Air India A321 Economy Class ReviewIndia’s debt-riddled national carrier may not have the best reputation. In fact, the CEO’s message on page 3 of the Air India in-flight magazine even acknowledges that “at times our services fall short of your expectations”. So, just how bad could Air India Economy class be for a one-hour domestic flight? I decided to find out…

Flight Details

Flight number AI492
Route Jaipur (JAI) to Delhi (DEL)
Aircraft type Airbus A321
Class of travel Economy
Seat number 26A
Route on-time performance 70% (my flight arrived 12 minutes late)
Star rating 2 stars out of 5

The Route

AI492 route

Flight Cost

This flight cost $60 for a one-way Economy class ticket. For what it’s worth, I was unable to book on the Air India website despite many attempts and ended up having to use a travel agent.

Airport Experience

I’m sorry to say that the airport experience in Jaipur was terrible. Although, in fairness, Jaipur is not a hub airport for Air India and some of the problems I experienced were not unique to the airline.

Before I could enter the airport terminal, I had to show my ticket, ID and get my suitcase x-rayed. (This is a standard procedure at all Indian airports.) Once inside the airport, I had to queue for 15 minutes to get my suitcase x-rayed again. This time, a security sticker was placed on my bag so that I could check it in.

There were only three check-in counters open, meaning I waited for half an hour in the queue to check in. After ten minutes in the queue, I think I was even further back in the line than when I started thanks to several queue-jumpers. One of the lines was marked as “executive class”, and as a Star Alliance Gold member I should have been able to use this. But the signage was useless as this was not being enforced whatsoever, and this queue was just as long (and slow) as the others.

I was informed at check-in that as a “gold card holder” I was entitled to 50% off an upgrade to Business class, which I could have for 4,500 rupees (around $92). It was only a short flight, so I declined.

I was handed a lounge invitation and cleared security. I tried following the terminal signs to the “C.I.P. Lounge”, but it was nowhere to be found! I scoured the entire terminal twice and could not find any lounge. In the end, it didn’t matter because it took so long to check in that the flight was almost boarding.

The first boarding announcement was a combined call for “business class, gold card holders and rows 20-32”. There was a huge queue and priority boarding was not enforced. I almost felt like I was flying on Qantas for a moment.

The Hard Product

On the Air India Airbus A321, there are 3 rows of Business class recliner seats in a 2-2 configuration. This is followed by 29 rows of Economy in a standard 3-3 configuration. Although the cabin looked a bit worn and had not been cleaned that well from the previous flight, I did like the bright red and orange colour scheme.

Air India advertises that it offers the most legroom in Economy class of any domestic airline in India. I can believe this, as the legroom was actually quite reasonable at 31-32 inches.

Legroom in Air India A321 Economy class
Legroom in Air India A321 Economy class

However, the seat was extraordinarily uncomfortable to actually sit in. There was almost no padding in the seat back, and I had a sore back after barely five minutes. It was tolerable for a one-hour domestic flight, but this aircraft had also been used on an overnight flight from the Middle East that same day. That would have been a truly uncomfortable experience in Economy class!

The Air India A321 had seat-back in-flight entertainment screens fitted at each seat, but these were not operational and most had been covered over with a cloth covering. There was no other entertainment except for the in-flight magazine.

The Soft Product

The Air India cabin crew mostly looked miserable and did not smile. The lady sitting in front of me did not fasten her seatbelt for the entire flight, and the crew did not notice or say anything.

After take-off, there was an announcement about the usual safety stuff, as well as an advertisement for the Flying Returns frequent flyer program, the Air India website and a reminder to “please keep the washrooms clean”.

There was no cabin service of any kind, nor were food or drinks available for sale. This could be due to the short flight time, though. I believe Air India serves meals on longer flights.

Quite honestly, there was nothing enjoyable about this flight. At least it was faster than the train!

Arrival Experience

We arrived at a stand-off bay in Delhi and had to be bussed into the terminal. I think the only real benefit I got from my Star Alliance status on this flight was a priority tag on my luggage… yet I still waited nearly an hour for my luggage to arrive.

Air India A321 Economy Class
  • Airport Experience
  • Hard Product
  • Soft Product
2

Final thoughts

Air India got me to my destination (almost) on time, for a relatively good price. That’s pretty much the extent of the service provided. This was not an enjoyable flight.

________________________

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]

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samh004

My mother and sister will be flying AI DEL-UDR-DEL in early January, but opted for business class instead so I will be interested to hear how their experience differs to yours.

Andrew

Don’t you mean;
“Hope to hear their experience differs to yours”?

Ian

I flew AI MAA-DEL last night on an A321. 9A is a great seat as there is no 8A, so unlimited legroom, and it was only a couple of dollars extra. Seat was awful – mid back was hard plastic with no padding at all, which got painful fast. We were served a meal. Only one option – a couple of veggie cakes with corn, plus dessert. Very uninspiring and small, but OK as a snack. I also had priority tags on my bags – one was quick, the other two took maybe half an hour (including the belt just… Read more »

John Honey

My comments would be out of date as I flew from Rome to Perth on a milk runway back in 1972. Interestingly, nothing seems to have changed.

Boratri

No change then at least not for 50 years. In fact I think 50 years ago they may have been better when they took pride in their “flying carpet” standard of service. These days I suspect the staff feel so superior to their clients that they don’t feel the need to smile or supply the necessary service. I travel to India quite regularly so know the feeling about queue jumping. The answer is to travel any airline except Air India (at least domestically). We took a group of 18 friends and family to India last year and did a couple… Read more »