Kulula Boeing 737-800 Launch - Royal Sendoff

Last week I received an email inviting me to the maiden flight of the brand spanking new Kulula.com Boeing 737-800. Which is why, this week I am reviewing an airplane.

Kulula.com is currently upgrading and replacing its current fleet with 8 new Boeing 737-800. It is costing them an untold fortune but it will mean that they have the most up-to-date fleet of any of the South African carriers. This is good news for consumers, as the new 737-800’s will save on fuel and are cheaper to run, so if the fuel price remains steady and Kulula are not planning on recouping their costs rapidly, then hopefully we should see some savings.

The price, while important, is not the only factor involved when choosing an airline. The experience of flying, as it is a service industry is somewhat emotional and the feeling that you have towards the airline after a trip is as dependent on the big things as it is on the small touches.

This is what Kulula.com attempted to create with their ‘Ridiculously Posh Launch’ event of their new Boeing – a positive attitude towards the flying with them, turning the drudgery of travel feel into something fun, something special.

The On Board Experience

Let’s get this out of the way. President Jacob Zuma sat in front of me. The lookalikes, strategically planted around the cabin where perfectly in line with Kulula’s sense of fun, aided by the fact they looked nothing like who they where supposed to be impersonating!

On to more serious matters. Ahem… Taking off, depending on your personality this is either an exciting or deathly terrifying experience. Luckily I am the former; in fact to be completely honest, I am a bit of a plane geek. Which is why I will start off with the GE engines. I am not a pilot, nor do I have extensive experience flying with GE or Rolls Royce engines, but the engines on Kulula’s 737-800 sound awesome! Meaty but extremely civilized and a welcome soundtrack to being thrust into your chair.

Impressively the cabin pressure remained pretty much constant, it was not even necessary to “pop” your ears and equalize. This is down to the reengineering of the fuselage by the smart chaps at Boeing. This pressure was kept constant throughout the flight, making the whole atmosphere much more natural and almost completely removing the “close” feeling of being in an aircraft.

Cruising

This is where the quality of the cabin can be experienced, as there is time to settle down over a glass of Schweps Dry Lemon (that is a little bit of a lie, as this was the maiden flight they gave us champagne). The overall impression was that of quality, being so new everything was ship shape, clean, and working perfectly. Even the plastics didn’t feel so “plastic”.

The Cabin

Boeing have put a lot of effort into the new cabin and the better management of air pressure is only one of the improvements from 737s of old. A subtle, yet important addition tithe cabin is the addition of a LED lighting system, which mimics the colour of the sky and time of day. This makes the atmosphere on board relaxing and just downright pleasant! The sexy new mood lighting is aided by some seriously impressive cabin insulation, reducing noise levels substantially.

The Seats

Last year I flew from the CES in Las Vegas through Heathrow to Johannesburg in economy class. It was not a pleasant experience, not by a long shot (cough! British Airways….). Which brings me onto the Kulula Boeing 737 seating, it was somewhat roomier and more comfortable than economy on a British Airways Boeing 747-400! That said, the seats recline is not much, I estimate only an inch or two, it is the girth of the seat and the legroom where Kulula’s new baby shines.

The Crew

Firstly and by far most importantly, the entire crew wore bow ties. It was awfully posh; in fact the whole experience of the maiden flight was terribly elegant. It looked like they stole the cutlery from Emirates first class, the champagne glasses where crystal, they had sugar sticks for your coffee, and goats cheese and salmon finger snacks. Somehow I do not see that experience being repeated on future flights, but it was nice while it lasted.

The staff from check-in through to landing where superb – Friendly, personable, helpful and everyone had a sense of humour, something which the industry as a whole sorely lacks. Also, they wore bow ties and bow ties are cool.

Wrapping it up

The new Kulula 737-800 is a superb aircraft; more comfortable than anything else I have flown locally and in fact a smidgen more comfortable than international economy. Having Kulula’s new set of wings serviced by staff that try their damdest to make your flight more comfortable and just to make you feel special.

{What I gained from the whole experience was just how easy it is to make flying more gentlemanly for those not flying Business Class. The small changes to the plastic cutlery and crockery, smug, miff staff and dodgy food to metal cutlery and porcelain crockery, the friendly staff, and good food all made what is}

Brendon Ambrose – Managing Editor | About Me – Scared of: Clowns, spiders and Hilary Clinton; Dream Wing Man: Jacob Zuma; Started Writing Tech: 2005 for Gadget.co.za; Favorite cereal: Frosties; Find me on: Twitter & Facebook
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