At Air India, Hot Beverages return quietly as a part of meal service

One of the big discussions that has been ongoing for the full-service airlines in India, has been the quality and standards of meal services that have been offered. Vistara had been serving snack boxes, which they replaced with hot (vegetarian) meals in Economy back in the day in November 2021. However, hot beverage service did not return, allegedly because it is not allowed under the current rules prescribed by the Government of India.

Air India, on the other hand, has been quietly upping their game on in-flight services. In my 100-day plan for Vistara, I mentioned how full-service patrons had been wetting their beak elsewhere, and coming back impressed with Air India.

I last flew Air India in October 2021, and at the point, there was no meal service allowed for under two hour flights, so I did not see any hospitality service from their side. However, while I was researching for another story, it seems, another important truth might have tumbled out in the process, one I wasn’t aware of. Air India has restarted their tea and coffee service, again. My DMs seem to be full of this insight since last evening.

For instance, here is a reader who flew DEL-MAA in January 2022.

a close-up of a sign

Here is another who flew between Mumbai and Dehradun in Mid December 2021.

a close-up of a white background

And another who flew Air India between Lucknow and Bengaluru in January 2022.

a screenshot of a chat

Now, this was music to my ears, and I am certainly looking forward to tracking the progress of Air India after they are turned over to the Tata Group. This also means that there is only one airline which is currently hiding behind the DGCA guidelines on Covid-19, Vistara. I am wondering when will Air India return the favour of taking a dig on Vistara’s meals. In 2017, Vistara had famously taken a jab at Air India, when Air India went all-vegetarian on their Economy class meal service to save money.

Coffee and Tea service is important for many reasons. Yes, no one is going to die without coffee and tea on a plane, but a full set of service protocols, even on international legacy carriers who don’t provide free meals anymore, still provide a coffee or tea with sandwiches or biscuits (I am talking European Carriers, not American).

For airlines, it is important to baseline their service protocols compared to whatever else is there in the marketplace as well at the same time. In this case, Vistara is clearly not doing that, or just biding time to see what happens when Air India comes into the Tata fold.


Air India seems to be upping its game and restoring the full-service standards of the past pretty quickly, even before the Tata handover. Hot beverage service has returned. On the other hand, Vistara seems to be not worried about it at all for the time being.

Have you flown Air India recently? What has been your experience with their meal services (please describe with sector, time of day and what was served!)

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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. the Air India flight from Doha – Mumbai on 26 December served a snack box which contained a very dry cheese sandwich and a slice of cake and Water bottle.
    The cheese sandwich was made from half a slice of bread.
    So called Tea or coffee was charged at 5 Rials.

  2. My Air India flight on 25th December 2021 from CCU to DEL served hot meal but no hot beverages. And Air India evening flight from Jaipur to Delhi on 2nd January 2022 didn’t serve any meal or beverage as it was under 2hrs. But the next morning Air India flight from Delhi to Kolkata served hot breakfast but no hot beverages.

  3. Recently flew a 14 hour nonstop New York to Mumbai on Air India, an airline I feel the most comfortable on being an Indian.

    There was a welcome drink/alcohol option, followed by 3 meal services. Each meal service included tea/coffee option. 2 were full meal services and one of them was a snack box full of about 7-8 items including juice.

    Compare that to the United flight on the same route, during non-Covid days – they only had 2 meal services, nothing else.

    Air India has always been better than most other airlines in the world for food, service and making your feel at home. They just need to upgrade their aircrafts and ease of making online changes.

    • I flew 14.5 hrs, Delhi to Toronto, Jan 8, 22. The meals were OK, as I did not starve. There was no alcohol or wine option in the cattle class (economy).

      The interactions with the staff were minimum, except for meal times. All the cabin staff were dressed in white PPE,and it felt like they were attending morgue.

      The aircraft 777-300 was of vintage quality. At least, in my opinion, 30 years old. Looks like the Govt of India ran it into the ground. The toilets were filthy and there was no periodic check by the staff to remove overflowing bins, sanitizing, getting fresh rolls of toilet paper. This level of service is expected from very low class airlines, but Air India ?

      The flight was late by 6 hrs leaving Delhi due to “operational reasons”. Nevertheless, as per Canadian passenger bill of rights, they can claim $400 each, if the ticket was bought in Canada. What made it worse was the attitude of the ground crew in Delhi. When I approached them, I was told to buzz off as they are not responsible for the delay. WOW !

  4. I wonder how can they go against the current MOCA guidelines and start ‘pouring service’ risking their own staff members like this…

  5. Yeah. My Air India flight last week served tea/coffee along with hot meal while vistara did not serve any beverage, in economy.

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