Akasa Air, the new Indian airline founded by ex-Jet Airways management members, launched on August 7, 2022. Since then, they’ve opened an impressive list of sectors, spreading their wings around the country. I flew with them on their launch day but chose not to write about it, as I wanted to fly under the radar and see how their product and service matured over time. Luckily, they now have operations on Mumbai – Delhi and Delhi – Bengaluru, amongst other routes I could use. Let’s read more about my second experience with Akasa. Here is my Akasa Air Review.
I tried booking the ticket via Akasa’s website first. However, it kept going into a timeout loop or something. So, I eventually booked the ticket via an online travel agent. After booking the ticket, I pulled up my PNR on the Akasa app. I knew that Akasa was flying their new aircraft (earlier destined for Jet Airways), and for now, they have been unable to replace the seats or the seat covers. That means you can get a much bigger seat as an upsell. Akasa calls it the A++ cabin, and it was available to book for INR 2,500.
Apart from giving Akasa a go, one of my other reasons to book this flight was to escape the chaos at the bigger Terminal 2 (if it existed). Akasa operates from Terminal 1 in Mumbai, which is closer to me. Since I’d not flown out of Terminal 1 for a longest time, I also wanted to check it out otherwise. So, I arrived at 11:00 am for a 1:25 pm departure from the terminal.
It was a quick entry into the terminal with hardly any crowd at gate 2. Akasa has taken the rightmost bank of counters, which is closest to the Terminal 1C stairs.
I was not flying with any check-in bags, but I wanted to get a hard copy of the boarding pass, so I decided to join the queue. Akasa’s ground handling is done by the Bird across the country (or at least Mumbai, Delhi, and Ahmedabad, where I’ve seen them so far). People were managing the (solitary) queue, ensuring you’d be directed to the next available check-in counter. In about 3 minutes, I was in the front of the line and at a counter. I noticed that the Priority counter was also being used as a generic check-in counter, making me wonder what would be the point of paying for the priority check-in service if there was no specific access left out for that queue.
My email app somehow shut down, but I remembered my sequence number. So, I arrived at the counter and told the agent about my flight number and the check-in sequence number, apart from giving her my identity documents. She said she could not pull up the details with that information, so I finally dug up the PNR and read it to her. Again, she said she could not find the ticket.
At this moment, I was getting scared about why the ticket was not showing up. Usually, I wouldn’t say I like to hand my phone over, but eventually, I did to ensure she could read it correctly. Out came the boarding pass. It turns out she needed to hear the number eight correctly. But that did not explain why she could not pull up the records with the boarding number and flight details in the first place. Six minutes after joining the queue, I had my boarding pass in my hand.
I subsequently headed to terminal 1C, where my gate was (an aerobridge assignment rather than a bus gate, as is typical at Terminal 1 Mumbai). As you can see, the terminal looked busier on the other end, where IndiGo has its check-in counters, and the GoFirst, Akasa, etc. counters seemed comparatively easy.
Security check was a breeze at this hour, with empty queues, and it took me just about four minutes to emerge on the other side. Unlike other airports, Mumbai only wanted me to empty my pockets, remove any metallic objects I had on me, and put my laptop in a tray. Also, the airport was not so backed up in terms of the queues when I went through the security check. I went to the Travel Club Lounge after to kill some time and finish up on work and call.
While the boarding pass said boarding would begin at 12:25 pm, I did not believe that. Our plane landed at 12:26 hours in Mumbai, after all. So I do not understand the point of any airline putting out a one-hour prior boarding time when there is no such intention to follow through. I arrived at the gate at 12:44 pm, and the boarding had just about started.
Akasa had a very orderly boarding process, and they insisted on making people board by zone, which was disappointing for those who have yet to hear of the concept. An Akasa Air associate (not Bird Group, but Akasa) was calling out the zones to fill the plane back to front. When I arrived, Zone 4 boarding was called out, and anyone not in Zone 4 was asked to step aside from the queue.
However, what was slightly amusing was that when they started to move up, for instance, to Zone 3, the associate insisted that even Zone 4 people could not get in till they were not called again.
Since the A++ product of Akasa does not get you any priority service, I waited for Zone 1 to be called to proceed with boarding. It did turn out that all those people before me were still not on the plane but filling up the jet bridge.
Once the cleaners left, the boarding proceeded quickly, and in about five minutes, I was on board. VT-YAG was right next to us, having arrived from Ahmedabad and preparing for its return to Ahmedabad after we took off.
Akasa Air QP1117
Mumbai(BOM) – Delhi (DEL)
Monday, December 19, 2022
Departure: 1:21 PM
Duration: 2 Hours 1 minute
Arrival: 3:23 PM
Aircraft Type: Boeing 737-8
Seat: 3F (A++)
Meal Service: Buy on Board
As I got on board, the plane was full because of those who boarded before me. But it was a familiar sight of aquamarine green seats, which I’ve flown before as Jet Airways. Akasa has placed new headrest covers on each seat, marking out the A++ cabin (essentially ex-Jet Airways Business Class, but Akasa likes to refer to them as a wider seat with extra legroom).
These seats can be assigned specifically on some aircraft and cost INR 2,500 per seat. Just to let you know, this is just the seat cost and does not include a meal. If you book a flexi-fare with Akasa, though, this seat comes for INR 1750 (also, your flexi- fare consists of a meal). Given that Akasa’s A+ product (front row seats in economy class and emergency exit seats for extra legroom) is sold at INR 1500 for just INR 1,000 more, this is a great deal, I felt for a two-hour long flight.
As you can note in the picture above, the divider is still in the cabin. However, Akasa has not installed any curtains. The wall and the seats will go away in 9 months or so, Akasa tells us. There was also a footrest in the seat, which was very useful.
The seat also came with a universal power adaptor and a USB power port.
If you’ve flown these seats before, you would also know that there is an extension on the tray table for you to put your tablet or mobile phone to read or watch something without having to keep it in your lap.
You could also help yourself to a generous recline, of course.
This particular aircraft was never handed out to Jet Airways, so it sat in Renton, Washington awaiting delivery to someone for over 3.5 years before Akasa took delivery of it in November 2022, and it was factory fresh. However, there was already wear and tear, for instance, by my window. I would hope they took the aircraft upkeep more seriously.
We completed boarding quickly, and the cabin crew brought water bottles for the A++ cabin.
The cabin was 11/12 full, but that did not mean everyone paid for their seats. My seatmate, at least, did not. He told me that the airport had assigned him the seat. It is an excellent strategy to operate a 174-seater at as much capacity as possible, but it does make you rethink your choices when the guy next to you gets a free upgrade. On IndiGo, they wouldn’t let anyone touch the XL seats unless they pay for it, but it seems Akasa is not so worried about it.
Subsequently, the crew prepared for departure. A safety demonstration was conducted, and we were out of the gate at 1:13 PM, 12 minutes before the scheduled departure time. However, the crew should have checked in to ensure passenger baggage in the cabin was restrained. There were a couple of handbags sitting between seat 3A/C, and these did not go in the overhead locker at any time, nor did the cabin crew ask for them to be put in. Same with my seatmate in 3D, who insisted on keeping his bag with him (not even under the seat in front of him).
Another area for improvement was the check on the footrests. At least back in Jet Airways days, cabin crew would insist the footrest be folded up during departure. I don’t know if there is a safety implication of this, but the footrests were open during take-off, for as far as my eye could see, including my own.
Soon enough, we were on our way out of Mumbai. It was a clear and pleasant day to fly. We flew out using runway 27 and turned right, getting some lovely views of the Juhu Aerodrome and the Mumbai coastline/Madh Island as we climbed out.
Once we levelled out, Akasa started preparing for their meal service. In the meantime, I made a quick trip to the washroom at the back (since the captain was using the front one, perhaps, and hence they had blocked out access). It was narrow, per the usual restrooms on most modern narrow-body aircraft.
The plane was incredibly full, but there were a few empty seats here and there. The flight was about 95% full.
It was hearty to see people use the seatback tray for phones to be put in and watch content on their phones. The USB ports were also powered up.
After I got back in my seat, I began to notice that the service still needed to start. Akasa has an oven on these specific aircraft (earlier meant for Jet Airways), but I don’t think they use it. Which means there is no need to move around hot meals. The in-flight supervisor, however, was spending a lot of time working the front cabin very slowly.
I sat in row three to observe the service flow, and I can tell you there is a need to set the house in order. For inflight service, where most people did not buy anything, the crew should have been quicker. At least in the front rows, the crew insisted on getting cash from the customers despite having the swipe machines. That added to the time because these folks had their cards handy, but they requested the crew pull their bags, get out cash, and place the bags back.
Another amusing thing was that rolls, which were supposed to be only offered by pre-booking, were also being sold on board.
Akasa Air does a gourmet meal which changes by the month depending on the festival in the month. For instance, they did a Ganesh Chaturthi special, then a Dussehra Special, a Diwali Special, and now, a Christmas meal. Akasa was kind enough to send me a meal back in the day at my home, the Dussehra Special (sampler), and I was keen to try these out on board.
Thank You @AkasaAir for sending your Dussehra meal for me to try out. This was everything I imagined it would be and more. Serving on @AkasaAir flights through October 31. Prebook for your next flight!
PS: That Puran Poli Tart could become an all year long item!#cafeakasa pic.twitter.com/2LyrBqE2kJ
— Ajay Awtaney (@LiveFromALounge) October 5, 2022
The Christmas meal was a bunch of Chicken Pies and a plum cake. When the cabin crew lead came over, she enquired if I’d like to have my meal, and I asked them to bring it out. Along with it came a drink (which I could select on board).
They were the most amazing pies I’ve had in the air, even though they were served at an ambient temperature. I’d already grabbed a bite at the lounge, but I dug in and took the rest home.
So good job, Akasa/TajSATS, with these meals, and I’d hight recommend them to anyone who flies with Akasa over the sandwiches. But service is another issue altogether. It took the cabin crew team lead about 20 minutes to arrive at my seat after enquiring about 11 seats before me and serving only three of them (one of which was just some cookies). Unfortunately, this is something they need to fix.
I’d ignored the slow speed of service on my first flight with them on August 7, 2022, but they haven’t tightened their service flow so far. On the flight mentioned above, which was a short one (Ahmedabad – Mumbai) and about 40-50% full only, they still needed to complete full service to everyone. At least on this two-hour flight, they could do a round of service with time to spare.
Once the galley was clear, you could see the Boeing branding on the crew control monitor.
Also, Boeing Sky Interiors put up a show.
I wanted some coffee afterwards and asked for the attention of a cabin crew with the button. Someone else came (not the crew in the forward section), and she quickly brought me the black coffee I requested. I was asked how I would like to pay, and I mentioned by card. The card was verified, and the commerce closed quickly. I wonder why the earlier cabin crew serving the forward section insisted on cash from two customers.
Towards the end of the flight, the cabin crew came around to collect the trash, and we commenced descent for an early arrival at Delhi Airport. But before descent, Akasa once again had their team take their usual spots on the plane and made an announcement about the names of the cabin crew members who served them, and one by one, they’d wave at the passengers. This has been around since day one and lays importance on the HR aspect, which is a nice thing to note about the airline.
As we commenced descent, the bags of 3A/C were still unrestrained. And the overhead locker over row 2 was empty, so it was not like there was no space to keep the bags. Terminal 2 at Delhi Airport did not use aerobridges for some reason, so we took a bus to the arrival gate. This is usual for Delhi T2, but somehow I’ve never tried to figure out why they do this.
While the crew did not implement an orderly deboarding, fortunately, the passengers behind were patient and waited for the ones ahead of them to leave.
Akasa is building a good product. However, I’d like to see a consistent product as and when they can afford to put one in place. Also, interesting to remember that the liberal legroom will go away once the 737-8-200 starts coming online next year. For now, the A++ cabin is a steal deal for those flying on long routes such as Delhi – Mumbai/Delhi – Bengaluru and vice versa, so it would help to check if a seat is available for your chosen flight in the A++ cabin. However, the crew must ensure that safety and service are not taken lightly. The food on Akasa is excellent, and I’m glad that at least one airline in India is taking the food bit seriously, even though they have to sell it rather than serve their passengers a veg/non-veg tray.
Have you flown Akasa Air? What has been your experience with them?
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