Air India unveils a new cabin and asserts its ambitions

Air India has just unveiled the new cabin that will equip its Boeings 777s. A fine move upmarket, which only confirms the ambitions recently expressed by the Indian airline.

Air India made a big splash at the 2023 Paris Air Show when it announced an order for no fewer than 540 aircraft, confirming the excellent momentum of the Indian market with the 500 ordered by Indigo. But having ambitions in terms of fleet size is one thing, but it’s not enough to exist on the map of the world’s leading airlines, and to become an airline of choice rather than one of convenience.

And Air India still has a long way to go in this respect. While it benefits from a fast-growing local market and therefore a partially captive clientele, international travelers still have a lot of questions when they are offered an itinerary that includes code-share flights with Air India.

What’s the product worth? Does the service live up to expectations? And above all, is it reliable?

Today, many passengers are still reluctant to take the risk only because the fare is unbeatable for a flight to Asia, or because the schedules are more convenient.

People fly Air India out of convenience, for want of something better, and with a little apprehension, and it’s this image that needs to be changed in order to fill the aircraft ordered, by becoming an airline that people spontaneously choose of their own free will.

A new livery for Air India

After its huge order, Air India has presented its new livery. It’s a way of embracing the spirit of the times and rejuvenating its image by adopting the codes of the moment.

Colorful for the reference to local identity and culture, but with a pronounced alignment with the codes of traditional Western or Asian airlines.

On the belly of the aircraft, we note this borrowing from Emirates.

But repainting airplanes is all very well, but if the interior isn’t up to the standards of a demanding international clientele, it won’t be of much use.

So the airline has since unveiled the new cabins that will equip its B777s in the future. We start with a video before going into the details of this 4-class cabin: first, business, premium economy and economy.

Air India’s new first class

It will consist of a single 1-2-1 row, similar to what Air France offers today. It is based on a Safran Unity seat.

The tones and appearance are very premium.

It closes with sliding doors to create a private suite.

In line with new market standards, it features wireless charging.

It is not yet known whether other aircraft in the fleet will be equipped with this first class. While this may be feasible for A350s, we fear that the difference in cabin widths will make it complicated for B787s.

Air India’s new business class

It shares the Safran Unity base of the first class, so there’s an undeniable filiation in style.

It, too, has a 1-2-1 configuration with direct access to the aisle, and, as is increasingly the norm in this class, features sliding doors.

Here too, the appearance is a priori flattering, but we have more reservations once we put ourselves in the passenger’s shoes.

This is just a personal opinion based on photos, but I don’t like the magazine rack on the side, which looks a bit “rough” where we’d have preferred an enclosed storage space. But it’s important to see the product in real-life conditions, so you might get a totally different impression.

The seat is “staggered” which means that every other row has a seat close to the aisle and the other has more privacy and is close to the window, but with the sliding doors this should be less of a nuisance than on many similar seats.

It also features wireless charging.

Air India’s new Premium Economy

A complete change of atmosphere here, with a red-tinted cabin and a 2-4-2 configuration.

At this stage, little more is known about this product.

Air India’s new Economy

The red is back too, this time in a 3-4-3 configuration.

Following in the footsteps of Turkish Airlines?

A little-known and poorly-regarded airline, an upmarket product, a massive aircraft order…sound familiar?

Indeed, it seems that Air India is following in the footsteps of Turkish Airlines, which went through the same story before setting out to conquer the world.

But the Turkish airline has done things in a certain order: first service, then hard product, then the race for size. Air India, on the other hand, is going to try to do everything at once, without it being clear what its promise is or what efforts are envisaged in terms of soft products.

While its domestic market is booming, it will not be enough to bring in the premium customers it desires, and it will have to attract customers from South-East Asia and Europe, using the central position of its Delhi hub.

For this, it will need a convincing hard product (which it is trying to show us), a soft product up to scratch (which remains to be proven) and an efficient, comfortable hub, which Delhi is not today.

The new Air India is bold, confident and dynamic, but also warm and deeply rooted in its rich history and traditions that make Indian hospitality a global benchmark for service standards,” says its CEO. We’re just waiting to see. The road is long, but the first steps are promising.

Bottom line

Air India is showing its ambitions to play in the big league and claim its share of the cake between the European and Asian majors.

If its trajectory is reminiscent of that of Turkish Airlines, it is only at the beginning of its new history, and much remains to be accomplished, even if for the moment the promise is great.

What about you? What do you think of Air India’s ambitions? Have you ever flown with them? If so, what do you think of their current product?

Tell us in the comments.

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrin
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.

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