Just yesterday, I flew over to Delhi from Mumbai, yet again. I was originally scheduled to get into Delhi on AI101, which is perhaps one of my favourite flights given it gives me access to the Terminal 2 GVK Lounge, and I get to fly a Boeing 777-300ER between the 2 hour Mumbai Delhi segment (the flight further heads to New York from Delhi).

However, given that it is winters and Delhi has a massive fog problem, and I did not want to really really get into home middle of the night, I decided to change my plans. I now was going to depart from terminal 1A, from where Air India operates, and this meant I had access to the Air India Lounge as an Air India Golden Edge Member. This lounge is also available for all Star Alliance Gold members and The Maharaja Club Members of AI. There is a separate lounge for Air India Business Class passengers, not accessible by FFP members.

The lounge is situated pre-security, so you need to have enough time on hand to clear the security check and then roam around at the gates. This made it a bad option for me, but I wanted to try it out anyways for all of you.

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The Lounge was a pretty basic and small lounge. I’d never been here before, so I was all the more surprised to see a lounge for 16-18 passengers, only. Air India is the dominant carrier based at Terminal 1A, and I would have expected a bigger capacity lounge from them here.

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I was over in the morning, so they had a couple of Indian hot breakfast items like Chana-Parantha and Upma, along with vegetarian and non-vegetarian finger sandwiches and some bakery items. Apart from that, there was a choice of soft drinks (hot and cold).

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The lounge attendants stayed in the backdrop all the time, making a round every few minutes to clear the tables or ask if there was anything else I required. With this being an empty lounge and pre-security, I hardly stayed here for over half an hour to get some pictures, and then moved into the security hold area, where I could have gone to the Carnations Lounge or the American Express Lounge, but I was lazy and headed straight to the gate.

I don’t think I’d plan time for this lounge the next time I would be flying Air India domestically. It is a rudimentary lounge after all, but the pre-security location gives me some amount of anxiety.

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Posted by Ajay Awtaney | No Comments

Air Canada is throwing their ring in the hat for a pie of Indian aviation. With significant population of Indian origin, they are going to connect the Toronto – New Delhi route on a non-stop flight with a Boeing 787-9 as of November 2015.

As per Air Canada’s announcement today,  they are going to be the only airline to connect this long-haul market with a non-stop flight. The only other carriers on this route is India’s Jet Airways which operates via their Brussels hub. Unfortunately, there is no information about the timing of the flight at the moment, but this will be a three-class configuration flight, including Business, Premium Economy and Economy. The flight will be operated from November 1, 2015 four times a week. I guess, with one 787-9 plane, there is only that much services possible to start with.

Update: Immediately after I posted, Airlineroute.net managed to dig up the times:

AC050 YYZ2055 – 2115+1DEL 788 1
AC050 YYZ2055 – 2115+1DEL 789 357

AC051 DEL0045 – 0500YYZ 788 3
AC051 DEL0045 – 0500YYZ 789 247

That should make one more addition for the non-stop flights from North America to India, apart from the Air India ops between EWR, ORD, JFK and Indian stations. And of course, United non-stop between EWR & DEL/BOM.

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Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 5 Comments

I’ve recently been trying to use Air India off and on, given their Star Alliance membership, to try and test how they react in various circumstances and whether it is in line with Star Alliance requirements or not. Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not.

For instance, back in August, when I went with AI for my flight to Goa from Mumbai Terminal 2, AI offered me only one lounge access card, which made sure me and my fiancée could not go into the lounge together. As AI Golden Tier member and Star Alliance Gold, I was good for 2 passes due to the *A guidelines.

Just this past Saturday, I made a trip to Delhi on one of Air India’s 787 planes to Delhi from Mumbai Terminal 2. The reason this was not done for so long was because for a long while, AI did not put the 787 on Mumbai originating routes and I still don’t travel internationally with Air India.

I’ve known about Air India’s issues with the Boeing 787 for a long time, and the reason I booked this flight was to also check if I was going to be affected by these issues or not. AI has bought some of the early stage Boeing 787 planes, being one of the early customers of the plane, and these tend to be more heavy sometimes and not exactly everything is smoothened out on these planes.

Anyhow, I chose to fly Air India 348 from Mumbai to Delhi on the Mumbai – Delhi – Shanghai route, and the plane was supposed to board at 7:20 AM and take off at 7:50 AM. Except, the plane did not even board till 7:50 AM.

People, grappling with a lack of information, were frequently going over to ask AI agents about how various things would be handled, and AI agents had no answers to their questions. Factor this, people have connections from AI’s Delhi hub to Jammu, to Paris and to other places, and AI won’t let them know how would they make sure these people got on their once a day flights.

Till it came to this…

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With Air India, the agents were clueless, and they counted their job only as giving information to the passengers as per what emerged from the engineers on the plane, who told them that the plane had a mechanical issue and the flight won’t be able to take off.

First, they delayed the flight by 1 hour, and then by another 30 minutes, and in this meanwhile, the agents would vanish as fast as they could to avoid the crowds. Their response to connection queries… “we will send a message to our Delhi counterparts after the flight takes off.” That is so much reassurance folks, that you get to spend 24 hours in a different city if Air India acts on whim and does not hold the other flight for you, in spite of having issued you a boarding pass for the flight.

What should have really happened? Air India should have a formal plan in place for how to handle tight or missed connection flights, which customers would be rebooked on a later flight the same day, which customers would be rebooked on another carrier and so on. This formal plan would of course make sure the agents act according to this plan rather than just duck questions from the passengers.

About 8 years or so ago, Air India mishandled a flight of mine when I had no status on them, and this was a fog issue at Delhi airport, where they handled it so badly, making me wait 24 hours at the airport, that I did not get on an Air India plane for at least 5-6 years after that.

There are luxuries and their are basics. When a passenger has a ticket to go someplace on an airline, it becomes the airline’s responsibility to get him there and they owe their customers an answer. In this case, the airline just made a mess and all they did was to go further down in the eyes of their customers who think they are a big burden on the Indian taxpayer anyways.

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Posted by Ajay Awtaney | One Comment

Last week, I put out my first thoughts on the Air India Flying Returns’ program, after they joined in the Star Alliance. One of my first observations was that it is more expensive to burn on Star Alliance partners than to burn on Air India’s own metal for international travel. In the comments section, reader […]

Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 4 Comments

Air India has joined the Star Alliance today, culminating a seven-year long effort to get inside the world’s largest club of airlines. One of the things that also changes then, is the Flying Returns program, which will now offer earn and burn opportunities across the Star Alliance network of airlines. I had indicated earlier in […]

Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 14 Comments

The big day is still about 12-15 hours away, but Air India seems to be ready this time to join the Star Alliance. In 2011, they were jilted at the altar, and now Star Alliance and Air India have kissed and made up. Here are a couple of pictures of the Air India A320 VT-ESF, […]

Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 3 Comments

While I have not been on an Air India plane in about 40 days or more now, Air India is now about 4 days away from getting inducted into the Star Alliance, and first pictures have begin to emerge of how they are sporting the logo on their livery and around the airline. This looks […]

Posted by Ajay Awtaney | One Comment

Air India has been working to get ready for the Star Alliance, and one of the common question I have been asked over the past few days was about the benefits that members will be able to get as Star Alliance elites. I had made a post last week about my expectation on what will […]

Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 4 Comments

Earlier this week, I put out the news about the official joining date for Air India to come into Star Alliance, the largest airline alliance. July 11, 2014 would be the day when they become the 27th airline to join the alliance. Readers have asked me over email and comments about the details of how […]

Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 11 Comments

My question seems to have been answered. Via the Mint newspaper, it seems like the CEO board of Star Alliance finally voted to receive Air India in their network, and Air India will be joining the network formally about 20 days from now: State-owned Air India Ltd will join the Star Alliance grouping on 11 […]

Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 7 Comments

I guess there is not much suspense left in this one, but I am still not saying it is done till it is done. If you remember, one of the earliest posts on this blog was about Air India being jilted from the Star Alliance. Now, their is much begging, pleasing and a lot of […]

Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 2 Comments

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