Winston Aldworth flies aboard IndiGo flight 6E302 going from Chennai to Hyderabad.
An Airbus A320-200. IndiGo operates 128 of these classic short-haulers.
Airport experience: With a couple of hours to kill at Chennai Airport's domestic terminal, we knocked back a curry at the Copper Chimney restaurant — it's upstairs on level two. The food is tasty enough, but pretty much set to Western taste buds; you'll get far more interesting (and delicious) food away from major transport hubs in India. One wizened travel writer in our group noted that the toilets next door were "the cleanest toilets I've ever seen at an airport in India".
The Irish House does such a first-rate job of serving forgettable pre-flight pints you could imagine you're in a generic airport-terminal Irish pub anywhere in the world. My seat: It took a bit of sign language with the helpful bloke at the self-check-in terminal to get me out of the middle seat. But this is India, where pretty much everyone wants to be helpful... with the exception of the guy at the boarding gate, who bounced me back into the middle.
Class: All 180 seats are Economy.
Flight time: 1hr, 45m. Prompt departure and sharp at the disembarkation.
How full: A handful of empties. These are busy skies.
Fellow travellers: Plane-nerd nirvana! I was seated next to an expat captain returning to his hometown in Hyderabad after working a busy three-flight shift (for another carrier, not IndiGo). My chatty seatmate shared his cashews along with fascinating stories of working the Indian skies. He's a solid Boeing man — and gleefully ran through the A320's safety failings as we, er, flew along in an A320.
"Too many computers in Airbus." This despite the recent 737MAX disasters. It needs to be resolved and has been badly handled, he said, "but it's still a better aeroplane". To boot, he observed that many Asian carriers were taking on board too many inexperienced first officers.
There was much to discuss about the business of Indian aviation — following the recent grounding of Jet Airways a couple of their disused planes were sitting on the tarmac at Chennai. Pointing out the window mid-flight he noted the clear line in the sky where the dense, dark smog and air pollution seemed to stop. "The difference is temperature," he said. "Too high is too cold for the pollution. It's clean up there."
He'd landed in Jaipur that morning in dense smog. "It scares me," he said. "Because you can't see the runway clearly?" I asked. "No! We have instruments for that — I'm scared of breathing the stuff once we've landed!"
Food and drink: The captain's cashews had a tangy crunch.
Toilets: Not for me, thanks.
The service: The cabin staff were fine and friendly throughout. I noticed the captain had been allowed to board earlier and seemed to receive a little more attention and a few more smiles, even though he flew for a rival carrier. Solidarity among flyers!
Entertainment: It's not really entertainment, but I found a Braille safety card tucked into the seatback.
Ask the crew and they'll bring one to you.
Final word: Airlines could charge extra for plane nerds to have the opportunity to sit next to commuting flight deck and cabin crew.