Review: Air India Airbus A350 Business Class

For now, Air India’s A350-900 aircraft are the only exciting aircraft in their fleet. Two have already been inducted; another four should be inducted by May 2024. I usually love first flights, but I was away on a personal engagement in January when the first aircraft was supposed to be pressed into commercial service. So, I had to pass on the initial dates. However, when AI put the flights out for sale, they stated that flights on the A350 would be available through February 2024. So, I booked some tickets to try out the jet across the various classes, including the Air India A350 Business Class.

Since then, Air India has also pressed into service the second A350-900 aircraft. Both these planes are being flown by Air India or Airbus examiners who are using the short rides between Mumbai—Bangalore—Hyderabad, and Chennai to gain landing cycles and release pilots after their check rides so that Air India has an approved pool of pilots to take these planes abroad.

I booked myself on the sole A350-900 weekly flight from Delhi to Bengaluru (at the time), hoping to catch more than 2 hours at a stretch on the plane rather than the shorter segments that the plane usually operates. As described in this post, the ticket was booked via Star Alliance partner Turkish Airlines. Booked in cash, it would usually go for about INR 40,000.

On the day of the flight, I arrived at the airport at about 4:45 PM for my 7 PM scheduled departure from Delhi Airport. On a weekday, the airport looked quiet outside but plastered with DigiYatra advisories all around.

people standing in a line in a building

Delhi Airport Terminal 3

I hopped into the DigiYatra lane to quickly enter the airport and headed to the Air India aisles to collect my physical boarding pass.

a screen with a sign and text

Delhi Airport Terminal 3 Flight Information Display Screen

The airline recently rolled out the new branding on their boarding passes, and I did not have one from the Business Class section yet, so I wanted to see how that turned out in real life. It was a quick exercise for the agent at the Business Class Counter to print my boarding pass and hand it to me. You can also see the new branding for Air India across the entire Delhi Airport.

people standing in line at an airport

Delhi T3 Air India Check In Aisle

a group of people in a terminal

Delhi T3 Air India Check In Aisle

people standing in a line at an airport

Delhi T3 Air India Check In Aisle (Premium)

a hand holding a ticket

Air India Business Class Boarding Pass

I was informed lounge access did not need a special piece of paper and that the boarding pass itself could serve the purpose.

a hand holding a purple tag

Air India Hand Baggage Tag

The check-in agent also had someone come around and put a tag on my rollaboard suitcase to identify it as that of a Business Class passenger. It’s been a while since I’ve seen those go on the bags, especially since there is no longer a requirement to stamp them after a security check.

a group of people in a building

Delhi T3 Security Check Lane

The DigiYatra queue was massively backed up, as it is comingled with the regular security queue for economy passengers. So, I headed to the priority queue, which was empty.

On the other side, I headed to the Air India Lounge to bide my time while I waited for the aircraft to arrive at the gate. I’ve previously reviewed the Air India Lounge at Delhi T3 Domestic. While this lounge is bound to be razed and rebuilt by Air India, only a little has changed around there except for the coffee machine.

people walking into a building

Air India Lounge, Delhi Airport Terminal 3 Domestic Pier

I headed to the gate about 45 minutes out, and the plane had been tugged to the gate by then. It is always a welcome sight to see a new aircraft on the ramp.

airplanes parked at an airport

Delhi Airport Apron

The aircraft was at the gate, and so was I, one hour prior.

a window with a plane in the background

Air India’s A350 Aircraft at Delhi Airport T3

The crew appeared another fifteen minutes later, and a few moments later, boarding was announced. However, the AI-SATS ground handling agent brought in all sorts of premium passengers together (Business, Premium Economy, Gold and Maharajah members of Air India Flying Returns, Star Alliance Gold members… and the Zone seated at the back of the plane). On top of it, they just opened one rope to board and had continuous confusion with two aerobridges for boarding and having to guide passengers to the right gate repeatedly.

a sign with a number and a picture on it

Delhi Airport Boarding Information

Finally, I was on board the beautiful Airbus A350-900 aircraft of Air India, and I boarded through gate L1, the frontmost gate on the plane. Unlike global carriers of note, the Air India crew did a folded-hand “Namaste” on this trip and guided me down the aisle to find my seat. While I’d already seen this plane at Wings India 2024, it would be my first time flying it.

Air India AI869
Delhi (DEL) – Bengaluru (BLR)
Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Departure: 07:38 PM
Duration: 2 Hours 33 minutes
Arrival: 10:11 PM
Aircraft Type: Airbus A350-900 
Seat: 4A (Business)
Meal Service: Dinner

I had initially selected seat 1A on the aircraft, given the whole seat map was empty. However, a few days before the flight, I switched to 4A to better understand the service flow. Here is the seat map of the Air India A350-900 from the check-in flow of Air India.

a screenshot of a cell phone

Air India A350 flight map

I quickly found my way to my seat. Any clues of Aeroflot were at least not visible to the public eye. Read that as, the team that reupholstered this plane did a good job covering up the instances of Aeroflot branding on this aircraft.

a seat in a plane

Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite

Air India’s A350-900 Interiors

As I walked through gate L1, I saw that the first compartment on the plane was a Business Class compartment, basically an enclosed suite. There are 28 fully enclosed suites in a 1-2-1 configuration on board. No overhead bins over the centre made the business cabin roomier.

a room with a couple of monitors and a couple of people in it

Air India A350-900 Business Class Cabin Layout

a computer on a desk in an airplane

Air India A350-900 Business Class Cabin Layout

Air India has the Collins Aerospace Horizon Premier business class suite, which initially debuted on the Aeroflot version of the aircraft and was inherited by Turkish Airlines and Air India.

a screen on the seat of an airplane

Air India A350-900 Business Class Suite

The seats on the window sides are staggered in a near and far from the window configuration. If you want a seat near the window, go for the A/K seats on row 2/4/6.

a seat in a plane

Air India A350-900 Business Class Suite

In the centre sections of business class, you can sit with your travel partner next to you, on rows 1/3/5 and 7, or far if you are travelling solo. There is a compartment divider if you’d like more privacy as well. However, this seat can never turn into a double bed as on some other carriers.

a seat in a plane

Air India A350-900 Business Class in the Centre Aisle

Behind the Business Class section was the 2-4-2 configured Premium Economy Class, and before that, there was a bar in the second galley.

a row of seats on an airplane

Air India A350-900 Premium Economy Class Cabin Layout

Air India’s Airbus A350-900 Business Class In-flight product

I settled into my seat and noticed the 21″ in-flight screen. Working in-flight entertainment is an excellent sign for Air India. The monitor has touch controls to browse and make choices on the IFE.

a screen on a table

Air India A350-900 Business Class IFE Monitor

On each seat, a disposable headset, a small pillow and a blanket were waiting. This would be a noise-cancelling headset for international flights rather than these disposable headsets.

a seat in a plane

Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite with Pillow and Blanket

There is a small vanity case next to the seat console, with a mirror, and one can use it to store small personal items such as glasses or your passport.

an empty airplane cabin with a small cabinet

Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite Storage Area for Personal Effects

A small lamp is installed outside the vanity case. On other airlines, these lamps would be switched on to make the cabin welcoming. On AI, they were switched off.

a light fixture on a wall

Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite

There is a full-size wardrobe on some seats, which you can use to hang your jacket/coat and so on when you switch into the sleeper suits on long-haul flights.

a tv in a room

Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite Personal Wardrobe

Seat controls were embedded on the armrest console, a major irritant during the flight, as I would later realise. You could push those buttons inadvertently, which might set your seat in Do-Not-Disturb mode or slide into bed mode. There are no armrests on the other side of the seat.

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Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite Seat Controls

The IFE controller is embedded on the console. It can be used to see essential flight information when lying down or controlling the IFE panel.

a screen on a device

Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite IFE Seat Controls

a screen with a map on it

Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite IFE Seat Controls

The seat cubby was massive. There was enough space to move your feet around, even when sleeping or lying on the side. That was a big plus.

a person's legs in a chair

Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite Cubby

a purple box with metal bars

Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite Cubby

A big, sturdy table that can be used for work or dining hides under the IFE monitor. A large shoe cabinet was also present.

a close up of a bin

Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite Shoe Storage

The seat has a universal power supply with a built-in USB-A port. However, it does not have a USB-C charging option, which is surprising because the rest of the aircraft also has the USB-C option.

a black outlet and plug on a wall

Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite Universal Power

A reading lamp is installed in the seat as well.

a close up of a light

Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite Reading Lamp

A literature bin lines up between the seat and the console unit, along with a bottle holder.

a paper in a cup holder

Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite Storage Area

I was also thankful that the aeroplane had individual air nozzles atop each seat.

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Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite Air Nozzles

Electronic Window Shades were installed in the business cabin. This nice touch makes the cabin a little more high-end and luxurious.

a close up of a plane

Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite Electronic Window Shades

I made a quick trip to the lavatory, and there was enough room in this standard-size lavatory where people could change into pyjamas and stuff.

a shelf with two bottles of hand sanitizer on it

Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite Lavatory

a sink with a bottle of liquid and a bottle of soap

Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite Lavatory

There was also a touch-free flush button.

a close-up of a sign

Air India’s A350 Business Class Suite Lavatory

Air India’s A350-900 Business Class In-flight service

I handed over my jacket to a cabin crew member so that they could hang them in the coat rack. A few minutes after boarding, a crew member came around to distribute refreshing towels. There was a choice of hot or cold towels. I went with a hot towel, although the towel was barely lukewarm. I must admit, though, it was not one of those flimsy towels available on many other airlines. So when the crew give it enough time in the oven, it will be a welcome addition to the service protocol.

a pink towel from a screen

Air India’s Business Class Refreshing Towel

The crew then came around to serve a pre-departure beverage. The options included water, buttermilk, and orange juice. The crew encouraged me to choose multiple options, so I went with water and buttermilk. Air India did not use their earlier version of the glasses with the logo on the service ware on this plane, at least.

a glass of water and a glass of milk on a table

Air India’s Business Class Pre Flight Beverage Service

The cabin was about 12/42 full, including a deadheading member of the cockpit crew. The crew then came around to distribute the dinner menus. There were Indian and Western options, vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.

a hand holding a menu

Air India’s Business Class Dinner Menu

Now, either the crew was fresh off training school, or they were not interested or concerned with the presentment of the cabin. Over the three to four trips they made, no one bothered to check if I was aware of the features of the suite or if I needed to be educated about something.

For a brand-new aircraft, it would be nice if the crew proactively went to guests, educated them and showed off the features of the seat. There is nothing to be taken for granted for their customers if Air India wants to jump into the league of top-class airlines. No detail is too small.

I put on the IFE and headed into the flight map, powered by Panasonic’s ARC map product.

a screen shot of a map

Air India’s Business Class Moving Map on the A350 Aircraft

The Air India version of the A350-900 also has tail cameras, which is a godsent for avgeeks like yours truly.

an airplane in an airport

Air India’s Business Class Tail Camera on the A350 Aircraft

The cabin crew came back in a bit to take the meal orders. I requested that the Thai Fish Curry and a diet cola be served.

Around the scheduled time of departure, the captain came on the PA system to introduce himself and the crew. I looked him up later, and it turns out he was an Airbus Type Rating Examiner / Instructor, perhaps deputed to Air India to evaluate their cockpit crew members to independently operate the aircraft later.

While we closed doors for an on-time departure, the plane pushed back only about twenty minutes later. The cabin was cold on the ground, and the individual nozzles were closed. This contradicts the usual wisdom of keeping the cabin warm for other airlines.

I got down to exploring the 2,200 hours of content on the aircraft IFE. There were a lot of movies to choose from, including a ton of movies from cinema franchises such as Marvel Comics and Harry Potter.

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Air India’s Business Class IFE Selection on the A350 Aircraft

a screen shot of a device

Air India’s Business Class IFE Selection on the A350 Aircraft

a screen shot of a device

Air India’s Business Class IFE Selection on the A350 Aircraft

a screen shot of a device

Air India’s Business Class IFE Selection on the A350 Aircraft

There was a whole bunch of TV content as well.

a screen shot of a device

Air India’s Business Class IFE Selection on the A350 Aircraft

There were complete seasons for those who wondered why random episodes were picked up from various TV shows. So kudos to the programming manager for that.

a screen shot of a computer

Air India’s Business Class IFE Selection on the A350 Aircraft

And while I was browsing the content, I could keep an eye on the plane using a picture-in-picture feature of the IFE.

a screen shot of a device

Air India’s Business Class IFE Selection on the A350 Aircraft

The cabin crew performed a manual safety demonstration as we taxied towards the runway. This was surprising because the airline had just announced its new safety video, and the plane was visiting the maintenance hangar. So, there should have been time to update the video on the IFE.

This is where the extraordinary height of the suite became a hindrance. When manual, one has to crank their neck way up to be able to see a bit of what’s happening in the safety demo. So, people would likely be on their phones or something and miss it when seated in business class.

We had a nice takeoff roll, and soon, we were airborne, about thirty minutes behind schedule. I expect this delay to have been due to Air Traffic Congestion. However, no such announcement was made.

a screen shot of an airplane on a tablet

Air India’s Business Class IFE Selection on the A350 Aircraft

Service began as soon as the seat belt signs were switched off. First, we had the cabin crew lay the tablecloth for everyone. In a few minutes, the dinner service was brought around. The cabin crew lead for business class came about with the meal on a full tray. However, it was different from the meal option I’d selected. As much as the cannelloni looked tempting, I wanted to try the Thai Fish Curry. So, I informed the crew that I’d picked the non-vegetarian Western option.

Hearing this, the crew member first expressed surprise (something I should have expressed!) and then beat a hasty retreat, saying he would return with the meal replacement. He returned in a few minutes with the meal tray and the cabin crew member who took the initial order. It was surprising to see him come back as a school teacher with a student in tow. The cabin crew member tried to explain to me that there was confusion in what she wrote on the manifest, and she apologised for it. That apology was totally over the top and unnecessary, and the senior cabin crew could have just regretted the confusion himself, and we could have moved on.

In this behaviour, he missed the mark in providing me with a delightful meal experience. The meal was hastily heated, perhaps, bordered on cold or luke cold, if there is a word like that. Plus, the bread basket was never brought out, so the earlier bread stayed on the tray, which had gone cold and hard.

Anyhow, here is the meal tray. Whatever was on the tray and meant to be served cold was delicious. The garlic bread was a rock, and the Thai Fish Curry would have been nice if it had been served properly. And there was no water on the tray. I did not bother sending it back because, after a long day of meetings, I did not have it in me to pick on the crew or give feedback.

a plate of food on a tray

Air India’s Business Class Dinner Service

Essentially, Air India’s service standards are still wet behind their ears. For instance, one of the newer protocols introduced at Air India (which I first witnessed in January 2024) is to come around and specifically greet the elite members of the Flying Returns programme. This crew would have none of it on board, and they did not even value the patronage of people who paid roughly USD 500 to be on this flight in business class. The crew never came around to enquire if anyone needed anything after or check on guests.

So, I hit the call button to ask for a coffee, which was brought quickly. Again, I was glad the stand-in service ware did not have the old Air India logos. The new ones will be a different vibe altogether.

a cup of coffee on a saucer

Air India’s Business Class Coffee

I picked an old favourite to watch on the ride, and the IFE system was responsive. While it was dark outside, I turned my head and saw we were flying over Hyderabad. It looked gorgeous and lit up from the skies.

an aerial view of a city

Hyderabad from 35,000 feet

While there was little time to catch a nap, I wanted to try the flatbed. It went fully flat.

a seat in an airplane

Air India’s Business Class Lie-Flat Bed

This would be a comfortable seat to sleep in with a good pillow. But if you wanted to lounge in it or watch a movie, the angle woulde, given that be uncomfortabl the screen doesn’t move.

a tv on a wall

Air India’s Business Class IFE on the A350 Aircraft

Another issue with the IFE is that the search is not reliable. I was watching Ford V/s Ferrari, and I started tinkering with the map at some point, which shut down the movie. I wanted to use the search function to get to the movie faster, but here is what it showed.

a screen shot of a computer

Air India’s Business Class IFE on the A350 Aircraft

The privacy of the seat was unmatched, but yet again, the crew’s nonchalance showed. They wouldn’t unlock the door to shut the suite after takeoff unless asked for. Dear Air India, you have a long way to go to compete with the finer airlines. The secret sauce is hospitality and professionalism.

Once the cabin was prepared for arrival and the lights were brought back up, the cabin crew went around and distributed a cold towel to everyone.

a hand holding a white towel

Air India’s Business Class Refreshing Towel pre-arrival

We soon commenced our descent and arrived in Bengaluru. While taxiing to the gate, I had the forward camera on. But once we were docked, I saw an interesting recap of the flight show-up in a loop.

a screen with a map on it

Air India’s Business Class IFE Monitor

a screen shot of a device

Air India’s Business Class IFE Monitor

At Bengaluru Airport, two aerobridges were attached to the plane, and we disembarked from the forward L1 gate.

a plane on the tarmac at night

Bengaluru Airport Arrival

Luckily, I had no bags to collect, so I could walk out of the plane and be on my way pretty quickly before returning to the same aircraft in the morning for my next flight.

a white airplane in a hangar

Air India’s A350 at Bengaluru Airport


Overall, this was a good flight experience with Air India. Domestic flights on wide-body aircraft are rare, so I try to get in when I can, but this was even more special since this product will eventually fly abroad and is the new flagship of Air India. The business class cabin and the new service ware for this cabin are top-notch, and all the airline has to do is bring their crew service standards to the same level.

What do you think of these A350 aircraft being added to Air India’s fleet and of the experience they offer?

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+ Brand new aircraft
+ Spacious
+ Private Business Class (with door)
+ Working IFE
+ Meal Choices


- Cabin Crew Training needs work


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. Money can’t buy real talent or can they? Getting the right people on board an organization would determine it longevity in excellence. Insincerity and plastic smiles and behavior will get spotted out sooner or later. After all, it is 780+ days after Tata’s take over of Air India. So there has been reasonable time for them to bring some authenticity in their crew members. It was a fact that the government owned Air India had grumpy crew, but it also had nice and heart warming crew who may not have looked like film stars, but served from their heart. Even if it is too late, we need to appreciate that the government owned Air India was making operational profit despite the lack of funding from the government and it did a wonderful job at aircraft utilization; especially its Boeing 787s. The true face of truth will come out slowly, and it would show if all the buzz and money was worth.

  2. Has anyone noticed – the actual tail art on the Air India A350s is different from the renders? The black shade in the centre is not aligned and makes it look really ugly. Is it a defect or deliberate change from the renders?

  3. Great review but there’s a small mistake, there are 28 J seats and 24 PY seats onboard, not 42.
    Also the population for Hyderabad seems wildly low, Panasonic/ AI must be using some interesting data.

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