Hyderabad: From being the most preferred domestic airline in 2010 and 2011, troubled carrier Kingfisher Airlines Ltd was ranked second from the bottom and was perceived the most unsafe by Indian travellers in a survey by online travel-recommendation service TripAdvisor Inc.
Kingfisher had grounded its fleet burdened by cash shortage and after its services were disrupted because of an employee strike over non-payment of salaries, which have since been resolved.
The airline’s licence was also suspended by the regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, for failing to establish a “safe, efficient and reliable service”. The airline has $2.5 billion in dues, including $1.1 billion in bank debt.
About 74% of the respondents in the TripAdvisor survey said they were optimistic about the revival of Kingfisher, whose management is making efforts to infuse capital into the airline and get its fleet off the ground.
Consulting firm Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) estimated that Kingfisher Airlines might need as much as $1 billion to turnaround the company.
The airline still maintains its reputation for in-flight entertainment service, closely tied to Jet Airways, said Nikhil Ganju, country manager, TripAdvisor India. “Our survey shows that respondents consider the airline resilient and are positive about its comeback.”
Prakash Mirpuri, vice-president, corporate communications, Kingfisher Airlines, said the company would not comment on the survey results.
IndiGo, run by InterGlobe Aviation Pvt. Ltd, edged Jet Airways (India) Ltd to become the most preferred domestic airline in the country, according to the survey, while national carrier Air India has been ranked last for the past three years in a row.
IndiGo was preferred for its on-time performance, value for money and landing/take-off quality, and Jet Airways was voted best for its cabin crew service, in-flight food and beverages, seat comfort, in-flight maintenance, ground handling and website experience.
While a majority of the domestic travellers from Mumbai and Chennai prefer Jet Airways, passengers from Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kolkata opt for IndiGo; the two airlines are tied in Delhi.
“The domestic airline industry overall has witnessed a difficult year and with recent turbulent times for Kingfisher Airlines, consumers have limited options,” Ganju said.
The survey was sent out in mid-November to 12,000 members who registered to receive online surveys, out of whom 2,800 responded. This year’s “Indian Airline Survey” is its third edition.
TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel site, according to digital market research firm ComScore Inc., and has 60 million unique visitors to its websites every month. It has 36 million members registered worldwide.
As for business travellers, 46% of the respondents voted for Jet Airways as their favourite domestic airline, followed by IndiGo (30%). Kingfisher Airlines, Air India and SpiceJet Ltd tied for the third spot among business travellers with 7% each.
Dubai-based Emirates Airlines led the international airlines pack, voted best by 26% of the respondents for its on-time performance, value for money, in-flight entertainment, in-flight food/beverage, cabin crew quality, landing/take off quality, ground handling, in-flight maintenance and seat comfort, TripAdvisor said.
Singapore Airlines Ltd (15%) and Deutsche Lufthansa AG (11%) followed Emirates, which also was the most desired airline for those who haven’t flown yet.
The survey also found high adoption of Web check-in among fliers, with 80% of those surveyed saying they had used the service “sometimes” or “always”.
About 42% of those surveyed believe domestic airlines are not transparent about flight booking costs (meal costs, extra baggage, etc.). Books (60%), portable music players (36%) and tablet devices (31%) were the top three in-flight companions, the survey found.