Today was a momentous day for IndiGo given the launch of the IndiGo ATR ops. The airline which has been growing at a fast clip, opening stations like no other airline in India. We have to credit them for making on-time flying possible for many new places on the Indian aviation map.
However, IndiGo has also grown big enough to now having newer ambitions. One of those was to connect with newer, smaller cities and towns where there was not enough traffic to fill up an Airbus A320 family plane on a daily basis. And for that, they engaged the ATR turboprops, which they have 50 of on order now.
IndiGo received their first ATR a few days ago, and today was the formal launch of the ATR operations. In the first set of rotations, IndiGo is plying the first plane on a Hyderabad – Mangalore – Chennai and return rotation and a flight to Nagpur afterwards.
As more planes join the fleet, operations will expand and newer centres will open. I’d imagine some of those would also be guided by their participation in the UDAN scheme as well to get slots at various airports.
IndiGo ATR Launch
IndiGo had big plans for this day, so I flew in last night from Mumbai to ensure I was in time for the festivities. I’d booked my tickets on the day IndiGo announced tickets were up for sale.
I walked into the terminal building at Hyderabad at about 5 AM and found a separate set of counters decorated for the first flight of the ATR operations. No one was issuing boarding passes just yet.
Soon enough, there was a lighting of the lamp by IndiGo top brass and government representatives, and then they started rolling out the boarding passes. Someone had flown in from Delhi with his dad to be the first passenger on this flight, so after they got the privileged check-in, I walked up to the counter my boarding pass. I had already allocated 3F for myself, so I just had to collect the Boarding Pass.
Alongside, however, came a bag of goodies from IndiGo, which included a coffee mug, a notebook and keychains. But the best part was the inaugural flight certificate. One for the keeps.
Subsequently, we went through security check and by the time we reached airside, boarding was announced. IndiGo was boarding by rows.
So, after scanning in the boarding pass, I was on my way to the bus, but not before I was handed out a nice piece of cake for the flight!
Hyderabad (HYD) – Mangalore(IXE)
Thursday, December 21, 2017
Departure: 06:59 AM
Arrival: 09:18 AM
Flight Duration: 02 hr 19 min
Distance flown: 379 miles
Aircraft Type: ATR 72-600
Seat: 3A (Economy)
Meal Service: Buy-on-board
Around the aircraft, there were tonnes of people buzzing. Almost all of IndiGo’s local ground operations team had turned up to get the new flight on its way. And then there were all the passengers who wanted to take pictures, including, of course, yours truly.
I have to admit, I’ve never been on a shiny new ATR turboprop. This was the same plane I’d met in Toulouse when on my tour to the Airbus delivery centre with Vistara, and finally it was great to be able to set foot on the first flight as well.
And then, to set foot inside, there was the usual IndiGo ramp rather than the step ladder, and you get a blue-carpet welcome on board.
Here is how the cabin looked from the inside.
Like you can see, the seats are all similar to the IndiGo A320 family seats, along with the familiar headrest which has the IndiGo logo on top of it. There are 74 seats for the passengers. Seats are in a 2×2 layout, and the best places to sit are either in the front or the back of the plane. I don’t like to sit on the wings of this one given there is a lot of noise.
The seats right at the front of the cabin face the entire cabin. In case you want to travel as a family, you could have 4 seats facing each other. For whatever reason, these seats have a higher height for the headrest as compared to the rest of the seats.
However, there is also trouble with this approach which may be a problem. Families with kids would be the ideal people to take these seats. But with Emergency Exit right there, that won’t be possible. So, let’s see how this evolves over a period of time.
The overhead bins are spacious.
Good enough to actually put in a roller board like I observed. But do not bank on bringing a roller board on these flights since more often than not you will have to gate check them in.
Coming back to the seats, they have some very good padding for a 2-hour long sector. Appreciate it. Also, there is very good leg room due to the use of seats where the headrest stores the mandatory briefing inserts. I did not carry my measuring tape along, but I can tell you for a broad fellow like me, I was not uncomfortable during the flight or fighting with my seatmate for shoulder space.
The new ATR overhead layout is actually pretty good. You have individual airflow wents and nice reading lights for everyone. However, no reading material as the IndiGo “Hello 6E” Magazine is not being stocked on the ATR flights perhaps due to weight optimisation.
We were on our way before time actually, and like I mentioned before, IndiGo was in full strength to say the first goodbye! In command of the plane was an IndiGo captain, and along with him was a pilot on deputation from ATR to help IndiGo kickstart their operations.
And met a couple of the peers along the way on the taxiway who were all over the airport.
Within no time, we were on our way after a 5-minute taxi around Hyderabad Airport. We flew at 18000 feet above sea level most of the time.
Once we levelled out, both the cabin crew brought out the meal cart. Given IndiGo sells meals on the plane, you could buy on board. Important to note that the menu is a smaller version than the A320 operations. And you can always book your meal selection on the website ahead of the flight.
If you don’t want to buy a meal, there is free water of course! I’d been eating all night given my delayed departure from Mumbai and then the transit lounge in Hyderabad, so I wasn’t hungry at this moment.
I hopped into the back of the plane to check out the loo. Perfectly okay for a broad and average Indian height male like me.
We got some great views along the way, and shortly after, it was time to get ready to arrive in Mangalore. On landing, we got a water cannon salute. One of those #avgeek moments. Then, it was time to leave the plane and hand it over to the next passengers.
While there will be learnings for IndiGo as they go regional, this is a solid start. For short-haul, regional flying you don’t need as much in terms of #paxex, and hence turnaround can be quicker. They managed to have a perfect first flight, and given the IndiGo experience is usually consistent, this should be what you expect on every flight going forward.
Have you experienced the IndiGo ATR flights yet? What do you think?
Full disclosure, we paid for our own tickets to fly to & fro to experience the product and of course, for the IndiGo ATR ticket as well.