After taking a good number of domestic flights in business class with Vistara and Air India, I thought I'd mix things up a little by booking with SpiceJet. My flight from Delhi to Goa was a good opportunity to review whether SpiceMAX was worth the money.
Delhi (DEL) T3 - Goa (GOI)
Date: November 27, 2020
Aircraft: Boeing 737 - 800
I booked this ticket through the SpiceJet website over a week in advance from taking this flight. I paid a sum of INR 8,511 (USD 115) for this one-way flight from Delhi to Goa, which included a small premium of around INR 1,000 (USD 14) for the upgrade to SpiceMAX.
After purchase, I was hit with a menu of up-sell products (including SpiceMax, which was a little strange seeing as I'd already paid for it).
About SpiceJet and SpiceMAX
SpiceJet is a Delhi-based low-cost airline that has been flying since 2005. Its all-short-haul fleet comprises Boeing 737s (800 and 900 variants), Boeing 737-Max 8 aircraft, Boeing 737-700s and a large number (32) of De Havilland Canada DHC-8s (turboprops).
The airline has an extensive route network in India, but also flies internationally to destinations including Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Thailand.
SpiceMax is the premium bundle offering from SpiceJet which included a choice of seats in the first few rows of the cabin I was flying on the day. The published benefits of SpiceMax are:
- Extra space between seats
- Shorter queues with priority check-in
- Quick boarding with priority boarding
- Lesser waiting time with priority baggage delivery
- Complimentary meal with beverage
On its website, SpiceJet advertises the following rates for upgrades to SpiceMax, starting from INR 799 (USD 11) for domestic routes in India.
The package includes some of the benefits you'd expect when flying business class, though continue reading to find out whether SpiceMAX comes close to a business class experience.
At Delhi airport
I took an Uber from Taj Palace, New Delhi to get to the airport, which was a 15-20 minutes drive. I arrived at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport at 1.30pm, well in advance of my flight.
SpiceJet passengers had to enter from gate 2, but there was a really long queue.
After about 10 minutes waiting, I was finally able to get my e-boarding pass and ID checked by the security personnel, who was standing behind a protective glass, before stepping into the airport.
My temperature was checked before I did that, and this is also where they check the Aarogya Setu app though security didn’t ask for it to be shown on the day. I was curious to know why, and upon asking, was told: “If we start checking the app on everyone, half of the people will miss their flights.” So, presumably they are only checking the app when there aren't many passengers...
Once inside, I headed to the SpiceMAX counter and it didn’t take much time for my turn as there was only one person before me in the queue. If you haven’t checked in over the web, you will be required to pay an additional INR 100 (USD 1.5) for the printing of a boarding pass and baggage tag.
I had already checked-in online, and had received copies of my e-boarding pass and baggage tag. The e-copy was enough and no physical boarding pass or baggage tag was printed at the counter. I gave my check-in baggage and headed towards the security check.
Note that SpiceMAX passengers do not get priority treatment at security. The security personnel asked for the e-boarding pass to be displayed on the phone, so he could scan it before letting us move towards the body scanners.
I finally cleared security at 2.10pm.
The most annoying thing happened as I almost reached gate 47 (as indicated on the e-boarding pass), I received a text message from SpiceJet stating that my flight had been moved to gate 42.
It would have been highly appreciated if they could have sent that text sooner because I had to walk back to Gate 42, a bus gate located one level below.
After scanning my boarding pass at the gate, I picked up the PPE kit that contained a face shield, mask and hand gel sachets.
I got on the bus that took us to the aircraft and social distancing was properly maintained here, maybe because I was among the last few passengers boarding the aircraft.
Once we arrived at the aircraft, I noticed that it still featured part of the old Jet Airways livery (SpiceJet acquired a number of aircraft from Jet Airways following the latter going out of business).
SpiceMAX 737 review
All thanks to late intimation regarding the change in gate, I was one of the last passengers to board the aircraft, which was occupied to capacity. Thankfully I was in the first row and so I didn’t have to cross a lot of people to get to my seat.
I noticed that the first four rows were in red upholstery, unlike the rest, which were in blue. A crew member informed me that all the red seats were for MAX customers.
This seat was a regular economy seat with extra leg room. Keeping the current scenario in mind, social distancing was tough to maintain here as all the seats were taken and there was almost no gap between me and the next passenger.
These seats had an additional seat pitch of 35 inches (an additional six inches compared to the regular seats) and the front row has the most leg room of all the MAX seats. However, I’d suggest you pick seats on the left hand side (1A, 1B, and 1C) over those on the right (1D, 1E, and 1F) because this side had more leg space on this aircraft.
After I boarded, water bottles were provided, and in-flight announcements were made soon after. We finally took off at 3.26pm, which was later than the scheduled departure time.
I decided to check out the lavatory once the seatbelt signs were turned off. The light wasn’t working inside so I had to use the torch on my phone. There was only handwash provided.
Meal service was provided at 3.50pm and food boxes were given out. It included kadai paneer (a cottage cheese curry), a piece of bread, and ‘motichoor’ cake (an Indian sweet made of gram flour then fried in ghee) for dessert.
The food was much better than what I had expected. While the quantity was comparatively less than what I received while flying Vistara 737 business class, it was enough.
Apart from the packed juice that came with the meal, there was no drinks service.
While having my food, I streamed a movie on the SpiceJet inflight entertainment website using the wifi onboard. It had a decent collection of movies, TV shows and games. The wifi was limited to streaming the SpiceJet IFE and it couldn’t be used for browsing.
I continued watching the movie after my meal, until the landing announcement was made at around 5.10pm. We finally touched down in Goa at 5.30pm - ten minutes late - and it wasn't a particularly smooth landing.
I stayed back in the aircraft after all the passengers had deboarded, to get a few good clicks of the cabin, but the ground staff objected to that as this was a defence airport and they had strict protocols in place.
I went to collect my bag and was pleased to see it was already on the belt by the time I reached. Goa airport is comparatively smaller than those in Mumbai and Delhi, so I was soon out of the airport and on my way to begin my Airbnb experience.
The overall flight experience was average, as you would expect on a normal domestic flight. I did feel that the SpiceMAX upgrade is worth paying, because of the meal service, extra legroom, and priority boarding and luggage.
Just keep your expectations in check: If you are expecting it to be like a business class experience, then let me tell you that it is NOT. You're still getting an economy seat, and a fellow passenger (or passengers) sitting directly beside you.
Have you flown SpiceMAX? What are your thoughts about it?