The Tata Trilogy: AirAsia India, the hospitable no-frills carrier

As I mentioned in my earlier posts, I wanted to spend a day on the Tata-owned airlines, one for the books, and for benchmarking the services offered on board all three carriers in one go. Airlines have their off days, and I don’t hold them to it, and flying all three on the same day just sounded an excellent plan to remove any biases in many cases. And because most of us fly economy, that was where I was going to be for my first flight on AirAsia India.

I’ve flown AirAsia before, between Singapore and Kuala Lampur, and they a quick, decent and good job onboard. However, I’d never managed to fly their Indian offshoot, purely because there was no operations or hardly any operations around the parts of India where I usually am. So, I figured I’d had to get to try them out before the rumoured merger between AirAsia India and Air India Express was going to be concluded. Also, AirAsia India recently introduced a new hot-meals menu called Gourmair which I wrote about. It was the second reason to fly them.

Booking Process

For booking the tickets, I booked them via a travel agent purely for access to the corporate fares. The problem on hand was simple. I needed an opportunity to bail if my Air India flight did not operate on time or did not operate at all. AirAsia India’s corporate fares allowed me to cancel up to 5 hours before the flight, and that was a pretty good deal.

Check-in Experience

Bengaluru is the home of AirAsia India, and the airline has operated with Bengaluru as its main hub since its establishment. Owing to this, I was expecting to see more of the airline at Bengaluru Airport than I actually did, which is a good thing. Bengaluru Airport has many self-service check-in booths and long lines of staffed check-in booths. Unfortunately, being my first flight with I5, I never found them on any of these two check-in banks.

Eventually, I found them in a small corner of the passenger hall. AirAsia India essentially went low-touch and high-tech, so all they are offering is some staffed counters for baggage drop for those who still want the touch and feel of an airline. While I’d already checked in, I tried to collect a physical boarding pass. The crew near the dedicated AirAsia counters just took my PNR, and out came a thermal-paper boarding pass (something I could have done myself!). I was in and out in 10 seconds. Anyhow…

Boarding

I arrived at the assigned gate at about 1:55 PM after a trip to the BLR Domestic Lounge. My boarding pass mentioned a 2:00 PM boarding; however, they were already on Final call when I arrived at the gate! I was told the flight was hardly full (only about 15%, unfortunately), so they would attempt getting out earlier than usual, if possible.

I got on the bus to head to the plane parked a few 100 metres away, and incidentally, I still got on board first. I have to say, on a full day, perhaps tag on the Red Carpet service, which the airline is currently offering for free.

As luck would have it, I noticed that I was going to fly VT-ATD, one of the newest AirAsia India aircraft, and an A320neo. Most of the aircraft of the airline is still the older A320ceo versions.

AirAsia India I51983
Bengaluru (BLR) – Hyderabad (HYD) 
Saturday, January 29, 2022
Departure: 02:18 PM
Duration: 1 Hour 04 minutes
Arrival: 03:22 PM
Aircraft Type: Airbus 320Neo
Seat: 1A (Economy)
Meal Service: Hot Lunch (Pre-Booked)

The crew welcomed me, and I headed over to my seat on the plane’s first row. The first thing I noticed was the all-leather seats on the aircraft. The other airlines, such as IndiGo, use cloth seats, which might be lighter, but the maintenance would be more cumbersome, as the airline would need to keep some clean seat covers on hand for when something is spilt, etc. I’d believe that leather (ette) seats give a more premium look to the seats.

AirAsia India offers the first few rows and the emergency exit rows as Hot Seats. Hot Seats come with up to a 29″ seat pitch and a 20.3″ seat pitch (the first and the emergency exit rows). The Hot Seat rows also come with early boarding, something I did not know before booking the ticket. The Standard seats come with a 28″ seat pitch. Seat pitch is defined as the space between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front of it.

On the seat selection page for the airline, after you book the ticket, all the seats are showcased with their explanation.

For AirAsia India, the ceo planes have 180 seats, and the new aircraft comes with 186 seats.

The seat in row 1 had ample legroom, as you would imagine.

Overall, walking through the aircraft in the first few rows, the plane appeared to be very clean and well kept compared to Air India, for instance.

Flight Experience

The plane pushed back ahead of time, and we were shortly on our way. As soon as we levelled out, the crew started to prepare for the service on this flight. Compared to the other no-frill airlines, for AirAsia India, the differentiator is the ovens on the plane. AirAsia India and SpiceJet are the only two Indian no-frill airlines that have ovens on the plane, and they offer hot meals on the plane.

AirAsia India had, just in December 2021, launched a new hot-meal menu called GourmAir, which they had designed with catering partner TajSATS. This is a menu I am very excited about because I believe that no-frill customers also do like a good hot meal, and if the product is right, customers will go for it.

While SpiceJet matches the hot-meal menu of a conventional Indian Airline, I5 went for a different approach. They offered some exciting hot meals of international standards on their planes. You have to, of course, pre-order these meals. For the buy-on-board, you will be able to pick up the standard dehydrated offerings that you will notice on the cart. AirAsia India also offers some sandwiches on board, which they call Lite Bites.

The crew checked if I was ready for my meal to be served. They brought along the meal pretty quickly, and it was piping hot.

I was impressed by two things at I5. Most Indian airlines don’t go in the zone of seafood, and I don’t think I remember any airline after Kingfisher Airlines serving up seafood in India. Secondly, I5 labelled the meals with all the macros, which I liked.

I chose to go with the Pioneers Pick range of AirAsia India, which presents some of JRD Tata’s favourites for this flight where AirAsia. But I primarily went for the item because of the low calories, and I wanted to check out how seafood tasted on board. Alongside, I tagged on a Tiramisu Sandesh for dessert.

When the meal was served, it was piping hot, and the fish fillet was spot-on on the taste and creaminess of the meal. It did not take me long to finish it up. I’m not too big on desserts anymore, and for most of my in-flight meals, I taste the dessert but don’t finish them.

The Tiramisu Sandesh was different. The flavours were sweet but not overly sweet. And I polished off the entire dessert.

I had a short flight. However, I wanted to have some coffee. So I asked the crew if I could get some coffee on board. The crew brought along two options of Sleepy Owl Coffee (medium roast and dark roast), and I picked one. In a few minutes, the coffee was presented to me.

A second cup was presented to remove the bag and toss it into it. In a while, the captain announced that the cabin had to be prepared for landing, so I sent away the tray and retained my coffee in my hand.

We arrived in Hyderabad and pulled over into an aerobridge gate, all ahead of time. In short, I’d have loved to spend more time onboard, but this one-hour long flight was enough to make me understand that AirAsia India is a no-frill carrier with full-service standards. I got back home, only to convince my parents to give them a shot on their next trip (incidentally, their timings worked better than the full-service carriers anyways).

Bottomline

AirAsia India has been a carrier I haven’t flown before, and this was my first trip with them. However, they came across as warm and trying to be a premium carrier while keeping the bones of a no-frills carrier. I’d certainly have no hesitation trying out more of them in the future when I can, and the F&B offerings are legit good as well. Overall, I do think the airline is in good hands.

What has been your experience on AirAsia India over the past years?


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Pros

+ Hospitable Crew
+ Clean and new A320neos
+ Oven on board
+ Differentiated catering

Cons

- None really

Rating

About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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Comments

  1. I found the legroom on I5 flights to be a bit more on the tighter side as compared to the likes of 6E.

    But for short haul flights with cheap fares it’s pretty reliable.

    In fact on my last flight from CCU to BLR, the crew distributed small perfume bottles which was a very nice and unexpected touch because in this era where airlines try to look for every opportunity to charge passengers, this gesture of providing free Titan perfumes was much appreciated.

    • @Ashish, I got the perfumes too. It is a cross-marketing strategy amongst Tata Group companies. Titan places samples for distribution, and I guess also pays a fee to I5 to enable sampling.

  2. Hi Ajay, thanks for the review on AirAsia India. It seems you had a good experience! When flights are on time, there is hardly any difference in full service carrier and LCC airlines. So would like your comparison at the end of your journey! Challenge with these LCC airlines is only when you have a problem and them that’s where the frustration starts!

    Look forward to reading your third flight back to Delhi on vistara. Also not sure if you will be reviewing the airport lounge in hyderabad! It’s just amazing that you have spent a day (and money) to bring this story to your readers! Thanks a lot!

    • @Deccan, the next stop is the new lounge of Hyderabad. I’d visited it in March 2021 but I think it was “too new” then. And then Vistara.

      As for the challenge, look, I know the bad apples and I try and avoid them where possible. SG and G8 are the unreliable ones for now. I haven’t had too much experience with AirAsia India to know about the unreliability, but on the flight I flew, there were 4 crew, 26 pax and a clean plane with an on-time departure.

  3. Ajay, your blog is increasingly looking like a collection of paid promotions now. I have been a daily visitor for years, but have second thoughts now.

    • Hi, Can you highlight what was the paid promotion in this article? Ajay as always has detailed everything you can avail (paid or otherwise) when flying with these carriers and if he got his worth for what he paid to help you decide! Maybe I missed the subtle promotions as I didn’t find any honestly!

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