This trip report is by Balagopal, an avgeek (Aviation Geek) based in Bangalore.
Being a die hard aviation enthusiast, it was indeed a shame that my first A380 flight was in 2011… a full 4 years after the first commercial whalejet flight!!
But with the Dreamliner I got a chance to correct that
India’s flag carrier Air India had just taken delivery of its first 787 Dreamliner, after months of haggling and negotiations with Boeing. AI had a placed an order for 27 Dreamliners to replace its ageing fleet of A310s. The first 787 (VT-ANH) was based out of Delhi and was scheduled to do domestic runs to Bangalore and Chennai for crew familiarization.
This gave me the golden opportunity to sample the Dreamliner without the hassles of an international trip.
Booking was done via AI‘s website. While the welcome page had a promo ad for 787 flights, there was no mention of the 787 in the flight details. Of the 4 daily flights between Bangalore and Delhi the late afternoon one had no a/c details listed while the rest were on 320/319. I called up the AI call center and the agent confirmed that the flight was on a 788.
Booking was done online and the fare came to roughly INR 8200 (USD 160 approx).
The second day of operations AI had subbed the 787 for a 77L due to operational reasons. This got me jittery. The only reason I was flying was to experience the Dreamliner. I called up the call center the night before and they confirmed that it was indeed still the 787 flying that sector.
I did a web check-in and the seatmap was that of the 787. I checked myself into 39A (the last row which is in a 2-3-2 config, while the rest are 3-3-3). This would help get a feel of the window seat as well make it easy to access the aisle for all the pic taking
Row 40 is the reserved crew rest area and is not shown on the seat map.
I flew to Delhi on a Kingfisher Airlines award ticket on the morning of the flight. After landing at IGI, I went to the transfer counter at the arrival level in T3, just to confirm that the Bangalore flight was still being operated by the 787.
Agent – ” No. Its 403″.
A shocked me – “What?!!..oh wait.. no I didnt mean the flight number (phew!!), the aircraft type”.
Agent – “Oh.. lemme check…. yes it is indeed 788 Dreamliner”. She then proceeded to print a new BP for me and asked if I wanted to change my seat since the last row was non-reclining (surprise surprise!!). I said i chose that because of the two seater, for which she again said it was a 3 seater all the way through. I asked her to check again and she apologized and said it was a 2 seater there.
After printing the BP, she said I need to head to the international departure since this is a widebody aircraft. Once again I had to ask her to confirm and she called up someone and sheepishly told me , it would be the Domestic gates. Not someone’s best day at work!!
Probably she was confused with all the AI international connectors that are 777 operated and depart from the international side.
I took the lift from the transfer desk upto the departure level and headed straight for security.
Security was very fast and I headed to the food court on level 1 for lunch. As I took the escalator, I was greeted by a sight that made real happy AI 787 Dreamliner at Gate 32 having arrived from Chennai and being prepped for Bangalore.
Views of IGI airside:
The new 787s are not named yet. The earlier AI birds were named after Indian states (777), Rivers (310), Emperors(747-200), Tourist Spots (747-400), Mountains, Queens etc.
The hue and atmosphere of the aircraft was very welcoming with “new plane smell” (if there is something like that!! ) and once I got into the flight, tit was almost surreal!!
Thanks to the new windows of the 787 the interiors hid the fact that it was broad day light outside!! I think for most people flying the 787 for the first time, this will definitely be a wow moment!!
Its 4 in the afternoon, Sunny and bright outside. Believe it or not!!
Video of the window operations – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGD0mHGjP6k
Note that the exit lettering has been replaced by the new green signage along with pointing arrows. This will specifically come up during safety demonstrations:
Before the safety demo, all window shades were brought to fully open mode by the crew and post that you cannot change it until after the a/c has reached cruising altitude. This controlled by a button on the doors for each section. This way the crew doesn’t have to go individually asking folks to open windows.
I wonder what would happen during early morning flights. Typically crew come around asking you to pull down the shades. If the crew sets it to full shut mode, you would not have any control on the window
The take off roll was smooth and a lot less silent than the 777 or 330!!
Video of the take off roll – http://youtu.be/FUfxLMpjaGw
During the climb, the crew came on the PA explaining the benefits and features of the new Dreamliner Aircraft, including the lighter material, fuel efficiency and the lower cabin pressure maintained. It ended with how you can experience all that only on Air India The crew also explained the working of the new Windows and requested all to be gentle with the window control. This was done in Hindi followed by English.
The IFE on the 787 is different from the ones on other AI a/c. The Hindi section is quite comprehensive, while English and Regional languages is quite minimal. One baffling omission was that of TV series – the staple diet for most short-medium haul flights. The video features is primarily documentaries.
The Cabin Crew In Charge had some heated words with the crew in my section in Hindi. From what I could make out of it, he wanted the cabin to served beginning from the front, while crew started from rear. Initial teething trouble I guess.
Before landing the Cabin Crew In Charge settled down in Row 40 to rest. A female crew came to him saying that they should do the demo now. I was a little surprised as to what this demo was to be!!
The crew took their demo positions and went over the new exit signage once again in both Hindi and English. I asked the crew serving our section why this was done. She told me that since the exit signage on the 787 is drastically different from other a/cs in India, it is mandatory to do this pre-landing briefing.
Given that I was in the last row, I got a good opportunity to talk to the crew. Today’s flight was full in Economy and had only 2 empty seats up in Business Class. The second in command today was Capt. Rohit Bhasin, husband of Capt. Nivedita Bhasin – India’s first lady commander and as of now, the only lady to have piloted the Dreamliner for a commercial airline.
I asked the crew if I could take some pictures of the Business Class cabin and they graciously agreed:
Reluctantly, I bid goodbye to the Dreamliner and stepped back into Bangalore’s airport.
Overall the trip on the 787 was everything that I expected and then some more!! The Dreamliner provides AI with an excellent ammunition to target hitherto untapped markets like Central Asia, Australia and Africa as well as provide the right sized aircraft for certain long haul destinations like Vancouver or Boston. Hopefully AI will seize this opportunity and the Dreamliner becomes a turning point in Air India’s history. Wishing all the best to Air India!