Review: Air India’s AMAZING First Class Ground Experience In Delhi

Filed Under: Air India

I apologize that the next two installments may seem a bit scattered, as I’ll be covering the Air India first class ground experience in this post, and then in the next post will be covering the actual Air India lounge in Delhi, which is shared between first & business class passengers.

Why am I breaking it up this way? Because in Delhi, Air India offers the world’s most personalized first class ground experience. I sure as hell wasn’t expecting that.

There aren’t many reviews of Air India first class out there, so going into this trip I had no clue what to expect. And perhaps that’s why the ground experience delighted me beyond words.

As I stepped off the plane there were three people standing on the jet bridge, and one of them had a sign with my name on it. Great, I was really impressed they’d send someone to pick me up at my gate. As it turns out, they didn’t send one person to pick me up.

They sent three people. Three people. There was a lady named Shalina there to escort me, another guy there to carry my bags, and another guy just to oversee the whole operation.

I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so many looks walking through a terminal, as I had someone in front of me and then two people trailing behind me. In terms of the looks, it probably didn’t help that I was wearing sweatpants at this point in my trip, given that my layover was in the middle of the night between two longhaul flights.

As we walked I informed the team I didn’t yet have a boarding pass for my connecting flight to San Francisco. The guy overseeing the whole operation picked up his cell phone to make a call. The walk took quite a while, and about 15 minutes later we found ourselves at the international transit desk, where they had my boarding pass waiting for me. Amazing!

From there I had to go through international transit security. There was a single checkpoint open, and every single person was getting a pat down, though there was only one person to conduct them. Apparently security was extra heavy because it was around India’s Republic Day. The line must have been over a hundred people deep.

Shalina opened up a special rope, while one of the other guys escorting me pushed me to the very front of the line to get the pat down. Like not just into the queue where you place your bags on the x-ray, but literally in front of everyone else. It was awkward. Meanwhile the guy with my bags took care of my baggage screening. I didn’t have to pay any attention to the bags.

I was through in a minute flat. On the other end, Shalina said “let’s go.” “But we don’t have my bags.” “My colleague will take care of that for you, don’t worry.”

So we proceed up to the Air India first class lounge, which was a special section in Air India’s main lounge. Within a couple of minutes my bags arrived as well.

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Air India Lounge Delhi entrance

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Air India Lounge Delhi first class signage

Shalina explained she would also collect me when my connection was ready for boarding, and asked if I wanted to board first or last. Nice option to have!

I was blown away, and figured the great service stopped there. I was wrong.

The first class section of the Air India lounge had some over-the-top service as well. The thing is that they don’t actually have much to work with, but the two guys taking care of me, Kamlesh and Rohit, couldn’t have been more attentive. It might have helped that I was the only person in the lounge.

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Air India Lounge Delhi first class section

They were almost annoyingly attentive, but I loved how passionate they were about making sure their “guests” were happy.

The moment I settled in I was proactively offered bottled water and a plate with some snacks, and they asked if I wanted anything else. I ordered a coffee.

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Air India Lounge Delhi coffee & snacks

Kamlesh continued to stand maybe 20 feet away, and without exaggerating, would check on me every 30 seconds. It was comical and borderline annoying, but he was just so friendly and passionate about being attentive that it put a huge smile on my face.

“Maybe I can get you some hot appetizers?”
“I’m fine for now, thanks.”
“How about something else to drink?”
“Maybe later, thank you.”
“Another coffee maybe? Is it still warm?”
“It’s perfect, thank you.”
“Would you like a shower? I can arrange that for you.”
“Sure, can I get one in 30 minutes?”
“Yes! And maybe after that I can arrange some rest for you? We have some rooms with beds.”
“I think I’m okay for now, thanks.”

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Air India Lounge Delhi nap room

And that continued for just about the entire time I was in the lounge. I felt like I was doing them a favor by asking for things. 😉

When it was time to shower, Rohit insisted on carrying my bags to the shower room. When I emerged from the shower room, one of his colleagues was waiting there to carry my bags for me.

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Air India Lounge Delhi shower room

When I went to the business class section, Kamlesh literally walked behind me the entire time to make sure I didn’t want anything. Again, it was completely over the top and borderline uncomfortable, but the attentiveness really left me speechless.

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Air India Lounge Delhi business class section

My boarding pass indicated that boarding would commence at 1:35AM, which was an hour before departure. Around this time Shalina came by to inform me that there was a delay in boarding, but that she would be monitoring very carefully.

In the meantime I heard the boarding calls for the flights to Chicago and New York, and noticed that there was even a second flight to New York, since the storm in the US had canceled the previous night’s flight.

At 2AM Shalina finally informed me it was time for boarding, so she and her colleague appeared to take me (and my bags) to the plane.

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Delhi Airport terminal

We headed over to our departure gate, which was gate 1. She explained that the airline takes a lot of pride in their new flight to San Francisco, and that it always leaves from gate 1. She explained that this is the gate usually used for VIP and government departures, as the gate is fully “enclosed.”

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Being escorted to gate at Delhi Airport

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Being escorted to gate at Delhi Airport

We showed up at the gate after a five minute walk, where there was yet another security checkpoint with quite a line.

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Departure gate to San Francisco

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Departure gate to San Francisco

Just as when I arrived in Delhi, I was escorted to the very front of the line, and told to just walk through the metal detector, while my bags would be taken care of. On the other end Shalina said “let me escort you aboard.” “But what about my bags?” “They will come, don’t worry.”

Alrighty then! She escorted me right onto the plane, where within a minute I was greeted by the cabin crew in charge and captain. I could tell this would be a very different flight.

A couple of minutes later the other awesome escort appeared with my bags, which he placed in the overhead bin for me.

Bottom line

Air India’s ground service in Delhi really blew me away. It was over the top, and the most attentive gate-to-gate escort service I’ve ever had. Now, the lounge itself left a lot to be desired, including basic things like usable Wi-Fi. But all the ground staff I interacted with exemplified the epitome of Indian hospitality.

While Air India isn’t at risk of qualifying for the top first class airline lounges in the world, the attentiveness of the staff is award-worthy.

I’m sure some will ask “well, did you just get special treatment for being a blogger?” The only other review I’ve read of Air India first class also indicates that they had three handlers pick them up at the plane. And for what it’s worth, the other first class passengers on my flight to San Francisco showed up with a similar entourage. But I also know that won’t stop some from thinking I got special treatment, which is always the case when I have a good experience (and that’s fine). If it is the case, they have some work to do, given how lousy the service was on my flight from London to Delhi.

Stay tuned, because the great service continued onboard!

  1. No matter how positive a spin you put on it, the AI-bashing crowd will always have an axe to grind with you about it. LOL. Coming in 3… 2… 1… Don’t mind them tho. Cockroaches don’t have a very long life span.

  2. I guess it’s a case of being ‘too attentive’ if anything, but I’ve always said the only thing Delhi is missing is really nice lounges – which is fails to really provide. Something to look forward to I suppose.

  3. Sounds similar to the ground experience TPG received for being the Residence passenger, except they didn’t lose your bags 😉

  4. The concept of tipping doesn’t exist anywhere in Asia at all. It is a completely foreign (western) concept that would make people extremely uncomfortable if you thrust money onto them. They’d be surprised and would reject it. I don’t know ’bout their pay, but that isn’t the point here – but they’re airport workers/officers, not waiters. Who on earth would tip an airport officer..?

  5. Wow.. Cool.. Special treatment or not you are always objective so I would give AI a shot, based on your flight to Delhi and the ground experience.. Im wondering now if I can use miles and more miles for europe-us award with air india 😀

  6. Was there last month in economy, but as *G, I had Air India escort from checkin through to special customs&immigration line and all the way to lounge.

  7. Yes, also questioning about tipping for this trip and tipping in general for people in lounges as I’m new to these experiences.

    Wonderful blog, great piece recently on Smithsonion Channel – you live out of a carry on bag?

  8. Outstanding !
    What a wonderful review.
    You made me feel I was tagging along with you as I read your experience.
    It’s just such a different world when one is in first class. Isn’t it !
    I’m so impressed. I’ve never really been an important person (VIP) anywhere in life and you seem to have been treated as true royalty here.
    It just tickles me and I’m ever so delighted. I love how you skipped lines and just effortlessly breezed through where the rest of humanity was queued up and doomed to wait !
    I’ve always been solidly ‘lower to middle’ middle class and my travels reflect that. Reading your adventure here is like vicariously living the ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’. The class/caste system seems to be in full effect in all its glory in the travel industry. lol
    You know what I mean. I hope that wasn’t offensive. Wasn’t my intent.
    I know my reaction is beyond the scope of this review and a bit over the top but well, I’m a tad bit intoxicated by it all !!!
    Thank you, Sir Ben !

  9. Lucky, although I haven’t experienced AI First Class, I grew up in India and spend about 30% of my time there for work. I don’t think the hospitality you experienced is because of your blog. I’ve had similar experiences over the years. E.g. Couple of months ago, when my cab to the airport got lost trying to find the office, 2 people rushed off on their bikes to find it, someone carried my bags and another person walked with me. Sure felt like a VIP!

  10. Lucky- were you ever concerned about security being separated from your bags? I would be scared that things would go missing.

  11. Well I guess you could take a extra long shower to get some alone time from the repeated but well meant questioning.

  12. @ Bethany — It very briefly crossed my mind, but then I realized that this is probably the guy’s job all day every day, and if anything were missing it would be so easily tracked back to him. So crossed my mind very briefly, but then wasn’t worried.

  13. @ Hasse — Didn’t tip anyone in this situation. I did ask for their names since I wanted to write a nice note to compliment them, but typically didn’t feel necessary/appropriate.

  14. you would think they would use a buggy cart to transport F passengers instead of walking them however far the gate is, that would show true escort service by using vip cart.

  15. That’s better than CK connection service! With CK you only get ONE person, but you do get the awkward golf cart service

  16. I wouldn’t be comfortable to be away from my bags like that…. Also, did anyone offer to assist you in the shower??

  17. I really don’t think I would like that very much. I guess I’d try to go with the flow, but having the guy hover in the lounge would be a little bit too much for me.

    So, if there had been 5 people in first on your arrival, do you think 15 people would have shown up at the jetway?

  18. Definitely sounds like air India first is designed for 1%ers of India.

    It’s not abnormal for a well off Indian family to have 10+ servants (and none of those families I know would fly first). Id guess it’s the ultra wealthy of India that would pay for first, so having 3 people take care of you would not seem absurd to them, especially given that the bag carrier probably doesn’t speak English.

  19. This makes a lot more sense now about our recent experience in Mumbai. They have a VERY nice, new airport there (the international one, domestic is still terrible). We were flying economy but are executive platinum so we had lounge access. The lounge was incredible and they treat you like royalty. Right before boarding started I wanted to leave to buy a bottle of water to take on the flight and they got in a tizzy because if I left the lounge then they couldn’t personally escort me and my husband to the plane for boarding. I wasn’t sure why that mattered, no one has ever done that before anywhere, but now I see that it’s just part of their service culture, they want to go that extra step to make their VIPs feel important.

  20. 3 people to fetch you, 2 people to wait on you. Inefficient government. This is the experience of the VIP in India.

    Also THIS is how many Indian service professionals are : annoyingly attentive. So the FAS on your flight were either trying to break out of that mold and hadnt found the balance yet or were lazy bums or just didn’t care about losing their jobs. Not to pick on them but I have seen FAS on us carriers with attitude as well.

    In any case I think now that you realize a lot of readers are as emotionally invested in these reviews as if you are reviewing their mothers or sisters you are trying to balance the reviews. One installment of bad then throw some bones of good. Haha haha.

  21. To the person who claimed tipping doesn’t exist in Asia, maybe so 500 years ago but it is widespread today in tourist areas.

  22. Service in India is fabulous and over the top. I stayed at the Taj in Mumbai shortly after the terrorist attack. The place was empty and I was one of the only people there and rates reflected it (only reason I could afford to stay).
    It is definitely awkward sometime though and my impression was that they felt that if you’re white then you have money and they go out of their way to serve you and you got special treatment over locals. Additionally, human labor is quite inexpensive so even upper middle class have cooks an private drivers – the kind of things that in the USA only the uber rich have. The remnants of the caste system certainly still exists in parts of the country.

  23. The attentive service really can be on the verge of annoying. While at one of the Taj hotels, my Mother and I were having a meal and every time I slightly moved my hand towards the water to pour some more (glass not empty), one of the waiters would come over and insist on doing it for me. The type of service you received is definitely not out of the norm, but I would feel awkward with an entourage going around with me everywhere.

  24. I had a chance to fly LH in F from DEL to MUC and the ground experience was similar. Your trip reports show the inconsistencies all travelers who fly AI experience

  25. Usable WiFi is a general problem in India, so that doesn’t surprise me. We tried 2 priority pass lounges in Delhi and had the same problem. Same issue in hotels.

  26. One item I would add is that the airport at DEL quite blew me away. It’s much better than JFK, LAX, ORD, SFO etc. I do like to wander around airports rather than spend all my time in the lounge and Lucky I do wish you would too so as to give us an idea of whether that might be time well spent.

  27. Am I correct in thinking we cannot replicate your experience with the discontinuance of the AI F service to SFO?

  28. You should read the trip reports on This treatment of FC passengers is the norm. Shame the lounge itself is rather underwhelming.

    “And I thought Nick’s Garuda Indonesia FC service was extraordinary…”

    It is, just in a different way.

  29. Ben – to echo a comment I read in another article, you’re absolutely crushing it with posts this last week. Lots of variety, interesting, and in this case made me chuckle too.

    This is now a go-to blog for me, thank you for the effort.

  30. Credit – So you previously criticised AI for being lackadaisical in their approach, and now you’re criticising them for being way too attentive and doing their job with dignity. Keep it up, because you’re only making yourself look extremely spoilt and like a completely over-privileged brat of the highest order. The world is not a homogeneous place, and different parts of the world have different service standards. If you can’t tolerate that, stay in your country and don’t go anywhere because you don’t deserve to set foot in another country with that kind of entitled attitude.

    Hospitality is a central feature of many Asian cultures, and you’re probably way too used to the curt and brash attitude that is a mainstay of many US airlines to be able to appreciate it.

  31. I agree with @Marcus. Premium lounges are great for a shower before a connecting flight; but, I prefer overall to just wander. I love the sights and sounds of a major international airport. The people watching is fabulous.

  32. Kudos to Air India for getting it right… JRD would have been proud to read this. Now they have to duplicate this in all other cabins 🙂

  33. @credit

    If I am not mistaken DEL ground handling is done by AI SATS (A JV with a Singapore company), not government.

    DEL airport is owned and operated by a private group of companies called GMR. GMR also built and operate few other award winning airports in India and other countries.

    These are well paid private sector employees per Indian standards, they won’t accept tips, I believe GMR policy is to fire if anyone caught accepting tips. I may be wrong.

  34. I fly to India about thirty times a year for work. A few of those times were not in first but economy when traveling with my family. Same experience as described here at BOM and DEL even in economy since they recognize my star golf status. Just lovely.

    I also requested some special food from my fav restaurant in the world (Bukhara) and I was willing to pay for it. This was during my wife and my anniversary trip departure from DEL in 2014, which they knew about. They enclosed an entire section of the first lounge and set up a romantic dinner for us with candle light and nice wines and let us dine in complete privacy with a four course meal from Bukhara. When I asked the concierge for the charge since I had explicitly stated I would pay for the meal, they informed me that it was their pleasure to serve us and the meal was on the house! They even baked a beautiful cake for us without us asking for it. We shared the cake with the staff and everyone in the lounge.

    How do you compete with that?

    I also agree with comments above that the new terminals at DEL and BOM arr very beautiful and have amazing cultural and art installations, which are great for me because I literally cannot sit in a loubge for more than thirty min. Once, they had the poor concierge run up and down the terminal looking for me since I was five min late to return to the lounge to prep for boarding my flight to ORD. Those who travel to DEL know that the terminal is long so the poor guy was sweating and it if breath when he found me.

    My only criticism of the terminal is that it is a tad warm for non-Indians in the winter although my wife loves it since she is from Singapore.

    Another awesome memory – my laptop screen was not working in 2013 and I needed to work on some pressing items. They got an IT engineer to replace my screen within thirty min (obviously I paid for the repair – roughly 150US$ in those days) and I was back to work. This explains why all of the directors in my company are from South Asia. They are very sincere when they desire to be.

  35. Loz,

    You’re not the guardian of Indian honor. Who cares if your countrymen are terrible at the commercial aviation game? You’ll get better eventually. Getting mad at a bunch of people on the internet only betrays your insecurity and your lack of faith in India. (Can’t blame you I guess)

    In any case, I really need you to get back to work. I’ve been on hold with Amazon’s customer service for like 30 minutes now.

  36. AI has 114 employees per aircraft, and this is after staffing reductions. In 2012 they had 221 employees per aircraft. This is not unrelated to the lavish attention you received. They have to earn their salaries somehow.

    I also agree with Loz that it is the legacy of imperialism, racial prejudice and Indians’ self-hatred that causes the employee to aircraft ratio to be so high and leaves stains on the seats. India invented aviation in prehistory (see Ramayana for evidence–it describes monkeys flying across the ocean from India to Sri Lanka) but now we get no credit because the imperialist running dogs have stolen the idea from us. 🙂

  37. About tipping – thing is the norm in hotels and restaurants. The AI lounge staff find me they are not allowed to accept tips when I asked where u could provide a tip for the service. However, I always sneak a ten or twenty Rupee note to the guys who are keeping the washrooms in the DEL or BOM airports clean – by that I mean there is literally a guy cleaning after every single person uses the facility and at the Taj where I stay, there is a guy with gloves providing warm towels to everyone after washing their hands to dry them. So yes, hospitality is just over the to in India including when I visit my Indian friend at their homes. They tell me that guests are treated as Gods in Indian culture and is one of their virtue.

  38. Please excuse all of the grammatical and syntactical errors above. Difficult to type and walk through to my boarding gate about to depart to VIE. Hopefully everyone can join the commentary together.

  39. I don’t think AI represents the entire Indian aviation industry. Most people I know prefer Jet Airways in most ways, especially in the premium cabins. Wish Lucky could review that, though technically, he did did review the hard product, I think, when he flew Turkish FC (not BC, but back when they had FC)?

  40. David, I did manage to get back to work, but you weren’t on the other end of the line. I did hear a bunch of gunshots and the screams of children through the phone, though, so I do wonder what was going on on the other end! Regardless, hope you’re fine!

  41. @Chuck

    114 based on traditional way airlines use to calculate employees per aircraft, which AI still follows.

    AI group has 134 aircraft
    FAs 3500
    Pilots 1500
    MRO/MX 6000 (shared with 20 other airlines)
    Ground Handling – 5000 (These are low paid(not FC/CC/AMT level) shared employees)

    If you calculate the modern way(ie., just FC/CC)
    AI has 5000 employees for 134 aircraft 37 employees per plane.

    On the flip side using traditional calculation
    Lufthansa has 119,000 employees for 650 planes – 183 employees per plane
    Emirates has 85,000 employees for 240 planes – 354 employees per plane

    You will be hard pressed to prove AI is bloated even with traditional calculation.

  42. That would have been solid gold if it was the greatest grift of all time. Three actors standing there with a sign then take you out into the car park sans luggage and just disappear.

  43. @Ben

    Security is always tight in India, everywhere. Scanning and a full body frisk is the norm. Two years ago, a huge trial was conducted using the millimeter wave scanners, but the CISF and AAIA were dissatisfied with the results. They were still thinking about a secondary trial with the improved technology until this occurred:

    The traditional scanners combined with full body searches were significantly more difficult to thwart and remain the preferred medium of security check combined with the double layer of security, which is also conducted before entering the gate enclosures.

  44. David gets the award for the most culturally insensitive comment in the history of this blog ever, and I can only really congratulate Loz on her classy comeback to such a demeaning and racist comment.

  45. @USMarineCorpsVet

    Based on your tag name, I for one appreciate the services of all soldiers and officers to their nation and I’m sure I’m not alone here. Although you may not have been treated as a VIP, the reality is that you and the millions around the world such as you are the true VIPs and frankly selfless heroes. Cheers to you.

  46. Is it just me or have these comments lately for Air India been less about the trip report, and more about dramatic people going back and forth over insignificant arguments? Dissapointing to say the least that people can’t take this for what it’s worth…one mans perception of an airline and the service it offers.

    Ben – I really appreciate the report since again, as many have said, AI first class reviews are not very common. Keep up the great work!

  47. I just got back from two weeks in India and I am not surprised by the level of service and hospitality you received. It is second to none and surprisingly affordable compared to western prices! If you haven’t already, you should try and spend some time in India. Incredibly country with so much to offer.

  48. Thanks for another great repirt! @Joe- I hear you, but having never been to India, I am really interested in the comments about the cultural norms, tipping, etc. I think we all want to know how likely it is that we would have the same experience. (But racist and political comments are innapropriate. )

  49. My parents occasionally got similar level of service on arriving international economy connecting domestic economy on a low cost air carrier like Indigo. They got escorted through immigration, baggage and security to catch a connecting flight due to a very tight layover in Chennai Airport. All I had to do is call beforehand and request the airline company and the airport manager to get them expedited if possible, they usually honor the request.

    @Lucky – That was a nice experience you had too, btw you should fly to South Indian Airports when you get a chance, lots of International flights to Bangalore, Chennai, Coimbatore and Cochin, although none in F class sadly except EK.

  50. @Loz

    I made it out alive, thanks for asking! This Indian guy on my last flight got so mad that I got off the plane before him that he went on a shooting spree in my neighborhood. Luckily the kids and I smelled his body odor before he snuck up on us. Thank goodness for pungent spices and bad personal hygiene!

    While I have you here, I need next day shipping on that order. I’ll pay whatever it takes, so hop into your cab and bring it here yourself if you need to. I haven’t checked exchange rates in a while but $1 should feed your family for a week or two, eh? I got a nice $5 bill here with your name on it!

    Anyway, gotta go shoot some cows. Later!

  51. Oh for the days the comments were a strength of this blg. Now, they just make me cringe. if you ask old timers to identify worst part about the attention our hobby has “enjoyed” in recent years, they would probably mention devaluations, elimination of promos like the USAirways grand slam or disappearance of manufactured spend techniques.

    For me, the deterioration of the commenters on a blog that used to have some of the best in the industry is definitely up there.

  52. India is an incredible place – affordable for a while but expensive once you live here. The incredible thing is that the there are solutions and opportunities for everyone. I moved here four years ago as an expat and to be honest, it’s freaking expensive to live here day-to-day, even in comparison to my home back in SFO. Houses are expensive (we found nice places to stay only to be dissuaded by the prices), groceries (in my area) are expensive, gas is expensive, electricity and water are expensive and cars…twice the price they are back home. There are many different colors to India – we had thought that we would have a very privileged lifestyle in our neighborhood. However, it turns out that we are probably one of the most ordinary families here – both my neighbors roll in their Rolls. Yet, just a mile down the street, there are smaller tea stands and food stands (amazing tasting food) which cater to the many laboring classes who work around the area. The diversity, dynamics, and the contrast is just intoxicating and frustrating. All in all, my family (we are natives of Colorado originally who moved to SF around 10 years ago and worked in the Silicon Valley) and I are just in love with this country and always willing to help new expats adjust. Come to India and you will be unsure at first, but eventually you will fall in love with this place and its people. It’s an amazing country.

  53. Thank you, Jared and WestCoast, for your kind comments about my military service. I appreciate it. I would like to share your sentiment with all of the folks out there who serve humanity with sincerity, especially either in tough environs or in thankless jobs. I hope they get the recognition, respect, and rewards that they mightily deserve.

    I have to mention this: Ben is very honest, talented, and efficient in the way he writes and shares but additionally, so many of the comments here are valuable as well. I’m learning things I never knew or even thought about – like the employee to plane ratio.
    We truly live in a rich, diverse, amazing, wonderful, colorful, exciting world.
    Thank you all !

  54. Ben…You are on a roll lately with these just beautifully-written blogs. I stayed up for hours last night reading them. Your attention to detail is just remarkable and we’re so grateful at how you bring your experiences to us.

    Many thanks and looking forward to a fabulous year from you!


  55. @ Larry

    I agree totally with you – I love to hear about ppl’s experiences regarding travels, cultures, etc. But senseless, uncalled-for, juvenile, and startling comments that I am reading here frankly diminish the quality and culture of this blog. I find that some ppl like Jared, Kent, and to be honest, many others here have great, sincere and interesting things to share. However, some ppl here (no need to name them because it’s obvious) should simply be prevented from commenting since it really leaves a distasteful flavor in the mouth.

    I guess it’s easier to throw dirt at each other when hiding behind a screen and a screen-name.

    On a different note, I can confirm Ben’s experience in DEL – I travel there a few times a year in F and am impressed each time by the hospitality, service and the amazing rate at which development projects are progressing. The airport is also beautiful and kinda reminds me of my home airport – SIN.

  56. Lucky,
    I transited DEL 12/22. AI to LH and had similar experience in both the AI and LH
    You blogged: The walk took quite a while, and about 15 minutes later we found ourselves at the international transit desk.
    I am surprised AI didn’t have a golf cart waiting for the 15 minute walk.

  57. Great to read a positive review, I do feel Air India is a very under appreciated airlines. I think its economy seating will also give most airlines a run for money.
    For those who think, Air India gave special treatment to a blogger, I would call total BS on that.

  58. @Daniel Palangio

    You sound like you are being paid by the government to shill for them. Some more details would make your testimony more authentic like, where in India are you? Which city? What neighborhood/part of the city? What industry do you work in? Etc. India, like some other countries, is too large and diverse to be painted in such broad strokes as that.

  59. To the poster above, I don’t think he is shilling for the government. The government visits companies such as Tesla and Microsoft to attract investment and jobs, they don’t (and have no need to) advertise on small blogs like this one.
    I do agree with you on calling BS on cost of living. If you have expensive tastes, things are going to be expensive for you. Gas is not subsidized to the extent it is in the US, but people don’t drive such massive distances as the Americans do. However, groceries and produce are dirt cheap, usually half or even a third of American prices. And imported cars are expensive due to being taxed. But otherwise, car prices are more or less comparable. As far as rent goes, if you want super exclusivity with Rolls Royce owning neighbors, you pay for it.
    But he seems to have assimilated well, full kudos to them! It’s nice to hear that expats are liking it here. 🙂

  60. @Ben – talking about lounges Etihad just uploaded a pic on their Instagram of the new longue that would open in May.

  61. David, how did you manage to type that comment from jail after going on the school shooting spree that I overheard when I was on the line with you?

    Oh, wait. My bad. I forgot that the US doesn’t have the rule of law and doesn’t incarcerate white men for blowing and shooting things up.

  62. @Julia

    I’ve traveled to India probably over a hundred times by now and have helped many expats settle in so actually I do have the authority to paint such broad strokes about a country so beautiful and diverse. I do not see why the Indian government would be paying me but I do hope to get more business from them. I doubt the Indian govt frankly cares about this blog. I have 11 homes around the world and my home in India is in New Delhi. I run my own luxury chartered business jet company. I certainly do not feel the need to share any further information with strangers, but feel free to speculate. And yes, my family does love staying here and frankly the business here is better than in the US. Also, a correction, my neighbor on the left doesn’t own a Rolls but a Bentley according to my son amongst other vehicles.

  63. That shooting spree you heard wasn’t from my end, the lines must have crossed and you were overhearing some open line in Baiganwadi.

  64. @Vikas

    Not CK Puri – simply cannot afford to pay eight figures (in USD) for a home – I could add a couple biz jets to my inventory for that much money. Plus, we wanted a good school within walking distance for our kids, and the only school in the vicinity was AES, which was about 40k USD per year and I am not spending that much on a mediocre school. I don’t really want to go into greater details about my residence location.

    On the topic of culture, my children have experienced a dramatic change since they moved here. In SF, they were mediocre students at best with hardly much effort. However, since we moved to Delhi and they started going to school, they have realized that they are on a completely different playing field and that the competition is much tougher – after all many of my children’s peers will undoubtedly hold some of the executive and hi-tech positions abroad. My son and daughter have really picked up their game and I have never seen them study so much and frankly excel; a lot of this has to do with their peers who are also motivated.

    Another thing I am proud of – this year when I asked my son what he wanted for his birthday (I was expecting to hear an iPad or the latest iPod or whatever), he actually said that he would like to donate the money to the flood relief funds in Tamil Nadu. That made me very proud.

    Since moving to India, my kids are really excelling and they are keeping up to date with global events and actually paying more attention to what is happening in the US; apparently, the discussion of politics and news events is encouraged by the school and their peers. So, all in all, for my family at least (and quite a few other from the US – we have a tight expat community here) we really like it here – albeit costs of basic amenities are actually increasing daily.

  65. @Loz

    Oh we get internet in jail (tomorrow’s Netflix Tuesday!). We believe in something called a “standard of living” here, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. It’s a farce for the most part but despite our lawlessness, we think slums are a bad idea.

  66. Well, despite the holes in your story, it sounds lovely. Hey anyone can post stuff on here without verification…

  67. @ Sheena

    I am not saying that all of India is more expensive than in the US – however, maintaining the same standard of living and keeping up with day-to-day expenses in Delhi are expensive. I am sure I can travel further and buy groceries for a fraction of the price that I pay in my neighborhood (and many do), but at the same time, maintaining relations with local community in the society is important. In the US, we never had to care about that – just go to a CostCo and get everything dirt cheap.

    In India, that is not so, especially since price fluctuations are significantly higher than in the US. Retail goods are expensive as well – branded clothing, shoes, cosmetics, etc. Gas is expensive, especially since I do have to travel a lot for work daily in the city and infrastructure costs are expensive (very high taxation for the aviation industry). So, while it may appear that India is cheap, just recognize that living here for foreigners and visiting here for a vacation are two different topics. That is why may expats go on a shopping spree when we get back to the US for clothing, etc.

    To give you an example, I recently went to this tea establishment called Chaiyos for some tea and ended up paying R.145 for a small cup of tea – about half the size of a tall coffee at Starbucks in the US – Basically I paid about 2.5USD for a tiny cup of tea. Isn’t that expensive by any standards? Did I have to go there – no. The guy on the street serves frankly a more flavorful tea for Rs10, but if you want the ambience and environment, things are expensive since infrastructure and real-estate is expensive. So, yes, India is expensive – especially considering the significantly greater disparity between incomes and costs. I’m a businessman, and I value my money since money doesn’t grow on trees.

    One major topic that is relevant – superb healthcare is about 1/3 – 1/2 of the price in the US so that should be factored in to the calculations.

  68. Thanks for a great review as ever, Ben. Hopefully it would encourage more people to try out AI & not just bitch about it through hearsay.

  69. Dan palangio, great points. Your previous comment also makes more sense to me now I know you’re in the Delhi region. I have family there, and cost of living, esp real estate costs a very pretty penny.
    I hope you continue to enjoy it here. 🙂 and yes,it’s very imp to balance 145 buck chais and 10 buck chais. You’re paying for the piped music in the bigger places, but the little guy needs your business more. And when you visit home, please tell your compatriots back in the US to stop calling it ‘chai tea’! Please! 😉

  70. Lucky
    Thanks for the TR about ground services at AI. We just transmitted thru Delhi twice.
    I wish you would talk about DEL winning the number One Airport in the world, although you did capture it in a photo.
    Yes am an AI brasher ……….but me thinks the change at the very top ( Chief Managing Director) has a lot to do with improvement in services on the ground and in the air. We have already decided will give AI a second look.
    Now to see how many miles I need to do a US-India- US trip in F !

  71. @Sheena

    Lol- My wife actually picked up Hindi and speaks fluently (mai thik thak bol leta hoon) and we still have no idea why we call it “chai tea” back in the states – I can only assume that we are trying to differentiate it from let’s say black, green or some other type of tea since chai tea has some spices in it (so why not call it masala tea??)? I will persevere and try to correct it, but ultimately I feel that I will fail. On the other hand, what a wonderful idea to bring back something like Chaiyos to the states – it would sell really well I feel – at least in the big metropolitan areas.

  72. @Lucky – Do you have a review on how best to redeem for AI FIrst / Business. I think Avianca miles unless there are other better options.

  73. Dan P, that’s awesome! We absolutely LOVE when a foreigner takes the effort to learn am Indian language. (I guess it’s true of any culture). Indian languages are not the easiest to learn for English/European language speakers, so hats off to you guys! I’m sure the kids have had it the easiest, picking it up effortlessly at school.
    And if you decide to open up a tea chain in the US, I’ll visit it for sure! Just make sure you label chai properly, and you can differentiate yourself from Starbucks by saying ‘we use AUTHENTIC names, not fake made up terms’! Lol
    Anyway, take care. Enjoy the cool weather before summer arrives!

  74. I suppose it’s no surprise they can provide Downton Abbey-esque service (would Carson approve?) when they pay the help like $2 an hour.

  75. These handling agents SATS employees are doing what the special handling department of air India international taught them apparently but clearly this is a case of overstaffing and the baggage Delivery doesn’t coincide with this kind of arrival. Many a time the baggage is delayed on arrival and then they are helpless .
    In departure one has to get his baggage on his own and no seats meals are blocked in advance and no preflighting is done as it used to be done by erstwhile airindians.
    So this is a one off case but cannot be taken to be the norm.

  76. Being a national carrier…..please guide your staff professional enough to handle customers, their rude behavior downgrade the name of our country.

  77. “How did you enjoy showering while on the toilet?” was my thought when I glanced quickly at the picture — dang reflections got me again.

  78. First, I must say thank you for your blog. I appreciate the constant variety of posts and value your reviews.
    I love when you mention

    “They sent three people. Three people. There was a lady named Shalina there to escort me, another guy there to carry my bags, and another guy just to oversee the whole operation.”

    This is very typical for luxury experiences in India and reassuring to know Air India is no exception.

    Finally, while the service you review is Amazing, I really think it is no better then Air France first class ground service. While they don’t have three people to carry you through the airport, they generally have a beautiful French woman to help you. My experiences passing through security and immigration in Paris match your Delhi experience and the car service around the terminal saves a long 15 min walk.


  79. Just experienced a First class travel on Air India from Delhi to JFK. Superb experience on the ground and in the air and also at JFK airport. Captain Singh and crew – did a tremendous job and took very good care.

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