Air India has been redeploying their 747s on ad-hoc trunk domestic routes since late last year. First, it was Mumbai for 2 months, and then Bangalore for a few weeks. Then it was off for awhile, and apparently they are now back on Mumbai and Bangalore on selected flights. One can never quite figure out the patterns though.
I was on one of the 747 flights in Business in January and I had posted the TR http://www.airliners.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1352045
. It was a great experience and I wouldn't ever have enough of it.
Recently, on airliners.net, a poster Hirofumi posted a First Class trip report on the BLR-DEL route and Air India was selling the First (A) fare at INR15,000 (S$325) which is the Business (Z) fare on the 747 BOM-DEl routes I had earlier. How could I miss it. So when it was opportune time for me to have my meetings lined up with DEL after BLR, I jumped at this fare and booked.
I still suspect that this is an error fare - even the earlier Z fares on the 747s were unusually Low in the domestic market esp peak hour timings. Average fare for BOM-DEL is INR30,000 and BLR-DEL is INR40,000. INR15,000 for business class and now first class is unreal. For my particular flight, at the time of booking, the First (A) fare was actually half of the Business Class fares. Incredibly lucky I was.
So with First Class ticket in hand, I was looking forward to the 747 nose experience again, reliving the glory of SQ days in 2010.
But alas, 9 hours prior to my flight, I got an SMS notification that my flight would be delayed by 3 hours. By gut feel, I knew that the 747 would be swapped and in worst case, would be swapped to an A321 which is the usual aircraft model deployed for this particular flight. And so I checked expertflyer, to my relief, yes it had been swapped, but to a 77W.
I wouldn't have been that keen to post a TR on a ubiquitous 77W but then for me, this would be an upgrade. AI's 747s have flat beds but in an open format arranged in pairs whereas their 77W has the new versions which is in a semi-suite format (suite-like but without doors). The Flight
AI 173 is an international flight. It flies BLR-DEL-SFO which is one of the world's longest flight number but with a change of plane in DEL. It is frequently operated by a mix of A321, 787, and now the 747, which on my date of travel apparently had some issues and therefore the flight was delayed 4 hours to allow a 77W to be available and to be flown to BLR.
I arrived at BLR airport 4 hours prior to the new flight timing which was at an ungodly departure of 0045h, making the flight to BLR tonight a red-eye one.
I was greeted by an agent but also by the famous mascot which is always placed at premium counters.
Check-in was slow as they could find my reservation and e-ticket but they couldn't find me in the passenger list. I was also curiously unable to web check-in earlier in the day. It was quite worrying because I have always thought that this was an error fare and they might have taken me off the F cabin due to the downgauge from the 12-seater 747 to the 4-seater 777. And the last time I checked the 747 seat map, there were 5 passengers. Thoughts ran through my mind, would I be downgraded to Economy??? Or even had my tickets cancelled without proper communication.
But at last it was sorted, the manager added me into the passenger manifest and I was good to go. And in First Class Seat 1K. Yayyyy! I would have felt really awful if I were delayed 4 hours and flown on an A321 but this was a rare opportunity to try AI's Long-haul product so I was really excited rather than frustrated.
Since this was an international flight number, the flight departed from the international part of BLR. I wonder how many of the passengers actually connect beyond DEL. AI173 is a feeder flight to AI's late evening departures to New York, San Francisco and London. All 3 flights, as I discovered in Delhi, were delayed by hours waiting for tonight's arrival of AI173 so I figure there must be substantial numbers of connecting passengers.
Going through immigration. I just waived my boarding pass which has a big 'D' fo domestic.
The international part of BLR is relatively quiet compared to the domestic side.
Plenty of seating areas.
The Plaza Premium Lounge, used by SQ is chronically overcrowded. I think the banks and credit cards hand out benefits to members bloating the user captive.
Air India uses Above Ground Lounge which is less crowded. Same case applies on the domestic side.
And to my pleasant surprise, it seems to have a new extension which is bright and cheery
And I settled on one of these cool seats at one corner.
And with a lovely tamarind margarita - special of the lounge.
A few hours later .... time to head to the gate.
And oops, what a big crowd. AI really does well for this flight. I wonder how they don't make it wide-body permanently. They used to schedule 787s last year, then for some reason, it's downgauged to an A321.
Quite a crowd. Some looked tired. This was at 1am. Boarding was chaotic and definitely there was no "first class" experience in here.
Finally a peek to the bird that would be flying us.
And my seat! 1K. First Class on AI's 777 is a single row laid as 1-2-1.
Omg, notice that glamourous golden pillow. I wish it were thicker and fluffier though.
It's quite private although there are no doors.
AI F is quite "gilded" in many parts.
An open compartment for jackets. My jacket, however, was stored separately by the crew.
There is an ottoman opposite the seat.
Which has its own seat belts.
Seat controls is quite unusual in pull-out format.
IFE control at the side compartment which also contains the charger and USB port
Open Magazine compartment. Here one can see how aged the seats are.
And when flipped fully, the dining table is quite huge.
But since it was a red eye flight, and just 2.5hours Long, I decided to skip the meal service ... so no review on that.
And I got the crew to make up the bed, which is quite uncomfortable because there are folds and bumps.
We landed in Delhi almost at 4am in the morning. But the airport was abuzz with arrivals. And here ends my journey with AI F class.