It has been just over a year and a half since the Tata Group took over Air India and promised drastic changes in both service and user experience. I decided it was now time to find out what has changed and what remains the same.
Today, we are flying on a red eye flight from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (Mumbai) to Kempegowda International Airport (Bengaluru) aboard Air India’s Airbus A321.
Air India – Mumbai to Bengaluru
- Flight Number – AI 621
- Departure Airport – Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (Mumbai)
- Arrival Airport – Kempegowda International Airport (Bengaluru).
- Registration – VT-PPV, 13.5 Years old during the time of flight
- Aircraft Type – Airbus A321
Air India initially had one of the worst applications ever, and I have always faced issues in the past. But ever since the take-over of Tata’s, things have changed drastically – now the UI offers a decent user experience and it has become easy to navigate in their application.
There are still certain issues – for example, once the user enters their last name and PNR, the app goes to another webpage wherein you are required to enter the PNR and last name again. This is required along with Captcha, and only then one can procced to web check-in.
Arrival at Mumbai Airport
I had arrived at Mumbai airport from Delhi onboard a Vistara flight. As I had almost 12 hours to kill before my next flight, I decided to go around and explore the city.
As I have pointed out in my past trip reports, Mumbai airport lacks the basic connection to city using public transport, hence a taxi is the only possible option.
Check-in at Mumbai Airport
After exploring for a while, I reached airport at around 11:15pm IST and to my surprise the domestic check-in counters of Air India were closed and the staff there were busy chit-chatting with each other.
When I enquired, the agent at the gate was not keen on opening the counter for me and asked to wait till 11:45pm (note my flight is scheduled to depart at 03:55 am the next day).
Upon seeing my reaction, he guided me to go towards the staff travel counter, and then upon reaching the travel counter I was bounced again towards the international check-in counters.
Now, trying not to lose my cool I walked across and patiently stood in the line, waiting for my turn only to be turned away again with the advice that only domestic counters can check me in.
At this point I already had sour experience with them, and I was on the verge of loosing my cool when a staff member noticed the entire situation and approached me.
He promptly took me over to the first-class check-in where finally I was able to check-in for my flight. I do not understand the approach taken by airline – by far all my experiences with the Air India staff have been disappointing.
They appear to lack the proper training in customer service or just do not want to do their job. For example, the staff at the domestic check-in counter could have simply collected the bag and get done with the process.
Instead there was bunch of agents who were busy chatting or on their phone and through this whole process I had to drag a 23kg luggage bag across the terminals between their counters for almost 30 minutes. So up until, now my experience remained sour!
Given the late-night scenario, there was hardly any line at security and I was able to get done with it in just 5-7 minutes.
I have reviewed both the Adani lounge and Adani Business lounge here at Mumbai airport. But this time I was not interested in going to the lounge, so instead I only bought myself a coffee and chilled at the food court.
Boarding of this flight had started way before the scheduled boarding time, and by the time I reached the aircraft almost all the passengers were seated.
As soon as I entered the aircraft I was greeted with a huge smile and energetic crew.
This section of Air India is both fantastic and bad, so let me dive in. The seat for one looks colourful – unlike other airlines who have the same shade of colour on all their seats, Air India has seats in both red and orange.
The window and aisle seats have red designed covers, with the middle seats being orange. It looks bright and beautiful I must say.
Now coming to leg space, I would say its what the airline is known for; at least their Airbus A321’s. I was seated in 30A which was neither a premium seat nor an emergency exit row, but still I had ample of leg space and going by LCC standards this would be sold as Premium seat.
Now coming to the cons of this seat, the seatbelts were worn out and had food stains on them and the seat cover itself was dust – it was stained and felt like it had never been cleaned.
The windows were dirty and, in my case, there were scratches which meant I couldn’t get any good exterior images this time.
Soon after take-off the cabin crew started meal service. During my last flight with Air India on this sector (BOM-BLR), Air India served only vegetarian cold sandwiches as they introduced some new policy – serving of non-vegetarian food and a full meal would be limited to flights above a certain duration.
Thus I did not expect much, but to my surprise the airline had resumed its meal service even on shorter flights. I was given an option of either veg or non-veg and I decided to go with veg.
The food was actually very delicious, and the desert was just Yummm! They also had metal cutlery in the economy class!
Arrival at Bengaluru
We arrived after a delay of nearly 20 minutes due to congestion at Bengaluru airport.
Air India is still in a mix – some services provided by the airline, like their meals and crew attitude are still top notch. Cabin leg room can be a game changer, but then sadly their ground experience and their aging product without refurbishment will hamper a passenger’s experience, all in all.
The airline needs to work seriously on their staff and how they treat their customer – that is something which is not currently hampered by the supply chain issues.
After this trip I will recommend this airline only if one needs leg space and doesn’t want to spend more.