A full-service airline is looked at from a different lens compared to a no-frills carrier. And hence, the process starts from a good booking experience and a good ground experience before getting in the air. However, all the major airports around India now want to control the ground experience. Hence, Mumbai and Bengaluru Airport have taken in the lounge management over the years (also the big bucks!). Delhi is going the same way, shutting down all the other airline lounges. But one airline that gets to retain its lounge, for now, is Air India. The Delhi Airport Terminal 3 Air India Lounge is still operational.
When I started on The Tata Trilogy trip last week, the first flight for me was Air India. Delhi is the home of Air India, and what would be a better place for them to start stitching up things than right under their nose, right? I arrived at the Delhi Airport at about 3:45 AM for a 6:10 AM flight, leaving me enough time to go through the entire Air India experience before I boarded my flight.
My first encounter was with Air India’s check-in agents at their check-in isle at the airport. While I had already completed my online check-in, and I could have just printed my boarding pass from the self-check-in kiosk, I did want to collect a printed boarding pass. However, there was a massive queue around the economy class check-in isle, so I decided to use my Star Gold membership and headed to the counters reserved for Business Class, First Class, and Star Gold tier members (including Air India’s own).
Air India had five counters open for their premium and elite passengers, which is a step up from the other partly Tata-owned full-service airline calling Delhi it’s home. It took me a couple of seconds to realise that Air India was not using the display boards to display who the counters were for. And then a counter opened up.
It took me a whole of six minutes to get a printed boarding pass. It would have taken lesser, but after I got the boarding pass on hand, I realised I wouldn’t get any miles on SQ for this trip, so I gave the check-in agent my United Mileage Plus number to add to the ticket instead. The agent, from AISATS (also now a 50% Tata-owned company), was professional and got it done quickly and handed me a new boarding pass. Though she was rationing her supplies of Economy class boarding cards and hence was a bit uneasy printing the second one up for me!
Delhi Airport Terminal 3 Air India Lounge
Having completed my check-in, I passed through security and headed to the Air India Lounge at the mezzanine floor of Delhi Airport’s Terminal 3. Vistara was made to shut its lounge by the Delhi Airport and hand it over to the airport in 2020. Air India, at least for now, gets to keep its lounge.
The Air India lounge is located at the far right of the mezzanine floor, adjacent to the Plaza Premium Lounge, and you head to the right bank of elevators as you clear security. The Maharajah was waiting with folded hands as I turned up there at about 4 AM.
As I entered the lounge, I had an agent get up from her seat to welcome me. I presented her my credentials which she scanned to let me in.
All Air India First Class, Business Class, Maharaja Club members of Flying Returns and Star Alliance Gold customers can access the lounge. As per the airline’s website, access to Economy Class and other airline’s passengers can also enjoy the Lounge Facility on payment of INR 500. However, I’ve not tried this out personally.
The first thing I noticed at the lounge, compared to my last trip in March 2021 to this lounge, was the change in furniture. For instance, this is just one of the many pictures from my last journey of the white couches taped up uncouthly to signify social distancing measures in place.
There was different but dimmer looking furniture at the same Air India Lounge in January 2022. Let us go around for a look at the Lounge. It is a 50-seater lounge, with blue and aquamarine upholstered couches lining up the breadth and length of the entire lounge.
There was a segregated nap room with a few recliners, but it was fully occupied at the hour.
There are a few computers in one corner of the lounge for basic browsing. However, I wouldn’t recommend using them until the new IT takes over them and runs a deep scan for malware. Even otherwise, using public computers is not a good idea.
If you intend to use your phone or laptop on wifi, the wifi password was also displayed. Notice the old-school font (Algerian?), though. I remember using this font about twenty years ago.
The wifi was nothing to write home about, though. The download speeds were super slow, even though the network provider was a fellow Tata Group enterprise.
If you would instead read, there was a fully stocked newspaper stash. However, as I would realise later, the newspapers were a day old, and the day’s print only arrived by about 5:30-6:00 AM.
The lounge has a lot of art as well. I am not sure how much of it was removed to be under the possession of the Government of India via the AI Holding Company, but one of my favourites, I am glad it was still there. I’m always proud that India has some of the highest numbers of women in the cockpit around the globe.
Delhi Airport Terminal 3 Air India Lounge Hospitality and Dining
The significant change on Day 2 of becoming Tata’s Air India was the attitude of the staff. The last time I was here was during the early days of the second wave; they were all sitting in their respective corners, customer be damned. Someone was playing on their phone, someone else on a call, and so on. This time, they were on their toes.
There is a massive sanitiser dispenser installed at the entrance, but it was not working today for some reason. The agent at the reception got up from her seat and walked up to me to offer alcorub from another bottle at the reception. This wouldn’t happen before.
The last time I was at the lounge (March 2021), my taking pictures of the lounge was objected to, and I was asked to delete the images. I was doing it pretty openly this time, and no one objected. One of the two agents seated at the lounge reception monitored the passenger flights and informed the passengers when their flights would start to board.
I took a seat in the corner and closer to the buffet area. The person who looked like the manager in charge of the lounge came to me and informed me that they would be laying out the breakfast by 4:30 am. Till then, he could offer me a hot/cold beverage if I wanted one. The buffet was laid out per the timeline.
For breakfast, they had a reasonable offering. There were some omelettes and boiled eggs (not pictured)
There were masala oats and Veg Keema (I cannot fathom that, though, most probably something made with Soya).
And there were some Sambar and Vadas.
There was some bread and muffins laid out on another counter and whole fruit.
There was a fully stocked refrigerator that had products from PepsiCo. Unlike the pandemic era, there was no rationing anymore.
Also, a tea and coffee dispenser on another counter. That big fresh coffee machine hasn’t worked in 11 months, so only the Nescafe dispenser for those who wanted a hot beverage. I passed on the hot drinks and went for a Pepsi instead.
The breakfast was solid for 5 AM.
The Lounge Manager came around and struck a conversation with me after. He inquired about the quality of the food and if everything was okay. I could not catch his name, but he seemed genuinely interested in making sure people had a good time at the lounge (in the limited resources they had).
He also told me that there were some discussions already about the change of the menu at the lounge, and while nothing was firmed up yet, something new should be on the way in a month. I wouldn’t hold him to the timeline, but I’ll try and swing by in March 2022 to see if things change.
I left the lounge after spending about an hour there, and while the lounge is not luxurious by any standards, I’m confident that the people make it worth a visit again.
The Terminal 3 Air India Lounge (Domestic) is a 50-seater lounge that can be accessed by Business/First Class passengers of Air India, Star Alliance and Air India Gold/Platinum members. Be assured of a decent meal and no crowds, unlike neighbouring Plaza Premium Lounge. The Lounge should undergo some maintenance and some point in time, but at this time, it is the only airline lounge that remains at Delhi Airport.
Have you been to the Delhi Airport Terminal 3 Air India Lounge? What has been your experience here?
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