Know About Domestic Airlines In India
India's booming economy, and the deregulation of the aviation industry, has brought about a huge increase in the number of domestic airlines in India in recent years. Passengers can now choose from one government owned full service airline, three privately owned full service airlines, and five privately owned low cost carriers.
To help you make the right decision when flying, here's an overview of what you can expect from each of India's domestic airlines
Indian Airlines is India's government owned, full service domestic airline, based in Mumbai. The airline was merged with Air India, the government owned international airline, in 2007 but still retains its name. Its market share has dropped significantly, to around 14%, in recent years.
As is to be expected with a state-run airline, Indian Airlines has its share of inefficiencies. Flights are often delayed, flight attendants and in-flight service leave a lot to be desired, and the airline has been involved in as many as 12 fatal accidents in its history. On the positive side, it has well planned routes and flight schedules, flies to most destinations in India, and is surprisingly reliable when it comes to baggage handling.
Jet Airways is widely regarded as India's biggest and best airline. It's a privately owned, full service airline that commenced operating in mid 1993. It's now captured almost 23% of the market, and has bases in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Bangalore.
Jet Airways has won many awards for quality service. In particular, the airline is known for its outstanding in-flight service, food, punctuality, and baggage handling. Staff are extremely efficient and courteous, and will go out of their way to ensure that you're comfortable and well looked after.
Jet Airways operates on a code share basis with Kingfisher Airlines.
Kingfisher Airlines is another highly regarded full service airline. The airline, which has the same "King of Good Times" owner as India's Kingfisher beer, started operating in mid 2005 and has a 15% market share. Its headquarters are in Bangalore, with bases in Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Delhi. In total, the airline covers almost 40 destinations across India. The average age of its fleet is less than two years.
Kingfisher's larger than life owner has given the airline many personal touches. Passengers are treated as guests, seating is spacious and comfortable, and the airline puts significant effort into recruiting charming and attractive staff. It also leads the way in regard to in-flight entertainment on domestic flights in India.
Indigo Airlines is based in Delhi and flies to around 15 destinations all over India. This privately owned airline started operating in mid 2006, and has a market share of almost 11%. It's considered to be India's best low cost carrier.
Its airplanes are new and clean, and despite keeping fares low, the airline hasn't compromised on punctuality, connectivity of flights, safety, or customer service. Of course, don't expect any frills, but the amount of leg room is decent. If you're looking to fly with a low cost airline, IndiGo offers good value for money. The limit for check-in baggage is 20 kilograms.
SpiceJet is another decent, privately owned, low cost carrier. The airline, which is based in Delhi, started operating in mid 2005. It has just over 10% share of the market, and services most capital cities in India.
Spice Jet has new and clean planes. However, punctuality on some routes is an issue. Seats on the older planes can be a bit uncomfortable. Also the limit for check-in baggage is 20 kilograms, as opposed to 25 kilograms on some other airlines. Definitely give it a try if you're on a budget though!
Kingfisher originally called Air Deccan, is a privately owned low cost airline based in Bangalore. It started operating in mid 2003 and was India's first low cost carrier. Kingfisher Airlines took over the airline, which has captured just under 15% of the market, in early 2008. The average age of its airplanes is four and a half years.
Kingfisher Red has improved a lot since its merger with Kingfisher Airlines. It now accepts international credit cards for bookings, seat numbers are allocated, and staff are more committed and friendly. There's a 25 kilogram limit for checked in baggage, and hot snacks are served on board. However, there's not much leg room and flights are still often delayed.
JetLite used to be Air Sahara until Jet Airways successfully took the company over in mid 2007. The low cost airline focuses on providing flights that connect India's capital cities, and it has a 7% share of the market. In addition to its headquarters in Delhi, it also has bases in Mumbai and Hyderabad.
Unfortunately, what JetLite has in common with its parent airline stops with its brand name. Many passengers report poor service and baggage handling. Its older aircraft also have very cramped seating that allows hardly any leg room. The limit for checked-in baggage is 25 kilograms.
Go Air is a small privately owned, low cost airline that started operating in late 2005. It has almost a 5% market share and operates a fleet of brightly colored airplanes to twelve cities in India. Its remote destinations include Jammu, Srinagar, and Guwahati. Go Air now has the youngest fleet of aircraft in India, with the average age of its eight A320 Airbus airplanes being approximately seven months.
Go Air has some of the cheapest domestic fares available in India. However, punctuality has been a common complaint about this airline in the past. These days, it seems to have greatly improved. The limit for checked-in baggage is 25 kilograms, and 40 kilograms for international passengers flying within 24 hours of arrival in India.
Paramount Airways is a small, privately owned airline based in Madurai in south India. It started operating in late October 2005, and has a 1.5% market share. The airline flies to nine destinations in south India, with its main hub in Chennai. The average age of its airplanes is three and a half years.
Paramount Airways predominantly targets business travelers and offers two classes of travel -- first class and business class. It's a quality airline that receives mostly positive feedback from passengers. The standard of service is highly rated, food is tasty, seating is comfortable, and a generous 30 kilograms of baggage can be checked in free. The main drawback with this airline that it only flies to a limited number of destinations.