Air India’s premium economy: How’s the experience on a long haul flight
I’ve been on all of AI’s 777-200LRs and a few 300ERs as well. Despite being older in age, the ex-Delta 200LRs appeared much much better maintained.
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The check-in experience on my return leg onboard AI180 was uneventful. It worked in my favour that I had pre-booked my seat. The queue was indeed long but not as long as the one I saw in SFO that was managing two flights worth of bags in one go. So I went over to my usual priority baggage drop counter and then a long wait ensued.
It is typically common sight at Air India check-in counters where a mobile phone-wielding powerful manager is constantly chirping on the phone while making their gate agents hit some buttons and navigate to some unknown hidden screens on their terminals. While I am not privy to understanding what they want to be done, these babu time managers are forgetting the fact that one check-in agent is at his mercy and not at his job of getting customers checked in. It wasn’t my first time experiencing this but there is a serious relook required at the hierarchical nature of these organizations. I once experienced an ultra-long wait at the check-in counter when I was connecting from international to domestic while the agent continued to take instructions from a manager trying to get his work done through.
At this time, the agent took a good amount of our time and finally after a 15-minute delay the two check-in counters turned to three and the check-in process started to gather pace. Another observation is that typically AI customers fly very very heavily. Think all baggage limits exhausted and all numbers exceeded in most times. While the check-in agents are very liberal in their approach for +/- 2-3 kgs, sometimes this holds on the queue for a far longer than expected time. A good solution might be to bring in a weighing agent that tags bags with Red or Green stickers to direct adhering passengers to the non-adhering ones so as to save time for people who go by the rules.
Thankfully my check-in agent was efficient and besides having a small minute or two long struggle to procure priority tags, I was out of the counter in under 4 minutes. Good work!
Security and immigration were swift at BOM and I was quickly heading to find my way to Adani’s East wing lounge. This one is hidden on the far left of the terminal as you get into the central part of the terminal. The way to find the lounge is to follow signs for Mcdonald’s. Note that this lounge is different from the West wing lounge reserved for First and Business class passengers.
The lounge offers brilliant views of the airside as you grab a snack or a wholesome bite from hot meals served from their buffet sections. Quickly managed to finish a beverage and meal as I walked down to the gate to be greeted by a full boarding area.
Got this shot of the same aircraft that got me to BOM flying out as AI179 in its service to San Francisco. Boarding started on time and owing to TSA regulations, a secondary baggage screening and passenger check is carried out here:
There was no boarding order or priority followed at BOM. Passengers were huddled across like bleating goats towards the holding area prior to boarding. I really really admire how Southwest carries out boarding without seat assignments or for that matter hard nosed staff at Lufthansa manages to get people on board with their set process. Admittedly, my short flight from Akasa to Bangalore left me surprised at how polite but firm their gate agents are with passengers for ensuring a zone-based boarding of their passengers. The amount of time saved in this is enormous. A lot of incentives and perks need to be determined by AI by ensuring that the gate agent’s performance is rated by their efficiency in ensuring the least time taken from the start till the end of the boarding process.
As I walked down the aero bridge, I got a good glance at the mammoth GE90 engines powering the VT-AEF. The GE90s remained undisputedly the largest jet engines ever used for 3 decades in a row. Each of these put out 115,000 lbs of thrust that propels the 777-200 LR to speeds north of a 1,000 km/h:
Fueling us for our ultra-long haul 8500 km odd journey:
Was a good sight to see the air hostess helping an aged passenger to the board:
This time I got a seat on the starboard side of the jet. Initially, I was a bit apprehensive to be seated here but in hindsight, it proved to be a great vantage point for clicking airborne pictures as we approached San Francisco:
A look at the stuck remote and seat adjustments in the armrest:
A clearer picture of seat controls. It is a delight to fly on a bright day. It is so much more fresher and energising as compared to a Red Eye.
A good process is one that can be consistently followed to derive the exact same results each time it is executed. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Air India. Remember how the chief of crew swung by my seat and introduced herself? She did that to all of the business class customers and folks holding an elevated frequent flyer status. This time around, no one showed up and the crew onboard AI179 was utterly cold but going about their jobs. No smiles, no courtesy but a simple cold turnaround of their duties. While I am not bothered by this at all, I am concerned that there is an utter lack of consistency in the way processes are followed as a part of cabin crew training.
Another positive sign was that there was a printed menu this time around and no one came by shouting “Veg or Non-veg” as many airliners typically do in their coach cabins. The quality of paper used was nice and the cards remained with us for whatever reasons till the end of our journey despite the meal service offered on these being limited to their lunch offerings:
The Tumi pouch again. I used the blinds and socks on my flight this time. It was bright outside and they helped immensely to put me off to sleep:
Oh, dear! The armrest has a small section for placing glasses/bottles on. It was FILTHY at the edges. No one bothered cleaning the aircraft carefully enough to ensure that this experience does not follow through on to the next flight. There were deposits of spilt drinks across the edge of this White tray:
We pushed back in time and waved goodbye to the sister craft the 787-9 Dreamliner:
Goodbye BOM tower:
Continue reading BHPian moralfibre’s Air India experience for more insights and information.
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