Air India : AI 557 Review

It’s a foggy day. Visibility is under 50 meters. Result ? All flights to and from Chennai or either diverted or delayed. And it was a perfect opportunity to study the operations when huge delay occurs.

AI 557 from Chennai to Trichy was scheduled for departure at 7:35 AM. But as people started to burn stuffs for Bhogi, the little fog soon got converted into a think cloud of smog. As a result, all flights from 3:30 AM at Chennai International was delayed. So, unaware of the news I checked in for the flight. The check in was smooth. No hassels. But I would have appreciated if the kept a check in counter for Star Alliance Frequent Flyer members. The has the counter, but it was simply ignored and was used as a normal check in counter. Something that I haven’t seen in other Star Alliance flights.

Fog at Chennai International

Well, apart from check in everything was a problem. I would say those problems may not have happened if it was a routine day. But a airlines performance is judged from their actions at times like these. Before Air India flight to Trichy, AI had flights to Delhi (2 flights), Mumbai ,Coimbatore and Port Blair. Gate Number for every flight mentioned above was 11 including mine. Well that’s not a biggie, most airlines tend to follow that policy. The problem started in the flight information display. Chennai International is a silent airport meaning no boarding calls would be made and all things would be updated in the display boards. But the flight to Coimbatore had the number and time of flight to Trichy and there started the confusion. Trichy flight wasn’t in the information board at all. It confused me and a lot of passengers and many started to doubt if they have missed the flight. With no information from the boards, you have to depend on information from the ground staff and their answer whenever you ask the question is “10 more minutes sir.” (People started to ask questions after the fog cleared and flight operations were slowly returning to normal).

See, there is no standard rule to be followed when a flight is delayed. But however, airlines are required to inform the passengers of delay if the delay time is more than 2 hours. Some airlines in order to ease the anger of the passengers give out food coupons and longue to rest on. Some airlines book hotels near the airport if the delay is too long. But airlines are required to issue you a full refund upon request if there is a high delay. The term “high delay” varies from airlines to airlines. Being said, Air India didn’t announce delay of any sort to the aircraft. The expected departure time was changed from 7:30 to 9:30 then to 10:30 until 12 when the boarding actually started.

So, there was delays. And there was no information of how long the delay might actually be. The next major issue was lack of training to staffs in every way. Well, there should be a protocol that has to be followed when there is a delay. But there, AI just seemed to think up of some at that time. In order to board the flights soon, the staff allowed passengers to both Port Blair and Delhi to enter the gate at the same time. There was confusion among passengers to which bus they have to board to get to their flight as there was no staff there to assist them. Second, there was simultaneous boarding at two gates which was next to each other. There was no display what so ever to give information of which gate is boarding which plane. And there was confusion in the staff even to know what plane the line was for. One person after standing for 5 minutes in a line found out that it was the wrong line only after the boarding pass was scanned. That’s ridiculous. No wonder people get angry at Air India.

Second lack of training could be seen from the air hostess. See, ATR have two doors at the back. One for servicing and other for boarding. The boarding doors should be handled by flight crew and would be opened after getting clearance of engine shut down and the service doors should be opened by Ground crew. That’s where the fun happened. The air hostess opened the service door after landing, the she shouldn’t open and that too she opened it when the engines were still running. That gave a surprise to ground staff and they were angry and commotion started much to amaze the passengers.

There was a hissing sound like if air was seeping out from the cabin doors not only it amazed and shocked the passengers, it also shocked the flight crew, who only reported of the seeping after the flight landed. I don’t know that the rule was here, but shouldn’t she inform the captain of the flight first when the issue started ? I don’t know.

The seats were old. Many were broken. I get it Alliance Air is budget subsidiary of Air India to connect regional cities. But the condition of the aircraft seemed much worse. After more than hours of delay and no food (As many passengers including me were not ready to leave the gate to get food from stalls as we didn’t know when the boarding would start) , Air India as a courtesy could have given water in the flight. There was vegetarian refreshment service in the flight. But it was suspended due to the delay. At last no food.

ATR was old. The trip was bumpy. It’s ATR’s what to expect more from them. (You too Indigo ??!! )

Being a Star Alliance member I didn’t expect this from Air India. One good thing about Air India ? The did book tickets on other flights for passengers who missed their connections.

Review of the trip ? Delays were okay. Fog is to blame. But the ground support was bad. I would give 2/5. 2 is because they took steps to help passengers who missed their connections and the passengers who missed the flights in the rush up.