Review: Flight AI 660 (BOM-DEL), Air India, Economy

After an enjoyable experience in the Altitude Lounge at Mumbai, it was time to board my first Air India domestic flight in months. I’d picked to fly an Airbus 321, because these are the newer planes for Air India on the domestic segments, and I guess they use these on the regional segments as well.

I’d pre-blocked my seats for months, as the Air India web-booking system allows you to do so. I suspect this would change after the unbundling guidelines coming into effect, and at least some preferred seats would become chargeable. However, in an act of goofyness, I ended up selecting seat 7E, which was the second row in economy, and a middle seat. Why would I do that? Because the seatmap showed no 7F seats, so I thought there will be no one to fight for the armrest here.

Mumbai(BOM) – Delhi(DEL)
Tuesday, March 26 2013
Depart: 05:00PM
Arrive: 07:00PM
Duration: 02hr00min
Distance flown: 706 miles
Aircraft: Airbus A321
Seat: 7E (Economy)
Meal Service: Snack

Boarding on the flight was sort of chaotic, since everyone wanted to get on the plane early. Since I was seated closer to the gate, I was able to move in quickly once boarding was announced.

Air India A321 arriving into Mumbai T1A

Once inside, I reached out to my seat and I was totally surprised, like I mentioned earlier. It was not about being in a middle seat, but about finding out that there was a crew seat next to me, and no window to look out of. So I hoped, that there was going to be no occupant on that seat so that I could be left in peace at least. Here was my seat, next to the crew seat which was occupied, luckily, only during the takeoff and landing.

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A peep into the forward cabin from where I was…

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The flight completed boarding on time, and in fact we pushed back five minutes ahead of time to be on our way from Mumbai at 4:55 PM from the main runway 09-27. The saving grace for me was that there were PTVs in each seat, so I could watch the airshow.

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The seat pitch was narrower than what I am used to at the B737s of Jet Airways, and more in line with the Indigo seats. Also, leg space was cramped, but then that was to be expected, no? I have always been amused as to why would Air India not have a single colour upholstery, specially since it cannot do this multi-color act tastefully. They had a chance with their new planes, but even on the 787 they screwed it up.

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Once we were at cruising altitude, the crew immediately brought out the snack service, a-la hi-tea in the air. While I was not hungry much, I still did want to sample what Air India had on offer. Like in the usual style for all airlines in India, I was told I could have the vegetarian option, or the non-vegetarian one. No one told me what was on offer, and I decided to sample the vegetarian fare.

I was totally surprised with the greaseplate that was parked in front of me, since there were fried, or maybe half-burnt cottage cheese pakoras, and even the oil had not been soaked out of them before putting them under the foil. Along with that, there was a small puff, a very unappetizingly packed and presented sandwich and cling-wrapped chocolate mousse.

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I was a bit put off by the unappetising presentation, specially since TAJSATS was their caterer, and they cater some of the best premium meals at Mumbai Airport. Anyhow, I worked through the snack, and had bits of everything, and the only thing that tasted like it should was the puff.

A little later I found an opportunity to click some more pictures of the economy cabin. You will notice that the flight was very full.

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If you’d notice in this picture, most people are either watching the airshow, or are watching the same programming here. With airlines, I’ve almost come to segregate them in two kinds, either with on-demand IFE or none at all. And anyone who chose to invest in inflight screens recently, would have chosen on-demand programming. However, here I had a personal screen (with earphones), so that I don’t have to crane up my neck to watch something, but I’d had to catch the movie which was working in a loop. I put on some movie on a different channel out of the 6 they were dishing out, but most of the time I was reading my book. The PTV had a touch screen to manage volume and brightness, which could also have been done by controls in the armrest, however, the touch screens were so bad that I figured I had to touch something 3-4 centimetres away to target the right button on-screen. To explain, I would rather press a point few centimetres away from the Volume + button on screen because if I push it on the right spot, it might trigger the Brightness – button.

Midway through the flight, the captain announced that we were going to arrive at Delhi at about 1845, which made it an on-time arrival.

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After another 30 minutes or so, we began our descent into Delhi, and touched down at 6:44 PM to get into the familiar structures of Delhi Airport’s Terminal 3.

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I think while Air India had the right resources in place, they could not capitalise on them to make the flight a pleasurable experience. The attitude in their cabin crew alternates either between motherly or know it all, and I prefer friendly and pleasant. So, I would not exactly be on their planes again I guess, unless someone else was paying for my ticket and only wanted me to fly AI, or I guess they were significantly cheaper than another airline I’d prefer to fly (namely Jet Airways or Indigo).

On the way back, I tried out the Business cabin of Air India, so do check back later for another episode of this trip report.

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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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