Home > Get Ahead > Leisure > Travel
Travel in style, for peanuts!
Siddhanta Pinto |
June 15, 2005
ou pay peanuts, you get peanuts!"
Although not an entirely correct description of my latest travel experience, this is exactly what my mother exclaimed when she heard my story.
The truth is, I did pay peanuts. But I got more than I ever imagined, in return.
My mother's exclamation was with a lot of happy excitement; the same happy excitement of a woman who has travelled all her life in trains and buses, and is about to experience something new.
Perhaps you will react similarly to my story.
It is still a mystery how it all fell into place. When you are on the brink of workplace overload; when you are down on your knees in desperation waiting to get away from it all; and when you are feeling like the whole world is against you because you have asked three different travel agents how best to get to Goa without ANY luck.
The trains are packed, they say.
The buses have upped their prices to between Rs 650 and Rs 850, one-way, and are tough to get.
So it can only be described as providence when, on May 16, an ever pestering, but equally lovable, colleague thrust a news item in my face.
"Fly SpiceJet for Rs 99 only!" it said.
Yet another marketing gimmick, I thought, but logged on nonetheless.
Such was my state of desperation. That's where it all changed.
www.spicejet.com was a blessing.
Well designed, very functional and quick as well, I discovered within seconds that I could fly to Goa for Rs 549 one- way! Although there was no mention of Rs 99 tickets, I was thrilled.
It seemed too good a deal to rush into, which is why I waited till the next day. That is why I messed up. I did not believe. And because I didn't believe, when I checked the next day, the cheapest fare was Rs 799.
I entered my credit card number selected my dates for the June 1 and June 5, round trip, and made my first online transaction. And that was it.
I had confirmed seats on a simple printout.
For Rs 3,480, two of us were flying to Goa and back.
That's Rs 870 one-way per person, all-inclusive!
No tickets, no loopholes, no nonsense and no twelve-to-fourteen-hour road or rail journey either.
The phone numbers on the web site, however, were near impossible to get through. One, a toll-free number, the other a cell phone number, were both dysfunctional.
That is unforgivable especially in India, where a voice inspires more confidence than a web site.
As I check out the web site today, I see the tickets are a little more expensive now. Although if you book in advance and on a weekday flight, you can still get a superb deal.
Anyway, the day of reckoning came and I felt rather sheepish entering an airport with just a printout.
The experience, however, was smooth. Pleasant ground staff requested photo identification, and we were through.
Although an irritating 30 to 40 minutes late in take-off, most other impressions about SpiceJet were good.
i. The aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, was internally designed to seat a maximum of 189 passengers. Needless to say, there wasn't a single seat free.
ii. On the outside, the aircraft looked good: a comforting change to most aircraft bumbling around the domestic tarmac.
iii. Although not a new plane, it looked in excellent condition and was named Turmeric; other aircraft in the fleet take their names from other Indian spices as well. A nice touch.
iv. Well-mannered and enthusiastic, the flight attendants of SpiceJet get an 8/10 from me. I wish I could name some very pretty hostesses, but that wouldn't be right now.
So we had our flying models, no television screens and exactly what we wanted: great, clean, quick flights at truly affordable rates.
Some music, however, would have been really nice.
In all this excitement of flying for so little, a smart co-passenger pointed out one possible improvement: Why couldn't the flight be in the early morning hours?
You lose an entire day in Goa because of its 1615 hrs (a dampener for weekenders).
Point noted, although when you are headed to Goa, the land of the original susegaado (the easy life) and hardly any deadline-oriented business, it is not that bad a deal.
The flight was surprisingly quick. Not more than 40 minutes from take-off to landing. And this superb new concept of flying for everyone hit me smack in the face.
I was in Goa. Just like that!
SpiceJet gives you peanuts while you fly. I am not kidding. That is what prompted my mum to say what she did. The fact that she has booked the entire family next month on SpiceJet is also something you should know.
Apart from peanuts, you also get water, chips and toffees.
On our return flight, we got exactly the same stuff, which one can understand of a truly budget airline. When you think of it, however, even with a fixed food and beverage budget, you can be creative with it.
I have been on budget airlines abroad and, hold your breath, SpiceJet was more comfortable.
Captain Dhillon, a very jovial gentleman, flew our plane and explained how the seats were specially designed for leg room. I believed this time.
The Goa experience was indescribable. Actually it is describable, but it is more personal, something that would fill up many more web pages.
What is not personal anymore, I must admit, a little unfortunately, is the best way to get there.
The return was on time and packed to the hilt. Again.
The moment we touched down, barely an hour-and-a-half after some awesome prawn curry rice in the Goan village of Varca, I was asked where the next holiday would be.
I said, wherever SpiceJet flies next!
Image (top): Rajesh Karkera
Siddhanta Pinto is a radio production and programming professional.
Get the best fares here!