I have taken several flights with Air India or formerly, Indian Airlines as it was called. Some solo, some with the boy and some while traveling with a baby. I have come across many people complaining about Air India in the recent times, so I thought an Air India Review post must be written about the good, bad and the Ugly of Air India.
Air India Review
This Air India review is on basis of the following factors, that can make or break the experience of flying:
Air India Official Website
Nothing really to boast of. Searching for a flight is slow and the fonts are too small. I neither found it consumer friendly nor intuitive. The UX / UI really needs an overhaul.
Ease of Booking
The most frustrating part is, if flights for your sector are unavailable on the chosen dates, it does not point you to the next or previous available dates. However, you don’t need to book on the Air India official website – just book through any of the booking portals, Udchalo.com (for defense and paramilitary discount) or through a travel agent, if you like.
Price of tickets
Comparable to Indigo & Spicejet economy fares if booked early. Slightly expensive later but might be worth it if you have a lot of baggage to carry.
This is the silver lining. Air India Check In Baggage limit is 25 Kgs + 7 Kg hand baggage. Infants get a 10 Kg check in + 7 Kg in hand.
Check in is not a problem on sectors that are not busy but the ones that are, for example, Delhi – Jodhpur / Delhi – Leh, Air India is known to overbook their flights. And really overbook them! I don’t know what ancient algorithm they use, I was once stranded on the Delhi airport along with 15 other passengers with no other flight to Jodhpur that day.
Online check in
Doesn’t always work. I don’t rely on it. It’s better to reach early at the airport.
Reputation for being on time or not
I’d say this is a 80 – 20. 80% on time, 20% delayed. Most Air India flights that I have taken have been on time but the ones that are delayed, are delayed forever. So that can be a real deal breaker.
Boarding is as should be but the flight can be delayed upto hours without any real intimation of the boarding delay.
Air India Aircrafts
Air India aircrafts are old but the same are also used by Emirates and are top class. So what it boils down to, in the end, is who’s using it and running it (flying it, also, of course). Once, when travelling on the Delhi – Leh route, I took a seat on the last but one row and the fuel smell was so bad when the engines were turned on. This definitely says something about the class and maintenance of the aircrafts.
Aircraft Maintenance (interiors)
As far as maintenance is concerned, one can only comment about what one actually sees and that in this case, is the interiors. The maintenance is quite bad. Sometimes, the interiors of the plane smell ! The windows also look unclean and foggy. I could never get a clear picture of the mountains from top when we flew Delhi – Leh.
Air India food menu is okay on domestic, suited to the traditional Indian palate. The food menu on Air India International flights is better. Having said that, freshness and softness is not guaranteed.
Service on Air India is always prompt and polite. Air India takes pride in their service and etiquette. Can’t say that for the ground staff, though.
Staff is a sore issue with Air India. Being a government organisation the staff does not believe that ‘The customer is King’. Sadly, they are accustomed to following the rule book and it takes a lot of time and effort to convince them to even try approaching their superior for a decision, in cases that require a higher authority. I had a bad experience with Air India on the Delhi – Jodhpur sector while I was pregnant and they had overbooked the flight.
Talking about Air India’s safety record, they follow strict procedures and have a disciplined work ethic. There have been reports of weather radars failing but no accidents because of that yet. There has never been a Air India accident due to poor maintenance. This is a record that some American airlines hope to achieve.
Not if you’re flying light and getting similarly priced tickets on Indigo Airlines or Jet Airways.
Yes If you have a lot of baggage, especially with an infant and dont want to pay extra for it.
Travelling with an Infant
Credit where needed. I have always received my baggage in great condition (never opened or broken). Air India never loses baggage (at least not on domestic flights).
The Bad, worse & Ugly
What ruined Air India is the interference of politics. Bureaucracy has been a spoke in the wheel. Decision making is slow, which ruins business planning and decisions. Simple example. Air India and Emirates both have the 77W. Emirates managed to make these the backbone of their fleet. Air India complained about these planes being inefficient.
Worker unions have also dragged Air India down to the dumps. There’s a lot of factors, but this is the state. I suggest you read ‘The Descent of Air India’ by Jitendra Bhargava. You will see the company in a new light.
Air India Review – The final verdictAIR INDIA REVIEW – I would rate Air India a 2.5 / 5 overall. A 3.5 / 5 when you require extra baggage allowance and / or when travelling with an infant.