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Air India review: My experience flying from Bombay to San Francisco

Overall, Air India is making the right moves but with a severe hangover. It will take a paradigm shift in HR policies to bring the crew, ground staff and others up to speed with modern industry practices.

BHPian moralfibre recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Air India has been on a definitive makeover since its acquisition from the state by the Tata group. The early signs of improvements or some not-so-good experiences are captured in this thread.

Air India in a definitive attempt to boost their direct to North America coverage introduced a host of new flights covering popular destinations across the continent:

In line with their expansion, a fleet expansion was planned. In addition to the increased coverage, Air India did bring in measures to plug the shortage in their fleet to serve these new destinations. Five ex-Delta Boeing 777-200LRs were leased from Jettran. As soon as the news broke out, Avgeeks across the nation began tracking the movements of these jets from Victorville, California to Singapore. Each of these planes was refurbished by Delta with a 3-class cabin configuration comprising of 28 Delta one suite, 48 seats in the Delta Premium Select cabin and 220 in the Y class configuration. Delta had invested $100M in 2018 to revive their fleet to this upgrade and barely flew these jets before taking the hard call to retire these jets in view of the pandemic.

So far, two of the five 200LRs have already been delivered to Air India christened Vihaan and Prabhat being registrations VT-AEF and VT-AEG respectively. VT-AEF has been deployed on the BOM-SFO-BOM route and runs a 3x weekly service from the financial capital of India to the tech capital of the US.

Being a regular on this route, I was eager to take my next flight on the refreshed cabins of Air India's newly inducted fleet. Therefore, I chose to arrive in Bombay instead of my preferred SFO-DEL-PNQ route. Booking was a straightforward experience. What set this apart was that Air India wasn't selling their premium Y cabin at a markup of 2x as is the norm for premium economy among other carriers. Instead, as an introductory measure, one could simply book a Premium economy seat for a cost of $110 one way to experience the upgrade. This is a lucrative option for those flying this sector as one gets an extra wide and extra legroom seat with excellent under-thigh support, more elbow and shoulder room as well as premium meal service in this cabin.

It was a no-brainer to spend that extra $220 for my to-and-fro journey. A good comparison between the Y cabin and the premium Y is as below:

Economy:

Premium Economy:

Even in the economy cabin, I can only think of two carriers that carry 9 abreast seating in a 3-3-3 configuration. Most others that I know of squeeze in a 3-4-3 seating setup that poaches in the seat width for every row.

More info on the refreshed cabins can be found here.

I'll get into reviewing every phase of this journey by starting with what you'd like and what you won't:

Likes:

  1. Extremely fast connections reduce 3 to 6 hours of overall travel time from North America to India.
  2. Modern and refreshed cabins in newly introduced sectors involving ex-Delta 777-200LR jets.
  3. Affordable fares are at-par with the competition while offering the convenience of a direct flight.
  4. Great local connections for Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities via Air India's domestic segments from BOM, DEL, BLR and HYD.
  5. In-flight food caters to Indian taste buds. Quite comfortable for parents and families alike.
  6. Check-In opens 48 hours before flight time.
  7. Seat selection offers a host of free options as against competition which places families at different corners of an aircraft.

Dislikes:

  1. Extremely slow and painful check-in process involving extra long queues for the coach segment.
  2. On-time performance is severely impacted despite the intent for being on time.
  3. Cabin crew is quite cold and experiences vary across flights.
  4. No wifi or in-flight connectivity options are now a norm on most international carriers.
  5. Ageing and outdated aircraft will take a long time to refurbish and remodel. All 777-300ERs, 777-200LRs and 787s suffer from years of neglect.
  6. Ground staff at baggage handling in India have a babu hangover, they shrug and move away from answering any questions.

Continue reading BHPian moralfibre's flight review for more insights and information.

 
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