Trip Report: Is Air India’s A321 any different to its A320?

An Air India A321 flight on the tarmac at Chennai bound for Delhi.
Photo Credit: Gaurav Gowda

CHENNAI – After having a very disappointing experience on-board an Air India A320neo it was time for me to try out their Airbus A321. I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this either, but I had booked myself to fly on their A321 service on the Chennai (MAA) to New Delhi (DEL) sector.

I had always observed Air India never used to price aggressively. For example, let’s say an XYZ LCC carrier is charging Rs.2500 on BOM-BLR sector, every airline then starts to either match that fare or charge slightly less.

In the case of a full-service carrier, they usually try to price in a premium of Rs 1000 or so from the airfare of the low-cost carrier.

Air India always used to be the most expensive (most of the time), and for the service they provided it was not justified at all. But this changed right after the privatisation, and Air India has now started to price aggressively to compete with the LCC’s which hold a huge market share in India.

Air India – Chennai to New Delhi


Flight Details

  • Flight Number – AI 440 (MAA-DEL)
  • Departure Airport – Chennai International Airport (Chennai)
  • Arrival Airport – Indira Gandhi International Airport (Delhi)
  • Registration – VT-PPX, 12.7 Years old during the time of flight.
  • Aircraft Type –Airbus A321

Pre-Check-in Experience

Air India has a decent UI for its app, cannot say it is one of the most user-friendly applications out there but yes it gets the work done.

Few things have changed after the airline was privatised by the Government of India, still the app isn’t much useful as you can only book tickets, web check-in and cancel ticket and for anything apart from this one must use their website. 

I did not face any issues and I was able to check-in with a breeze on their application.

Arrival at Chennai Airport

I had to leave my hotel at Mid-night as this was an early morning flight, the only mode of transport for me to reach airport at 3:00am IST was cab and it costed me roughly around Rs.650.

Unlike Bengaluru Airport, Chennai International Airport has Metro connectivity which is the most convenient and efficient way to reach airport for passengers.

Check-in at Chennai Airport

Chennai Airport needs a makeover, it is undoubtedly one of the worst Airports I have visited in India. Check-in counters of Air India was empty considering they have very few flights at that time, I was able to drop off my luggage without any hassle and move towards security check.               

Security Check

Security check at Chennai was chaotic, people were jumping from Line to another nothing seemed to be organized. I can only imagine the how people would pass through Security at Chennai Airport at peak hours.

After a hassle for around 45 minutes, I was able to collect my belongings and proceed towards the Lounge.

Boarding Experience

I reached the gate almost an hour before as the Lounge wasn’t open yet and there was already around 15-20 people waiting outside, I grabbed myself a tin of cookies and settled in on a dirty seat near the gate.

Boarding started on-time and we were all cramped into one bus and taken to our flight.

Boarding the Air India flight at Chennai.

The Seat

Air India offers Business Class and Economy class seats, business class is offered in 2-2 configuration whereas economy class is offered in 3-3 standard configuration.

Cabin and seating aboard Air India A321 bound for Delhi.

As soon as I entered the aircraft, I was surprised to see the leg space in economy class, I mean even before taking my seat I was very sure just be seeing that this was going to be a very comfortable flight.

Once I sat in my seat, I was impressed there was more than enough leg space, in fact I doubt that this leg space was more than what some airlines offer in Business class.

The seat covers were old and worn out and yes, this time Air India’s seat had seat pockets.

In-flight Service

Soon after take-off crew started meal service, as this flight duration was more than 120 minutes Air India served full meal on this sector.

I decided to go with the Non-Veg option, and the food choices provided surprised me. The food was very delicious and filling as well – I can say quality of food would match that of Vistara.

Food service on Air India flight Chennai to Delhi.

Arrival at Delhi

We arrived at T3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi on time, It was sad to see many Indigo and Go First aircraft’s grounded due to supply chain issues with P&W engines.

Conclusion


Air India has a lot of potential – they have slots in one of the busiest airports in the world. At present they don’t have any competition in the domestic market.

Air India is the only airline with widebody aircraft, considering that Vistara and Air India will be merged in coming days for international routes.

But they need a complete overhaul, and it should start from fixing the cabin. Their A321 product offers comfort like no other airline in country and yes, I would be willing to pay premium to travel in that.

I would definitely try to fly their 777 product as well as they do use it on certain domestic routes.

All photos credited to writer Gaurav Gowda.

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