Review: Air India Business Class 787 Frankfurt To Delhi

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My connection in Frankfurt was nearly 2.5 hours. Air India departs from the B Concourse, so it was about a 15 minute walk from my arrival gate. The flight was leaving from gate B44, and at the gate they were doing document checks. Every passenger had to go up to the counter to have their documents checked, and for those of us with boarding passes issued by other airlines, we had to go up to another podium.


Air India departure gate Frankfurt Airport

Once my boarding pass was reprinted I headed to the nearby Lufthansa Lounge, since I had about an hour to kill. I got back to the gate at around 8:20PM, as the boarding pass indicated that boarding was starting at 8:30PM. Unfortunately it was 9PM before boarding started. They started by boarding families, though there was one particular gentlemen who insisted on boarding first, “because I am an Air India frequent flyer and I board first.” When the gate agent explained they were boarding families first, he insisted he was entitled to priority boarding. Eventually he backed down, and that was the last I saw of him (he wasn’t in business class).

Air India 120
Frankfurt (FRA) – Delhi (DEL)
Friday, January 5
Depart: 9:30PM
Arrive: 9:35AM (+1 day)
Duration: 7hr35min
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8
Seat: 2J (Business Class)

I boarded through the forward door, where I was greeted with a “namaste” from two of the senior cabin crew. They pointed me in the direction of my seat.

Air India’s 787 business class cabin consists of a total of 18 seats, spread across three rows in a 2-2-2 configuration. These seats are fully flat and while they’re not cutting edge, they’re a big improvement over what Air India offers in the rest of their fleet. As you can see, they use some warm colors, as the seats alternate between red and brown finishes, and then there are gold pillows, red carpet, etc.


Air India 787 business class cabin


Air India 787 business class cabin


Air India business class seats 787

Each of the seats had an ottoman on the back of the seat in front of it, and in the case of the first row there was just an ottoman by the bulkhead, and the personal televisions were in the armrest.


Air India business class seats 787

I had originally assigned myself seat 3C, the aisle seat on the left side in the third row. Up until an hour before takeoff only three business class seats showed as occupied, though with economy oversold, there ended up being a dozen upgrades to business class. So the seat next to me ended up being occupied.


Air India business class seats 787

There’s plenty of storage underneath the ottomans, and then between the personal televisions was more storage, as well as a couple of coat hooks.


Air India business class seats 787


Air India business class seat storage

The seat controls were on the armrest between seats.


Air India business class seat controls

Then the entertainment controller was located underneath the center console.


Air India business class entertainment controls

The armrest could be raised to create a mini-privacy partition, and underneath it was a 110v outlet, USB outlet, and water bottle holder (and unfortunately several of the power outlets seemed to be inoperable).


Air India business class privacy partition

The tray table could be extended from the center armrest, and had a faux wood finish.


Air India business class seat tray table

Air India has individual air nozzles on their 787s, which is great.


Air India business class air nozzles 787

Already waiting at my seat on boarding were two pillows (a gold pillow and a more substantial one), as well as a light blanket. Air India was already beating Swiss on the bedding front, and this wasn’t even all that they offered.


Air India business class pillow & blanket

A couple of minutes after settling in, one of the flight attendants offered me packaged slippers, as well as a paper sleeve with socks and eyeshades.


Air India business class amenities


Air India business class seat slippers, eyeshades, and socks

I was then offered an amenity kit, pajamas, and the menu for the flight.


Air India business class pajamas, menu, and amenity kit

In addition to a toothbrush and lip balm, the amenity kit contained some unconventional items, like sandal soap and face wash.


Air India business class amenity kit contents


Air India business class amenity kit contents


Air India business class amenity kit contents

I’m also not exactly sure what this is?


Air India business class amenity kit contents

The coolest part of the kit was that the interior had some cute maharaja stitching.


Air India business class amenity kit

The pajamas consisted of a collared long sleeve shirt with a maharaja, as well as black pants. It’s really impressive that Air India offers pajamas in business class on such a short flight.


Air India business class pajamas


Air India business class pajamas

A few minutes later the crew passed out warm towels.


Air India business class warm towel

Then they served pre-departure beverages, with the choice between apple juice, orange juice, champagne, and pineapple juice. I ordered some pineapple juice.


Air India business class pre-departure drink

It was an interesting crowd in business class. Since I was snapping pictures of the seats, several of the other passengers asked me to take pictures of them (and one even asked me to take a picture with him).

The lady seated across from me was hilarious.

“Can you snap a selfie of me drinking champagne?”

I took a couple of pictures, she looked at them, and said “wait, can you take another one while I’m reviewing my documents and drinking champagne? My colleagues will be so jelly.”

She was also cute because when they handed out amenity kits and pajamas she was confused about what they were. When she was handed the amenity kit she said “what is this, some nice fabrics?”

The flight attendant explained it was an amenity kit.

“What is that?”

“Oh, I thought it was fabric samples, maybe for the inflight shopping.”

Then she got the pajamas and said “luxury sleepwear, I am impressed. I wish I could keep these.”

I explained to her that I think she could keep them. She was over the moon.

Meanwhile the guy on the other side of me ordered champagne as his pre-departure drink, took his first sip, and then literally spit it back into the glass. Personally I didn’t think the champagne was that bad. 😉

While boarding was clearly quite busy, the business class cabin was fairly quiet, since people boarded through the second set of doors. In business class boarding was pretty relaxing, and I loved the boarding music that Air India plays.

The adorable lady across from me turned to me and said “when you go to India you will hear a lot of this music. It is very traditional.”

By 9:40PM boarding was complete. 15 of the 18 business class seats were taken, and since seats 2J & 2K were empty, I switched to those so I’d have two seats to myself (as much as I was enjoying the company of my seatmates).

Around this time cabin supervisor Sushila made her welcome aboard announcement and informed us of our flight time of 6hr40min. At that point the safety video was screened.

At 9:50PM the captain made his welcome aboard announcement, on behalf of himself and his co-captain. He apologized for the delay, and explained that due to bad weather in Delhi we’d only be departing at 10:15PM, but that we should still be arriving on schedule.

At 10:05PM we began our pushback, and at 10:25PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 18.

As we climbed out I browsed the entertainment selection. Air India doesn’t offer wifi, so you’re restricted to whatever they have available through their entertainment selection.


Air India inflight entertainment

In total there were about 20 movies in English, about 10 of which were categorized as “Hollywood Latest.” The selection wasn’t totally awful, though it wasn’t good either.


Air India inflight entertainment


Air India inflight entertainment

The number of sitcoms was extremely limited, as they had just six of them, and in each case they just had one of each show.


Air India inflight entertainment

I watched an episode of The Middle. If you’re flying Air India I’d recommend bringing your own entertainment.


Air India inflight entertainment

Unfortunately the airshow on this plane was broken, so I couldn’t track the progress of our flight, which is a shame, since it’s one of my favorite features of an inflight entertainment system.

The seatbelt sign was turned off just five minutes after takeoff. At that point I checked out one of the two lavatories located at the front of the cabin. Air India has the standard updated Boeing bathrooms on the plane, and they were kept clean throughout the flight (there were multiple PAs reminding people to please leave the bathroom the way they would wish to find it).


Air India business class lavatory 787


Air India business class lavatory amenities 787

The crew was pretty quick to start their service.


Air India business class cabin 787

Notice that this part of the plane is apparently a no smoking zone.


Air India 787 no smoking zone

20 minutes after takeoff the crew distributed tablecloths in anticipation of the dinner service.


Air India business class table setting

The menu read as follows (there was no wine list):

The two flight attendants in business class worked from a single cart, and they’d always start in the left aisle, and then bring the cart around to the right aisle. 35 minutes after takeoff the drink cart made it to my seat.


Air India business class service

Since there was no drink list, I liked that they at least had one of the trolleys where you could easily see what they had on offer. However, they mostly had liquor on the cart, and not wine.


Air India business class service — drinks

I ordered some champagne, mainly because I wanted to see what brand of champagne they serve. They serve H. Blin, which is not favorite, but also not undrinkable. The champagne was served with a side of packaged roasted almonds and peanuts.


Air India business class dinner — champagne and nuts

Around this time one of the captains came around to greet all business class passengers, apologizing for the delay and saying we should still be arriving on schedule. It’s not often you get a personal in-flight pilot greeting on a flight with two pilots.


Air India captain

Once the flight attendants finished their first drink service they came down the aisle once again with the same cart to offer drink refills. Then about 65 minutes after takeoff I was asked what I wanted to eat. I asked for the Indian vegetarian option.


Air India business class dinner

The main course consisted of vegetable dumplings poached in spicy curry, with steamed rice, spiced vegetables, and dal.


Air India business class dinner — shabnam kofta curry

Accompanying that was some yogurt, as well as a couple of other sides.


Air India business class dinner — appetizer

There was also a selection of bread.


Air India business class dinner — bread

While not especially bougie premium cabin food, it tasted excellent — it was spicy and flavorful.

Once the main courses were cleared, the crew came through the cabin with a dessert cart, with the choice of a cheese plate, strawberry rhubarb compote vanilla mouse, and kesari phirni.


Air India business class dinner — cheese plate & dessert

I love Indian desserts, so of course ordered the kesari phirni, which is saffron flavored rice pudding. Absolutely delicious. It was also served with a couple of chocolates (as if I needed more to eat).


Air India business class dinner — kesari phirni

The cheese plate was also above average for business class, and was prepared at my seat.


Air India business class dinner — cheese plate

To drink I ordered a masala tea.


Air India business class dinner — chai

The meal service was done just over 90 minutes after takeoff, and I have to say that I was impressed. It wasn’t the most premium meal, and the presentation wasn’t incredible, but the food tasted excellent. The service was also friendly. The ladies working business class weren’t over-the-top friendly, but they were attentive, sincere, and well intentioned, so I’d give them high marks for their service.

After dinner I decided to go to sleep. In addition to the two pillows and blanket at my seat on boarding, I was also given a lovely, thick duvet. This has to be one of the best business class blankets out there.


Air India business class duvet

I reclined my seat into bed more, and fell asleep at around 12:10AM in Frankfurt (1hr45min after takeoff), and was woken up four hours later by the crew, at 4:10AM Frankfurt time. The bed was comfortable, and while this isn’t the most cutting edge hard product, I lucked out in that I had an empty seat next to me.


Air India business class fully flat bed


Air India business class fully flat bed

The crew informed me that we had 70 minutes until landing. They started by distributing warm towels, and offering orange juice or water.


Air India business class warm towel

A few minutes later they brought out breakfast trays. There wasn’t a choice of breakfast, but it’s not like I was hungry given that I had just had dinner a few hours prior. Breakfast consisted of a small fruit bowl, as well as carbs, carbs, and carbs (including a muffin, croissant, and apple pastry).


Air India business class breakfast

I had a cup of coffee to drink.


Air India business class coffee

I spent a bit of time after breakfast working, and when it had been 30 minutes since breakfast and we hadn’t started our descent, I became a bit confused. I didn’t have an airshow to monitor the progress of the flight either.

Finally at 9:30AM in Delhi — just five minutes before we were supposed to arrive — the captain made his announcement. “Ladies and gentlemen, your commander. We are here already in Delhi but holding. There is 50 meters of visibility and we will have to hold for improvement. Thank you.”


View approaching Delhi

At this point I started to get a bit worried, and figured a diversion was a real possibility. I had noticed that the same flight diverted two days earlier, and wondered if we’d have the same fate. The reason I was worried was because of how tightly I had planned this trip. If I missed my connection to Colombo then I’d miss my flight to Dubai, and then I’d miss my flight to Brussels, and then I’d miss my flight to New York, and then I’d miss my flight to Yerevan, etc.

30 minutes after the initial announcement the captain was back on the PA — “the conditions are improving in Delhi but there is heavy traffic. Our landing time is uncertain. As soon as I know I will get back to you.”

Only 10 minutes later the captain announced “we will be touching down in 45 minutes. We have enough fuel, and we will be landing in Delhi. Please be patient.”

To my surprise, moments later we began a steep descent, and at 10:30AM the captain announced that we’d be landing in 10 minutes. It was indeed fairly foggy on the approach, but not terribly so (anymore).


View approaching Delhi


View approaching Delhi


View on final approach to Delhi

At 10:40AM we touched down in Delhi.


View on final approach to Delhi

Sure enough, the visibility seemed to be pretty bad on the ground in Delhi.


Taxiing Delhi Airport

At 10:50AM we arrived at a remote stand, where we parked next to another Air India 787.


Air India 787 Delhi Airport

While I would have preferred a gate, it was nice to walk next to the Air India 787.


Air India 787 Delhi Airport


Air India 787 Delhi Airport

There was a separate bus for business class passengers, and within 10 minutes we were at the terminal, nearly 90 minutes behind schedule.


Air India 787 Delhi Airport


Air India A321 Delhi Airport

Air India 787 business class bottom line

I came into my Air India flight with very low expectations, given their reputation. With that in mind, I was very pleasantly surprised. On this flight they had excellent amenities (pajamas, a fantastic duvet, etc.), solid food, friendly service, and a comfortable and clean cabin. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly Air India business class again.

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Comments

  1. At least you did not experience noisy kids during your flight.

    I recently flew from LHR to Dehli and some stupid parents thought it would be a good idea to fly in Biz with 2 underaged kids. They would shout, run and cry every half an hour.

    The worst part is that the parents would not do anything to calm them down!! The whole experience was a nightmare. Noisy kids should not be allowed in business and the parents should be fined in case they disturb other passengers.

  2. If travelling in couple these kind of “old” seats are more confortable than your beloved reverse herringbone coffins with limited foot space.

  3. @Shaun: Most Indian airports weren’t built to offer jetways to all flights. India has never been good at building aviation infrastructure as it was seen as a luxury.

    Delhi airport now handles 57 million passengers per year and has no more room to accommodate more flights. Also, it’s basically in the backyard of an Air Force Base, and it’s got no room to add new runways either

  4. @Shaun

    Land is a premium and two new terminals (T4 and T5) have been planned precisely to offer space for the increasing traffic. There is also a second Int’l airport planned in addition to IGIA. I am not surprised that a jet-bridge was unavailable given delayed departures for many planes surely. All in all, I have had good experiences on AI’s 787 in biz and their 777s in F. I also generally like IGIA, although the airport in Mumbai is somewhat more entertaining. Of course I find all airports to be pleasing compared to my home base in Chicago.

  5. Seems pretty inefficient to only have 18 seats in between doors 1 and 2 on the 787-8. AA fits 20 into that space–all lie-flat seats with direct aisle access.

  6. FYI: “Bougie” in French means “candle”. I think Americans intend to use the word “Bourgeois” (upscale/upper class/WASP with usually a negative connotation) but they cannot pronounce it properly , hence they use “bougie” instead.

  7. ‘The Menu includes an array of ingenious food’ – what the heck did the food do – win a Nobel Prize?

  8. @RB no I think “bougie” is an accepted term in its own right I can say bourgeois but it’s not
    Fun and some know more appropriate to say “ oh that pillow is so bougie!”

    Great review Ben! Makes me consider flying them. Last time I checked they still had a 2 3 2 configuration in BIz. Curious tho out of NYC the only direct flights are United and Air India – United’s Ticket is almost $4000 more and they are flying ancient old Continental seats. Who’d you fly given the choice ? Thanks!

  9. A few years ago I traveled MEL-DEL-LHR with a quick overnight at DEL, both on dreamliners; the food was fairly good but I was not overwhelmed with the experience and shortly after take-off from DEL my seat refused to recline at all. I try to avoid AI and Delhi when possible. Jet Airways is better than AI on long-haul IMHO.

  10. I flew this leg in eco as well as some domestic flights back in September and was also pleasently surprised. Tasty food, all flights on time, great in flight service and well-intentioned staff. All in all very good experience at a reasonable price. As many others before I heard mostly bad things about the airline but was surprised about their performance.

  11. Glad you enjoyed AI. Unfortunately you can’t book their flights on most large travel sites and their own web site as credit card companies refuse to deal with AI because of their dodgy financial status. Also it’s an airline run for the benefit of its’ employees like Alitalia. A real collection of scum.

  12. @R B Apparently bougie is a word for a a surgical instrument as well, according to the apple dictionary.

  13. I hear a lot of bad things of AI, but I’ve flown with them frequently. I haven’t had any complaints with them that I have not had of other airlines. It’s the most convenient way for my colleagues and myself to travel to India from the West coast for business.

  14. Lucky, just a couple of things.
    1. Its not sandal soap. Its sandalwood soap. Sandal is just the brand.
    2. The design on the soap is meant to evoke an elephant. Khadi products are handmade by villagers & tribals. The khadi movement is linked to Indias independence movement thanks to the efforts of Gandhiji to popularise the same
    3. IIRC you flew AI first last year and had a bad experience and a great experience. Wouldnt your own experiences shape your views rather than the supposed reputation which is based on third party claims?

  15. Lucky, the unknown item you have with the image of an elephant is a pocket mirror. The part with the elephant image flips up to reveal the mirror. It’s a common handmade souvenir in India.

  16. By 9:40PM boarding was complete. 15 of the 18 business class seats were taken, and since seats 2J & 2K were empty, I switched to those so I’d have two seats to myself (as much as I was enjoying the company of my seatmates).

    Lucky, you broke his heart….

  17. @747always

    I already said it’s sandalwood soap. Despite Lucky travelling so far he isn’t particularly cultured.

  18. Lucky, I’m wondering if you keep your amenity kits (and pajamas) from your flights. I always bring mine home but then they kind of pile up in a cabinet and don’t get used. Maybe good for a guest bathroom?

  19. I was reading how at one point Indian and Chinese GDP aimed for 70% world GDP. Then the white man, in this case the British, came destroyed the countries.

    It’s a testament to how badly things can go wrong when you don’t have a strong sense of sovereignity. This was also at the time of the British genitility. A mild mannered evil heart is more dangerous than a naive brute.

  20. Pyjamas? Now I’m feeling ripped off. Just flown FRA / DEL and DEL / SYD on the B787 in the last day or so and wasn’t offered pj’s on either flight.

    Soft service levels were different on the longer flight, with a lot more staff in J on the Sydney sector. Although I was surprised when the cabin lights were switched on 6 hours in and all passengers woken up for a snack.

    Having flown Garuda from Europe to Melbourne return in the last month, I’ll book them ahead of Air India.

  21. @Debit

    Everything comes back in a circle. The demise of the West has begun. The East is slowly rising once more.

  22. Great review unfortunately my 7 hr 15 m Shanghai to Delhi flight this week was very different, no amenity kit or pajama’s, drinks offered only prior to dinner and never again even had to ask for water at regular intervals. This was also a 787, 14 of 18 seats occupied. Best bit was captain announcing we are landing in 8-10 minutes and watching the crew running around trying to secure the plane for landing!

  23. The maharajah image on the amenity kit/PJs used to feature prominently in Air India advertising, originating in the 60s and 70s. Although a highly successful campaign, unfortunately the quality of the airline did not match the clever ads.
    The image was deemed to be politically incorrect and was withdrawn for a longish period but has made something of a tentative comeback in recent years.
    Google search “Air India Vintage Ads”, images for some classics ( great design work but some a bit culturally insensitive).

  24. I was Air India avoider all my life, did 7 flights last September including 4 internationals in mixed classes and surprisingly they were amazing, hard product was average but the food and service was excellent and I am hard to please, will be flying MEL-DEL next week in economy and I hope I get a good run.

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