A last minute change of plans lead to re booking air tickets for my flight to Sanya, China, and so it was that I had to fly by the National Carrier from Delhi to Hong Kong and from there to Sanya by China Southern .The return trip from Sanya would be via Guangzhou to Delhi by China Southern .This then was a great opportunity to match up our National Carrier with the China Airlines.
The flight from Delhi was at 11.15 pm .I had reached way ahead of time as the cabbie overestimated the traffic congestion we were likely to face. Poor check in facilities manned by a “make shift”, huge wait just to get info on the boarding gate, no ground personnel to be seen not even at the boarding gate; boarding at the lousiest corner of the airport, all made for very poor first impressions .Strange I thought for the National Carrier to be so badly placed in it’s own country .The Airport renovation work was on, and some portions where ready.. quite swanky I must say, with world class toilets etc.but this was for the foreign airlines .Charity begins at home I guess.
.11.15 came and went, yet no announcements or any sign of ground personnel .Eventually a security guard told us that the boarding gate had been shifted to Gate no 1 .We rushed down but saw no formal announcements or displays with Gate changes .We had to take our chance and wait .There was a fair degree of uncertainty as passengers of three Air India flights, the ones to Abu Dhabi, Amritsar and Hong Kong were all waiting at the same boarding gate with no formal announcement. Boarding finally commenced over an hour late from Gate 2 !!
The aircraft looked old and below par .Leg room was just not available .I just grit my teeth and prepared to sit out a 51/2 hour flight .The hostess said there was no rack for coats so I would need to hang on to mine for the journey .But then an airhostess said she would do some thing about it and managed to accommodate my coat in the crew area!!Indians accommodate at all times.
Dinner took ages in coming and was finally served a good 21/2 hours after the flight took off .Poor food, not even comparable to the stuff we get on domestic flights. In flight attendance was poor , no water served after dinner , not even just prior to landing , when most airlines serve juice and water .The only silver lining was the composure of the senior flight hostess Ms Saldhana .Indians manage under the toughest of conditions .
What a relief to get off the aircraft at Hong Kong.Thankfully the over 11/2 hour delay didn’t effect me as the connecting flight was still two hours away !! The Hong Kong airport was spacious ,well laid out , world class and hugely better than our existing airport at Delhi .The current renovation may turn things around a bit but I don’t think we have the necessary space to ensure world class settings for the passengers . Like wise the boarding area for the China Southern was top class and manned by three smartly groomed ground personnel .Our own airlines hostess were poorly groomed .No match even for other private Indian carriers such as Jet , who are flying international routes .
The one hour flight to Sanya from Hong Kong was pleasant enough .The air hostesses where well groomed and a smiling lot, ours didn’t smile too much .No such courtesies shown to the paying clientele!!The interiors of the aircraft weren’t all that good, but reasonably clean with clear leg space. Simple touches like gifts of bracelets made of shells, added to the positive customer experience .With this trailer I was really looking forward to the China Southern experience form Guangzhou to Delhi.
Our experience on China Southern unfortunately was equally bad!!! How come you would ask as the Hong Kong Sanya leg offered so much of promise .Well the boarding area and staff attendance was reasonable with out being extraordinary .The boarding procedures left much to be desired .It took too long and we were herded into the waiting buses and stuffed inside till it almost burst !!!???Besides the aircraft finally left a good 11/2 hours late.
The aircraft was even lousier than the Air India flight to Hong Kong .In fact the aircraft flying noise was so high we couldn’t hear any of the in-flight announcements .The air hostesses were well groomed but devoid of welcome smiles .In-flight service was way below par .Why was there such a stark difference with respect to the other international flights of China Southern ?Sadly it was because of the clientele .Mostly Indian and mostly frequent fliers who act as “pigeons” .For China Southern they just didn’t deserve better .The crew and in flight attendance also just couldn’t seem to manage .This was just not their cup of tea.
So it would seem that on the rigorous routes frequented by the “pigeons” Air India for all its sloppiness was still the better option. But in the less taxing routes Air India still remains sloppy as ever and a night mare to travel with .China Southern would come out a winner by several miles .