Review: Air India First Class 777 London To Delhi

Introduction
Review: Finnair Business Class A350 New York To Helsinki
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Review: Finnair Lounge Helsinki Airport
Review: Finnair Business Class A340 Helsinki To London
Review: Hilton London Heathrow Terminal 4
Review: Air India Lounge London Heathrow Airport
Review: Plaza Premium Lounge London Heathrow Airport Terminal 4
Review: Air India First Class 777 London To Delhi
Review: Air India’s AMAZING First Class Ground Experience In Delhi
Review: Air India Lounge Delhi Airport
Review: Air India First Class 777 Delhi To San Francisco


Air India 162
London (LHR) – Delhi (DEL)
Saturday, January 23
Depart: 8:45AM
Arrive: 10:25PM
Duration: 8hr10min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200LR
Seat: 1A (First Class)

I boarded through the second door on the left, where the flight attendant at the door escorted me to my seat upon seeing my first class boarding pass.

Since the cabin was still empty, I figured I’d grab a couple of quick pictures or Air India’s business class product.

On the 777-200LR, Air India has a total of 35 business class seats, spread across five rows in a 2-3-2 configuration. There are two rows of seats in front of the second door, and then the other three rows are behind that door.

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Air India business class cabin 777

Ultimately I’d say it’s not really a globally competitive product anymore, between the middle seat in business class and the angle of the seat. On top of that, the seats looked pretty worn and tired.

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Air India business class seats 777

On the plus side, the legroom seemed to be good, and the seatback TVs were quite large.

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Air India business class seats 777

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Air India 777 business class seats

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Air India 777 business class seats

After that I snapped some pictures of the first class cabin. First class on Air India’s 777-200LRs consists of a total of eight seats, spread across two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. If you were to fly a 777-300ER you’d have exactly the same product, though there would only be one row of first class (I agree it doesn’t make sense that the smaller plane has a bigger first class cabin, and Air India agrees as well, because they’re soon eliminating first class on the 777-200LR).

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Air India first class cabin 777

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Air India first class cabin

In terms of the “bones” of the seat, it reminded me a lot of Japan Airlines’ 777 first class. While it’s not the snazziest hard product in the world, it’s still quite comfortable.

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Air India first class cabin 777

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Air India 777 first class cabin

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Air India first class, seats 1D & 1G

I took a quick look at seat 2A, which I had selected for my connecting flight from Delhi to San Francisco.

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Air India first class, seat 2A

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Air India first class, seat 2A

However, for this flight I had selected seat 1A.

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Air India first class, seat 1A

This particular plane was only six years old, though you’d never know that based on the condition the seat was in. The fabric on the seat was extremely worn and stained, and the seat’s padding was horrible. That was possibly my biggest complaint about the hard product, actually.

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Air India first class, seat 1A

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Air India first class, seat 1A

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Air India first class, seat 1A

One cool feature of the seat is that there’s an “exposed” closet, which is spacious. You can easily hang quite a bit of stuff there, including a garment bag, potentially.

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Air India first class personal closet

The seat also had a decent amount of storage. At the very front of the seat was a shallow storage compartment, good for a pair of glasses or a phone.

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Air India first class storage

Behind the storage compartment was the tray table holder. The tray table was huge, and sort of tough to remove from its holder, given how heavy it was. It was also wobbly, and when fully “out” wasn’t a flat surface.

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Air India first class tray table

Past the tray table was another panel which opened, housing the entertainment controller, headphone jack, USB outlet, and 110v outlet.

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Air India first class entertainment controls, headphone jack, and outlet

The seat controller was in the left armrest of the seat.

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Air India first class seat controls

It was in embarrassingly bad shape…

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Air India first class seat controls

Waiting at my seat upon boarding were a pair of headphones as well as a light blanket.

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Air India first class headphones and blanket

I was the only passenger in first class, and business class seemed quite empty as well, so I was a bit puzzled when I didn’t see a single flight attendant for over 10 minutes. Finally at 8:15AM a flight attendant came to my seat and said “would you like something to drink?” She held out a tray containing pineapple juice, orange juice, and water. There was no “welcome aboard” or anything.

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Air India first class pre-departure pineapple juice and water

Shortly thereafter she offered me pajamas, along with eyeshades and socks.

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Air India first class pajamas, eyeshades, and socks

In a way I sort of loved Air India’s pajamas. While I have dozens of pajamas from Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Lufthansa, Singapore, etc., these were truly rare. They even had Air India branding on them.

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Air India first class pajamas

The pants had a cargo pocket with the Air India logo, which I found sort of funny. I should note that these pajamas run really large — I selected large ones, and they were way too big for me.

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Air India first class pajamas

After being offered the pajamas it was once again radio silence from the crew. At 8:30AM the flight attendant offered me a hot towel.

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Air India first class hot towel

She also offered me the menu for the flight, which was in a nice leather binder. The binder only had the breakfast menu, as I’d be presented the lunch menu later in the flight. As she handed me the menu she said she would come back after takeoff to ask me when I wanted to eat.

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Air India first class cover

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Air India first class menu

I found the first class service quite strange. There were two flight attendants working first class, one of whom was the cabin crew in charge. And they seemed friendly — like I occasionally saw them smile and when I interacted with them they were friendly.

But they also seemed to lack basic customer service skills, and were extremely disorganized. You’d think if there was one passenger and two flight attendants, they’d start by introducing themselves — “hi, I’m _____, and I’ll be taking care of you today, along with my colleague _____; let us know if you need anything during the flight.”

But there was no such welcome.

At 8:40AM the main cabin door closed, at which point the cabin crew in charge made her welcome aboard announcement, informing us of our flight time of 7hr45min, and welcoming us aboard on behalf of “commander Rajesh” (Air India consistently seems to use the term “commander” rather than “captain,” which I find sorta cool). At no point in the flight did the captain make an announcement, so I guess that’s the extent of the welcome from him!

At 8:45AM we began our pushback, at which point the safety video began to play.

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Pushing back Heathrow Terminal 4

We started taxiing at around 8:50AM, which is always fun around Terminal 4, given the variety of traffic.

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Taxiing London Heathrow Terminal 4

In this instance there were 787s from Royal Brunei and Kenya Airways.

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Royal Brunei 787 London Heathrow

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Kenya Airways 787 London Heathrow

We taxied towards runway 27R, which meant we passed the Queen’s Terminal, which is inhabited by Star Alliance carriers.

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Taxiing London Heathrow

There was an American 777-200 following us most of the way to the runway.

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Taxiing to departure runway London Heathrow

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Taxiing to departure runway London Heathrow

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Taxiing to departure runway London Heathrow

At 9AM we made it to runway 27R, where we were almost immediately cleared for takeoff.

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Taxiing into position runway 27R London Heathrow

Our takeoff roll was quick, and within about 30 seconds we were airborne, with great views of British Airways’ Terminal 5.

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Taking off runway 27R London Heathrow

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View of Terminal 5 after takeoff from London Heathrow

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View of Terminal 5 after takeoff from London Heathrow

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View of Terminal 5 after takeoff from London Heathrow

The views on the climb out continued to be nice.

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View after takeoff from London Heathrow

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View after takeoff from London Heathrow

The seatbelt sign was turned off less than 10 minutes after takeoff, thanks to a smooth ride. The flight attendants closed the curtains between cabins, and I once again admired the fact that I had the cabin all to myself.

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Private Air India first class cabin

At that point a video was screened throughout the cabin, with some basic etiquette tips, like flushing the toilet after use.

As we climbed out I checked out the airshow for our flight. The entertainment system has several types of maps you can display, including a map of the total route, as well as a zoomed perspective on where you’re flying.

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Air India airshow

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Air India airshow enroute to Delhi

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Air India airshow enroute to Delhi

What I found puzzling was that no version of the map showed flight time remaining (they did show estimated arrival time, but I don’t want to have to do that kind of math). 😉

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Air India airshow enroute to Delhi

I then browsed the inflight entertainment selection, which was rather limited. There were 21 “Hollywood” movies to choose from, most of which weren’t especially current.

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Air India movie selection

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Air India movie selection

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Air India movie selection

There were also about a dozen TV shows to choose from.

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Air India TV show selection

While that’s not all that many, a couple of them were episodes of “2 Broke Girls” I hadn’t seen, so I considered it a win. Unfortunately in order to watch the show I had to watch two extremely cheesy commercials, one of which was about taking out a life insurance policy.

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Air India TV show selection

About 20 minutes after takeoff the cabin crew in charge came by my seat with three boxes of cereal, asking which I wanted to start my meal with. The choices were Rice Krispies, Bran Flakes, and Fruit & Fiber. The other flight attendant had indicated she’d come back after takeoff to ask when I wanted to eat, but I guess that offer had been rescinded. 😉

The breakfast menu read as follows:

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There was no beverage list, but the bottom of the menu did indicate you could order soft drinks, tea, and coffee at any time… I’m not sure what they’re trying to say about alcohol!

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Breakfast service began with the cereal I had ordered, along with orange juice, fresh fruit, yogurt, a pastry in a bowl, and a croissant. Other than the cereal I wasn’t actually asked whether I wanted any of those other things. I also wasn’t ever asked what I wanted to drink, but instead was just proactively served orange juice.

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Air India first class breakfast

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Air India first class breakfast

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Air India first class breakfast — cereal

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Air India first class breakfast — fresh fruit and yogurt

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Air India first class breakfast — yogurt

For the main course I asked if I could have a little bit of everything which was Indian vegetarian, which they were happy to do. In past reports I’ve seen pictures of the crew plating everything and putting it on a cart so you can decide what you want when you see it, but that wasn’t happening on this flight.

I love Indian food, and this was really good. I mean, it’s not especially gourmet, in the sense that I doubt there’s a huge difference between first & business class catering, but I’m fine with that as long as it’s good, as it was on this flight. My one complaint is that the food wasn’t actually hot — it was lukewarm at best.

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Air India first class breakfast — main course

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Air India first class breakfast — medu wada

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Air India first class breakfast — banarasi aloo

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Air India first class breakfast — curry accompaniment

I also had some coconut chutney to go with the meal, which was quite good (the presentation could have been improved, however…).

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Air India first class breakfast — coconut chutney

The bread was the only part of the meal which was actually hot, thanks to it being wrapped in foil.

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Air India first class breakfast — bread

The food was quite spicy, so while I was drinking water with the meal, it was never proactively refilled. There just seemed to be some sort of a disconnect which I couldn’t really wrap my head around. The flight attendant would come by my seat, see my empty glass, and then walk away. I had to explicitly ask every time. I had maybe six glasses of water with the meal, so you’d think she would have gotten the hint at some point. But she didn’t.

After the meal I ordered a glass of champagne, which was H. Blin. I’d say that would be fine for a business class champagne, though isn’t really a first class champagne. Then again, it beats the Duc de Paris offered on China Southern.

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Air India first class champagne

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Air India first class champagne — H. Blin Brut

After the meal I asked for my bed to be made in seat 2A, which was promptly taken care of. I figured I’d nap for a bit, given that it would be a long day. While my bed was being made, I visited the lavatory, located at the front of the cabin. There are two lavatories, both right behind the cockpit. The one on the left is considerably larger than the one on the right.

The one on the left was large, and had some decent amenities, including toothbrushes, hand cream, etc.

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Air India first class bathroom

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Air India first class bathroom

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Air India first class bathroom amenities

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Air India first class bathroom amenities

While the seat itself was quite spacious, the bedding was the worst I’ve ever had in first class. There was no mattress pad, but rather they literally placed a sheet on top of the seat. Which for many first class products might not be that bad, but the padding in the Air India first class seat is in such bad shape that it’s lumpy.

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Air India first class bed

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Air India first class bed

While I’m not sure exactly how long the bed was, it felt a bit shorter than some other first class beds. Ultimately that’s not a huge deal, given that the seat is wide and you can easily bend your knees. But I was sort of surprised that I couldn’t fully stretch out without bending my knees.

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Air India first class bed

On the plus side, I love that Air India 777 first class has personal air vents, which at least meant I wasn’t sweating. That’s something I wish other airlines had.

I took a quick look out the window at the beautiful scenery below, and then decided to watch a quick TV show on my iPad.

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View enroute to Delhi

After that I got some shut eye. I didn’t get great sleep, but I did manager to at least lay down for about three hours, which was great for a daytime flight.

When I woke up we were about 1,200 miles from Delhi.

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Airshow enroute to Delhi

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Airshow enroute to Delhi

I got some work done on my laptop, and then 90 minutes before landing I was presented with the lunch menu, which read as follows:

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While I wasn’t all that hungry, I tried to order quite a bit of food so I’d have pictures of it.

I ordered the hors d’oeuvres to start, which I figured would be some samosas, or something. Instead it was a plate with a slice of turkey and a rather random selection of veggies.

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Air India first class lunch

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Air India first class lunch — hors d’oeuvre

I was also served a side salad, with a choice between creamy dressing and vinaigrette.

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Air India first class lunch — fresh seasonal salad

Then I had the almond shorba, which was fantastic. I was offered a breadstick along with it.

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Air India first class lunch — almond shorba

The soup was spicy, though the flight attendant still came by with a bottle of Tabasco and asked if I wanted some. I love food that’s spicy by American standards… I can’t quite handle Indian spicy!

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Air India first class lunch — almond shorba

For the main course, I ordered paneer tikka lababdar, vegetable makhanwala, and malabar prawn curry. I was offered a side of yogurt to go along with it.

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Air India lunch

While the prawns tasted a bit rubbery, the rest of the meal was delicious-as-could-be. As I said, Air India’s food isn’t the most gourmet first class food out there, but who the hell cares when you’re being served restaurant quality Indian food?

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Air India first class lunch — paneer tikka lababdar and vegetable makhanwala

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Air India first class lunch — malabar prawn curry

After that I ordered a cheese course, as well as the carrot halwa.

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Air India first class cheese course & dessert

The cheese course was served with some veggies and crackers.

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Air India first class cheese course

The carrot dessert was delicious, as you’d expect.

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Air India first class dessert — carrot halwa

I was also offered a box of Lily O’Brien’s chocolates, which was a nice/random touch.

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Air India first class chocolates

After the meal I changed out of my pajamas and back into my clothes, and as I emerged with my pajamas the flight attendant said “I will take those.” I’m not sure if she was just trying to be friendly and assumed I wanted to throw them away, or if they reuse them. I’m hoping the former!

While we were scheduled to land significantly ahead of schedule, we entered a holding pattern over Delhi at 16,000 feet, which we had to stay in for about 30 minutes. This wasn’t ever announced, given that the captain never made an announcement, so I only knew because of watching the airshow and constantly feeling the turns.

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Airshow enroute to Delhi

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Airshow while circling over Delhi

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Airshow while circling over Delhi

As we descended the flight attendant came around with landing cards.

“I don’t need one for international transit, right?”
“Where are you transiting to?”
“The US.”
“You are flying to the US? Tonight?”
“Yes.”

That started quite a conversation. The funny thing was that just informally talking to the flight attendant, she was extremely nice. Unlike during the service, she was smiling and engaging, and genuinely seemed to want to talk. It was just a bit odd how she seemed to have an on/off switch, which was true of the cabin crew in charge as well.

We touched down in Delhi at 10:35PM, and then had a 10 minute taxi to gate A13. While it was quite a ways to the gate, we were taxiing quickly, which is why it didn’t take so long.

We were deplaning through the second door, so the moment the seatbelt sign was turned off the flight attendant came to fetch me and said “let me escort you to the door.”

That always becomes a bit awkward, since the aisle is narrow and they basically push you in front of everyone else in business class, which leads to some mean looks.

Little did I know this would be the start to one of the best ground experiences of my life… more on that in the next installment!

Air India first class bottom line

I’ve written in the past about how much potential Air India has, which is something I truly believe. No, the airline won’t ever be an Emirates or Etihad, but I do think a little bit of effort would go a long way.

Truth be told, this flight was about on par with what I expected. Despite the plane being only six years old, it looked way older than that. A bit of TLC goes a long way with cabin interiors.

The food onboard was good. Not gourmet by any means, but very good overall.

The service on this flight was what disappointed me. I find India to be one of the most hospitable countries, and I just didn’t feel that on this flight. But like every airline in the world, there are inconsistencies.

Stay tuned for my Delhi to San Francisco flight, where I had a vastly different experience.

How does this compare to what you expected from Air India first class? Would you consider flying them?

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Comments

  1. By the way, they call AI pilots ‘commander’ instead of ‘captain’ because AI literally functions as an extra arm of the Indian Military. All AI pilots are trained to fly potentially dangerous missions like rescue and extrication operations in the MidEast in the event that regular IAF aircraft cannot handle the passenger load. Hence the ‘commander’ part. This is also why many Indians choose to fly AI inspite of the sub-par standard of service because they know they will be in professional hands… if you discount the crew.

  2. What you have labeled as masala uthapam is just a curry accompaniment to the uthapam. The uthapam is actually the round white pancake to the right of your plate, to the left of which is the upma, to the left of which is the medhu vada.

  3. When looking at this huge stain, I wonder why you did not ask to switch to another seat. Or did all seats look gross like this?

  4. Are they replacing the 777-200 on the London-New Delhi route or just removing first class.

    Agree, if the FA’s were better trained and business class seats were upgraded you could have a truly competitive product. I don’t think AI should have a first class product based on this review, although that opinion could change based on your SFO flight review installment

  5. Those seats kind of don’t look worth it – but I also understand why Air India has some of the cheaper ‘paid air fares’ I’ve seen before.

  6. Also the 777 & 747 captain and first officer on board AI are actually former commanders from the IAF, since these two aircrafts form part of the executive and military escort wing of the IAF. In the case an extra aircraft is needed for a VVIP mission, the closest twin aisle will be dispatched. Two of the 777-300ER are actually being transferred completely to the IAF from AI for significant retrofitting by Boeing for VVIP travel along the lines of POTUS’s 747.

  7. Ai should get rid of the first class and save money. Whether the government bureacrats will do the right thing remains to be seen. Government waste.

    Another example: America has a huge military and defense industry. They monetize it every year by creating wars so it is not just on debit side. India has a huge one million man army that does nothing. Another government waste. Time they went to wars to monetize it. Be an army, act like a mercenary.

  8. Ben,

    Thanks for making the effort to provide variety in your trip reports this year. As a business traveler I’m always reluctant to do something like buy a ticket on AI or CZ just because it’s less expensive than CX or SQ, etc. These reports help give an honest assessment of what the comfort, food and overall experience is likely to be on board these ‘one-off’ carriers.

    Thanks for expanding our minds.

  9. @Anonymous

    India has no political tensions with many of the nations regarded as hostile elsewhere (with few exceptions) and may enter their airspace.

  10. Thanks for the candid review. Hard to say that there were any high points setting this airline apart from others

  11. @Credit

    I’m not sure that going out & fighting and creating wars is in the best interest of a nation. India is a large country with tense borders. It’s army is there to defend the country, and not to go out and fight other’s wars (we the tax paying public still pay for our wars abroad with some financial lending from China). Anyways, India lends a significant hand and is actually the largest provider of trained soldiers to the UN so it does it’s bit for peacekeeping.

  12. I would still fly this over anything AA or UA or DL had to offer. Looks infinitely nice and more delicious.

  13. Thanks for this. Being based in Bangkok, Air India always comes out the cheapest when flying to LHR or JFK in J. Sometimes cheaper than Y. It does appear, as you noted, that just service improvement would go a long way. They should poach a cabin services manager. It is also bizarre that the captain never said anything. Not sure I’ve ever been on a flight for longer than an hour where that happened.

  14. Thanks for the interesting report. You have mentioned several times about an Asian airline (Cathay?) where they leave you alone and you ring the call button if you want something. You cautioned potential passengers that this was not a sign of inattentive service, but a cultural thing with that airline. Could the same thing be at play here? I wonder if you are an outlier in regards to their typical first class passenger who might not be expecting a ‘proactive’ approach to service. (After all, they probably do not get a lot of UK to USA passengers). Perhaps the typical first class passenger they deal with is very direct with their wishes, and the attendants aren’t used to watching for subtleties. Sounds like your experience on the next flight was much different.

  15. What looks most odd to me? The airshow pic from the UK highlights well-known shipwrecks! Is that a thing and I just never noticed it before?

  16. Hi Ben, Did you end up getting to keep the PJ’s? I can imagine you in some hilarious tug-of-war you trying to hang onto them and some AI FA trying to pry them away from you for reuse. Was it possible to ask for extra (thin) blankets to further pad the lack of seat padding?

  17. @Jared – There are very few ex-IAF senior pilots who hold command on B747 or B777s at Air India. Most ex-IAF pilots come into AI much later in life and as a result have lower seniority than those who go the commercial route. Furthermore, the Air India B777s are not used as VVIP transports – that is exclusively with the B747s for now due to the reluctance to use a twin engined aircraft for those missions (and the B747s are also effectively retired from regular scheduled services making them easy to deploy on dedicated VVIP missions). The VVIP transport missions are also flown as civilian flights, not military (Callsign “AIR INDIA ONE” instead of an IAF callsign). The IAF has its own fleet of BBJs and Embraer Legacy jets that are used for domestic, regional and other missions where the B747 is not required.

  18. @Sean

    Much of it is true but 777 are also reserved as backup for emergencies when the PM is abroad in case 747 experiences tribal difficulties. The two 777s will indeed soon replace the aging 747 for VVIP travel and be managed by the IAF instead of the AI full time – after significant retrofits to mil spec on the 777 over the next year at Everett and at IAF base in Palam. Although AI does own the 747, during government operations it does transfer under IAF jurisdiction. As a result senior commanders on the 747 and 777 (many) are IAF commanders. The issue of two engine over four is almost resolved since the government has relations with Boeing and want to transfer ownership of AIs 2 current 777-300ERs and relieve the 747. Airbus is our of the picture since AI had no intention of the A380 or the aging A340. The ERJs and BBJs are for regional and domestic as you said.

  19. @Anonymous – You seem to be a bit geographically challenged. The routing shown is UL333 airway from Turkey through Iran (entry point DASIS) into Afghanistan, well north of Baghdad FIR. Very few airlines are overflying Baghdad FIR nowadays, and even those who do are for ops to airports in Iraq only.

  20. @ Sean

    Also the AI 747 is not kept in AIs hangars but at the Palam IAF base which has complete oversight of DEL airport since the land is actually IAF land. As for the call sign, that will not change even when the IAF starts using the 777s for transporting the PM from next year.

  21. @anonymous

    Concur with Sean’s response to you after actually looking at the air show map. Iraq is a civilian no-fly zone but Iran is open to Indian commercial flights.

  22. @credit: are you serious, dude? You’re proud of the US commercial arms industry and are encouraging other armies to ‘monetize’? Little children are LITERALLY dying in war zones and washing up on shores and contributing to ‘profits’.
    Do some research and you will note that India has the 4th largest military in the world, and is the second largest contributor of personnel to the UN peacekeeping forces, involved in rebuilding devastated post-war countries. So although our armed forces are size able, we are quite proud that we haven’t ‘monetized’ our army, as you so smoothly put it. We are not mercenaries, and we don’t participate in questionable wars. We’ll leave that to you knuckleheads.
    What sort of losers does this blog attract? Jeez!

  23. This is the kind of sloppiness that got these people colonized by the British in the first place. They never learn.

  24. That big stain on the seat is lovely. What a crappy interior, but hey Air India, not a surprise at all.

    But actually looks like a United flight.

  25. Not sure what sloppiness are you referring to exactly (especially compared to the American 3 or the lumbering hunk of a junk that is BA). The last I checked they are doing so well that we from the west are dying to sell goods and services to them and not to mention the fact they they pretty much run our hi-tech, medical and financial industries, outpace us at all academic achievements, and that their middle and upper class has a population greater than my entire country. Sure, there is poverty and need for infrastructure developments, etc. but at least their economy doesn’t drown every time something happens in the world and at least they don’t need to revamp the budget every quarter…

    Everything comes back in a circle – and we are no more at the center of it.

  26. Not sure I’d call that restaurant quality food.

    Perhaps in a dodgy after pub establishment, but you’ll get much better in many restaurants in Southall – let alone India…

  27. David, you’re a disgusting prick with no real knowledge of history, but I shall excuse your very American trait and school you. Actually, India was colonised by the British because the ruling Mughal-Muslim establishment at the time let them in for the sake of greed. Foreigners let the British in, not the natives. The natives rebelled – fiercely – but you probably don’t even know who or what a ‘Gandhi’ is.

    Furthermore, please keep in mind that at the point of British colonisation, that ‘sloppiness’ didn’t exist. Britain in comparison was a Victorian sewer slum with the Black Death plague everywhere while India was building monuments like the Taj and had a functioning sewerage system in most cities (later destroyed by the British to move people into the rural areas for cash crop production) – hence the abysmal situation today when it comes to toilets and stuff.

    Learn something. Be a credit to your nation instead of pulling it down the rankings even further. For every supposed problem that you think is inherently ‘Indian’, there might be a shocking reason behind it that is far closer to you than to them.

  28. @ Robin — Hah, didn’t ask to keep the PJs, though got a pair on the next flight to keep, so wasn’t a big deal. Probably could have asked for another blanket since I was the only passenger, but didn’t bother.

  29. @ Mark F. — Based on my experience on the subsequent flight, I suspect it was laziness rather than a policy on their part.

  30. @ Mileage Man — Just removing first class from the planes. I assume at some point the plane will also be put on another route, as LHR-DEL is really a “waste” of a 777-200LR, given the plane’s range.

  31. @ samoa — All the seats had some sort of stains. And not sure what exactly the point is of moving away from a seat which probably had that stain for years.

  32. Having your country occupied by foreigners who took it from other foreigners isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement…neither does the idea of being occupied by an “inferior” power…it would be like I don’t know, Cuba suddenly taking over the US or something.

  33. Lucky, thanks for this balanced report. Your commentary was very much sticking to the facts and allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions, which was a very tight line to walk. Well done. I’m looking forward to reading about the rest of the trip.

  34. Could the US stop 9/11? Can Europe stop the Muslim invasion today? It’s failing miserably at doing so, Ranjit. So stop criticising your own people for being unable to stop the Muslim invasion of India. Think hard before you say such things to score brownie points from the bigots who lurk in the comments section of this website.

  35. @Loz: don’t you think he means ‘Ghandi’? Lol
    And I agree with what you said. The initial British officers who came to India wrote back letters (there’s written record of this in the archives in England) to the king back home that the society in India was astonishingly advanced and well run, and that in order to take control it had to be systematically broken. And systematically break it they did, and how. Since India was a conglomeration of peaceful kingdoms, they were easy to break apart and take advantage of. India powered the industrial revolution with her resources and riches. Europe has innumerable Indian bones buried in the soil, belonging to the millions of soldiers who lost their lives in the 2 World Wars. No one EVERtalks about this! Colonialism is possibly the worst thing to have happened in the history of life on Earth.
    Anyway, I’m off topic. Let’s get back to the usual ill informed and racist comments.

  36. Jeet, haha, yes I did mean ‘Ghandi’ 😉

    You stated the truth completely succinctly. Unfortunately, the frequent-flying balding men on this website with their flabby beer bellies and their hyper-inflated sense of superiority surprisingly lack the brain cells and the capacity to understand and process what you just said. Let’s just get back to the usual comments indeed and watch Britain’s karmic glory unfold in front of us… if you know what I mean.

  37. Seems no more or less different that my BA F journey last week or previous journeys on AA F. In fact the service on board BA was more atrocious and the food disgusting. So I’d rather have flown AI F based on this review. It’s really hard to judge sometimes. I have had absolutely pathetic service even compared to the review here on SQ ( I’m a PPS club member) and CX in the past as well. Consistency appears to be a focal issues with airlines. Best to just get a chartered jet if you want to travel in luxury.

  38. Stained seats. Lumpy beds. Indifferent service. Poor entertainment choices. No champagne on arrival. In summary poor hard product, poor soft product. What’s not to like?

  39. “Could the US stop 9/11? Can Europe stop the Muslim invasion today?”

    Um….hardly the same thing as a foreign government coming in and occupying…and it doesn’t change our history…

    “Think hard before you say such things to score brownie points from the bigots who lurk in the comments section of this website.”

    Ah, that argument you keep throwing about brownie points and selling out, as opposed to offering a real counterargument. I forget you were the decided in how all Indians should act. Keep playing Angry Brown Boy, it seems to bring some purpose.

    “the frequent-flying balding men on this website with their flabby beer bellies and their hyper-inflated sense of superiority surprisingly lack the brain cells and the capacity to understand and process what you just said”

    Lol I guess we’re allowed to stereotype others but cry bloody murder when the same is done to us…

  40. They have the same business seats that Emirates have on their 777s. Though this first class cabin looks disgusting

  41. Ok, Ranjit. Have fun with the self-hatred since you’ve clearly decided to hop on that bandwagon. Ignore the utterly vile remarks made by David and co. – focus on mine instead because the truth is suuuuch a problem. You’re obviously just a white troll with a pseudonym. Or if you aren’t, then you exemplify everything that is wrong with the average Indian today. It’s a pity that my countrymen can be such a miserable disappointment sometimes, but I understand that some of you are still mentally colonised and conditioned to hate yourselves. Don’t come in here and talk about ego when half are so incapable of mustering up an inkling of self-respect that you go around calling anyone who has a modicum of self-respect an ‘egoistical person’. What a farce.

  42. @Loz

    Were you taught to recite these excuses in school? I’m not American, but in my home country we believe in taking responsibility for our sloppiness. So if we had let the “Mughal-Muslim establishment” pull a fast one on us, we’d shape up real quick. But considering this trip report, it’s business as usual in good ole India.

  43. Oh Loz, please be more original than calling Indian people who don’t agree with you self-hating or whatever. That argument is even older than the Taj Mahal, and nowhere near as sturdy. So is accusing people of having a colonial mentality. If anybody is trapped there, it is you, since you can’t seem to move on from that in your apparent dislike of the west/white people. Well, from your comments, it seems like you don’t.

    I’d say you’re what is wrong with India today, as you don’t enjoy any sort of honest self-reflection and have this perpetual persecuted victim complex any time anything critical about India is brought up. It is only with valid self-reflection that we can improve ourselves, instead of pole-vaulting onto our angry soap box and shout at whitey to stop judging and stereotyping us, when we do the same (and it doesn’t make you better than them, mind you). Who gives a you-know-what what they think or say about us? If you were that confident in India today you wouldn’t react like an angry potty mouthed brat.

  44. @jeet

    I was giving Indians to feel good about something before they got all defensive about the review. You could have taken it as compliment that Indians don’t go to wars, but you are still defensive about everything in general. Really weird why Indians should take an air India review so personally. Haha its actually funny. Sooooooo insecure. Anyway most Indian government institutions are bloated and overpaid. All that the army does is wear colourful clown costumes on republic day and march. Other than that all year long they do nothing but drain the coffers. Extremely inefficient government.

  45. Personally, I’d like to see Lucky fly Jet Airways, just to compare (like he did with ANA/JAL and Asiana/Korean)…its getting more and more rare to see countries with 2 or more big international airlines.

    How many are there? There is the US, India, Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, the UAE, and…?

  46. AI should do a better job choosing interiors which lasts for three reasons
    1) Climate conditions (semi arid tropical region with dirt and monsoon rains)
    2) Constitutional rights of its citizens to vandalize state owned transport infrastructure
    3) Lack of cleaning knowledge or mostly enthusiasm.

    AFIAK Government officials are not allowed to travel in F for official trips. Since 2015 up to J only.

    AI has 5x744s (3 active 2 storage) for VVIPs. They have some sort of protection. VVIPs don’t use 777s now, the Indian indecisive plan is to sell 2 to IAF, retrofit and use in some time in future time continuum.

    One cannot compare to US3. AI serves complimentary hot meal and free checked baggage. US3 serve peanuts/pretzels and soda. AI will beat UA any day in service

  47. #Notetoself: Stop reading the comments, just enjoy the trip reports…
    A bunch of todlers in a playground have more uplifting conversations than the trolls you read down here….

  48. Couple of Observations:

    Thanks for the nice report.

    1. I thought Lucky was being generous. The Vada / Uthappam looked cold to me. Would have asked if it could be reheated. Usually you want those piping hot (crisp), otherwise they will get soggy.

    2. The menus etc seemed to have Ashoka (Emperor) motifs (Lions / Stupas). India is going through a bit of Ashoka revival (movie, TV series). Lots of legacy associated with him, including revival of Buddhism in India.. I remember visiting Sanchi when very young.

    Only other comment.. I could not figure out what the “Curry” was. Typically you dont see mustard seeds in Aloo (Potatos), and if it happens to be Sambar to go with the vada, i am afraid it is too thick..

  49. “All that the army does is wear colourful clown costumes on republic day and march.” + keeps Pakistan at bay by preventing it from going ballistic and raining nuclear bombs on the Western world, but hey, we’ll be more than willing to stop policing the world’s only nuclear Islamic state and shift the burden to the US. After all, Reagan was the one who armed them.

    You typical Americans, I swear. Can’t look beyond the surface of things. Can’t appreciate our role in preventing more Islamic terrorism from ruining the world. It’s simply disgusting you’d say they’re wearing ‘clown costumes’ simply because they’re pretty wearing their own native clothes. What else should they wear? Jeans and a t shirt? Western army wear in a non-Western country? So what’s your problem if they wear turbans? And you guys claim you aren’t a bunch of old, tired racists when you keep coming up with this continuous barrage of non-stop insensitive BS. Yet another case of your folk trying to impose your own customs on others because you don’t have the moral values to respect people as they are. And y’all are saying imperialism is dead when it clearly lives on in your genes.

  50. Aaron, kindly keep your mouth shut. If you haven’t realised this already, my comments are merely a reaction to what YOUR folk post in the comments section. They are reactionary and provoked. They aren’t just appearing out of the blue. What do you have, selective vision or something?

    How about you tell your folk to stop posting little bits of bigotry all over the place and we’ll call it even? It’s seriously funny how everyone loves calling me out and chiding me yet say nothing about the stuff posted by their own kin.

  51. @Bob

    Thumbs up.

    Although Sean usually has interesting responses to my comments, at least.

    AI is a lovely way to fly, atleast between the US and India.

  52. The service and quality similar to any other skytrax 3 star airline, such as AA, UA, DL, and the majority of airlines many of us fly daily. Except that the food is infinitely better.

    In other words not sure why all the brouhaha and bickering. It’s just business as usual as most airlines including the ones I fly in around the US and much of Europe.

    Appears to be an infinitely nicer way to travel to India (and anywhere else frankly) than on AA or UA F classes or the miserable product that is Delta One.

  53. @Lucky what was the registration of this 77L.

    IMHO AI made a big mistake by using these 77Ls on domestic routes. But shortage of narrow bodies and surplus wide bodies forced it to do so. I think AI should go ahead and reconfigure these cabins even at $2 Million each.

  54. Oh Loz, the only one who needs to keep his mouth shut is you. You don’t even know who or what my folk are, and yet you keep making assumptions about others and making broad-based accusations and rants against the people who visit this site, white people, and Westerners in general. Comments like that just keep proving what a hypocritical bigot you are. Ignorance truly is bliss, I suppose.

  55. @ Sam — It’s a very different business class product. Emirates’ business class is nearly flat, while this product isn’t.

  56. Lucky – Glad that you have reviewed a new airline but very disappointed that you are clearly soft on them. Air India is a disaster and should be shut down and then start from scratch. I have flown them in Y and J. Most of the plains are filthy, the lukewarm food is a health risk and the maintenance of the planes is spotty.

    Indians can give great service and exceed in a lot of fields but this does not hold true of Air India.

    I wonder if in your second flight they knew you were a blogger and hence the excellent service.

  57. Lucky, you were. I am not saying it was a conscious bias. If this had been a mainstream airline, you would be(fairly) going on and on about the state of the plane and the seat, the presentation and the service of the food (including lukewarm food and the rubbery prawns (probably not fresh) which is a no no). And also advising people to avoid them at all cost.

    and to add to that, your comment about the great potential which cannot be substantiated by what people normally have to endure when flying them.

    I believe your soft treatment comes from the fact that miles-wise, it was a steal and you were bewildered by how exotic the experience was to you. That sort of forgiveness is common in first time tourists to India. I have been there quite a few times to know that they can deliver true amazing service.

    Would you be so forgiven if you had paid a fair amount of miles or money for the ticket and if we were talking about BA?

  58. @current

    I think AI does a lot more than you may be aware of including partaking in many military operations, UN operations and rescue efforts. For example, many French countrymen were stuck in Yemen and in Nepal last year and AI came to my countrymen’s rescue and brought them back home. Certainly no airline that I recall has reciprocated in such a way to aid Indians around the globe. So while this may not be the best airline in the world, it is certainly no worse than most airlines that I have traveled on in my sixty years experience including AF, BA and many sub-ordinary flights on LH. Certainly no airline could claim to have helped as many ppl in difficult circumstances as AI and that is the fact. So I wish them the best and hope they do what is best in the interest of their countrymen, which is expanding the domestic market to make air travel convenient for the masses and potentially the second largest air travel industry in the world; no different from how most of the US airlines make their money, which is by focusing on the more lucrative domestic market.

  59. The food actually looks appetizing but nowhere near the best Indian food I’ve had, prepared by my Indian colleague’s family in their home.

    Frankly, I wish airlines would make meals an extra item during checkout. I cannot believe the muck most airlines serve (especially most European and American airlines) and call it food in any cabin class along with the deplorable wine list, with very few exceptions. No meal, including on board the Etihad apartments and SQ suites, or any other premium cabin that I have flown is considered good food by any standard, let alone gourmet quality. So just make it optional with a cost that I can untick when checking out. I find it funny when ppl traveling on SQ suites are impressed by the disgusting meals when they could have a fresh, cheap, and infinitely more delicious meal on land in Singapore. The same holds true for my other travel destinations. This is coming from a PPS club member – I hope SQ actually reads this.

  60. @ palermo — This has nothing to do with what I paid for my ticket, but rather has everything to do with my expectations going in. Air India is one of the most bashed airlines out there. This is the airline where a panel fell off because 43 of the 47 screws were missing. This is the airline where a pilot showed up to work drunk three times and still had a job. This is the airline which had a pilot recruiting seminar where not a single person showed up to apply. This is the airline which has on more than one occasion had a diversion due to rats. This is the airline which grounds a 787 so they can use it for parts.

    It’s only natural for someone to judge an experience based on what they were expecting coming in. My expectations of Air India were EXTREMELY low coming in, and this flight was sort of what I was expecting.

    Similarly, I’ve been disappointing on Singapore Airlines flights which were still hands down better than anything I’ve received on a US or European carrier. That’s because I have different expectations in those instances.

    There’s a difference between going soft on an airline and comparing your experience to your very low expectations, based on everything you’ve heard. If that’s “very disappointing” to you, then I’m sorry…

  61. @Jessica

    Totally agree with you. Especially the “caviar” always makes me laugh… Just save me the 100 bucks for the rubbish meal so I can use it when I land to get a good meal.

  62. VT-ALF was widely used on domestic/regional routes. It explains the state of cabin. It is using VT-ALG which was in storage on SFO route. But it has to refit VT-ALF/VT-ALH before it can go SFO daily.

    Few things enable AI to evacuate from conflict areas
    1) India is neutral in most conflicts. Eg., it was able to negotiate both with Saudis and Iran. There aren’t many countries.
    2) AI does its own mx. It doesn’t outsource. When you take an A320 into Yemen where there is no aviation infrastructure left, your engineering staff should be confident to bring it back. No outsourced MX/MRO contractor is going to send its employees into war zone.
    3) Easy for both sides of conflict to recognize an AI plane. Eg., A Super Hercules could be IAF or Saudi.

    @palermo
    AI Engineering is the largest MRO in Asia. Its staff are engineering grads than some guys with two week training.

    Get this, AI Engineering is going to build and run Engine Overhaul facility at DXC.

    So do your research before educating the world.

    Indians always looking for refunds and freebies for any flight over 30 minute delay, different story. Best is freebies + partial refund + rebooking for 30 minute delay makes them very happy.

  63. Great post Ben, keep up the good work. But I am especially enjoying your peanut gallery who have taken a simple First Class trip report and turned it into an argumentative dialogue on global military affairs. Go internet!

  64. @credit, your comment on monetizing the army could not have been construed as a compliment no matter how anyone reads it, so stop backtracking. I responded not just from an Indian viewpoint, but from a global perspective. Making armies and mercenaries for profit will end our species. And we already seem to be heading in that direction, fighting wars and killing innocents without reason. You’ll feel it when it affects someone close to you.
    To other readers in general who are reading this comment thread with popcorn in their hand, I don’t blame you. This is quite entertaining. But to give you a bit of context, Indians have long stayed silent and allowed many stereotypes to flourish. Insecurity was mentioned in a comment earlier. It existed in my parents’ generation, but they stayed silent, put their noses to the grindstone and educated themselves and my generation. We are not insecure anymore. That is why we speak up when we see racial assumptions. I encounter it everyday, I try to counter it with my behavior and with words when necessary.
    India is the next big market for companies who have saturated American European markets already, think Apple. But we are discerning customers, and won’t buy anything the white guy sells us. Your market needs our money, but we’re not simpletons. We recently sent Facebook packing when they tried to sell us bullshit.
    I actually agree that AI needs serious revamping. I don’t have any problems with the criticisms AI faces, as long as it is treated in the context of AI alone and not all of India. I think changes will happen over time, we finally got rid of a very corrupt familial political legacy that was bleeding us dry for more than 6 decades. We now have a leader for whom abolishing corruption is a personal mission. I know they’ll eventually get to fixing AI.
    I hope this gives you guys an idea of why people are responding so vociferously. The west doesn’t hold the same shine for us anymore, and we are not ashamed/afraid to speak up for ourselves.
    As far as the big US airlines go, everything about them is abominable. They fleece you for everything, and then treat you like cattle when you’re on board. I never fly an American airline unless there is simply no other option, and will even pay extra to fly non-US.

  65. Lucky, how would you compare the soft/hard product on Air India F against any of the F or J products you’ve flown on the Chinese state owned carriers:

    Air China
    China Southern
    China Eastern

    I am curious as the Chinese state carriers are also big, bloated, and inefficiently run government companies.

  66. I hope Aaron will read Jeet’s above comment and shut his gob once and for all. Jeet explained it eloquently. Aaron and co. are mad because the average Indian won’t allow whitey to push him around and treat him like a caricature anymore. If you want the drama to disappear from the comments section, refrain from making inflammatory remarks. It is literally *that* simple. Refrain from calling the poor, defenceless AI stewardess a ‘fat whale tranny’. Refrain from assigning assorted behavioural traits to Indians like a bunch of antiquated bigots. Refrain from commenting on the state of the country and its political issues when you know nothing about it other than the perspective that the wonderfully neutral Western media feeds you. Refrain from going full retard and saying something as ridiculous as ‘AI is the reason why the Indians were colonised’ because there can be no justification for that kind of remark whatsoever. It would take a coward of immense proportions to post that kind of remark online because saying it in real life would get you beaten up.

    Aaron looks like a big, whiny cry baby crying about how discriminated he feels because of the mere act of me refusing to put up with the BS spewed against some sections of this website. You haven’t got an inkling of self respect if you also wouldn’t take a stand against this kind of stuff if it was meted out to your own people on say, a crappy United Airlines trip report. Go and cry somewhere else.

  67. Agreed with Carl.

    The peanut gallery is much more amusing than the trip report itself, particularly the ones that accuse others of bigotry, while exhibiting the same and insist on self-censorship of views they don’t agree with, in a third party’s blog.

    I ask Lucky and other mods, however it goes, please DO NOT MODERATE OUT any comments for this post and deny us the free entertainment. 🙂

  68. As a descendent of the Apache, I’m sick of all you racist bigots annoying us Indians.

  69. @ FYI

    Thanks for the interesting info. Definitely something I didn’t know about. Explains why there have been fewer accidents with AI throughout its history in comparison to many other big airlines.

    I think you meant DXB not DXC. I actually trained a team of engineers on the GenX combustion systems recently from AI. Really sharp folks – very impressed. Had some extremely though questions.

    @Jessica Wan – yes! I really do wish the same. Airline meals are atrocious. Oh god I was once served a five buck Caesar salad on AA F for a meal.

  70. The best meal I’ve had on an airline was on CX F and I’d rate it at 6/10 compared to the quality of food in general. So, yes. I would second that idea of making items like meals an optional accessory. Would save the airline significant wastage and cost anyways.

  71. @Loz

    Aw, try not to twist your ankle when you finally decide to dismount off of that high horse of yours.

    “the average Indian won’t allow whitey to push him around”

    Keep playing the victim, sweetie, at least it gives you something to do in addition to playing the hypocrite. The only person here crying is you, while you are overwhelmed by your own feelings of insecurity. When God was handing out pride, manners, and class, you were at the back of the line wining about something. But that’s ok, boo, keep it up! Everyone needs some mission in life. I mean, none of can go full on retard while you still retain the title.

  72. @Jared

    New report says DXC. http://bit.ly/1PJ8PVs

    Traditionally Indian government followed two different approaches.

    #1 Commercial Aviation is a cash cow, elite pax can pay heavy taxes, which can be used for social welfare programs. Though it is changing.

    #2 Aviation Infrastructure is essential to national security. It will go great lengths to force OEMs to setup shops/JVs in India. It also invests heavily in MRO facilities. AI has 6xMRO and 60+ LN MX locations. It is building second GEnX overhaul facility in Nagpur. It is planning to setup a landing gear overhaul facility JV with some OEM.

    But because of taxation from #1 these are not great commercial success stories.

  73. @Loz – have to call shenanigans “keeps Pakistan at bay…” crap. Pakistan doesn’t have the delivery capability lo land a nuke on the West (neither does India, really) in the conventional sense, and they wouldn’t anyway since the US, the U.K., Russia, and China can all hit Pakistan with ballistic missiles anytime they want to. The morality may be arguable, but deterrence works. And if there’s ever any concrete evidence of Pakistan delivering nukes to Islamist terrorists, the Russians will deal with them before anyone else has a chance, given their restive Muslim minorities.

    I’ll refrain from commenting on the rest of the historical debate, other than to gently point out that it’s entirely likely that without the experience of the Raj India wouldn’t be a unified, secular state today.

    Lucky, very interesting review! I wonder if the FAs could have just been inexperienced, at least in providing first-class service?

  74. @CraigTPA

    Hmmmm… Actually India has icbm technology

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agni-V

    Also, the unification of India by the British is a very controversial topic not capable of discussion by a single post, as was the unification of the US by the British. The Mughals actually brought significant tolerance and secularism to India as did several emperors such as Ashoka previously. It all depends on one’s point of reference.

  75. I’m confused about your reuse pajamas comment … is your baseline assumption that airline pajamas are newly manufactured every time they’re loaded onboard? I have no idea actually, but I have definitely received pairs of pajamas in EY F and VA J that were a bit frayed around the edges like they had been used before — and washed, of course, just like the blankets they give out. Which I don’t consider that weird — it would be weirder to me, in how wasteful it would be, if the pajamas are thrown away after every flight.

  76. It’s an embarrassing product and service from Air India, seems like there is no quality control and procedures. Depending on the crew, your experience may be first class or poor!

    My experience with AI has been the same, I wonder with this poor maintenance how they manage to run in huge loss every year!

  77. CraigTPA, I appreciate what you’re trying to say about the raj unifying India, mate. But that’s a bit insulting, like the rapist saying to the victim ‘but you’re so much stronger now!’ Extreme example, I know, but it stands. And it assumes that the current state of India is the only obvious outcome. India might have existed in a number of other ways, perhaps without creating Pakistan, which has made the region (and the world) much more complicated. Multiple small monarchies have survived to this day in Europe, and are thriving. Let’s not draw simplistic conclusions, while ignoring the loss of lives, and permanent division of families. The end result is not the only thing that matters, the cost incurred is also important (esp when one side profited tremendously at great loss to the other).
    This video might help you understand what I mean.
    http://youtu.be/f7CW7S0zxv4

  78. CraigTPA, it’s for Indians to decide (gently or otherwise) if colonization was a good thing it not. Thanks for keeping further opinions to yourself.

  79. Lucky – bottomline for Air India is that it is a government run airline and all its process and procedures are decided by employees who have no professional quality or accountability and spend Indian tax payer money to run the airline. Even the crew are government employees. They never seem to have a wine/drinks menu, focus is always on juices. Service is ordinary in Business/ First – (you can imagine economy then) – they dont retire air hostesses till they turn 58 else the staff will go on strike. Have you ever reviewed Jet Airways 777 service to London from Delhi or Mumbai? You will see the real Indian hospitality and a business and first class product better than any European Airline and on par with Emirates, Etihad etc. They used to till last year serve Dom Perignon champagne in Business Class and they serve Johnny Walker Blue Label Whisky in First. Their food is both Indian and western and from michellin star chef. Once you review Jet Airways then you will realise that Air India is just an extension of the Government of India and does not reflect Indian hospitality or service at all.

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