Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Air India... Two Thumbs Up! Seriously!

Okay, I’m a pretty harsh critic when it comes to international travel… really. I mean, I can handle being herded cattle-car-style and hunker down for the long haul if I have to, but really… no one simply relishes such for the fun of it. And I was HIGHLY suspect of flying Air India, but since their rates were so much more competitive than British Airways, Lufthansa, United, Air France, or… well… everyone else, we decided to give them a shot. For my money, I sort of do this “how close do they get to Singapore Air?” scale in my head as we get on the plane (Hey, Singapore Air made me want to see if I could permanently relocate my family to a 747 operated under their care just because everything was perfect the entire time… ask me about it sometime… I brag on them!). If the attendants smell nice, smile nicely and greet us pleasantly when we board, then they get 1 point. If the aircraft is new and appears to have been cleaned in the recent past (spending 18 hours sitting on a cushion that some guy my size already spent 18 hours sitting on the day before doesn’t conjure images of sanitation and sterility), that’s another 1 point. If the aircraft (and this is a big one) has “individual monitors” for movie watching, that’s 3 points! Remote controls in the arm-rests is another 1 point, individual options and choices that include arcade games is another 2 points (Josh King shown here playing some sort of Ferrari simulator video game that, despite it’s “no turns lame-ness” still seemed to capture his attention for a little while). Food? Well, that’s up to 3 points. If it looks like someone microwaved a Lean Cuisine before takeoff and then splatted into a serving tray, that’s 0 points. If it’s warm and not wilted, that’s 1 point. If it’s actually edible, that’s another 1 point, and if it’s actually tasty, that’s a final 1 point. (Air India actually called our buddy, DiAnn Reamer with Theran Travel to inquire ahead of time as to our team’s dining preferences, and the resulting chicken actually wasn’t half bad). Next to last is the frequency of service from the trolley. “I only come by once per flight, whether it’s 18 hours or not” will yield 0 points. “Is there anything I can get you ever?” will yield 1 point, and, “Please, just take the whole bottle of water… we have plenty!” will win 2 points. Finally, there’s the bathroom. Close, confined, poorly ventilated and infrequently cleaned in-flight yields no points. Attendants personally taking initiative to wipe the bathrooms down periodically yields 3 points. All in all, that’s a total of 16 points, and Singapore Air is the only carrier in my experience to get a perfect score… so the standard is set pretty high. Surprisingly, however, Air India scored at least a 13, with only minor points taken away mainly in the “Bathroom” category, but there were lots of people on the plane, and most of the people didn’t know to stuff used paper towels into the little “garbage cubby” and just left them on the counter for the next user. Eeew! But again, not really Air India’s fault. All in all, Air India gets two enthusiastic thumbs up from yours truly, and we’ll most certainly be flying them again for future teams.

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