Flew Air India‘s Dreamliner for the first time recently and to say it was a disappointment would be an understatement. We weren’t expecting exceptional service, given the airline’s reputation, but we figured no matter how Air India’s service is, riding the Dreamliner would be a treat. A beautifully crafted piece of architecture, we were over the moon about the direct service from Newark International to London Heathrow. Once inside the plane, however, we had forgotten that we were aboard a 787; nothing on the aircraft gave that magical feeling we expected. Perhaps the expectations were a bit too high.
Air India did not make the top 100 airlines in the world list (skytrax 2016). Read our full review below to see some of the possible contributing reasons.
Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
*Air India has a total of 21 fleet of the 787 (owning 9 and leasing 12), first of which went into operation on September 6, 2012.
Flight Details (To London)
Flight no: Air India 172
Date of travel: September 19, 2016
Route: EWR to LHR
Flight Details (To New Jersey)
Flight no: Air India 171
Date of travel: September 26, 2016
Route: LHR to EWR
Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Manufactured in 2009, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner finished its testing and took first commercial flight with ANA on October 26, 2011. The Dreamliner’s lightweight construction, made up of 80% composite material in volume, was introduced as the most fuel efficient aircraft compared to any other in service.
The interior has dynamic LED which changes with different scenarios (boarding, cruise, meal time, relaxation, pre-landing) allowing passengers to feel their very best. It has larger overhead bins than any other commercial aircraft (allowing 5 full size rollers to fit comfortably).
The best part of the Dreamliner however, is the giant window which gives every passenger, regardless of where they are seated, a view of the horizon.
But notice that dimming feature beneath the window? That doesn’t work as effectively as one would want it to, or at least it didn’t on these Air India flights.
courtesy of Boeing.com
The 787 combines new filtration, better pressure and more humidity to help passengers feel less dryness and fatigue. The cabin is pressurized to a maximum level of 6,000 feet (2,000 feet lower than most other aircraft). Tests have shown that due to the body absorbing 8% more oxygen into the blood at this altitude, passengers experience fewer headaches, dizziness and fatigue.
The other most visually identifying feature on the 787 are its curved, flexi wings. The design gives the aircraft more efficient lift-to-drag characteristics, which combined with the use of composite materials in the wing allows the plane to be one of the fastest commercial aircraft. Thus significantly reducing the cost of fuel consumption when compared to other similar aircrafts.
The most disappointing part of flying with Air India was the aircraft’s cleanliness, especially considering it was a 787! The marvelous windows were full of fingerprints, seeing that it is one of the key visual claim to fame on the Dreamliner, this was incredibly disheartening. In all honesty, how difficult is it to wipe down the one obvious feature that sets you apart from all the other fleets? This was a problem on both sets of flights.
On flight 1 of 2, there was a nut on the ground beneath my seat, disheveled pockets on the backs of the seats, and dirt in between the seat cushions. It was apparent at first glance that this aircraft was not properly looked after.
On flight 2 of 2 however, it was even worse. The tray table was broken. The entire row did not have headphones, nor did anyone come by the entire flight to offer them. The remote on seat 22A was not working properly as it had a missing button. The arm rest between seat 22A and 22B did not stay up, which made having the middle seat empty rather pointless. The seat head covers kept coming off from every seat, not just in our row but the ones in front and behind ours as well. We watched several people struggle to keep attaching it through the 7+ hour flight. Some of us gave up.
broken and dirty tray tables
broken remote control
But before discovering any of the above, the first sign of disgust was when we saw the blanket on our seat (wrapped in plastic) have a long strand of hair inside.
hair on the blanket, inside the wrap
All in all, not what we expected to see on a 787, although to be fair, we do not want to experience this on any aircraft.
The service on Air India 171 was far better than Air India 172. However, it was not enough to make up for the subpar experience as a whole. In AI 171, we were not once greeted with a smile or a Hi/Hello. We had special meals on both flights and both times one of the special meals were completely ignored and the other was brought after several reminders and delays. When notified that the special meal tasted horribly, the AI 172 flight attendant was kind enough to give two other meals in the hopes that some of the side items would be sufficient enough to keep hunger at bay. It wasn’t much but her efforts were tremendously appreciated.
One big pet peeve we have is a warm aircraft. There is no reason for why the temperature inside the cabin should be so warm, especially when we’ve been given blankets upon boarding. It is better to keep the cabin on the cooler side because if a passenger is cold, they can always double up on blankets. The theory does not work as efficiently (or appropriately) the other way around.
There were two meals and one snack service on both flights. Snacks included peanuts, chips and drinks. AI 172’s main meal was dinner (choice of chicken or vegetarian) and AI 171’s main meal was lunch (choice of two types of chicken and vegetarian). We were also served breakfast (hard roll & fruits) on AI 172 and lunch (cheese croissant sandwich & fruits) on AI 171.
The main meals were mediocre at best, but the breakfasts were stale and tasteless. Here’s a visual display of our meals.
The in-flight entertainment were on par with most other airlines of the same caliber. The basic features included:
- Movies (English and Hindi)
- Sky Bazaar (content not available)
- For Young Ones
- TV (Cartoons, English, Hindi)
We watched a few movies on both flights, those went off without a hitch, that is after we waited awhile for our headphones on the second flight.
In summary, we do not recommend Air India unless of course you score an amazing deal and can look past all of the above. Afterall, there are exceptions to every rule, right?
Spirited Navigators Rating:
Is the Dreamliner beautiful? Yes, it is. But Air India certainly has not kept up with their maintenance on it to show off its beauty.
Have you flown the Dreamliner? With which airline? What did you think?
Have you flown Air India? Was your experience better or worse than ours?
Share your feedback below because we would love to know your thoughts!
Happy and Safe Travels!