Flight Plan

Bengaluru to Delhi: Why airBaltic’s chartered flight felt special

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on November 26, 2019 Published on November 26, 2019

Focus on small details and roomy aisle aside, getting to talk to the captain in the cockpit made it a novel experience

“Welcome on board this airBaltic flight operating between Bengaluru and Delhi” — this announcement by the pilot should have come as a surprise to those on the flight as international airlines do not connect two Indian cities, but it didn’t because we were aboard a special charter flight of the Latvia-based airline’s Airbus A-220 aircraft.

This was the ninth and final stop of the chartered flight in the Pacific Region and the Asia demonstration tour.

Before its final flight, the aircraft had flown to Vanuatu, Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, and Papua New Guinea, Indonesia. It has now returned to Riga, the headquarters of airBaltic from which Airbus leased the plane for its marketing and sales pitch. With a capacity of 145 seats, the aircraft falls in between the 40-70-seater ATR and the 180-seater Airbus A320 — the two planes commonly used by many airlines in India.

Airbus is pitching the A-220 as being ideal for the Indian government’s regional connectivity scheme.

The A-220 was earlier known as the C-Series aircraft, which the Canadian company Bombardier made. In 2017, Airbus announced a 50.1 per cent stake in Bombardier and renamed the aircraft the Airbus A-220.

Thoughtful additions

The first thing that strikes me when the flight takes off is how silent the aircraft is. Like the world’s biggest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A-380, I had to look out of the window to find out if we were airborne or not. The aircraft has a small business class — three seats on the left and two seats on the right. This is the configuration of seating throughout the 140-seater aircraft.

What distinguishes the business class from economy is that, in the premium cabin, the middle seat in the three-seat configuration is blocked so passengers get more space (GoAir provides this version of premium cabin on its aircraft).

The focus on small details on the A-220 catches the eye. For example, in economy, there are two small elastic pockets that are big enough to accommodate a small bottle of water and your mobile phone. In addition, the food tray on the seatback stretches out and has two positions which makes eating easier. Above all the seats is a small television on which flyers can watch the flight path. This is something many aircraft have but unlike most aircraft, on the A-220, the TV is so positioned that it is visible from almost any part of the aircraft

Another thing that stands out is the width of the aisle. Walking up and down the aircraft even when the crew is pushing the food trolley is effortless. However, given the plane’s size, those over 6.5 feet tall might find it difficult to stand without touching the roof and some might find the seats a trifle uncomfortable. My favourite is the size of the rest room. It is huge and unlike other aircraft its door opens outwards (in most other aircraft the door to the door opens inwards making the already cramped space more cramped).

A running commentary

Being on a chartered flight meant that the cockpit door was kept open and passengers were allowed to walk into the cockpit and see outside. “We are flying over Hyderabad,” the Captain said, before breaking off to answer the call from the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) in Chennai when I walked into the cockpit. “Received and followed. Good evening tower,” he said, taking off his headphone.

Seeing the surprised look on my face he explained that over flight traffic on this route was handled by Chennai. I was given a run-down of the flight, including how much fuel was being consumed, which cities we were going to fly over, which cities will fall to the right and left during the flight before being told that the aircraft will touch down on runway 29 in Delhi and the temperature in Delhi was 26 degree celcius.

“We will know when we are close as we are expecting to see smog from the sky,” the Captain said, reminding me that I am heading back to the city which is among the 10 most polluted in the world.

This correspondent was on board the A-220 at the invitation of Airbus

Published on November 26, 2019
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