Air India Improving First & Business Class Meal Service

Filed Under: Air India, Other Airlines

Travel experts worldwide recognize Air India as offering the world’s ninth best first class product. 😉

According to some, what really sets them apart is their meal service:

Don’t forget about the most important feature to any flight: the food. From lamb chops, to kabob’s, you’ll never be disappointed—because who actually eats those pretzel bags they hand out?

Air India will be joining the Star Alliance tomorrow, July 11, 2014, and it seems like they’re sprucing up their first & business class meal service on select flights as a result.

Via Bangalore Aviation:

As the national carrier Air India enters the Star Alliance tomorrow, the airline along with its in-flight caterer TajSATS, will upgrade its in-flight meal service for its premium class passengers, with a new concept called ‘table set-up’.

The service will be available for first and business class passengers of Air India on select domestic and international routes. The new concept will allow passengers to visually examine and taste a variety of dishes and then pick and choose their choice of meal from the various options available.

How innovative. This officially puts them in the same league as… Ethiopian, which does the same for their business class passengers. 😉

Ethiopian Airlines business class food spread

Okay, in all honesty I do like when airlines have a “buffet” style setup where you can pick and choose what you want and it’s plated at your seat. Then again I don’t really know what Air India’s food was like before, so don’t have much of a basis of comparison.

I can’t properly express how excited I am about Air India joining the Star Alliance tomorrow. I hope to test out their longhaul first class product in the next couple of weeks using miles, assuming they release a decent amount of award space.

If you’ve flown Air India before, what did you think of their meal service?

(Tip of the hat to @vishal1mehra)

  1. Their meal service and service leaves a lot to be desired. Having flown them domestically in C (new 787) from Bangalore to New Delhi, I was not impressed. The hard product was decent. Service nonexistent, and food was a choice of Veg or non-Veg tray style meal.

    Have flown numerous domestic sectors in C on older/smaller planes. Similar catering, but the planes were absolutely filthy and run down.

    Flew them internationally from Bangalore to Male in an all coach configuration — nothing positive about the flight other than the fact that we arrived on-time. Plus lots of duct tape holding the cabin parts together.

    I’m really surprised the StarAlliance is letting them in, although it does open up some new destinations that we couldn’t get to before.

  2. Buffet-style food on planes grosses me out. I want my food handled as little as possible – warm it up, plop it down in front of me. I know there’s more than that involved, and I fly paid premium a lot for work – but I really can’t stand to watch the scooping and plating and over-handling in the aisle.

  3. By all accounts, you will be disappointed by AI’s long-haul F product. Make sure you lower your expectations suitably. The ground service/lounge(if any) will be akin to a medium standard business class. The seats will be old but comfortable. The IFE will be more oriented towards Indian content and the screen will be small as International F is only available on their 77Ws and not the 787. No wine-list.

    The food will be good though, nearly always. And the FAs will be warm towards you too, given how the Indian pax have a mentality to demand too much from them. And in my experiences, AI’s FAs always love it when you display a geeky side to you, e.g. you know what aircraft you’re flying and are willing to discuss their new toy, 787. Nothing will get them more excited when you tell them AI’s future is bright! 😉

  4. Air India has been using this service concept since the 1960s in First Class. It’s just being rolled out into Business Class now on longhaul routes with only a 2-class product.

    I’ve flown around 500k BIS miles on AI over the years and the catering is indeed exceptional. They spend far more than they should on meal costs (as in double or more per capita than most profitable international airlines do) and the result is usually a high spec vis a vis quantity and quality in all classes (the spending on F/Y meal quality is disproportionately high – J class has been squeezed as a result).

    The menus are however very much tailored to Indian palettes (even the Western dishes), so expect to see what I like to call “universal premium menu choices” rather than any sort of particularly creative menu developments. Furthermore, there is no beef or pork used in any of the menu options which again limits the variety.

  5. What a neat coincidence. Ethiopian Business Class uses the same china pattern as my local Chinese food carryout!

  6. Let us just call it putting lipstick on a pig. In practice, they’ve been doing this domestically for a while. My past few domestic AI flights in business, they did not offer me a menu, but they showed me the meals, and then dropped one in my tray in the silver foil itself.

  7. It’s a very food oriented culture and that spills over into flying. I remember when I was a child it was absolutely expected that a hot meal would be served onboard even for the shortest flights- even if it was not a standard meal time .

    @Neil_S: I somewhat agree– buffets do increase the risk for pathogens. And I also think that with buffet style service, airlines tend to replace quality with quantity and variety. So overall it’s a mixed bag. But they need to get rid off the metal foil containers. That’s tacky.

    What I do love is a ‘buffet style’ dessert service where you can mix and match items together.

  8. Gross!!!! Those aluminum foil trays look terrible. It looks like the Indian restaurant by the airport delivered straight to the plane and they just opened it so people can serve. I can’t imagine the smell on that plane.

  9. I have flown Air India (along with other airlines) ever since I remember and I must admit that they have improved over the past couple of years. Meals have always been good, even in economy class… but remember that I am Indian 🙂

    Service levels have improved too. It is important to note the expectations and behaviour of the Indian traveller who sometimes treat the FAs as ‘servants’. Also, a big percentage of their passengers (domestic) are government employees… let me not say anything more on this one…

    I have found their IFE for international flights pretty good with wider selection than, say, Air France or American Airlines even for non-Indian content. Moreover, they are probably the only airlines offering IFE on domestic routes (only selected ones).

    All said, I hope they continue their path upwards and the entry into Star Alliance would not only help them to keep/improve standards but also build confidence among passengers to fly Air India.

  10. My church has a Tigranya language service and that set up on Ethiopian reminds me of the potucks the members have from time to time.

    I am certain other airlines warm items up in foil pans, but my the candid presentation is lacking.

  11. Just because Ethiopian Airlines did a bad job (in this picture) on their buffet (in foil, food not high standard), does not mean that other carriers can not do better. I saw many carriers that did the buffet styles in the past with high quality food, nice presentation, e.g. SQ F, TG F in the 90’s or even Air India (trip report by Sam Chui) on 747-400 and it looks quite nice

  12. Thanks for this article, Air India brings passage to India and East Asia for Star Alliance which has seen increased competition from Turkey, Gulf routes for US and European airlines.

    Looking forward for your post on booking award tickets on Air India.

  13. For anyone that isn’t familiar, TajSATS is a collaboration between Taj Hotel Group and Singapore Airlines Terminal Services.

  14. Honestly, the food on Ethiopian looks WAY tastier than some dry-ass chicken breast and wilted salad on a US or most European carriers. It looks like some good ole’ home cookin’ that an Ethiopian grandma made, who cares if its served out of an aluminum tray. I’d much rather have good food served simply, than some subpar industrial meal presented on a porcelain dishes

    Also, white boy, this “buffet” style of little bits of lots of options is how a lot of the world eats their meals. The salad/appetizer/main/dessert format is mostly a Western concept.

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