As a relatively infrequent visitor to the country, I have not had an opportunity to travel on board, and experience, some of the newer domestic Indian carriers. Some of them are budget outfits, but, from what I have heard, seem to have built up a good reputation for punctuality and service. About time, too, considering the exasperating trips I have done in the past on Indian Airlines.
Wanting to travel from Chennai to Coimbatore for a day, with some exacting time factors to deal with, the only choice that emerged from an online search was Paramount Airways, a carrier that I had never heard about. The fare seemed reasonable enough, especially considering that Paramount touted itself as an all-business-class airline.
The online booking procedure through their website was straightforward, the e-ticket was delivered through email rapidly, and I was all set to go.
Having arrived far too early at Chennai airport for my flight, I was mentally prepared for a long wait, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the check-in counter was manned. The smiling check-in staffer was efficient, an assistant helped screen my suitcase, and the procedure took no more than four minutes – that was refreshing.
My spirits sank when the scheduled departure time arrived and there was no sign of the aircraft on the tarmac. It was then that I discovered that the time shown on the website was off by 25 minutes. They could have mailed me about the change, I thought, especially if it was the business class they claimed.
On board the Embraer 170 aircraft, which was clean, and smelt nice, I was disappointed to find that the seats were not exactly business class in terms of dimensions – they were leather, though.
The on-board service came as a surprise. Starting with a choice of fresh tender coconut water (have not seen that being served by any carrier, leave alone a domestic one) or lime juice, to the moist packaged towelette and candy, it was apparent that they meant business.
It was a short flight lasting 50 minutes, but the cabin crew found time to efficiently and swiftly serve a snack box that comprised of a sandwich, a slice of fruit cake, a fruit juice, and a cup of coffee, if you so wished. There was an announcement through the PA system that said that the airline apologized for not being able to serve a more substantial, hot meal. Inconsequential, but a nice touch.
I was particularly impressed with how the cabin crew handled the passenger next to me. He mentioned to the stewardess that the coffee was not hot enough, and she offered a replacement. When none was forthcoming, I assumed that nothing more would be said/heard about this. Consequently, I was pleasantly surprised when the stewardess showed up, immediately after landing, with a cup of piping hot coffee, offered it to my co-passenger, and told him that there was sufficient time for him to drink it before the aircraft came to a halt.
The inflight magazine was reasonably well done, and passengers were encouraged to carry away a copy, should they wish to.
Paramount offers an inflight boutique though a tie-up with a marketing company, where passengers can purchase goods, at a discount, on arrival at a specially erected stand in the arrivals area. I thought the advertised prices were rather high, and did not see anyone on this particular flight purchase anything, but it was an interesting add-on.
It was certainly an good experience flying Paramount, and the return leg the following day was similar. I discount the business class claim, but would give the carrier credit for customer service.
Paramount’s website could do with improvement. It is sketchy on detail, and would have done well if it had described why a prospective traveller should choose to fly onboard one of their aircraft. Word of mouth is great, but being more overt is no bad thing.
No disrespect intended to Indian Airlines that has flown me on hundreds of flights in the past, but when I saw an A320 belonging to the national carrier taxi past as I emerged, I was glad I chose an alternative for this trip.