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Air India 162
London (LHR) – Delhi (DEL)
Saturday, January 23
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.
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.
On the plus side, the legroom seemed to be good, and the seatback TVs were quite large.
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).
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.
Air India 777 first class cabin
I took a quick look at seat 2A, which I had selected for my connecting flight from Delhi to San Francisco.
However, for this flight I had selected 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.
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.
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.
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.
Past the tray table was another panel which opened, housing the entertainment controller, headphone jack, USB outlet, and 110v outlet.
The seat controller was in the left armrest of the seat.
It was in embarrassingly bad shape…
Waiting at my seat upon boarding were a pair of headphones as well as a light 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.
Shortly thereafter she offered me pajamas, along with 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We started taxiing at around 8:50AM, which is always fun around Terminal 4, given the variety of traffic.
In this instance there were 787s from Royal Brunei and Kenya Airways.
We taxied towards runway 27R, which meant we passed the Queen’s Terminal, which is inhabited by Star Alliance carriers.
There was an American 777-200 following us most of the way to the runway.
At 9AM we made it to runway 27R, where we were almost immediately cleared for takeoff.
Our takeoff roll was quick, and within about 30 seconds we were airborne, with great views of British Airways’ Terminal 5.
The views on the climb out continued to be nice.
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.
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.
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). 😉
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.
There were also about a dozen TV shows to choose from.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
I also had some coconut chutney to go with the meal, which was quite good (the presentation could have been improved, however…).
The bread was the only part of the meal which was actually hot, thanks to it being wrapped in foil.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
I was also served a side salad, with a choice between creamy dressing and vinaigrette.
Then I had the almond shorba, which was fantastic. I was offered a breadstick along with it.
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!
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.
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?
After that I ordered a cheese course, as well as the carrot halwa.
The cheese course was served with some veggies and crackers.
The carrot dessert was delicious, as you’d expect.
I was also offered a box of Lily O’Brien’s chocolates, which was a nice/random touch.
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.
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?”
“You are flying to the US? Tonight?”
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?