This December, I had a chance to fly Air Costa, one of the newer airlines to operate in India. I travelled from Jaipur to Bangalore and my first impressions are fairly positive. A year before, in December 2013, I had chosen a larger airline to fly on the same route although Air Costa’s prices were the lowest when I booked. But I was unsure about travelling with a small and new airline and decided to play safe. This time, when a flight search showed up low-fares on Air Costa again, I decided to take it.
It has been more than a year since Air Costa is operating. They are currently connecting nine cities across India, mostly in the south except Ahmedabad and Jaipur. Here is a quick look at my first impressions of the airline.
This is one area where Air Costa scores very high. With their smaller Brazilian made Embraer Aircraft, none of their flights have middle seats. The 2+2 seating relieves the pain of getting sandwiched between two other passengers in a cramped fuselage. The interiors feel lot less claustrophobic and lot more comfortable than most long haul flights.
The cabin is fairly clean and well-kept. They do not have an in-flight magazine to kill time, so don’t forget to pack a book or two for the way. I did not take a look at the luggage space above, since I almost always leave my bag under the seat. But with only 4 passengers per row instead of six, I expect there shouldn’t be a need to rush and board first to find enough space for your baggage.
When it comes to space and legroom, it appeared that Air Costa fares well. I haven’t felt particularly inconvenienced in any aircraft and same was true with my Air Costa flight too. But with just two seats instead of three, I felt that I had a lot more space around me. Comfort level of the seats are on par with other airlines.
On board experience
Air Costa is a low-cost airline, so do not expect complementary refreshments or attentive service. The crew are fairly competent although I wouldn’t rate them best in class. The captain of my aircraft made it a point to address the passengers at the beginning, mid-way and at the end, which seems to have become a standard practice for most domestic airlines now.
There aren’t a lot of choices in the on-board menu. But prices are much less than other airlines.
There wasn’t anything particularly exciting about the on board experience. There wasn’t anything to complain either.
On time performance
My aircraft took off from Jaipur in good time. Being a smaller aircraft, boarding was complete much faster than what it would take for an A320 or B737. Boarding was complete well before departure and I wished they took off early too, but they didn’t. We flew out of Jaipur in the exact hour and arrived in Bangalore a few minutes before the scheduled time.
Just one on-time departure may not be a good indication of on time performance of an airline. So, I looked up DGCA data for November 2014 for more information. DGCA doesn’t provide on time performance data for smaller airlines, but a few other statistics were interesting. In November 2014, Air Costa had –
- Zero cancellations against an industry average of 3.34% (much higher than normal, caused by a spike in cancellations by SpiceJet). Air Costa was the only airlines that had no cancellations in the entire month.
- 0.8 complaints for every 10,000 passengers against the industry average of 1.6. Only Indigo fared better.
- Air Costa was the only airline that suffered zero delays beyond two hours.
These statistics are excellent, but do note that these are for one month only. In October and September 2014, Air Costa had a considerably high cancellation rate although they suffered from very few passenger complaints.
One city where you can expect better on time performance from Air Costa is Jaipur in winter months. Between December and February, a large number of flights across North India get delayed or cancelled due to fog. This results in a chain-reaction where most major carriers suffer from delays in many sectors all through the day (and all through the season). Jaipur being at the edge of the desert suffers much less from fog compared to other cities such as Delhi and Chandigarh. Since Air Costa doesn’t fly to other destinations such as Delhi and Chandigarh, but only to Jaipur in North India, their flights are less likely to get affected from fog. On the day I was leaving Jaipur, many flights were getting endlessly delayed due to fog although my flight departed on time.
On another note, Air Costa flight appeared to cruise marginally faster than A320s and B737s, although I can’t say this with certainty. The captain of my flight announced that Jaipur to Bangalore is a 2.15 hours flight, and as I recall, that was accurate. As far as I can recall, other airlines take 5 to 10 minutes more on this sector. Even when I look at the schedule, most airlines mention the flying duration as 2.30 to 2.35 hours, while Air Costa’s schedule says 2.25 hours. But technical specifications of these aircrafts indicates that A320s/B737s can actually cruise faster.
Terminal Experience – Check in and baggage delivery
My check-in at Jaipur airport took a little longer than it should. The printer at my check-in counter had malfunctioned. After fiddling with it for a while, the person manning the counter got my boarding pass and baggage tag printed from the next counter. It took so long that the passengers waiting behind me got bored and moved on to other counters. On the brighter side, the queue was very small and had rarely more than 3 to 4 persons per counter at any point in time. So it was still way faster than waiting in a long queue of a bigger airline.
Baggage collection at Bangalore airport was also not efficient. It took very long for the bags to be delivered. So long that the Air Costa staff manning the baggage collection went to check why it is taking so long (which indicates that it doesn’t happen all the time). Again, there was a brighter side to it. With fewer passengers per aircraft, the usual melee around the belt was missing. Once the bags arrived, they were all dispensed quickly without any rush.
I found Air Costa tickets priced almost on par with other low-cost airlines. There are occasions where I have found cheapest tickets on Air Costa and at times not so. But the prices are generally lower than the full-fare carriers.
For those who prefer to carry their kitchens and bedrooms with them, Air Costa offers free check-in baggage of 20kg per person, against 15kg offered by most airlines. So you are less likely to pay a hefty premium for additional baggage.
The 2+2 seating on long-distance flights makes Air Costa a winner. On all other factors, Air Costa isn’t considerably different from any other low-cost carrier. If I have the option to fly multiple airlines on a route at almost similar budget, I am more likely to pick Air Costa. But if Air Costa option is priced noticeably above the cheapest option, I might just go with the cheapest.
Image courtesy: Sumeet Mulani on flickr