Air India is currently in the midst of a major transformation process and one of the key areas of that is improving the passenger experience. The airline has now unveiled interiors for four cabin classes, throwing a light on what’s in store for its passengers.
Air India has released a nearly 2-minute long video showcasing its new hard products on the Boeing B777s (these interiors will also be found on Air India’s other wide-body aircraft). Let’s go over all the details of these new hard products.
Air India, unlike some airlines, will continue to offer First Class on some aircraft. The new First Class is based on the Safran Unity seat, which is the same found in the new Business Class. The carrier will have four First Class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, with each offering a sliding door for added privacy.
If you look carefully, you won’t find any major difference between First and Business Class. Of course, the former will be more spacious that’s pretty much it. First Class will have a larger inflight entertainment screen and a larger ottoman and that’s all. The difference between First and Business Class seats is barely noticeable.
It’s good to see that the airline is continuing to offer First Class but in my opinion, Air India could have put a lot more thought into the hard product, something like Emirates’ “Game-Changer” First Class suite found on some B777s. Keep in mind that First and Business Class will have the same 1-2-1 configuration, so, there’s not much of a difference visible here. However, these are just renders and it will also depend on the soft products, which usually is the major differentiator with regards to First Class.
Airlines like Virgin Atlantic and Condor have opted for a Business Plus product, which is basically the same seats found in normal Business Class but with a larger leg space and room to spread out. Could Air India have opted for that instead of a proper First Class? Only time will tell.
Now this is where the new hard product shines throughout. The new Business Class seats are a huge improvement over the current ones. As aforementioned, the carrier has opted for Safran Unity seats for its new Business Class, which are the same ones Qantas will install on its Project Sunrise A350-1000s.
The seats will be a 1-2-1 staggered configuration, meaning some seats will be closer to aisle and some will be closer to the windows. Seats will be fully flat, with each of them having direct-aisle access and a sliding door for added privacy.
We can also expect these seats to have recent technological advancements like wireless charging and Bluetooth audio, among others.
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Introducing Premium Economy
While some of Air India’s leased B777-200LRs have Premium Economy seats, it’s the first time that Air India is officially introducing its own Premium Economy product.
While the First and Business Class seats have a more subtle finish, the Premium Economy and Economy products are bright red, somewhat in line with what they are like today.
While no details have been revealed about the Premium Economy seats yet, we do know that they will be in a 2-4-2 configuration and have larger inflight entertainment screens and leg rest.
Air India is also introducing a new Economy Class product. The major change here is in the configuration, as Air India is moving from a spacious 3-3-3 configuration to a 3-4-3 configuration, which is the industry standard on B777s (the A350s will certainly have a 3-3-3 configuration).
The Economy Class is one of the most money-making for any airline and focusing on the cost in Economy Class while maintaining the quality is very important for any airline.
The seats in the rendering are most probably from RECARO and will have large inflight entertainment screens. The thing I am most intrigued about is what the legroom will be in Economy Class. Historically, the Economy seats have been the roomiest on Air India, so it remains to be seen how comfortable the new seats will be and what the legroom will be like.
Plans for these new cabins
Wide body aircraft arriving in 2024, including the new Airbus A350-900s, will feature these new cabins. The first A350-900 arriving this year in November was originally destined for Aeroflot so it seems highly likely that that aircraft will have Aeroflot’s seats only with minor cosmetic changes, just like Air India’s current leased ex-Delta B777-200LRs.
The airline is also retrofitting its entire fleet of B777-300ERs and B787s so we can expect start seeing these new seats on them in mid-2024. The retrofit project is expected to take around two and a half years.
There remains one question. Will all four classes of service be available on all wide body aircraft? While Air India has confirmed that the B777-300ERs will feature all four classes, no mention has been made about A350s and upcoming B787-9s. I am expecting that the airline will certainly have all four classes in the B777Xs too, given they will be available on B777-300ERs.
As for A350-1000s and B787-9s, I guess Air India won’t go for First Class on these aircraft. Only time will tell what has the airline planned for. Premium Economy will certainly be available on all long-haul aircraft.
Air India was one of the best airline to fly on in the 1970s when JRD Tata was at the helm of the airline. However, in the last few years, the airline has seen a continuous decline in terms of passenger experience. Now, the airline is trying to improve the same and become one of the finest airlines in the world.
Introducing latest-generation hard products is one of the ways to do this. While the Business, Premium Economy and Economy classes look very good, the First Class is what I feel is lacking something. But that is not what is of most importance here since it will be used by less number of passengers.
Hard product is important but what is more important is improving the soft product. Air India will have to work on improving its soft product very much if it indeed wants to become a premium airline and offer the same level of service as say what Singapore Airlines and Emirates offer.
Nonetheless, this is a great start and I am rooting for Air India here. I have always been a fan of the brand and continue to love the airline, irrespective of what the airline has gone through as a brand in the last few years. I hope people fly Air India for the experience and not just for getting from A to B.
Featured image of new First Class by Air India
All the other images by Air India
What do you think of Air India’s new hard products? Let me know in the comments section below.