BACKGROUND IndiGo is expanding its low-cost model across India with plans for international flights to Asia this year currently being developed. It operates a single plane type, the A320.
BOOKING Booking the ticket is easily done online. My single ticket had a basic fare including a fuel surcharge of INR3,910 (£53). There were a number of other fees and taxes on top, such as INR229 (£3) Passenger Service Fee, INR50 (70p) Transaction Charge, INR103 (£1.40) Service Tax and INR 100 (£1.36) User Development Fee. Most of the fees with the exception of the transaction charge are levied by the Airport Authority of India or central government. The transaction fee at INR50 is minor when compared to the likes of Ryanair in the UK.
CHECK-IN Online check-in opens 48 hours before your flight but I had not done this. When I was on the way to Mumbai’s domestic terminal, my colleague received a phone call from IndiGo informing him that our 1350 flight would be delayed by at least two hours. He asked about earlier flights and we were booked onto the 1545 flight which was likely to take off before our original, delayed service. As this was my first experience of IndiGo I began to wonder if this was really a budget carrier – I would never expect such a call from easyJet or Ryanair.
I arrived at the terminal at 1250 and headed for the ticket desk. There was only one person in front of us and we had our new ticket within five minutes. We proceeded through the security and into the check-in hall where we found plenty of desks open, and most with only one person in the queue. The check-in agent opened our flight (as we were early), gave us our boarding passes and checked our bags. (There is no cost for a checked bag up to 20kg.) Check-in closes 45 minutes before flight departure.
I proceeded to security which took about 15 minutes and then sat down in an airside coffee shop for the next two hours.
THE DEPARTURE AREA This was busy with the best seating being in the coffee shop. I bought a sandwich but for some reason they had no cold drinks so I bought one from another shop and returned to my seat.
BOARDING Boarding takes place 40 minutes before departure but at 1505 there was no sign of the flight and no announcement had been made. We asked the staff and they said the flight would be delayed by about 45 minutes due to a late incoming flight. It did not land until 1545. At 15.50 boarding started and we were loaded onto a bus. This left the terminal and we proceed to a plane that was 30 metres from where we started, as it was not safe for us to cross the road ourselves. The aircraft’s previous passengers were still coming off the plane so we were held until 1615. Boarding was quick and efficient, once it started, with those in rows 1-15 using the front steps and those in 16-30 using the rear.
I was in an exit row and the flight attendant explained in detail how to use the exit. I was surprised that at 1637 we pulled away and at 1648 we were airborne. It was a swift turnaround.
THE SEAT The A320 cabin has 180 seats fitted in a 3-3 configuration. Seats are allocated but you can pre-book them. The front and exit rows (12 and 13) cost INR300 (£4) and any other seat costs INR50 (68p). If you have the choice, avoid row 12 as the seats do not recline despite being on an exit. This is a modern plane so apart from the extra legroom all seats are the same and felt quite spacious in width. I was in row 13 so had an extra four inches of legroom, but even the normal seats seemed to be quite generous.
THE FLIGHT Having taken off about an hour late the crew quickly set about the in-flight service. There were two in-flight carts serving a selection of vegetarian and meat sandwiches and snacks at INR 130 (£1.77) or INR150 (£2). Crisps and biscuits were INR50 (70p) and soft drinks between INR30-60 (40-80p). Tea and coffee is not served. The crew were smart, friendly and professional. We quizzed one about the delay and she said the inbound flight was not able to take off due to an unidentified plane over Delhi. We suddenly realised that this was probably why there were two fighter jets so close to our plane.
ARRIVAL The flight caught up a bit of time landing just 35 minutes late. We were bussed to the terminal where it was a short walk to the carousel, and our bags appeared eight minutes later.
VERDICT Superb service and value. Not all low-cost airlines are equal but this one more than matches up. Apart from the delay and waiting on the bus, it was a pleasure to fly.
PRICE A mid-week return in March from IndiGo’s website starts at INR5,566 (£76).