Details: Air India Refreshing Boeing 777 & 787 Cabins

Details: Air India Refreshing Boeing 777 & 787 Cabins

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In late 2021, Air India was privatized, as Tata Group, which was Air India’s initial owner when the company was first founded, took control of the airline again. Since then, executives at the company have been working hard to transform the airline. Suffice it to say that this is no small task, given the state of Air India’s fleet.

Fortunately a lot will be changing in the near future. In late 2022, Air India revealed that it would refresh the interiors of its Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft. On top of that, in early 2023, Air India placed a landmark order for 470 Airbus and Boeing jets, worth tens of billions of dollars.

This week the airline has revealed its new brand identity, and as part of that, we have more details of what the refresh will look like for existing aircraft. In this post I wanted to discuss the general plans for reconfiguring existing wide body jets, and then in a separate post I’ll take a look at Air India’s new first and business class products.

Air India investing $400 million in wide body jet interiors

Tata Group intends to invest $400 million in refreshing the interiors of Air India’s existing long haul fleet. Here’s what we know so far about these plans:

  • Air India will be refreshing the interiors of its entire legacy wide body fleet, including all Boeing 787s and Boeing 777s
  • Air India will not only be refreshing all cabins (including all new seats, inflight entertainment, and Wi-Fi), but will also introduce a premium economy product across its long haul fleet
  • Air India will be retaining the first class cabin on its Boeing 777s
  • The planes will not only get new seats, but you can expect the configuration to change as well
  • The company has hired London-based JPA Design and Trendworks to assist with this project
  • The first aircraft with the new cabins is expected to enter service in mid-2024, after the merger with Vistara is finalized
  • It’s expected to take around 2.5 years for the entire legacy fleet to feature new interiors, so you can expect that project to be complete by late 2026 or early 2027 (assuming there are no additional delays)
Air India will retain first class on 777s

Keep in mind that in addition to its existing long haul fleet, Air India has started leasing some jets from other airlines, mostly on a fairly short term basis (meaning that these planes likely won’t be in Air India’s fleet in a decade). This is both intended to improve the passenger experience, and to add capacity.

For example, Air India is leasing six former Delta Air Lines Boeing 777-200LRs, three former Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ERs, and six former Etihad Airways Boeing 777-300ERs.

These planes are all significantly more premium than Air India’s existing long haul aircraft, and feature direct aisle access and fully flat seats in business class. Furthermore, the Delta and Singapore jets feature premium economy, while the Etihad and Singapore jets feature first class.

Thanks to all the aircraft that Air India is picking up from other airlines, Air India states that by March 2024, 33% of long haul aircraft will feature some sort of upgraded interiors.

First class on former Etihad Airways Boeing 777s

My take on Air India’s cabin upgrades

I am really impressed by the transformation that Air India has announced. Air India is of course long overdue for cabin upgrades. Not only does the airline have a woefully outdated business class on Boeing 777s (in a 2-3-2 configuration with angled seats), but the cabins on many Air India planes are basically falling apart.

While I’ll discuss the details of the new cabins in a separate post, everything we’re seeing so far is more or less best case scenario, in my opinion. A few thoughts about the general cabin mixture we’re seeing:

  • It’s interesting that Air India will maintain first class; some airlines have eliminated this while introducing a better business class product, but it seems that Air India is committed to maintaining this
  • It’s fantastic that Air India will finally introduce fully flat business class seats with direct aisle access and doors; this will be a quantum leap compared to the current product
  • I’m happy to see Air India also introducing premium economy throughout the long haul fleet, as India really seems like a market where there’s value in that, given how long so many flights to the country are
  • The only downside to the new cabins is that Air India is going from a 3-3-3 layout in economy to a 3-4-3 layout; this was bound to happen, and matches the industry standard
  • Once Air India does introduce this new product on planes, I hope the company invests in maintaining the seats, since that has historically been a major challenge for the airline
Air India’s Boeing 787 business class

Bottom line

Air India has committed to spending $400 million updating the cabins on its Boeing 787s and 777s. The airline will maintain first class on 777s, introduce a new business class on all long haul planes, add premium economy to all long haul planes, and also update the economy product.

This is all great news, though it’s going to be some time before Air India’s entire long haul fleet is upgraded. The reconfiguration work will start in mid-2024, and is expected to take around 2.5 years, meaning that best case scenario it will be complete in late 2026 or early 2027.

What do you make of Air India’s plans to update its cabins?

Conversations (15)
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  1. Derek Guest

    Have not heard or seen anything of the 787 new interiors , mind you on the route that we have to take it will be treated as a afterthough, even to put the drinks on, yes l asked for a glass of champange , sorry sir it was not loaded, daughter back in economy absolutely no booze at all, new rules they said, l think air india can throw what money they like at the...

    Have not heard or seen anything of the 787 new interiors , mind you on the route that we have to take it will be treated as a afterthough, even to put the drinks on, yes l asked for a glass of champange , sorry sir it was not loaded, daughter back in economy absolutely no booze at all, new rules they said, l think air india can throw what money they like at the airline, and the same old crap will still be there. So wish that they had compertition, but they wont let that happen will they.

  2. derek Guest

    Far too late and will be a cheap fix anyway

  3. derek Guest

    l travel business class on Air Indias 787 lots of leg room but so outdated seats , and often not working, very poor entertainment, food and drinks. As far as refurbished cabins dont hold your breath as its going to take a few years if it happens at all, then the first refurbishments will alredy be nearly worn out, l have to use them as the only direct route from London to Goa, and definatly...

    l travel business class on Air Indias 787 lots of leg room but so outdated seats , and often not working, very poor entertainment, food and drinks. As far as refurbished cabins dont hold your breath as its going to take a few years if it happens at all, then the first refurbishments will alredy be nearly worn out, l have to use them as the only direct route from London to Goa, and definatly not cheap and Usually late as well, l never look forward to travelling with them as its not a good expieriance. and will never change.

  4. M Mascarenhas Guest

    I travelled in February and March on the Toronto/Delhi/Toronto sector business class. The aircraft was old and a number of seats were not functioning. Entertainment system very limited based on the technology of the old aircraft. In addition, a very limited liquor beverage choice. They were phasing out the " old stock". The food menu presented was a photocopy piece of paper and they ran out of food choices as well. Service was pleasant.
    ...

    I travelled in February and March on the Toronto/Delhi/Toronto sector business class. The aircraft was old and a number of seats were not functioning. Entertainment system very limited based on the technology of the old aircraft. In addition, a very limited liquor beverage choice. They were phasing out the " old stock". The food menu presented was a photocopy piece of paper and they ran out of food choices as well. Service was pleasant.
    When there is a management transition, it is a balance between what your brand stands for and current offering. For a paying passenger it was a very poor tade off. Presume this will change with the new aircraft.

  5. Raj das Guest

    Why do you deliberately have photos of the old AI interiors? And not the new seats that was revealed last week!

  6. iamhere Guest

    I wonder if the interiors will match that of the newer planes that were retired from other airlines that they recently got. It would make sense because then they would maintain a consistent offering.

  7. glenn t Diamond

    Welcome news, especially since Aeroplan long distance awards to many locations are over-stuffed and replaced with AirIndia and Vistara sectors, generally at the expense of Etihad aircraft.
    For example, getting from Australia to Europe (via AUH) in Business on Etihad only is suddenly impossible, with crappy AirIndia/Vistara via DEL with long transit times all that is on offer.
    For me, Aeroplan had gone from hero to zero; it sucks!
    Sorry Ben, I...

    Welcome news, especially since Aeroplan long distance awards to many locations are over-stuffed and replaced with AirIndia and Vistara sectors, generally at the expense of Etihad aircraft.
    For example, getting from Australia to Europe (via AUH) in Business on Etihad only is suddenly impossible, with crappy AirIndia/Vistara via DEL with long transit times all that is on offer.
    For me, Aeroplan had gone from hero to zero; it sucks!
    Sorry Ben, I know you are the #1 cheerleader for Aeroplan.

    1. Sarthak Guest

      What exactly is crappy about Vistara?

    2. Kent Guest

      Nothing is crappy about Vistara. It’s just another comment on a product from someone who has never tried it. It’s fashionable to criticise Indians and Chinese.

    3. Pushkar Guest

      what exactly is crappy about Vistara? Have you travelled in Vistara? They have a solid hard product in-line with most international carriers (also they aircrafts are fairly new and well maintained). The Vistara soft product equals if not better than many European or USA based airlines (definitely way better than USA based carriers).

      I recently travelled Air India from Delhi to Vienna and back. Agreed the hard product is dated, but within scope of whatever...

      what exactly is crappy about Vistara? Have you travelled in Vistara? They have a solid hard product in-line with most international carriers (also they aircrafts are fairly new and well maintained). The Vistara soft product equals if not better than many European or USA based airlines (definitely way better than USA based carriers).

      I recently travelled Air India from Delhi to Vienna and back. Agreed the hard product is dated, but within scope of whatever available options they have on hand, they have fixed the seats, entertainment systems. Their soft product has improved significantly with TUMI amenity kits, Each course plated, turn down service etc. They have a long way to go it is not a horrid experience anymore (IMO).

  8. Justin Guest

    I think they should start with 787s first

  9. Tim Dunn Diamond

    This massive cabin refurbishment - like UA's - might not happen near as fast as AI thinks or wants. Not only are there huge orders being placed left and right for new aircraft but there are thousands of aircraft that are being refurbished by multiple airlines. Seat and cabin manufacturers simply can't keep up

    and Ben, you are an early riser regardless of the time zone!

  10. InceptionCat Gold

    Clever for AI as the business class seats won't be much too dissimilar from 6 Aeroflot A350s they're getting and the Delta 77L.

  11. Ken Guest

    Was about to ask why you are up so late but then remembered you are in Europe

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Ken -- Hah, and if I were up in the US at this time, the question would be why I'm up so early, not why I'm up so late. :p 2:30AM is about 1.5 hours before my usual wake up time, and about 6.5 hours after my usual bed time.

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Pushkar Guest

what exactly is crappy about Vistara? Have you travelled in Vistara? They have a solid hard product in-line with most international carriers (also they aircrafts are fairly new and well maintained). The Vistara soft product equals if not better than many European or USA based airlines (definitely way better than USA based carriers). I recently travelled Air India from Delhi to Vienna and back. Agreed the hard product is dated, but within scope of whatever available options they have on hand, they have fixed the seats, entertainment systems. Their soft product has improved significantly with TUMI amenity kits, Each course plated, turn down service etc. They have a long way to go it is not a horrid experience anymore (IMO).

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Ben Schlappig OMAAT

@ Ken -- Hah, and if I were up in the US at this time, the question would be why I'm up so early, not why I'm up so late. :p 2:30AM is about 1.5 hours before my usual wake up time, and about 6.5 hours after my usual bed time.

1
Derek Guest

Have not heard or seen anything of the 787 new interiors , mind you on the route that we have to take it will be treated as a afterthough, even to put the drinks on, yes l asked for a glass of champange , sorry sir it was not loaded, daughter back in economy absolutely no booze at all, new rules they said, l think air india can throw what money they like at the airline, and the same old crap will still be there. So wish that they had compertition, but they wont let that happen will they.

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