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hirofumi
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Posts: 245
Joined: Tue May 03, 2011 4:21 am

Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Thu Mar 09, 2017 4:52 pm

Last week I was on my business trip to Bangalore (Bengaluru they call it nowadays) and on the return while I was searching for a good flight back I realized one of Air India flights were scheduled to be operated by B747-400. Air India's 747s are becoming more and more rare as they are replaced by 777s. Without being hesitant I decided to book a seat on this - initially I was booked in Economy but then soon realized that Business and First fares were about 1/3 the price of other aircraft (ironically A321s which have equivalent to US domestic first seats) while having much more comfortable seats than the usual domestic aircraft. I paid a cancellation fee and instead re-booked for First. Air India's B747-400 First. How cool is that!

Before posting my pictures, I apologize for the quality of the photos - I just carried a cheap mobile/cell phone with me with not-so-good photo quality. Hope you still enjoy the review.

Image
Check-in counters at BLR

There was no separate check-in counter for First. Rather, it was Business and First combined. When I reached the counter, an agent asked me if I was REALLY flying First Class. Was it not updated in the system? I was a bit worried but the agent confirmed me I was booked for First and my pre-assigned seat of 2A was allocated. The agent apologized to me that they didn't have any boarding pass for First Class.

"Sir, you're the first First Class flying customer originating from Bengaluru by Air India. No one in the past checked in for First Class before."

Interesting! Actually B744 was only operating on a temporary basis (like for a week?) and usually only A321s fly. Once in a while they fly B787s which don't have First Class. I felt so privileged!

So here is what the boarding pass looked like:

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AI boarding pass

And if you look closely.

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Hand-written change to "FIRST"

Well I appreciated their hospitality :-) I was also presented with the lounge coupon. Interestingly though this is solely domestic flight without extending into international destination, the flight operated from International Terminal and also later arrived in Delhi to International Terminal. The reason being this would ease the transit process at Delhi to international destinations and passengers can clear immigration in Bengaluru instead of having the same done in Delhi.

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Lounge coupon

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Lounge entrance

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Inside lounge

The lounge was quite decent. It had some good spread of hot/cold meals as well as a bar with a bartender. There is also a solo-seat section. Since BLR can be quite crowded this was a calm oasis.

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Solo seating

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Bartender

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My meal

The food was so-so (mostly due to the fact that hot meals were not heated well). As a sweets lover I was glad they had some fruit tarts as well as cakes. The dessert items were actually pretty good.

After the lounge I headed straight to the boarding gate. 90% of Air India flights I have taken in the past were either delayed/re-scheduled by at least half an hour but this flight seemed to be pretty much on time.

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BLR departure area

And here comes the nice looking jumbo! How cool is B747. It's sad B747s are retiring from many airlines except for those who operate the new -8s.

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Air India's 747!

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One more!

Now it was time to board.

------------------------------------------------
Flight Number: AI 87
Sector: Bengaluru - Delhi
Date: 27/Feb/2017
ETD: 21:40
ATD: 22:05 (Take-off)
ETA: 00:25+1
ATA: 00:19+1 (Landing)
Block Time: 2hrs 45mins
Actual Flying Time: 2hrs 14mins
Class: First
Seat Number: 2A
Plane Registration: VT-ESO
Delivery Date: 10/Dec/1993
------------------------------------------------

When I entered from L1 door Cabin Manager named Sanjay greeted me and guided me to my seat 2A.

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AI 747 First cabin

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AI 747 First cabin

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My seat 2A

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View from my seat

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Love the massive space!

Soon, another senior crew Deepak came to ask me for a welcome drink. Since this was a domestic flight alcohol was not served, otherwise I could have chosen a glass of champagne! He brought me two glasses of juice - one apple and one orange.

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Welcome drink

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Cheers to all :-P

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With Cabin Manager Sanjay

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With senior crew Deepak

Soon the aircraft started to taxi. I was the only passenger in the cabin, whoo-hoo!

Some more photos from the cabin.

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4-window space

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Love the ceiling

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So classy!

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Seat controller

Now the meal time. Unfortunately, not sure because I was the only passenger in the cabin but the meal was actually a Business Class one. Not that I complained - because Deepak tried best to get me everything. Amazing for just over a two-hour flight, there were 4 meal choices - Indian veg. & non-veg., as well Western veg. & non-veg. I chose the Western non-veg which consisted of boiled vegetables and meat-sauce spaghetti. Out of my expectation the pasta was quite good, and the noodles were not over-boiled. I knew Air India has the BEST curry and I love their Indian dishes but these you can try them in Economy also. That's the reason why I went for Western as it's not offered in Economy on domestic flights.

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Dinner

The main came along with simple salad and gulab jamoon (Indian sweet) but these are also usually served in Economy also. A bread roll was served warm.

After I competed my pasta Deepak came to me with a second plate - this time, a chicken curry with rice. I didn't ask for it, but he brought it. Yes, this is what I call First Class service :-). Actually the pasta portion was a bit small so I gladly took the offer for the second main.

Image
Chicken curry (sorry for the blur)

No, this was not it! Deepak brought a tray with other two veg main dishes. He said I should at least try the Indian mixed-veg. I would not be able to eat that much but he insisted it so I took the offer.

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Veg options

So now, I have both chicken curry and the mixed veg. I was totally stuffed! You could never go wrong with Indian dishes on Air India. I really like their Indian meals more than I do at top-end restaurants in Delhi, because usually their in-flight food isn't oily or salty and it feels more like home-cooked food. This I'm talking about Economy.

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Mixed veg.

After the meal I ordered a cup of tea. To my shock it tasted the same as the one served in Economy with cheap tea bags, and the only difference was how it was presented. I'm not sure if it's the same in international First, but if so, it'll be a huge blow to India's image as "tea-producing nation" and I'm sure Air India won't like that either. Dear Air India, you can at least serve some decent quality Darjeeling, Assamese, or Nilgiri tea!

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Cheap tasting tea

Now I played around with seat. This is how full-flat position looks like:

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Fully flat seat

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Fully flat seat

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Fully flat seat

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First cabin

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First cabin

While the product is outdated it's still extremely comfortable. Those were the days when this product was the cutting-edge.

Now I decided to explore the cabin. Cabin Manager Sanjay actually escorted me throughout and guided me.

Just behind First Class is Economy - but look at the following closely and see if you can find any difference with Economy on other airlines.

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Air India B744 Economy

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Air India B744 Economy

Did you find the answer? Yes, the seating arrangement is only 3-3-3 as opposed to usual 3-4-3. Moreover, Air India never had Premium Economy so this is normal Economy cabin. Interestingly, this spacious arrangement is only on the forward Economy cabin, and behind L2 doors the Economy seating would be standard 3-4-3. I wonder why AI did this - until I tried sitting in one of these 3-3-3 seats, I found a likely answer. While the width may be wider the seat pitch was terrible! It was so cramped and probably that was the reason why to substitute that the airline has reduced one seat in a row? Don't know.

Sanjay continued to show me around and next he took me to the upper-deck - which is solely used as Business Class cabin.

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Air India B744 Business

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Seat pitch

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Air India B744 Business

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Air India B744 Business

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Air India B744 Business

There were only 3 passengers in Business Class cabin. No wonder why Air India slashed the premium class fares by 2/3. I think if they've advertized more they could have filled in for sure - since there wasn't much fare difference with the lowest Economy fare. Too bad for this.

Back in my seat. There was one hour left till landing so I decided to take a nap. I must say this old-school seat was really comfortable.

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Making my seat flat

The plane landed on-time - actually for the twelfth time I've taken Air India in the past it landed before the scheduled arrival. Well done! Hope I won't face more frequent delays in future as I need to keep flying with them to collect *A miles :-)

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Delhi Airport

There are mixed reviews on Air India but I must say that while they may not be very smiling some crew members are very genuine without going fake. This time, I was disappointed that I could not get wagon-style First Class meal service but I that disappointment was overcome by Deepak trying best to give me the first class service in whatever resources they had onboard. I do feel it has great potential to become a much better airline.
 
theobcman
Posts: 477
Joined: Sun Nov 14, 2010 11:16 am

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Thu Mar 09, 2017 5:22 pm

Brilliant, thoroughly enjoyable report in this now retro cabin !! Great you got to catch an AI 744 before they disappear. Very jealous ! Cheers
 
mayurkh
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Nov 14, 2015 8:01 am

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Fri Mar 10, 2017 5:05 am

I'm so jealous! The only passenger in FIRST on a 747!

Agree on the food on AI being miles above other Indian airlines. They are very consistent with the delicious meals they serve.
 
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BawliBooch
Posts: 821
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 4:24 am

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Fri Mar 10, 2017 9:12 am

Wow! Didnt know the 744's were flying this sector.

Will need to plan a trip to BLR sometime to try them out.

Looks like you got the Business meal offering. Not surprising since you were the only passenger, doubt they catered separately for first.
L' Esprit de Mai 68
 
anubhav787
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Mar 10, 2017 1:56 pm

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Fri Mar 10, 2017 2:10 pm

I have heard earlier that VT-ESO was without carpets in Economy Class.But now it is there.
 
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hirofumi
Topic Author
Posts: 245
Joined: Tue May 03, 2011 4:21 am

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Fri Mar 10, 2017 6:15 pm

theobcman wrote:
Brilliant, thoroughly enjoyable report in this now retro cabin !! Great you got to catch an AI 744 before they disappear. Very jealous ! Cheers

Thanks for the comment. The retro cabin was great.

mayurkh wrote:
I'm so jealous! The only passenger in FIRST on a 747!
Agree on the food on AI being miles above other Indian airlines. They are very consistent with the delicious meals they serve.

For the meals yes they are very consistent with the quality. Never had a "bad meal" on Air India. They're also generous on salad/dessert offering even in domestic Economy on flights above 2hrs.

BawliBooch wrote:
Wow! Didnt know the 744's were flying this sector.
Will need to plan a trip to BLR sometime to try them out.
Looks like you got the Business meal offering. Not surprising since you were the only passenger, doubt they catered separately for first.

Unfortunately 744 is no longer operated on this route. In fact I don't think it's flying in any domestic route now. Sad. The meal was initially shocking to be given a Business Class one but the great service made up for it.

anubhav787 wrote:
I have heard earlier that VT-ESO was without carpets in Economy Class.But now it is there.

Really? I thought all AI 747s had carpets (incl. 743 and 742 when I used to fly 20yrs ago and I loved their colorful wall paintings they used to have back then).

By the way, the only 744 routes on AI now seem to be COK-JED and BOM-HYD-JED. 2 aircraft operate on rotations, and the other 744 being VT-EVB.
 
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newbief1yer
Posts: 497
Joined: Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:35 pm

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Sat Mar 11, 2017 2:35 pm

This is such a cool Trip Report. I got an email alerting me of this review and I had to read twice -> Yes An AI B747 in First!
That was simply superb. Very nostalgic.Agree the product looks around 20 years old, but I would love to go in this aircraft. Don't think i ever will :(
Glad you had a great experience. Going against the tide, I am one of the rare breeds of AI supporter. Always had a very good experience with them.
Thanks for this great report and hope to see more of them. Hope you had a good stay in India.
 
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hirofumi
Topic Author
Posts: 245
Joined: Tue May 03, 2011 4:21 am

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Sun Mar 12, 2017 8:00 am

newbief1yer wrote:
This is such a cool Trip Report. I got an email alerting me of this review and I had to read twice -> Yes An AI B747 in First!
That was simply superb. Very nostalgic.Agree the product looks around 20 years old, but I would love to go in this aircraft. Don't think i ever will :(
Glad you had a great experience. Going against the tide, I am one of the rare breeds of AI supporter. Always had a very good experience with them.
Thanks for this great report and hope to see more of them. Hope you had a good stay in India.

Haha, I didn't know there was such alert system. Thanks for the comment. Good to hear you always enjoy rides with Air India. It surely has its own charm.
 
nelsony
Posts: 180
Joined: Mon Jun 06, 2011 7:21 am

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Mon Mar 20, 2017 2:16 pm

Very cool TR. love reading about experiences on Queen of the Skies.
Also nice cabin service from AI.
 
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hirofumi
Topic Author
Posts: 245
Joined: Tue May 03, 2011 4:21 am

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Wed Mar 22, 2017 10:08 am

nelsony wrote:
Very cool TR. love reading about experiences on Queen of the Skies.
Also nice cabin service from AI.

Thanks! Now I'm booked for another AI 744 in Economy for April. Can't get enough of it.
 
SQueeze
Posts: 249
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 11:33 pm

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Wed Mar 22, 2017 4:19 pm

hirofumi wrote:
nelsony wrote:
Very cool TR. love reading about experiences on Queen of the Skies.
Also nice cabin service from AI.

Thanks! Now I'm booked for another AI 744 in Economy for April. Can't get enough of it.


It's back in April indeed :)
And I am booked in First Class!
 
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hirofumi
Topic Author
Posts: 245
Joined: Tue May 03, 2011 4:21 am

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Wed Mar 22, 2017 5:41 pm

SQueeze wrote:
It's back in April indeed :)
And I am booked in First Class!

Hope you'll get the full First Class meal service. And please update :-)
 
SQueeze
Posts: 249
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 11:33 pm

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Sun Apr 16, 2017 12:58 pm

hirofumi wrote:
SQueeze wrote:
It's back in April indeed :)
And I am booked in First Class!

Hope you'll get the full First Class meal service. And please update :-)



My 747 got swapped to a 77W>

Well, it's a better F class semi-suite (sort of an upgrade) , so no complaints :D

Just about to post a TR
 
himmat01
Posts: 1022
Joined: Sat Dec 04, 2004 4:34 pm

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:53 am

I booked twice on the B747-437 domestic flights, unfortunately on both the occasions, there was an equipment change.
An airplane might disappoint any pilot but it'll never surprise a good one.
 
blandy62
Posts: 65
Joined: Tue Jul 12, 2016 12:47 am

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Fri Apr 21, 2017 8:53 am

Managed to catch one between MUM and HYD (VT-EVB) last month
 
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hirofumi
Topic Author
Posts: 245
Joined: Tue May 03, 2011 4:21 am

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Sun Apr 30, 2017 5:01 pm

himmat01 wrote:
I booked twice on the B747-437 domestic flights, unfortunately on both the occasions, there was an equipment change.

That's pity. It'd suck if you were booked on First and end up being downgraded...

blandy62 wrote:
Managed to catch one between MUM and HYD (VT-EVB) last month

Which class did you fly? How was your experience?
 
blandy62
Posts: 65
Joined: Tue Jul 12, 2016 12:47 am

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Tue May 02, 2017 5:09 am

hirofumi wrote:
himmat01 wrote:
I booked twice on the B747-437 domestic flights, unfortunately on both the occasions, there was an equipment change.

That's pity. It'd suck if you were booked on First and end up being downgraded...

blandy62 wrote:
Managed to catch one between MUM and HYD (VT-EVB) last month

Which class did you fly? How was your experience?



I just flew Y, I just wanted to add the AI 747-400 to my list. Service was good. Boarding was a bit chaotic, as they had problem to locate some of passenger going to Jeddah. For the short flight a lunch box with a sandwich, cake and drink was offered. I also had a nice chat with one of the flight attendent about the 747 fleet... Overall a very enjoyable flight.
 
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hirofumi
Topic Author
Posts: 245
Joined: Tue May 03, 2011 4:21 am

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Wed May 03, 2017 7:57 am

blandy62 wrote:
I just flew Y, I just wanted to add the AI 747-400 to my list. Service was good. Boarding was a bit chaotic, as they had problem to locate some of passenger going to Jeddah. For the short flight a lunch box with a sandwich, cake and drink was offered. I also had a nice chat with one of the flight attendent about the 747 fleet... Overall a very enjoyable flight.

The crew on AI 747 is wonderful! Had another trip with them on Y from BOM-DEL recently and they really seem to be proud of serving passengers on this particular aircraft.
 
blandy62
Posts: 65
Joined: Tue Jul 12, 2016 12:47 am

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Thu May 04, 2017 2:24 am

hirofumi wrote:
blandy62 wrote:
I just flew Y, I just wanted to add the AI 747-400 to my list. Service was good. Boarding was a bit chaotic, as they had problem to locate some of passenger going to Jeddah. For the short flight a lunch box with a sandwich, cake and drink was offered. I also had a nice chat with one of the flight attendent about the 747 fleet... Overall a very enjoyable flight.

The crew on AI 747 is wonderful! Had another trip with them on Y from BOM-DEL recently and they really seem to be proud of serving passengers on this particular aircraft.


Yes that's also the feeling I had. Are you goign to write a report on that one too?
 
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hirofumi
Topic Author
Posts: 245
Joined: Tue May 03, 2011 4:21 am

Re: Air India's Rare B744 First BLR to DEL

Tue May 16, 2017 8:51 am

blandy62 wrote:
Are you goign to write a report on that one too?

Done!

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