BACKGROUND Air India flies from Mumbai to Chennai 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 Mumbai-Hyderabad sector.
CHECK-IN As my flight AI640 at 0315 was a connecting service – I had flown into Mumbai from London – I had already checked in my baggage. I had landed in Mumbai at 2340, almost an hour behind schedule but still allowing lots of time to catch my Chennai flight. I disembarked at 2355, was smoothly fast-tracked through security and was in the lounge by 0010.
THE LOUNGE Air India’s executive lounge was a few minutes’ walk from security. It was cool and decorated in traditional style. Bottles of mineral water were left on each table and on arrival I was offered tea or coffee. Further drinks and snacks could be ordered from a menu. There was no wifi access.
BOARDING I was called to board at 0300. I went down a level to Gate 4 and was fast-tracked through the long queue on to a packed bus. After a few minutes’ wait it took me on the five-minute journey to the aircraft. I was in my seat at 0315.
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, although above my head it said ABC-DEF which was a bit confusing) across rows one to five. Economy was in 3-3 over 21 rows (ABC-DEF).
I was in window seat 2A. Seats were comfortable and upholstered in dark-blue 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 back of the seat in front of me, a fold-out table came out of my left-hand armrest, and a footrest folded out from the seat in front. There was a wide shared armrest between me and the neighbouring seat (there was no one next to me – the class was not very busy) and a reading light in the panel above. All seats had their own windows and access to the overhead lockers.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Row one has more legroom and you get served first and can disembark first, but there is no storage space in front of you to stow your bag and you’re closest to the toilet and galley, so are more likely to be disturbed – although on a short-haul flight this is less of a problem. Row five is in front of economy so similarly you’re more likely to hear noise.
THE FLIGHT I was welcomed after ten minutes with a cold towel, a choice or water or juice and a selection of magazines. I was given a pillow but no blanket – I could have done with one as the flight turned out to be cold. We pushed back at 0335 and were airborne ten minutes later, half an hour behind schedule. The noise from the engine was very loud for the first part of the flight. Shortly after take-off a light meal was served consisting of two small open sandwiches – mushroom and peppers, and cheese and tomato – a fruit salad, a muffin, mineral water and tea or coffee. I was hungry so it was very welcome. Service was helpful and attentive. As this was a short-haul flight, there was no in-flight entertainment. I had a snooze and before I knew it we were descending.
ARRIVAL We landed at 0510, 15 minutes late, and were off the plane 10 minutes after that. I was fast-tracked through immigration and my bag appeared swiftly on the carousel in the baggage hall.
VERDICT A comfortable flight on a basic product that was perfectly fine for a short journey.
PRICE A midweek business class return in April from Mumbai to Chennai cost Rs 32,978 (£452) online.