When will Air India fix its planes?

On Monday, I flew back from Delhi to Mumbai on Air India. Since I love flying wide body planes even domestically, Shipra & I chose to fly their Boeing 77W, which flies Delhi to Mumbai as a tag flight before flying onwards to Newark. I’ve flown their B77W and B77Ls before, and it has almost always surprised me as to how Air India has managed to have 8 year old planes in a broken state, without even wanting to fix those planes for a good customer experience.


For instance, on my flight this week, I was seated in Economy in row 18, which is the second row in the Economy cabin. The reading lamps for the entire row were not working, and the co-passenger sitting next to us was visibly irritated because he wanted to read a book. I am a big fan of the cameras that AI’s planes come with, where you can see the runway transmission. For whatever reason, it was working on the wall-screens, but not on the personal seat-back screens. I’ve seen it there before!

Camera feed works on the wall, not on the seatback

Camera feed works on the wall, not on the seatback

Camera feed on an earlier flight working on the seatback

Camera feed on an earlier flight working on the seatback

After a while, I decided to watch a movie on the IFE. Here is the very granular quality it showed up in on Monday/Tuesday.

The grainy quality of IFE on Air India's long-haul flights

The grainy quality of IFE on Air India’s long-haul flights

And since my personal earphones were tucked away in the cabin bag which I was carrying, I just decided to use Air India’s. But these were broken. This flight was going to go forward to New York, and this meant that while the washrooms would be serviced and catering loaded, and perhaps vacuuming done, each seat back was not going to be checked, and these broken headsets were just going to remain in the seats. Lights were not going to be actively fixed in spite of the fact that the crew knew about it, and the passengers stuck on these seats on the 14-hour long flight would have to just make do with what they have.

Broken headsets, no less!

Broken headsets, no less!

Not to forget, the in-flight moving map did not work for most of the flight, and then showed the distance between Mumbai and Delhi at only 270 miles while it is actually more than 700 miles.

DEL-BOM at 270 miles is a feat of Air India travel

DEL-BOM at 270 miles is a feat of Air India travel

And this is the way the IFE controls were when we arrived, hanging on the side, do also notice the plate of the plane almost coming apart in the shot.

A broken plane of sorts

A broken plane of sorts

Oh, and before someone wants to come and defend Air India, this is not a one-off incident. There are so many of these incidents I’ve seen and experienced over the years. For instance, take a look at this business class seat on an Air India B77W which was going to fly to New York JFK back in November 2014. You will notice it is not set in its shell and at an awkward 7-9 degree slant. I had that seat for 2 hours. Imagine the guy in that seat for 14 hours.

A business class seat ready for take off

A business class seat ready for take off

Here is a chipped business class seat I flew in September 2014.a glass of liquid on a tray

I’ve usually noticed Air India’s domestic fleet with narrow bodies, which was inherited from the erstwhile Indian Airlines to be in a much better condition than the fleet they fly abroad. No wonder that the airline gets criticism on the global front for the planes not being in a condition to compete with the other carriers, such as pseudo-national carrier Emirates.

Also, the airline lacks a comprehensive compensation policy to make good for such incidents. I assume they assume that when you fly Air India abroad, you sign up for a sub-par experience. On another airline, they try to make good to you in one way or another. Air India just shifts the blame and says they’ll try to do better the next time. I’ll be writing to Air India later this week to ask for compensation on this all-things broken flight, but I really pity the guy who sat in 18B on the BOM-EWR leg of this flight.

I’m sorry Air India. I love to fly carriers with the Indian flag, but your general apathy is unfortunate. And you’d do much better to really take charge of the situation rather than blame everything on another government department or person.

What have been your Air India experiences while flying abroad? As bad as what I’ve stated here, or is it better?

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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. Hmm.. Their Dreamliners are much better. Flew AI recently on CCU-DEL and then DEL-LHR. Was a nice journey..

  2. Recently I travelled Delhi bangalore business class by 7.30 pm jet airways. Old aircraft leg rest were not working. Informed cabin crew.

  3. First bad and second worst experience with Air India after which I decided not to fly on this airline, come what may, though some one offers me a free ticket or a ticket with cash reward. I’m strong on this stand!

    My experience in KUL-MAA includes:

    1. Cushion less, broken, non reclinable seats,

    2. The air hostess’ behavior while serving the food was as though they were doing a charity event with people outside temples eagerly waiting for food with their tongue swinging

    3. A fellow passenger being answered rudely and denied when she requested for a blanket as she was not ok with the chillness

    4. The worst of all – I had to hold my pee for almost 3 hours after deciding not to use the toilet. The front one was badly stinking. The rear one had the toilet bowl which was more than 75% filled with blocked feces. Yes that was SHIT which was full in toilet. I didn’t see this ever in my life.

    After this I’ll never fly with Air India. I really felt bad when I’ve booked tickets for my family of 6 who visited us through this airline for celebrating Diwali with us. I could later on realise why my parents felt annoyed thinking of their return trip on AI flight.

    5. A couple of more bad experiences too when I booked it for my mother.

    I decided not to take it up with the authorities, since I was aware of the standard reply of which they’ll never bother to act upon and better do something more productive in life by saving at least those coordination time.

    Finally NEVER fly this airline!

  4. Hey!! Back in 2009 i flew with Air India to Frankfurt in one of their 777 which was almost new at that time…Have to say was pretty impressed with the flight..it was really comfortable and everything was in proper working condition as far as i can remember

  5. Have been flying with Air India for few years on India-Gulf routes. Got irritated every time I fly with them, so I have switched to Emirates and is now a gold member of beautiful Emirates. Guys, please ignore Air India and would recommend either Jet Airways or Indigo if you decided that you want to fly with an Indian company.

  6. Myself and family together with four children used fly on AI for many years on business class on international sectors. Mostly we have faced delays inbound as well as outbound flights, no time keeping schedule at all. We even faced very much difficulties during the air hostes strike that was happened couple of years ago.. Since it is a national carrier, we have supported the airline as much as we can. But now, we have realised the differences by using of other airlines of their timely schedule, in-flight services and aircrews professionalism which is much far better than AI.

  7. Air India is a private airline funded by taxpayers for Netas, Babus and their extended families. Nothing will ever change

  8. Hi Ajay, by sheer luck (or misfortune), we traveled on same flight from DEL-BOM on 15 Aug and were seated exactly on 18th row, just on other side 18J and 18K. I must tell you I couldn’t agree more with you and nothing has changed since we flew with them. No reading lights, broken headsets, IFE on my seat was not working (anyways 95% of contents were exactly same which I saw 2 months back in May end when I took San Francisco-Delhi flight with AI). The flight took off at 11 pm (almost 2 hrs late I believe) and when we reached Mumbai due to goof up, our baggage arrived 1.5 hrs late

  9. Thank goodness. I’m not alone with this miserable experience.
    We (wife, two young children and myself) from London to Hyderabad via Mumbai recently . It was a 36 hrs journey. Flight was delayed 7hrs in London to start with and when we reached Mumbai another 7hrs due to our connecting flight already left and they coudnt find another one. Not a single person came up to us and offered any assistance let alone an apology. I thought atleast return journey would be OK and unfortunately it’s the same. 2 hrs delay in Hyderabad and another 4hrs in Delhi this time. On top of that, we have alloted middle row of seats which were completely soaked and wet. Not sure what that was and when we complained they said flight is fully booked and asked us to adjust…. Wow!!!. What can I say. Never again … with AIR INDIA. Please stay away or fly with your own risk… Yash Rangineni

  10. I fly with Air India on their EWR-BOM-EWR segment every 4-6 months, and I second everything you’ve reviewed here.
    Luckily, I have not been on the receiving end,but have seen many folks suffer through such failures on the long flight!

    The only reason I continue to fly with Air India is their arrival time at BOM which allows me to connect to BLR the same day.

  11. Great job with the blog Ajay! I fly 15+ international segments on AA, BA & UA yearly. And their planes are not in much better condition. E.g. On my last UA flight (EWR – BOM) a few days ago, the power outlet was not working and the headphone jack worked intermittently. They couldn’t fix it in-flight but did provide a compensation voucher when I submitted a complaint online. I’m assuming my status with UA helped in this instance so not sure if Pax without status would get the same treatment.

    • The IFE didn’t work on my seat, neither the touch not the wired controller. The clip that attaches the controller to the seat was broken and the controller kept falling into my lap. The USB port on my seat was functional and I was able to charge my phone. The Middle seat next to me was empty. Used that screen thru the fight. The USB on that seat however was broken. Toilets were dirty. I think their 777s are showing age. I have flown all 3 cabins on that plane and I can tell you they all need work.

  12. Trying from Mumbai Dubai sometime on Air India. You might have to write two blogs on it. Forget economy, even business class is appalling. It is just so dirty.

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