Flew air India again after 1.5 years. Last time it was a single flight (read the 2013 experience), but this time an entire round trip with 4 flights. Sharing my fresh experience/observations flying with Maharaja, who is now also member of Star Alliance.
Web Checkin- I could check in online only for the first leg of the journey both ways. Couldn’t figure out how to check in for second leg. But this was fine- made no difference as counter staff sorted it out.
Ontime: Of the four flights I took, Chennai-Mumbai and Jodhpur Mumbai flights were on time, while Mumbai Jodhpur was delayed by 30 mins, Mumbai Chennai was delayed by 2 hours (late evening flight). Their tracking website is fairly accurate and tells where exactly the flight is (when you know its previous leg), but won’t tell new ETD in case of delays.
Food: I liked it. No complaints. They gave good south Indian breakfast on Chennai-Mumbai leg and decent veg meals on Mumbai-Jodhpur and Jodhpur-Mumbai legs. However, I’d pre-ordered veg meals, which it looks like they didn’t record properly or didn’t feel the need to remember. Crew asked me again for my preference and gave the meals accordingly. (Other airlines first serve those who have pre-ordered/who have already defined their preferences). They had good number of veg meals in stock.
On Jodhpur-Mumbai leg I was super hungry, so asked for an extra meal, which they gave without any hesitation.
Mumbai-Chennai flight was supposed to be an evening flight, hence they had loaded snacks. But with 2 hour delay, it was dinner time when flight was in air. But we were still served snacks, not dinner.
Cleanliness and space: Decent, no complaints. Many seats were empty so we could have comfortable flight. Found some issues with seat not reclining in row 4 in one of the flights, but managed.
Entertainment: Since air India uses same aircrafts for both domestic and international routes, most of the crafts have entertainment systems behind the headrest, but this is often turned off for domestic legs.
Inflight magazine: Has same story in both English and Hindi side by side. Articles were pretty good. There was some focus on explaining benefits of star alliance etc with some celebrity endorsements and all
Crew: Air hostess and staff in Air India are relatively aged, compared to other airlines.
Other issues: When I came home and opened my checked in baggage, I noticed water seepage into the bag and some cloths were wet. It wasn’t raining in Jodhpur, it wasn’t raining in Chennai, but it was raining in Mumbai heavily last Monday. So I suspect Air India baggage handling staff exposed the bags to rains for some time during transit in Mumbai, allowing water to enter the bag. (it wasn’t like dripping wet- probably exposed for a minute or two only). Thankfully I didn’t have any valuables or water sensitive items in the check in bag. Be careful on this aspect.
Another thing I don’t understand is that both Air India and Jet fly to a destination with similar timing. For example, between Mumbai and Jodhpur, Air India leaves at 12 noon and arrives at 13.35, while Jet airways departs at 11.40 and arrives at 1.20 PM. No other direct flights between Mumbai and Jodhpur for rest of the day. With this kind of timing, they will be fighting for same passengers. If they can stagger and say one flies on the morning, another flies in the evening, they will probably get more passengers. Jodhpur airport is pretty small and when both aircrafts arrive at almost same time, it just gets crowded.
Think of any other city (Say Mumbai-Nagpur) and Jet & Air India have almost matching schedule. Not sure what are they gaining by this.
Knowing recent incidents, I was tempted to check if there’s gold hidden in toilets, but resisted my temptations.
Doesn't look like Air India has active social media accounts. Few twitter accounts with Air India in it proved to be unofficial ones with hardly any followers or updates. Overall it was a fine experience. No major complaints. If I get a good deal, I will definitely fly the maharaja again.
Similar: Air Asia India experience *