Air India appoints HBA to redesign flagship lounges at Delhi and New York JFK

Earlier this year, Air India disclosed that they would refurbish the lounges in Delhi and New York for the airline. The lounges are dated and have not been invested in for upgrade for a long time. With the arrival of the Tata Group on the scene, the airline has, upgraded the amenities at the Delhi lounges, but the New York lounge has been the stuff of discussion in the western traveller communities, and most of the stuff I’ve heard is not nice (the lounge participates in the Priority Pass network for New York JFK).

a group of cut out cardboard figures in front of a building

Air India appoints Hirsch Bedner Associates to refurbish lounges.

Air India has today announced that the airline has appointed Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA), a renowned hospitality interior design firm, to refurbish Air India lounges at Terminal 3, Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi and Terminal 4 of JFK Airport in New York.

Air India Lounges in Delhi and New York will emerge as signature lounges after the extensive refurbishment and rebuild, which is planned to commence shortly, extending a world-class lounge experience to over 400,000 premium guests flying with Air India.

The lounges will be designed with world-class state-of-the-art amenities. The lounges will offer diverse Indian and international cuisine wrapped in class and comfort.

The partner, HBA, has been known for creating award-winning signature projects for leading global institutions like the Taj group, Marriott, InterContinental, Hilton, and Singapore Airlines. The collaboration with HBA will allow Air India to redefine new standards in comfort and aesthetics of its lounges and offer the best-in-class lounge experience for its guests.

Rajesh Dogra, Chief Customer Experience Officer, Air India, said on the occasion,

We are committed to offer the highest standards of service to our guests as part of our transformation journey, and the association with HBA will help us extend a warm and welcoming lounge experience that embodies the essence of Air India’s commitment to excellence. In the last one year, we have taken several initiatives to enhance customer experience, including digital channels, airport, inflight services, and contact centre. The redesigned lounges will further strengthen our customer proposition.

Starting with the two lounges, Air India is parallelly working on expanding its lounge network to other major airports in India and abroad, intending to offer a similar enhanced lounge experience for its first-class, business-class, eligible FFP and Star Alliance members.

My Take on Air India’s Move

While, as a customer, I cannot complain about the availability of more Air India lounges than we have seen in the past, the reality of the situation is that in Delhi and New York, the airline either purchased or long-leased their area, which is why they are committed to these lounges. Otherwise, there is no reason for Air India to be committed to New York.

But at all major airports in India, the airport operator has moved to occupy the space of the lounges and offers it from their end (so that they can earn a share of the revenue from lounge access, rather than just the rent, which would be higher in today’s world). So, I am unsure which other airports will willingly cede space to Air India to let them have their lounges (Mumbai and Bengaluru have their own lounge operators).

As for lounge operations outside of India, will Air India repeat the mistakes that other airlines, such as Etihad, have made in the past? Setting up lounges for one or two frequencies a day will eventually become a white elephant for the airline. I believe the lounge strategy on the ground works very well for Emirates because of the high number of premium passengers passing through their doors every day, or similar airlines, but in our part of the world, most passengers still fly economy.


Air India has appointed HBA Design, a well-known design firm in the hospitality industry (however, with only a recent track record in the world of lounges), to refurbish their lounges in Delhi and New York JFK. Work on the refurbishment will start shortly. The airline said they will also work on other lounges in India and abroad.

What do you make of Air India’s Lounge strategy in the times ahead?

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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. If (and a big IF!) the lounges are good and reflect the actual luxury space the airline wants to occupy, maybe they can siphon off passengers from other Star carriers in New York, and the associated revenues?

  2. I just went to AI’s JFK lounge last week with my family and walked right out. Issues:
    1. Couldn’t stand the smell. There was also something strange in the smell which caused my family to cough.
    2. Hopelessly outdated interior. We didn’t look at other aspects of the lounge.

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