106 JUNE 2019
When Indian conglomerate, United Breweries Holdings
decided to start up a airline, it exploited a marketing
synergy by naming it Kingfisher Airlines, after its
flagship beer brand. Indeed the drinks giant applied its
lifestyle brand ethos to the airline, with its strapline
“fly the good times” projecting a youthful image.
Operations started on 9 May 2005 with a fleet of
four A320-200s operating domestic Indian routes, but
the acquisition of struggling Indian regional carrier
Air Deccan in 2007 enabled massive expansion, as
in one fell swoop the company satisfied the country’s
regulations requiring an airline to have been operating
for five years before it could fly international routes.
Kingfisher wasted no time in exploiting its newfound
status and ordered five A330-200s.
The airline brought in PriestmanGoode to help deliver
on its glamorous brand promise, through the design of
a customised two-class interior for the A330s. As one
might have expected from a brewery-owned airline,
an onboard bar was at the heart of the experience,
positioned in the boarding zone so that passengers were
immediately immersed in the Kingfisher experience.
Only business class guests could use the bar inflight,
but it set a positive tone for everyone’s journey.
The airline’s EVP, Hitesh Patel explained it well at
the time: “First impressions are important. The minute
someone steps on board we want it to feel like home.”
Guests could not fail to be impressed by the soft,
modern aesthetic of the space, with its curved radius
bar and a back wall that curved up to form a ‘floating’
ceiling – a feature that Nigel Goode of PriestmanGoode,
described as “a wicked piece of engineering.”
The studio helped create a feel more of luxury than
aviation engineering by specifying thick soundproof
curtains that could be pulled across the external doors
to conceal the airframe. Those curtains also helped
reduce sound pollution from the bar area – handy when
guests became rowdy or when the large LCD monitor
and DVD player were in use.
The décor was more cocktail bar than tavern, with
two sofas flanking three bar stools, all trimmed in white
leather, contrasting with the high gloss black on the
bulkheads and the flashes of Kingfisher’s brand red.
A further three passengers were permitted to stand
in the space, bringing total occupancy to 10 – a ratio of
passengers to space that was carefully decided upon
between Kingfisher, Airbus and PriestmanGoode.
Goode described the airline’s chairman, Vijay Mallya
as having a strong personality, and considered the A330
interiors to be an expression of that character. “He was
a very hands-on customer and worked directly on the
product throughout,” he recalled. “If things were not
quite right from a design point of view, he asked us to
change them. He insisted on the best, which was great.”
Mallya’s hands-on approach extended to hiring all
cabin crew personally, and he took pride in having
engineering and maintenance teams made up entirely of
local people, with 85% of cockpit crew also being Indian.
Mallya also had ambitious growth plans, as
demonstrated by his orders for five A350-800s, five
A380s and five A340-500s. As he said, “Imagine flying
the good times, not just in India, but worldwide.”
Kingfisher’s marketeers echoed his sentiments and
liked to say the airline was “not in the transportation
business but the aviation hospitality business” – as was
manifested in the A330 bar. However, financial issues
meant that by 2013 the airline’s licence was revoked
and it wasn’t in business at all.
LEFT: THE LEATHER SOFAS
FEATURED GRANITE TABLES
CENTRE: THE GALLEY SPACE WAS
CONCEALED BEHIND THE BAR
RIGHT: NO PRIZES FOR GUESSING
THE BRAND OF BEER STOCKED
BEHIND THE BAR…
Flyers can still
experience the bar, as
AZAL is flying it on two
fitted out but undelivered
Kingfisher A340s, which
it acquired in 2012