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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

My recent Air India Maharaja experience

I've not flown in air India since ages. Except for a short flight during child hood, all my flights in past few years were in other air lines. Recently chanced upon an opportunity to fly Air India, from Delhi to Chennai. I had asked our travel desk for options and I had actually zeroed in on Spicejet. Then they called me back saying Spicejet website is down and can I consider Air India. I asked if it will be the dreamliner and the lady had no clue. Nevertheless I asked them to book on it.
Within days of my booking, read the news that all dreamliners are being grounded worldwide, Air India included. So my primary motive of taking chance and flying in dreamliner was cut short. Nevertheless, I wanted to fly Air India and see if they’re up to the standard of other airlines or is there any truth in wide range of bashing air India receives from general public (including many who never flew air India)

On the travel day, I reached Terminal 3 in Delhi airport by Metro. Reliance Metro that connects New Delhi to terminal 3 is nice and affordable (Rs 120 per passenger). If I am to use terminal 1, then I had to get down at previous stop and take an auto)

Unlike Jet or other airlines, I got no SMS alert about my flight.

Check-in: The crowd was less, several counters were empty. I went to one and showed my ticket, I was issued a boarding pass without any questions. I wasn't asked for seat preference. My boarding pass had a D on it. As I proceeded towards security, I was in for a surprise. I was asked to board through international terminal. I bypassed immigration counters, cleared security and entered the international departure section of T3. I hadn't asked for it and wasn't expecting it, so this came in as a surprise. Not sure of the reason behind this, but may be they’re using a previously international flight to now domestic flight.

The new T3 is big and nice, at par with many international airports. (but nowhere near to Changi)

As I waited for boarding, Air India announced a delay on their Delhi-Hyderabad flight. I overheard couple of officials discuss about a hard landing issue. At the scheduled time, the display for my flight changed to “Now Boarding”. Everyone rushed to the gate, only to be sent back by the counter staff saying “20 more minutes sir”. After another 15-20 minutes boarding commenced. Air India performs one more check of passenger and his baggage before being allowed to board the aircraft. This is additional security measure adopted by Air India, after being targeted by terrorists (IC 814)

Aircraft was a small A319. Nowhere close to dream-liner. 
Safety demonstrations were manual. Not video enabled like Kingfisher

The food was bad. Some bread item with daal. Others might have liked it, but I didn't. In flight magazine was fine-not all seats, including mine had them, so I had borrow from a neighbor. A tiny entertainment screen displayed limited channels (about 7) and had poor visual quality. This entertainment system is nowhere close to that of Kingfishers, let alone Emirates or SQ, but it is good to have under “Something is better than nothing” policy. With all due respect, no comments on cabin crew.

Pilot/Co-pilot didn't care to brief the passengers mid flight about altitude, time to destination etc. Only upon touchdown they made a customary announcement thanking passengers.

Flight was almost full (or they substituted with less capacity aircraft), indicating that people do fly air India like any other airline, hence there's no reason why Air India can't survive or make profit.

At Chennai also we were routed through international terminal.

Air India, according to a recent report, is one of the least safest airlines in terms of No of hull losses and No of lives lost. I am glad I didn't add to that list. But most of their hull losses were due to terror strikes and we also need to consider the % (No. of accidents vs no of aircrafts they own or flights operated per week)

I had no check-in baggage, hence no comments on baggage handling. (Even otherwise it takes hours to see our bags on the belt in Chennai)

Will I fly Air India again? The overall experience was fine. I am glad I didn't opt for spice-jet. But given the price difference there was no premium feel (except getting to experience international terminal and T3) If it is with my own money, I’d rather buy a low cost carrier ticket and buy food in-flight.

6 comments:

Mridula said...

I 100% agree with flying low cost and buying food online if I am spending the money. When I am not no one asks me anyway!

Glad to hear that you had a normal flight.

Sid said...

I think for sometime Air India flights were cheaper than even LCCs and that's primarily why I flew on them. I'm not sure if it's the same case now.

Regarding the international terminal, a lot of Air India flights are mixed in nature, Eg - Delhi-Mumbai-NewYork on which Delhi-Mumbai seats are sold to domestic customers also. But it's actually an international flight because of which you have to use international terminal. These flights are known to have odd times and hence are sometimes cheaper also.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Mridula :)

Sid: its not. It is either at par with others or slightly higher. Air India Express competes with LCC on some segments

Trails of a Traveler said...

Any comments on the seat spacing, comfort, cleanliness etc?

Ram

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Ram,

This particular aircraft was similar to a typical indigo or spicejet flight in terms of space, comfort etc

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