Air India’s A350: a first look inside the jet that will reposition the airline

There are two primary guiding factors for a privatised Air India. The first is a significant market for a non-stop flight from India to key global markets, such as the US, Europe and Australia. The second is that people will be willing to pay more in exchange for saving time and flying non-stop. So, a premium exists. Everything the airline has lined up for its international services breathes from these two guiding principles.

Air India’s First A350-900 is here.

To recap, Air India ordered 40 A350 aircraft, 20 being the -900 variant and 20 being the -1000 variant. Out of these, the airline has already (contractually) received six. These six were originally assembled for Russian carrier Aeroflot; however, with the sanctions imposed on Russia in the wake of their war, these were offered to other airlines. Air India picked up six, and Turkish picked up six as well.

The A350-900 will be the first aircraft to receive the new Air India colours. After exiting the paint shop, these went to a workshop where the existing product installed on the plane was suitably modified to bring these to Air India’s (new) brand standards. The airline received its first A350-900 in December 2023 and chose to unveil it at the Wings India 2024 in Hyderabad.

a large airplane on a runway

The aircraft is scheduled to enter commercial service on Monday, January 22, 2024. While the A350-900 has a 9,500-mile range, it will fly domestically for the first month while the cabin crew gets acquainted with the onboard product and service protocols.  The AI A350-900s are equipped with crew bunks, so if the airline wanted, they could also fly this aircraft ultra-long-haul to North America.

However, before the plane entered service, we got a good look inside the aircraft to find out if it was worth the excitement it was generating.

Air India’s A350-900 Configuration

Air India’s A350-900 is configured in a 3-class configuration. The airline has seen a good response to Premium Economy, which is seen on some of its 777s, and with the A350-900 (and later refurbishment of their earlier widebodies), will make it permanent.

Air India has the following configuration on their A350-900 aircraft for the long-haul missions:

  • 28 Business Class seats are in a 1-2-1 configuration between doors 1 and 2.
  • 24 Premium Economy seats in 2-4-2 configuration, behind the Door 2 Galley.
  • 264 Economy seats in 3-3-3 configuration

Air India’s A350-900 Business Class

Air India has the Collins Aerospace Horizon Premier product installed for their A350-900 business class. These seats have doors in line with the current trend, where privacy is valued over everything else in a premium business-class configuration.

a table with plates and cutlery on it

The seat has a 22″ wide seat, which converts into a full flatbed with 79″ length. You can stow your small bags under the cubby. The cubby has enough space for side sleepers to sleep on the side. That is my natural position, and I usually find space enough.

a tv and a table in an airplane

A small vanity cabinet is next to the cabin headrest on the seat, with a universal charging outlet and a USB. The headsets will be found there; there will also be space to keep your passports, glasses, and other small personal items. For instance, you can leave your phone to charge here. There is also a vanity mirror for a quick touchup before landing.

The seat finish is in blue cloth, with the headrest and other cheat lines around the cabin in brown. There is also a 21″ IFE monitor, which would serve you up content from the Panasonic eX3 system that Air India will inherit, consistent with Vistara’s choice.

a screen on the side of a plane

All seats will have aisle access. For the middle seats, if you are flying with someone, you can keep the divider open, or shut it down if you are flying solo and won’t want to interact with your neighbour. It is roomy enough to chat with your travelling partner.

a seat in a plane

For solo flyers in business class, passengers will get to choose. There are seats on the window, but you can choose to be on the aisle with the console next to the window. Or you can better view the window and the console on your aisle. Both have good privacy, and you get two full windows for gazing outside. The window shades across the cabin are electronically operable.

The airline has done quite some work in terms of the service aspects and will roll out new tableware and china along with the rollout of this aircraft on international service. They did not miss the opportunity to showcase it, though.

The exquisite chinaware collection blends lightweight and durable materials with subtle brand elements like intricate Mandala patterns and India-inspired designs for a luxurious dining experience. First-class guests will receive exclusive copper-gold thalis for Indian meals, and on board, the Business Class tableware in silver trims was displayed.  a tray with plates and utensils on it

Business-class guests would also get lead-free glassware from Slovakia, which boasts infinite transparency and stainless-steel cutlery with weight-saving hollow handles. But the most interesting part would be the India-inspired, tiffin box-shaped, salt-pepper cruet set in gold finish, sure to delight guests worldwide. Also, perhaps, very pinchable. Remember the salt and pepper shakers from Virgin Atlantic that used to fall into guests’ bags magically?

Oh, and the Maharaja is not going anywhere. He will be with you through the journey. On the teacup, for one. I want that mug for my home, like right now.

a tray with a white cup and a spoon on it

The airline has also worked with some smart choices to reflect their Indianness in their new bed linen for the premium cabins. Air India First and Business class guests will be provided specially designed linen. This includes plush bespoke duvets that are sustainable and lightweight and mattress toppers crafted with a memory foam layer that enhances the long-haul sleep experience in the skies. The mattress topper doubles as a cushion when rolled up, making it compact.

a bed with headphones and a phone on the side

The First and Business class blankets are made of premium wool blend, bespoke to Air India’s new identity. The traditional Sozni embroidery of Jammu & Kashmir, a Union Territory of India, inspires the delicate jacquard border and the motif. Air India will be the world’s only airline to offer wool-blended blankets in First and Business class. The slippers offered will be made of Velour. a towel and slippers on a bed

The airline went with the Phitek Cumulus noise-cancelling headphones range, consistent with its first-class offering. Ferragamo has designed amenity kits exclusively for Air India. Each Business class kit – encased in a bespoke presentation bag with unique motifs celebrating different printing styles of India – includes Ferragamo body lotion, hand cream, lip balm, comfortable socks, a plush eye mask, and a specially designed Air India keepsake.

Business-class guests will enjoy Air India’s refreshed loungewear by TUMI. Keeping style and sustainability as key considerations, Air India’s TUMI loungewear is made from recycled materials blended with cotton for extra softness and breathability. Each set of pyjamas would be made with 23 recycled plastic bottles.

a basket of food and bottles on a counter

The bar/social area for Business Class customers will be right behind. An inheritance from Aeroflot, but now Air India paid for it, and it is there. The social area will not see a lot of foot traffic in terms of people standing at the bar and drinking as they’d do on a Qatar Airways A380 or the Emirates A380 bar.

Still, it is more useful to display the drinks and snacks for the premium cabin customers and allow them to pour one for themselves. Airlines would do this at other times with the bar built up in the side structures rather than in the cabin’s centre. And many airlines would leave some drinks on display, such as Qatar Airways on their 787s and Lufthansa on their Boeing 747s.

And while the airline won’t tell you this, an onboard humidifier has also been installed for the business cabin. Since the premium cabin is sparsely populated compared to the back, the humidity does not go up naturally. By having a humidifier on board, the airline will hope to have another 10-15% humidity in the front cabin, bringing it to comfortable levels. It also helps that the food and wine will taste better as well.

Air India’s A350-900 Premium Economy

Air India got a 2-4-2 configuration for their Premium Economy cabin. The cabin is again from Collins Aerospace, and the airline went for the MiQ seats. These seats serve as Business Class on a narrowbody aircraft (such as on Vistara A320neos), and on a widebody, they are relegated to PEY. The seats are 18.5″ wide, and those on the seats with aisle access can drop the armrest to get a bit more space as well.

a row of seats in an airplane

a seat on an airplane

Burgundy is the seat colour of choice, with dark grey headrests. One of the things I did not notice at the viewing, but I notice now, is the discrete reading lamps tucked inside each seat. Just have a look at those pipes emerging out of the headrests.

The MiQ seat sets the standards for comfort and functionality through its ergonomic shape, flexible equipment options and generous space. Its main comfort features include the individually adjustable calf rest, an 8-inch reclining backrest, and a four-way adjustable headrest, which creates a relaxed atmosphere for long-haul passengers.

The ‘relax’ position is extremely comfortable and allows a pleasantly relaxed sitting position. The calf rest is individually adjustable, which is a significant plus, especially for taller passengers.

a seat on a plane

The large tray table, plentiful storage space, and an integrated entertainment system improve the passenger experience. Air India’s PE has a 13″ IFE screen, and the seat pitch is industry standard. Two people can comfortably share the centre console’s armrest. I think this will be a business-class experience in Premium Economy. For one, Air India will have both versions of the USB installed for in-seat charging of phones and other electronic devices.

a row of seats with a screen on the back

Air India’s amenity kit for Premium Economy guests will be refreshed to incorporate the Air India Red colour in its design and includes skincare essentials by the Swedish label Verso. Premium Economy guests will enjoy a twill weave cabin blanket. Noise Canceling headsets will also be provided in Premium Economy; however, they will not be from the same brand as those for the First cabin, for instance.a seat with a blanket and a bag on it

For F&B, Air India will go with Mandala-patterns etched melamine tableware.

a tray with food containers and a napkin on it

Air India’s A350-900 Economy Class

Coming to the part where most of us will travel. Air India went with some brilliant colours for their Economy class, and there are 264 seats in Economy Class, configured in a 3-3-3 configuration.

an airplane with red seats

Air India went with the Collins Aerospace Pinnacle economy class seat. The modular design gives it the lightest weight in its class without compromising on comfort. With features such as the four-way headrest, high literature pocket, and easily-accessible power ports, Air India will be able to make sure you travel in comfort, sleep well on this Economy cabin, and don’t crush your knees into the person ahead of you.

a row of seats in an airplane

The seat has enough going for itself. Everyone gets a 12″ IFE screen and a USB charging port, and between a set of 3 seats, there are two power ports for sharing. The seat pitch is at 31″.

While the blankets will be the same as PE, Air India will hand out themed Kraft paper amenity kits on ultra-long-haul flights. Enough different kinds will be going out, which might become a collectors’ thing.

a group of bags with pictures of buildings and a black case

Air India’s A350-900 Entertainment

The full suite of the new IFE content features over 2,200 hours of entertainment content across formats and genres, including 1000 hours of movies, 600 hours of TV, and 600 hours of audio. The airline will use the Panasonic eX3 system and also have cameras for those who like to see where their plane is (at the gate, in the air and so on).

Overall, Air India has a winner on its hands with their A350-900. The aircraft will indicate what Air India wants to be in the future: an airline that can deliver non-stop service from India but also command a premium for their product and deliver on the customer’s expectations. Finally a product that might tempt people to switch back from the Middle East carriers to their own Air India.

What do you think of the Air India A350-900 product?

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. My wife and I went from SFO to BLR past week in Economy Prime !
    Everything by way of experience was superb , including seating comforts, Crew Service and our Meals . With our Disability, we were given perfect courtesy by the crew.
    We have traveled over 30 years from Long Ago Swissair the perfect Airline to recent past few years in United , Lufthansa, Etihad, Emirates &Singapore Airlines !
    Air India matches with Emirates & Singapore Airways clearly!
    Hope they keep it up !!

  2. Just flew air India from Canada and on our way back from India to Canada just yesterday (January 27,2024). It was horrible experience. None of tv systems were working on 14 hours long flight, food trays were broken, stuff uniforms were so poorly designed& food was disgusting . I don’t think I will ever fly Air India again in my life.

  3. Had horrible experience, will never fly again with them. I booked business class but it was as good as economy. I felt I have wasted my money by booking business class plus felt robbed by them as at the time of booking they said you can pay for extra bag at the airport which I was ready to pay but on reaching the airport got another shock when they asked to pay 350 dollars for one bag. Starting that at airport you have to pay extra. I should be informed by their agent on phone earlier and I had no choice except to pay them.

  4. Plural of toilet is restroom ,hope we are not squeezed into a tiny tinder box with farting smell and vacuum sucker noise on long flight,ah also long ques as the passenger number increased the toilet numbers decreases.

  5. We had travelled in many air ways to Canada USA London Singapore Gulf countries but not in Air India. So we would like to travel now in Air India after the advertisement and look into the reality.Hope so

    • I wouldn’t fly on Air India for all the tea in China! Pilots are poorly trained and planes are poorly maintained.

  6. I contest both of the reasons stated in this article. For most of the passengers flying in economy class, long flights is a kind of punishment. It becomes intolerable after 8-9 hours. That is one reason why breaking the journey into two segments makes sense.


  7. It’s exciting to see Air India’s new A350 in such splendid detail! Alongside its impressive features, it’s worth noting the addition of CTT Systems’ advanced Humidifier Onboard. This innovative system significantly enhances the in-flight experience by maintaining optimal cabin humidity levels, leading to increased passenger comfort and well-being during long-haul flights. It’s a game-changer in air travel wellness.

    For those interested in learning more about how this technology transforms the flying experience, check out CTT Systems Humidifier Onboard.

  8. Is this actually the final product that Air India are going for? The cutlery, amenities, etc clearly are but I am talking about the seats, colours and trims?

    I ask because this is an NTU/inherited aircraft, and wondering how much personalisation it has received to make it the new « Air India » product?

      • Looking forward to trying the new service in due course!

        (Although I’m not a Star Alliance person … much prefer to see them switch to SkyTeam or OneWorld!)

  9. I am delighted to know that airindia has come up with beand new air crafts and provide good service to all the passengers.It is great bews and best wishes and good luck to India.

  10. One of the biggest gripes many of the pax have onboard Air India flights (especially on their wide body equipment) is the outdated / broken nature of the seats and IFE..

    This is something that is across all cabin classes..

    The airline had inducted couple of 77L and 77W from Delta / Etihad / Singapore as a stop gap measure which so far was proving successful

    Now with the A359, this will only enhance the reliability factor and would certainly tempt people to try it out..

    Hoping that the conditions of the seats don’t deteriorate as quickly after couple of flights as this is what happened on their 788s which were delivered back in 2012 but became very non functional and broken very quickly..

    Also if there are any IFEs broken hoping the airline fixes them instead of just leaving them as-is

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