Having very little time in India and a lot of must-see places on the bucket-list, one should eventually end-up using air travel as the main mean of transportation. It’s not only safe and cheap, but also very time-efficient. As trains or buses in India are usually very slow, taking a flight to reach your destination is the other safe and reliable alternative. A train will arrive you into Delhi in approximately 21 hours, while a flight will get you there in less than two hours.
The last couple of years in my home country, prior to my arrival into India, we’d used a couple of the European-based no-frills airlines for our holidays. Ryanair and Easyjet have been there for us and these reliable airlines had offered us a very broad reach of European destinations. However, one should always be very careful while purchasing tickets. A moment of distraction during the sales customer-journey could end up in purchasing an unnecessary cancellation insurance or one of the other paid add-ons, which are usually included if you fly with traditional airlines.
Having taken a lot of flights in India now, one could say that I’m an experienced domestic traveler. Here are some of my observations about flying in India:
- Spicejet and Indigo are the reliable equivalents in India of the European bases Ryanair and EasyJet. With over 46 million passengers carried in 2017, Indigo is one of the largest airlines in Asia. It has a fleet of 143 planes and an order to purchade 400 more. The company was founded in 2006. The much smaller Spicejet is Indigo’s big rival, also offering no-frills air travels. Its fleets consist of 47 airplanes and they’ve ordered 180 more.
- There are some good airports, but most of them doesn’t meetup with the western standards. Having travelled in India more than finve times, I’ve had my fair share of spending time at Indian airports. One of the worst ones has been renewed a couple of years ago. The Goa Airport (Dabolim) was nothing more than a bunker while we were there back in the 90’s. Some of the smaller airports are actually really ‘bad’ and Pune Airport is on the top of my ‘Airports to avoid list’. Once you cross the security, there is no proper place to have some food or drinks, not to mention the very disgusting toilets and lack of good seating facilities.
- Flying in India is relatively cheap, but operators have introduced pricing based on supply and demands. One could buy a return ticket to Goa for less than 100 euro’s, which is little less than a one hour’s flight. But this price could easily double during the peak season. However, generally flying is not very costly in India.
- Once you’ve checked in your check-in luggage, there is no way to go outside for a smoke or a quick snack. The very famous Upsouth has recently opened an outlet at Pune Airport, offering South-Indian snacks. Another good pick in Pune is a 24/7 outlet which offers travelers a very wide variety of snacks and excellent chai. Unfortunately, it is not possible to eat at any of these restaurants after one has checked in. Apparently, the Indian government has implemented a weird rule, not allowing airports-guests to leave the hall after entering. Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad are all offering good food at the airports, but the food-options at a lot of the other airports are very limited
- There is a separate security line for women at every airport. Having lived in India for over 16 months now, it doesn’t feel weird at all to have two separate security lines. And why not? It’s actually really good to protect women in India while doing the security checks.
- To ‘meet the standards of travelers’, some Indigo-flight attendant are requested to wear a wig. It was only after a couple of flights with Indigo, that I noticed something weird; both of the front serving flight attendants actually had the exact same haircut, a 60’s-like bob. As the airplane wasn’t moving yet, I immediately went online to find out the story about a weird corporate policy which describes the agreeable hairstyles. Flight attendants without the apropiate hair should wear a wig and the hair design options are very limited…
- Conservative Sikh people will carry a kirpan, a big religious dagger. I heard a story that some domestic airlines used to allow these people to carry it during the flight. A very small percentage of the Sikh population (men) are always found carrying a kirpan, a big dagger. I’ve seen many Sikh people in or around offices with a Kirpan, and it will always be a strange sight for me to see someone carrying something so dangerous. However, I heard a weird (non-confirmed) story that some domestic airlines used to allow these people to carry it on board the flight.
- Despite the very new fleets there is a big change of flying in old propeller-engine aircraft. I’m not a big fan of flying domestic with JetAirways (a lot of delays). However, for some destinations there is no other option. During one of those trips, I got the opportunity to fly in a very old aircraft. It was flown by an old German pilot and I’ve imagined that they couldn’t find any modern Indian pilot to fly such an old baby.
- The check in process consists of a lot of extra checks. Like everywhere in India, passing trough security for entering a mall or else, one needs to pass a lot of checks. In some cases there is a check to check if the previous check has been done properly. So, don’t be surprised if you need to show your boarding pass again and again.
- For domestic travels, I don’t carry my passport. It felt very weird the first time, but I’ve now decided to carry only my Indian ID-card (Aadhar) with me during domestic travels. The airport authority launched has issued a list of 10 identifiable documents that can be used as proof of your identity and to gain entry to the airport.
As mentioned earlier in this blog, I would advise travellers to take a flight for everything trip that will cost you about 7-8 hours on the road or by train. Travelling by train in India is an unforgettable experience, but it will save you a lot of time when you take a plane instead of a train.