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Air India Airbus A320 business class

Published: 07/04/2009 - Filed under: Tried & Tested » Airlines » Tried & Tested » Tried & Tested » Airlines » Air India »

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BACKGROUND Air India flies from Chennai to Mumbai once a day. At the moment the flight is operated on an Airbus 320 but Air India is introducing a number of A321 and A319 aircraft in the next year for domestic flights. The A321 is already being used on the Hyderabad-Mumbai sector.

CHECK-IN I arrived at Chennai airport at 1930 for my 2130 flight AI641. Before checking in I had to put my case through a security machine and have it sealed – this took five minutes. It then took ten minutes to check in – there seemed to be some confusion over which desk I should go to, despite me going straight to the business one – and then another ten minutes to pass immigration, as there was no fast-track queue for business class. I then proceeded up an escalator and took the five-minute walk past a few shops to the lounge.

THE LOUNGE Air India’s executive lounge was contemporary in style with pink fabric sofas, pale-wood furniture and abstract prints on the walls. There was a television, two computers, a music corner with a CD player and a selection of magazines. Wifi cost Rs 200 (£3) for an hour. There was a small range of hot Indian bites, buns and sandwiches on offer and drinks were available on request.

BOARDING I was invited to board at 2115. I passed through security, which was situated close to the gate, within ten minutes. The queue to board took five minutes – there was no fast-track for business – and I was in my seat at 2130.

THE SEAT Air India’s 146-seat A320 is in a two-class configuration of business and economy, with 20 and 126 seats respectively. Business was at the front of the plane in a 2-2 layout (AC-DF) across rows one to five. Economy was in 3-3 over 21 rows (ABC-DEF).

I was in window seat 1F. Seats were comfortable and upholstered in mustard-coloured fabric with leather armrests. They could be reclined via a button in the armrest to 8.8 inches, were 21.6 inches wide and had a pitch of 37 inches. A magazine rack was attached to the bulkhead in front of me and a fold-out table came out of my right-hand armrest. There was a wide shared armrest between me and the neighbouring seat. All seats had their own windows and access to the overhead lockers. The class was quiet.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? My row had more legroom and I got served first, but there was no storage space in front of me to place my bag and I was closest to the toilet and galley – although as this was a short-haul flight I wasn’t worried about being disturbed. Avoid row five as it’s in front of economy so you’re more likely to hear noise from there.

THE FLIGHT I was welcomed after five minutes with a cold towel and a juice. I was given a pillow and blanket. We pushed back at about 2200 and were airborne shortly afterwards. Shortly after take-off a meal was served. The starter was cream of spinach soup, and for the main I had a choice of a meat or vegetarian curry, spaghetti with chicken dumplings in cheese and tomato sauce, or tagliatelle a la crème with spinach. Despite slight reservations about turning into Popeye through spinach overload, I chose the latter, which was rather bland. The dessert options were carrot cashew payasam or a fruit salad – I had the fruit – and the meal also came with a selection of breads, a salad, mineral water and tea or coffee. Service was prompt and attentive. As this was a short-haul flight, there was no in-flight entertainment.

ARRIVAL We landed at 2355, 40 minutes behind schedule, and were off the plane 15 minutes later, with the bus journey to the terminal taking five minutes. I was connecting from here to London so proceeded to security, which was very busy and chaotic, with people surging forward and pushing in front of each other. There was no fast-track route for business class, although Air India staff sped me through about half of the queue and it took about ten minutes to get through the rest. I then made my way to Air India’s executive lounge, a few minutes away.

VERDICT A decent short-haul flight with good service.

PRICE A midweek business class return in April from Chennai to Mumbai cost Rs 32,978 (£452) online.


Michelle Mannion

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