Finally: Air India Refreshing Boeing 777 & 787 Cabins

Finally: Air India Refreshing Boeing 777 & 787 Cabins

Roughly a year ago, 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, we’ve learned that Air India and Vistara will be merging, and Singapore Airlines will have a significant stake in the combined airline.

The pressure is now on for the Air India passenger experience to improve, and we’re seeing the first signs of that…

Air India invests $400 million in wide body jet interiors

Tata Group has today unveiled a $400 million investment, which will see the company refreshing the interiors of Air India’s long haul fleet. What do 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 and inflight entertainment), 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
  • It’s expected that the planes will get a different configuration than before, so the airline may increase or reduce the number of seats in each cabin
  • 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
Air India will retain first class on 777s

Here’s how Air India CEO Campbell Wilson describes these plans:

“Under our Vihaan.AI transformation program, Air India has committed to attaining the highest standards of product and service befitting of a world-class airline. We know that, at present, the cabin product on our 40 legacy widebody aircraft falls short of this standard. We are working closely with partners to accelerate the refit process as fast as possible and, in the meantime, leasing in at least 11 new widebody aircraft with brand new interiors to improve our offering at the earliest opportunity.”

Keep in mind that in addition to its existing long haul fleet, Air India is also in the process of picking up some used Boeing 777s from other carriers, some of which should lead to immediate cabin improvements. For example, Air India is leasing some former Delta Boeing 777-200LRs, which already feature business class suites and premium economy.

Air India will inherit Delta’s product on some leased 777s

Air India is also expected to eventually place a big new aircraft order, though nothing has been finalized there yet.

My take on Air India’s cabin upgrades

Air India is of course long overdue for cabin upgrades. Not only does the airline have a woefully outdated business class (in a 2-3-2 configuration with angled seats), but the cabins on many Air India planes are basically falling apart.

With Tata Group owning the airline, and Singapore Airlines soon having a stake in the combined airline as well, it was a given that some cabin upgrades were going to be made. A few thoughts about this news:

  • It’s interesting that Air India will maintain first class; I’m curious if the airline introduces a totally new first class, or simply makes minor cosmetic updates to the existing product
  • I’d assume business class will be completely overhauled, and that we’ll see fully flat beds with direct aisle access
  • While updates to economy are great as well, Air India currently has only nine seats per row on the 777, so I have to imagine the cabin will be densified, and the airline will choose (the now standard standard) 10 seats per row

I think the only real frustrating thing here is how long it will take for planes to be reconfigured. We’re told to expect the first reconfigured plane in mid-2024, so it’s clear that the airline is only in the very early stages of this project. And I’d imagine the timeline could slip even further, given general supply chain issues nowadays.

I wonder if Air India will complete this project before or after 2030…

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 we’re going to have to be patient, as the first plane with the new interiors will only be flying in mid-2024, and that’s best case scenario.

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

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