Air India Is Revamping Their Business Class

Filed Under: Air India

The Indian government set a deadline of June for Air India to be privatized. The airline is losing hundreds of millions of dollars per year, and there are no signs of that changing. After a lot of threats, the government has decided to extend the deadline, and won’t in fact require the airline to be privatized this month (because clearly that’s not going to happen). Instead they’re going to try and improve the performance of the airline and then disinvest in it. Easier said than done, eh?

So I guess as their first step towards trying to improve Air India, the airline is apparently about to announce a new business class product and new uniforms. As noted by Live from a LoungeAir India will be unveiling revamped first and business class products this Friday, June 22, 2018. The Minister of State for Civil Aviation has announced that this new business class would be called “Maharaja Business Class,” though the changes go beyond that.

Per the story:

Airline officials said the latest makeover exercise would involve overhauling of a section of the first class and business class with an upgraded ambience, upholstery and other new features. The night kits would also come with a new look, they added.

Besides, variety cuisines and new uniforms for crew would be introduced, they said.

According to the officials, the cabin crew of Boeing aircraft flying on the overseas routes would be sporting new uniform with a subtle western touch.

So it’s not entirely clear how substantial these changes would be. At first I assumed they’d be installing new seats altogether (which are much needed on the 777, but not as needed on the 787), but it sounds like the changes may be more cosmetic than that based on them saying that they’re upgrading the “ambience, upholstery and other new features.”

It’s also somewhat confusing that they suggest that they’re “overhauling a section of the first class and business class” cabins. Will Air India have first class, Maharaja first class, business class, and Maharaja business class? That sounds sorta fun…

Air India says that they hope this will help their business class yields and improve market share (they currently have 17% international market share in India), and that they want to make the airline more “customer-focused with enviable service.” They have a long way to go, to put it mildly.

So I commend the airline for trying to make improvements, though we’ll see in a couple of days how much substance there is behind them.

Air India’s 777 business class

Air India’s 777 first class

Air India’s 787 business class

I can’t wait to see how Mr. Brown will feel about these changes to his beloved business class.

How significant do you think Air India’s premium cabin revamp will be?

  1. Would be interesting to see the new designs. Currently, India-Europe and India-USA market is dominated by Middle East carriers. Even the worst ME carrier is still far superior to Air India. I can’t see this helping them unless they manage to get a competitive product, price AND friendly service (which in my opinion is by far the biggest weakness at AI).

    For a country which has, in my opinon, the best true 5 star hotels with such amazing hospitality, it is a real shame they can’t put together a stellar international airline. I guess that’s the difference between public and private sector industries.

    I still get PTSD thinking about my childhood spent aboard unending AI flights with smelly leaking toilets and the permeating smell of mango “frooti”.

  2. I generally take the approach that public transportation is great for people who need/prefer it, but it is none of my business. This also applies to airlines.

    Let’s hope as part of the update they change their current motif which is best described as ‘1970’s kitchen’. If you think that’s a weird description, google 1970’s kitchen.

  3. If you ask me, this whole thing is a waste. Air India has an extremely bad reputation, and it has no significant presence in any market. U.S to India is dominated by M.E airlines, India to Europe is dominated by european airlines, and india to rest of asia is dominated by external airlines. India should cut their losses and scrap the whole thing.

  4. Agree with Vijay. Will never fly AI again. Was traveling back to USA from Delhi on UA, but had to fly from Mombai to Delhi first. The flight was timed to give me 6-7 hours layover in Delhi, but the AI flight was delayed, delayed, delayed. Sat at the un-airconditioned gate for hours, with no info from AI as to why the delay (the equipment was there and you could see no one was doing any maintenance). It was only because I had elite status with UA, was flying out business and doing an “OJ” through the airport in Delhi that I made my flight. Since I had booked the AI flight on a separate ticket, directly thru AI, UA would have just said tough luck. I found out later that this is common for them. They just don’t feel like being on time. Never again.

  5. @SteveH, you bought two separate tickets?? You have only yourself to blame for the situation that you placed yourself in.

  6. I agree with Advaith. This is a waste of money. However, it is wishful thinking. No government will want to be termed responsible for so many job losses and so called national pride of an airline even though it is worse than Spirit Airlines.

  7. Maria- I had booked the trip to and from the US to take advantage of guaranteed upgrades, then decided my trip plans that necessitated an inner India flight. Thought I’d have tons of free time to relax at the lounge in Delhi. Learned a lesson, and fortunately didn’t get screwed, just sweaty from racing thru the airport.

  8. If Air India wants to make improvements to their hard products, there’s a much cheaper way to do that than putting in new products. Carpet cleaners and shampoo, lots of all-purpose degreaser, rags, laundry detergent, vacuum cleaners, and a tool kit. Oh, and staff. But they have plenty of that, I think.

  9. @Maria

    Come on, booking separate tickets with a 6-7 hour layover is totally reasonable. What is unreasonable is Air India having an unexplained multi-hour delay on a hub to hub flight.

    One shouldn’t always need to overnight on separate tickets.

  10. A decade or so ago I flew Air India biz class r/t to Mumbai from Atlanta as it was a good bit cheaper than Delta. The flight in each direction stopped in Paris to refuel. On the outbound leg we were not allowed to disembark although the plane was parked at the gate for over an hour. It was explained that leaving the plane meant extra taxes on the ticket. Nevertheless it was otherwise an OK flight.

    On the return flight there were only two of us in biz so we were upgraded to first, mainly to make the FAs job easier I presume. The service was quite impressive as all meals were served and plated from carts. One thing I liked was the 1 pound can of Beluga caviar from which I could have as much as I wanted. Seems Indians don’t care for it much (or didn’t at the time).

    Planes were 747s.

  11. Honestly, what’s the use of revamping a cabin if they’re not going to be cleaned properly?

  12. The incentive structure for AI is probably all wrong. The managers should be compensated on customer satisfaction metrics.

    AI is probably last vestiges of the socialist experiment.

  13. Air India is a disaster. I have had so many bad experiences flying with them that it’s almost a joke now.

    One time I was booked from Dubai to Mumbai. The flight took off on time, and landed 30 minutes later (!). When we asked why, we were told “since the plane wasn’t full, we diverted the flight to Abu Dhabi to pick up some more passengers”. Needless to say, we landed 3 hours late in Mumbai.

    Another time I flew from Chennai to Mumbai and the airconditioning system gave out. This was in May, at the height of summer. I cannot even describe what it was like. I looked like I’d had a shower in my clothes by the time I got off the aircraft 2 hours later.

    I haven’t flown Air India for over 10 years now and have no plans to do so whether they have a new business class or not.

  14. I really dont know if Ive been extremely lucky flying AI, or if the people who complain are correct.
    I prefer AI for domestic sectors due to the wider economy seat compared to 9W. On international sectors, albeit most to LON & FRA.
    I have never had a flight delayed, nor had the many issues that people keep highlighting. I would infact rate AI service in cattle class to be friendlier than that of most international airlines, including 9W.

  15. I also wonder if there is some sort of inherent bias, as travel writers like Zach Hoenig at TPG will always share a picture of a tissue used to wipe the seats on AI, but not on any other carrier.

  16. @steven when was this flight you were talking about. The current terminal which AI has been flying out of for the last 2 or 3 years at least has airconditioning at all gates.
    In any case a lack of AC is not the fault of the airline, but that of the operator.

  17. Are there any stats available in regards to AI timings/delays on a global basis, this per day?

    Am plannng to try their Business Class but do not want to be stuck at an airport for countless hours…

  18. @SteveH
    I sincerely doubt that you had to wait without air conditioning in CSIA Mumbai’s T2, which is where Air India operates out of.
    Even Lucky has praised T2 in the past and it really is now a world class terminal, are you exaggerating or was this really just a one-off?

  19. Your comment on international market share is misleading. When you look at the combined market share of Air India and Air India Express, it is in the mid-30s range which is extremely healthy. Certainly AIX (an LCC running 738s) is far from glamorous (I still have nightmares about my Kozhikode to Ras Al Khaimah via Al Ain flight) but it dominates the O&D market to the Middle East which will be the true driver of future profitability.

  20. @747always – Air India moved into the new T2 at Mumbai in 2014 and into the new T3 at Delhi in 2010.

  21. Any chance this is just revealing of recent 77W deliveries VT-ALV/W/X.

    A country which stitches $Million dresses for the world cannot clean/replace upholstery of its national carrier.

    @starfighter, the explanation (or the excuse) AI gives for its low OTP is congestion at Delhi and preference given to make sure transit passengers catch their connections over achieving higher OTP.

    If USA-Delhi flight is late and say there are 200 pax connecting to 30+ other cities, it is better to delay those flights than providing accommodation and rebooking 200 pax. May not look good on OTP front but more customer oriented. Saves money to the airline.

  22. sean m… meh. AI express is hardly the same airline… does anyone besides hookers and dishwashers fly it?
    And it’s hardly international… everywhere it flies is basically Indian even if not in India.

  23. @Wes
    I hope you know that the temperature outside at cruising altitude is usually -50 degrees irrespective of the season or country ! Probably the cabin crew set the temp very high.

  24. @Mattt – Air India Express is a wholly owned subsidiary of Air India and the plan is to divest it together with the parent carrier, so the joint market share is important in that context.

    However, my assertion above is incorrect. AI/AIX together constitute approx. 44% of the international marketshare among INDIAN carriers (which together constitute 37.7% of the total international market). Their total joint international marketshare is 16.6%, which is what Ben’s original post stated. Apologies for the mixup.

    Next, the overwhelming amount (around 80%) of international travel to/from India is from the Middle East and SE Asia, the regions served by Air India Express. The combined US/Canada-India traffic barely tops 2% and Europe comes in at 12%. The average international stage length of AIX is 2600 km, comparable to that of Jet Airways at 2900 km (AI dwarfs both of these with an average international stage length of 6500km). So if you consider Jet Airways to be international, there is no reason to assume AIX is not.

    Finally, for those who claim that Air India is overstaffed, the revenue generated per employee at AI/AIX/Alliance combined is the best of all the Indian carriers at INR 16.1m, compared to 14.3m at Jet Airways and 13.1m at Indigo. Same with the ASK per employee metric where AI/AIX/Alliance combo at 4.2m/employee is a clear 20% better than Indigo at 3.5m and 31% better than Jet Airways at 3.2m/employee.

    This isn’t the Air India basketcase of the 1990s and 2000s that many people are speaking of. This is an entirely restructured carrier whose performance metrics are comparable or superior to those of their competitors.

  25. @Brandt

    Sure I know that. What I was trying to recount was my experience on Air India where there was no air circulation in the plane. Their air circulation system had broken down.

    I’m sure you haven’t been in an aircraft for 2 hours with no air circulation at all. Whether it’s -50 outside or not, if you’re in a pressurized cabin with no air circulation, it’s stifling.

  26. I used to live and work in Delhi and I’ve flown Air India many times domestically and internationally. It was always stunning to me how the planes coming in and out of Delhi (their hub) were rarely properly cleaned or maintained. Seats would be beyond filthy and torn. One could install the most cutting edge product, but if the FA’s and maintenance team don’t care about it, then it’s an utter waste.

  27. Air India is just the UA, AA or DL of India.

    Don’t understand all the cynicism here – upgrades are good.


  28. If you think Air India FAs are not friendly, try United’s flights from Newark to BOM or DEL. Most FAs there are so hostile, the seats are so tight and the food so pathetic that flying Air India will seem like a step-up.bobb

  29. I flew a few times ai when Dreamliner was new. Business class 4 times and then tried Emirates once just to see. Cabin was nicer on Emirates but the seat itself is still better on ai. Plus if your alone and have two seats it’s as much room as a first suite on some airlines. Not as nice to look at but it flys non stop and gets there on time flying through the night and I sleep all the way. Wake up fresh an hour before landing. For me going to India ai is still the best option overall.

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