Trip Report: Flying The Dream – Air India 787

This trip report is by Balagopal, an avgeek (Aviation Geek) based in Bangalore.

Introduction:

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:

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).

Pre-Flight:

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.

Flight Day:

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.

The now mandatory Elephant Sculpture photo at DEL

This was probably the first time that I was boarding a flight from T3 in broad daylight and it does seem a lot spacious in the day than at night!!

Air India 777-300ER on the international side

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:








Finally at Gate 32, I come face to face with the beauty!!

The distinctive rear section of the 787

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.

787, here I come!

 

Jetbridge

Welcomed aboard by flight attendant in AI uniform

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!!

Forward Economy Cabin

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!!

Aft economy cabin

Its 4 in the afternoon, Sunny and bright outside. Believe it or not!!  

My seat, 39A, with an Air India pillow

The new 787 windows. They are MASSSSSSSSSIVE!!

 

The window control at the bottom. Press up for lighter and down for darker shades

 

Difference between half shut and fully open

 

Full Shut and Full Open

 

Video of the window operations – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGD0mHGjP6k

Leg space was excellent

Audio-Video On Demand personal televisions

USB Port for charging and Coat Hook

 

AC Vent and Reading Lights

 

 

Tray Fully Open with pre-takeoff Bottle of Water served

 

Dreamliner Safety Card

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:

New spacious overhead bins

Contrary to what Ms. Clueless at the transfer desk said, the last row on the 787 does recline: 

Rear Galley

Meal Carts

 

Lavatory

 

Seatbelt Sign

 

The safety demo was done manually with the crew highlighting the new exit signage

 

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  

 

Flight Map

Flight Map

 

Full cabin

 

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

Indira Gandhi International from above

 

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.

As soon as we reached our cruising altitude the seat belt signs were off and the crew sprung to action.

I managed to grab this shot as one side of the a/c still had windows in full open mode, while the other side had returned to original position. Each side is separately controlled.

The Aisle with the new Boeing interiors

The curve of the overhead bins, make the cabin appear more spacious.

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.

Good headsets..probably the best in Y class

The smell of food being being heated in the galley came wafting through the cabin. The cabin crew came around with trollies offering vegetarian and non vegetarian snacks. I opted for the non-veg.

The meal consisted of a Quiche, Grilled Paneer (Cottage Cheese), Puffs, Bread Roll and Butter, Cut Fruits and a dessert which I could not identify.

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.

Passengers settling down

 

The poor soul in 37K didn’t get the window he expected

 

 

Cabin lights dimmed

 

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.

Crew at demo stations for “pre-landing” safety demo. A first for me.

 

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.

Just can’t get over the windows!

 

 

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!

Comments

  1. Sohail Lalani says:

    Hi. Excellent review, and congratulations on flying the 788.

    Since you have mentioned that you have also flown on the 380, how do you compare both the experiences.

    Thanks.

  2. Great write-up. Hope to see more!

  3. Nice review Rohit! Now we know what its like :-)