Contributed by Hirofumi Suda
Date: January 21, 2018
Flight No.: AI863
Route: Delhi Indira Gandhi International to Mumbai International
Airline: Air India
Type: Airbus A320neo
Flight Duration: 2 hrs 12 min
Air India received its first Airbus A320neo in February 2017, and since then it went on to introduce more than a dozen of the type into its fleet. Given that until then, the airline only operated an aging fleet of A320s and A321s in the Indian domestic market for well over a decade, the new aircraft were very welcome.
And, I was excited when I had a chance to try one of the A320neos back in January on the fairly short domestic flight between Delhi and Mumbai.
Getting a ‘Business Class’ Boarding Pass at Delhi Airport
One of the interesting things about Delhi airport compared to other airports is that Star Alliance Gold members flying with Air India get “Business Class” boarding passes even when flying in economy class.
Thanks to that, one can easily pass through the business class security lane (one of the perks of being a Gold member) rather than having to wait in the economy class lane which can sometime take well over twenty minutes.
Airside, I spent some time in the Air India domestic business class lounge, and then I headed to my flight’s departure gate, gate 27. Delhi airport’s terminal 3 where all Air India flights depart from is quite large, and so it is not unusual to have to walk a fair bit between the security (or lounge) and one’s departure gate.
Upon reaching the gate, I could gladly confirm that my ride for the day was indeed going to be the “neo” since I could see its distinctively large engines.
Boarding the Air India Airbus A320neo
When I stepped onboard the aircraft, I was warmly greeted by the cabin crew.
My first impression of the Air India A320neo’s cabin was that it was bright, airy, and simple. Being a brand new aircraft, it was clean and the seats were still in spotless condition. In other words, it was quite the opposite of the Air India’s other, mostly aging, aircraft where many seats are worn out and (the unnecessary for short domestic hops) in-seat video screens are too old to function.
When I sat down in my seat 5A, I realized how generous the legroom was – perhaps due to the thinness of the seat and the absence of seat pocket directly in front of my knees. In fact, personally, I wouldn’t mind flying long-haul on this aircraft.
On a side note, as far as seat is concerned, it felt as spacey as the premium economy onboard Vistara, Air India’s competitor managed by Singapore Airlines.
Departing Delhi Airport as Air India Flight 863
Air India often has a bad name when it comes to punctuality. But, in the past two years, their on-time performance has improved greatly.
As they’re the only Star Alliance airline in the region, I’ve been quite loyal to them, and usually there has not been a major delay in the past twenty times or so that I flew on their domestic flights.
And, this flight was no exception to that as we only left with a minor ten-minute delay.
Air India Domestic Economy Class Service
If there is one thing that stands out about Air India’s domestic flights – especially compared with shorthauls in Europe or the US – it’s their catering, especially their lunch and dinner service.
In fact, on any domestic flight over 90 minutes long at least partly taking place between 2PM and 8PM, you can expect a full meal even in economy class.
The meals Air India provides on their domestic flights are the same as the ones on international flights, except the fact that there is no choice and only “Asian Vegetarian” meal is served.
On this flight, the following was served:
- Appetizer: Cucumber, tomato, and radish salad
- Main: Cottage cheese in tomato sauce gravy with rice and lentil curry
- Side: Bread roll with butter
- Dessert: Kheer (vermicelli noodles and nuts in sweetened milk)
The main dish was rich in taste, and (surprisingly) not so spicy. Dessert was refreshing to end the meal. Overall, I was quite satisfied with the meal quality and quantity.
After the meal, the crew even came around to offer hot coffee and tea.
While the meal on this flight was, as mentioned above, more than decent, that is not always the case with Air India. Generally, I find their hot lunches and dinners to be good – but I can’t say the same for their hot meals served out of the breakfast, lunch and dinner time.
In that case, the main usually consists of many deep-fried dishes, and looks rather unappetizing.
Just as an example, below is a meal I received on the return flight which took off from Mumbai at 10AM. The main dish included a deep-fried potato and lentils, and I left it untouched.
Arriving at Mumbai International Airport
Having been a government-owned airline, historically, Air India crews have been known for some notorious behavior to passengers, and while I flew with such crew members myself a couple of years ago, I can confirm that it’s becoming very rare these days.
In fact, I found the crew on this flight to be very polite and energetic. Perhaps, the A320neo being a new aircraft, they were even more prompted to provide better service.
In either case, the end of the flight started approaching not long after the meal when we started descending towards Mumbai.
First, we flew over the rugged terrain of Deccan Plateau, and then we flew over the busy cityscape of Mumbai.
Finally, we landed at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. And, not long after landing, we reached our parking spot at the airport’s terminal 2 which is a gorgeous piece of artwork.
Air India A320neo Economy Class Delhi – Mumbai Summary
For long time, Air India just had quite aged aircraft on domestic flights which I found to be quite depressing. I was hesitant to fly them, but being a Star Alliance member, I always ended up choosing them.
But, now with the introduction of A320neos, I can confidently recommend anyone to fly with them regardless of their frequent flyer status.
Having tried all major Indian domestic carriers including Vistara, Jet airways, IndiGo, SpiceJet, and GoAir, I can say that Air India’s A320neos have the most comfortable economy class seat.
Combined with the decent meal (especially during lunch and dinner time), flying Air India domestically provides a good value. Especially so given that I only paid 40 dollars for the one-way flight between Delhi and Mumbai.