Air India Domestic Economy Review A319 New Delhi (DEL) to Agra (AGR) and American Express Centurion Lounge New Delhi
Air India gets a lot of flak for its sub-par long-haul economy and business class products. I wanted to try their domestic service for my trip to Agra. Air India runs an 'Express' from New Delhi to Varanasi, Agra, Khajuraho and back to New Delhi every other day.
The new Terminal 3 in New Delhi is a very modern airport terminal that has plenty of space for passengers (though sometimes there is too much walking). We had checked in online and a printed online boarding pass is good enough to fly domestic in India (unlike with the international departure section). Security was super quick (unlike the often crowded international side) and the terminal building is in even better shape than the international side.
There is an American Express Centurion Lounge that has an a la carte menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The entrance fee is US 3 cents - the agents use this to verify your card is actually active (and not canceled). The Platinum and Centurion cards do not need to be issued in India. I found some of the items served pretty good (though not great). The lounge just had about a dozen two-seater tables - so don't take a seat for granted!
There is also a Priority Pass Plaza Premium Lounge upstairs - it gets incredibly crowded because of its wide accessibility with local bank cards (and not just with Priority Pass).
Boarding was from the gate right behind the American Express Centurion and was just a few minutes late. Boarding announcements were impossible to understand and there was no signage either.
After initial hesitation, everyone just stormed the gate and cut in line. The sudden panic was unlike the peaceful terminal. The gate agents batted no eyelids at our 9kg carry-on Travelpros and the overhead space seemed barely utilized with the freebag policy the company has.
The A319 seemed somewhat clean though it certainly wasn't my favorite color code. There was plenty of leg space though - certainly more than on my previous Jet Airways flight to Nepal.
There were precious few useful interactions with the crew - everyone just rattled off their routine and the captain's announcements were hard to understand.
The monsoon season over India gave us a lot of bumps towardVaranasi and once on the ground, the plane would fill up with a huge tour group.
Agra Airport does not get a lot of flights - in fact, just Air India comes by every other day. The airport is actually on an active military base and you are not allowed to walk out, and the taxi mafia can take full advantage of you.
I felt this was a pleasant trip for a ticket price under $20 all in - cheaper than driving to Agra (not by much though).
You can book your Air India flight here.