On Monday, I flew back from Delhi to Mumbai on Air India. Since I love flying wide body planes even domestically, Shipra & I chose to fly their Boeing 77W, which flies Delhi to Mumbai as a tag flight before flying onwards to Newark. I’ve flown their B77W and B77Ls before, and it has almost always surprised me as to how Air India has managed to have 8 year old planes in a broken state, without even wanting to fix those planes for a good customer experience.
For instance, on my flight this week, I was seated in Economy in row 18, which is the second row in the Economy cabin. The reading lamps for the entire row were not working, and the co-passenger sitting next to us was visibly irritated because he wanted to read a book. I am a big fan of the cameras that AI’s planes come with, where you can see the runway transmission. For whatever reason, it was working on the wall-screens, but not on the personal seat-back screens. I’ve seen it there before!
After a while, I decided to watch a movie on the IFE. Here is the very granular quality it showed up in on Monday/Tuesday.
And since my personal earphones were tucked away in the cabin bag which I was carrying, I just decided to use Air India’s. But these were broken. This flight was going to go forward to New York, and this meant that while the washrooms would be serviced and catering loaded, and perhaps vacuuming done, each seat back was not going to be checked, and these broken headsets were just going to remain in the seats. Lights were not going to be actively fixed in spite of the fact that the crew knew about it, and the passengers stuck on these seats on the 14-hour long flight would have to just make do with what they have.
Not to forget, the in-flight moving map did not work for most of the flight, and then showed the distance between Mumbai and Delhi at only 270 miles while it is actually more than 700 miles.
And this is the way the IFE controls were when we arrived, hanging on the side, do also notice the plate of the plane almost coming apart in the shot.
Oh, and before someone wants to come and defend Air India, this is not a one-off incident. There are so many of these incidents I’ve seen and experienced over the years. For instance, take a look at this business class seat on an Air India B77W which was going to fly to New York JFK back in November 2014. You will notice it is not set in its shell and at an awkward 7-9 degree slant. I had that seat for 2 hours. Imagine the guy in that seat for 14 hours.
I’ve usually noticed Air India’s domestic fleet with narrow bodies, which was inherited from the erstwhile Indian Airlines to be in a much better condition than the fleet they fly abroad. No wonder that the airline gets criticism on the global front for the planes not being in a condition to compete with the other carriers, such as pseudo-national carrier Emirates.
Also, the airline lacks a comprehensive compensation policy to make good for such incidents. I assume they assume that when you fly Air India abroad, you sign up for a sub-par experience. On another airline, they try to make good to you in one way or another. Air India just shifts the blame and says they’ll try to do better the next time. I’ll be writing to Air India later this week to ask for compensation on this all-things broken flight, but I really pity the guy who sat in 18B on the BOM-EWR leg of this flight.
I’m sorry Air India. I love to fly carriers with the Indian flag, but your general apathy is unfortunate. And you’d do much better to really take charge of the situation rather than blame everything on another government department or person.
What have been your Air India experiences while flying abroad? As bad as what I’ve stated here, or is it better?