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First of all I would like to thank this forum for having made me aware of the great deal in Business Class with Air India. I got a ticket for GBP 1670 and travelled over Christmas to Sydney via Delhi. I would like to share with you my comments and feedback from the AI experience.
Booking request was done with Sharp Travel via their website and followed with a call to check it had gone through. It had and payment was processed and confirmation and e-ticket was received. They also said they would contact AI with regards to free hotel stopover on the return journey as there was a 12hr layover between flights – a nice touch as I hadnt yet asked for it. Seat assignment was also done except for the SYD/DEL sector as the flight was coming in from MEL (AI operate triangle routing DEL/MEL/SYD/DEL and DEL/SYD/MEL/DEL so one needs to check carefully when booking).
I also went onto the AI website to provide all information (passport/visa etc) and I must admit not the most passenger friendly of sites to work with.
When I booked, only the LHR/DEL sector was to operate on a 77W and all other sectors on 787. This ended up by being changed and the first 3 sectors were on 787 and DEL/LHR on 77W.
To sum up their Business Class product on board can be done in two words – consistently inconsistent!
The seat which converts to a flat bed is much more comfortable on the 787 than on their 77W. A light duvet and large pillow are provided as are slippers, eye shades and socks (proffered in a red paper envelope). Toothbrush + toothpaste and razors are available in the washroom. It was only on the last sector DEL/LHR that I discovered that they hand out sleep suits and when I asked how come they were not offered on the previous 3 sectors, the Cabin Services Manager was shocked, saying the sleep suits should have been on all flights!
The food served was tasty, but if you dont like Indian food, the European option is limited (in numbers available on board). Only Chicken was offered as the ‘meat option’ for Indian food. Either fish or prawns (one choice only) are offered for European food. Wine with the meal seemed to come as a second thought – all served in 1/2 bottles. The choice was the same for all flights – H.Blin Brut Champagne, 2 whites (Montagny Premier Cru and Grand Vin de Bourgogne Rully) 2 reds (Chateau Greysac Medoc and Grand Vin de Bordeaux Chateau Tour Seran).
Only on the DEL/LHR flight was ones tray table laid up with table cloth and the starter, main course and dessert/cheese/fruit served separately.
There is AVOD and a big choice of Bollywood movies to choose from. Understanding what Hollywood movies are available from their inflight magazine is not clear. Its best to just go through the choice available on the screen.
All in all I enjoyed my flights with Air India. Their 787 is a nice aircraft to fly and the flat bed comfortable to sleep on. The 5hr delay due fog in DEL was beyond their control (DEC/JAN can be a nightmare for fog).
I got all the benefits as a ROP Gold Card member.
Was it value for money? Yes.
Would I use them again? Yes if it was a similar fare.
Below are some comments about each sector.
On arrival in LHR (T5) I remained in transit and took the bus to T4. As the AI Transit Desk in T4 was closed, I was directed up to the AI Lounge and from there my passport was taken and returned 30mins later with the 2 boarding cards. The lounge was ok but nothing special. Open bar with limited choice. There was some hot and cold finger bites – some of which had a real bite to it!
Due to the inbound flight coming in late the LHR/DEL flight had a delay – plus it departed from Gate 23 – quite some distance from the lounge (near Gate 1). The flight was also very full. Their 787 has 18 seats in Business Class. Row 1 is too close to the galley and washroom, row 3 is too close to the galley. I had chosen seat 2A but ended up moving to a Row 2 central aisle seat so an elderly couple could travel together.
There were pre departure drinks (water, orange juice or champagne) and a selection of Indian papers and magazines were offered from the trolley. Menu cards were also handed out.
On this flight a Dinner and Continental Breakfast was served (though the menu only referred to the Dinner). There was a choice only of 4 main courses – 1 of which was European (Grilled Prawns with Nantua Sauce and only 2 available which the elderly couple both opted for). The other choices were Laziz Murg-e-Zafrani (Chicken Curry), Panir Tikka Lababdar and Vegetable Makhanwala. I chose the Chicken Curry.
The bar service was served from the trolley. The starter/main course came all at once with a glass of water. The service was slow and by the time they came out with wine (served in 1/2 bottles) most people had already finished. Thereafter the trolley came with a choice of cheese, dessert and fresh fruit. Tea/coffee was served with complimentary chocolates (2 in a box).
Prior to landing a Continental Breakfast was served with tea/coffee and juice.
Delhi was fogbound but the Captain announced that the 787 was able to land as both crew were fully qualified for reduced visbility landings.
On arrival in DEL after a long walk (T3 is enormous) I went through transit security, which involved my passport and boarding pass being checked several times, my hand baggage having tags attached which were stamped after going through the Xray machines but no requitement to take out liquids or laptops/iPads. Thereafter I went to the AI Lounge – one for Business Class, the other for First Class and accessedby the same Reception. The bar and food/snack station is located in the Business Class lounge as are the washrooms and showers. WiFi is available and they give you a scratch card (for the access code) at the Reception.
DEL/SYD (via MEL)
The same 787 that I flew in from LHR was operating this flight. Again the flight was very full (to MEL) and this time I kept my chosen seat 2A. Flight time to MEL was announced as 12hrs and we departed with a 1hr delay (awaiting connecting passengers and bags). Interestingly although we would arrive in MEL early morning, the two meals served were Lunch & Dinner. Only the lunch was shown on the Menu Card. After the lunch service (Chicken Murg Methi Malai), the lights were dimmed and the windows darkened (no window shades on the 787). This was too early for me and I had them release my window so I could undarken it and enjoy the view. The crew then congregated in the galley behind the curtain, only venturing out if the call button was pushed and 2hrs before arrival in MEL to serve Dinner (Chicken Biryani)
On arrivel in MEL, transit passengers for SYD had to disembark and go through security, returning thereafter to wait at the gate to reboard the aircraft with the joining passengers. There was a change of crew. In SYD however, transit passengers going to DEL had to remain on board! On the short sector to SYD, a sandwich with tea/coffee was offered.
Cabin crew handed out Immigration/Customs forms and ‘Ebola’ forms. Express Arrivals cards were also handed out and it certainly helped as the queues were long – albeit they moved quite quickly.
The evening before I received an e-mail to say that my flight would now depart SYD 1hr later. Web check-in was not available so at the airport I was given both boarding cards for SYD/DEL & DEL/LHR. AI use the NZ lounge at SYD but as it was under renovations, I was proposed to use the QF lounge. I was given an Express Departures card, but the queues were such that it wasn’t required. The QF lounge was heaving with people and staff were being bombarded with complaints that no seats were available, so I went to the SQ lounge and they accepted me with my ROP Gold Card.
We departed on time (revised schedule). Lunch and Dinner was served on the13hr flight. Murg Rogini (Chicken) for lunch and Chicken Biryani for dinner. After battling with the crew to have them release my window (at 2pm I dont wish to sleep) I managed to get some great views as we flew over the ‘Red Centre’. Again the crew hid behind the curtain for most of the flight outside the meal service.
On arrival in DEL, (a clear evening) I was met at Transit, processed through security and taken to the Eaton Smart Transit Hotel and dinner (chicken burger with chips or pasta with chicken bolognese sauce and then ice cream) was included. The room was small but clean and fine for a fews hours rest between flights. I had a 5am wake up call for the 06.50hrs flight to LHR.
This flight was on a 77W. Thick fog had descended during the night and although we boarded on time, it was some 5hrs before we eventually took off. The cabin crew proposed drinks and then breakfast during this time. The Captain provided updates and apologised each time for the rolling delay.
We were the first (of 86 aircraft waiting) to take off. Lunch was served on this flight (Chicken Murg Methi Malai). One of the benefits of the day flight to LHR were the great views of the Hindu Kush mountains and Afghanistan.
Our late arrival into LHR (4pm) meant that Immigration was almost empty.