Air India - they've been the target of many embarrassing stories on media and many travelers show dislike to the company. Having flown with them so many times (as the only *A carrier in the Subcontinent region), I must say it's not as bad as people think! Certainly not the best, but far from the worst either.
As a *A Gold member I've had a privilege to enjoy extra benefits even when flying with their economy i.e. lounge access.
I will try my best to convey some of impressive aspects on Air India service. AI - how much will you pay me? (jk!)1. Great Food in AI Lounge at DEL
If you come to the lounge during lunch/dinner time, they serve quite good Indian food. I must say the food is not refined per se, but more like a home-cooked meal. I'm not a great fan of Indian food in restaurants as it could be quite spicy and oily, but the food (=curry) here is mild and not too fatty.
I've had tomato soup with kofta (minced chicken) curry, paneer (cottage cheese) curry, with butter rice. The curry was really delicious!
Delicious curry plate
A note of warning: Snack time can be a disappointment as the food is mostly greasy fried stuff without much variation.2. Proper Nap Rooms in Business Lounge!
How many airlines offer a nap room in their business class lounge, with a bed sheet and a decent sized pillow? Not many. AI is one exception, and they even offer it to economy passengers holding the status! Although nothing fancy, it is actually a spacious private room with the door that can be closed. The staff even said I can bring in food and drinks to the room! Oh yes, party time!
AI DEL lounge nap room
View out of nap room
Just like a proper hotel room!?
The door can't be locked unfortunately, but you can place the below on the outside. In case if a wake-up call is needed, the staff would do it.
Do-not-disturb sign3. Spacious Comfortable Lounge
I never saw the lounge being full. There are always many empty seats and they are quite comfortable. Oh, and a nice shower room - probably the best lounge shower in Delhi Airport.
AI DEL business lounge
AI DEL business lounge
Next: The cabin.4. Decent Legroom & Comfy Foot Rest
While 3-3-3 arrangement on the Dreamliner jet is not the most comfortable one, AI at least provides a decent amount of legroom. And my favorite part is the footrest. It has little round balls that function like a massage. Quite an invention. The similar type is also available on their B777s as well.
B787 economy legroom
The foot rest I was talking about
Cabin view5. Bollywood-Lover Paradise!
If you like to watch Indian movies, there will never be a boring flight (unless the TV screen doesn't work). There are some good Bollywood movies onboard, and the great thing is all movies have English subtitles so it helps a non-Hindi speaker like myself. Traditionally, Bollywood movies all seemed to have similar love-storylines, but lately the focus seemed to have shifted to modern day social issues (especially satirical towards own Indian culture) and addressing deeper meaning about life. On my recent flight I've watched Airlift
, based on the real Gulf War story about how to save several hundred thousand Indian citizens stranded in Kuwait. It later became the biggest airlift of the modern history where Air India played a big heroic role in this (no wonder...!).Airlift
Air India 747 scene!
In addition, there was also the latest Japanese movie on the list. As for the latest Hollywood movies, there were 10 choices. The first 5 goes like this. Can't judge the selection since I don't watch many of them these days.
Last but not the least:6. Great Meals!
I was never disappointed with the AI main dish for lunch/dinner service (but snacks can be crappy to be honest).
For the outbound DEL-NRT flight, there were three choices for the main: Indian veg, Indian non-veg (usually chicken), and Continental non-veg.
Since I've had plenty of curry in the lounge I've tried the continental option, which was egg fried rice with sweet-and-sour chicken and vegetable gravy. Quite nice. It came with fresh salad and gulab jamun (Indian sweet dumplings).
Continental option of Air India meal ex-DEL
However, one must try their curry when flying AI - Yes, must. Their curry is delicious.
For the return flight from NRT, I opted for Indian non-veg and oh it was divine!
Non-veg option of Air India meal ex-NRT
The chicken curry along with vegetables were one of my memorable airplane meals. It came with yogurt, fresh salad, and Indian carrot-based milk dessert which was excellent.
The second snack service before landing in DEL was also quite memorable in the dessert content - a proper fruit tart! For someone having a sweet-tooth like me this kind of dessert feels like a long-forgotten item in the modern day economy class.
This is economy dessert? Yes!
All in all, AI does have many good aspects. Neither was a perfect flight (i.e. a broken USB socket, drink service only one round per flight after take-off and the rest was just water/tea/coffee, the crew not asking to put the seat back upright to my front passenger etc), but crews were polite and I did enjoy my first international flights with them after so long.
As long they provide good schedules with competitive price, I'd continue to fly with them!
Air India B787 parked at NRT