfisher service will make up for the lack of the partition.
Click here to see videos Michael filmed showing the initial part of Mallya’s briefing and of the in-flight product. To find out how Kingfisher will be using their new A330s and A340s click here and for more details read my story on page 25 of the August issue of Airline Business.