AU ABROAD

Flight Review: Air India - Sydney to New Delhi (AI301 - Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner Service)

This week we fly the only direct Sydney to New Delhi route with Air India on the Dreamliner 787 (Australia’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner service). Does the Dreamliner live up to the hype? AU takes a flight (a whole 12 hours and 10 minutes) to suss it out.

Airline: Air India
Route: Sydney to New Delhi. Flights are daily alternating Melbourne-Sydney-New Delhi or Sydney-Melbourne-New Delhi. I flew the Melbourne-Sydney-New Delhi option from Sydney to get the direct leg.
Seat: 11J (exit row window)
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
Class: Economy

Flight Time: 12 hours, 10 minutes
On Schedule? The flight left 10 minutes late but that was only because staff were fixing my entertainment system – so no complaints about that.

Frequent Flyer Program: Air India is part of the Star Alliance awards scheme. As a frequent flyer I need to join but haven’t as of yet, so no points for me. Air India also has a frequent flyer program called Flying Returns with generous rewards for frequent flyers.

Lounge Access: Under Air India’s Flying Returns, The Maharaja Club members and The Golden Edge Club members are offered lounge access. Under Star Alliance, Star Gold members are offered lounge access.
Web Check-In? Not for flights leaving Australia.
Mobile Check-In? Not for flights leaving Australia.
Points and Status Credits Earned: I didn’t earn any points.

Meal Service: Three meals were spread out comfortably over the 12 and a bit hours. The flight left Sydney at 11:20am and we were eating lunch by 12:40pm. There were four choices, which is more than any other economy flight I’ve been on. A staff member explained it’s a temporary increase because the ICC Cricket World Cup is on. Two Western and two Indian selections spanning chicken and vegetarian were offered. I went with the Indian vegetarian option and enjoyed a velvety paneer curry and a mushroom spinach curry with rice and a flakey roti. Dessert was two creamy khoya (solidified milk) balls liberally topped with pistachios.

This was the best (and largest) meal by far. The second meal was served just over four hours later, with two choices this time round – chicken and fried rice or vegetables and fried rice. The chicken was on par for airline food (a few sticky chunks smothered in a sweet chilli sauce) and the rice was nice and fluffy, peppered with peas and corn kernels. A couple of hours before landing a light supper of a salad and cheese sandwich and muesli bar was served.

In-Flight Entertainment: Easy to use touch screens and a remote with large buttons made the in-flight system the easiest economy entertainment system I’ve seen to date. I always bring my own noise-cancelling headphones and was able to plug them in without an adaptor. I got through one movie but then unfortunately my system went down. It was one of five and couldn’t be fixed during the flight. The staff were accommodating about finding me another seat but I decided to stick to my roomy exit row seat and read and napped.

Comfort: The Dreamliner feels spacious with high ceilings and roomy storage cages. The seats are set up in a 3-3-3 layout with a pitch of 84 centimeters and a width of 43 centimeters – ample room for even the longest and widest of people (unless you’re a sumo wrestler… but less face it, if you were you’d know not to book economy anyway). Water bottles, blankets, headphones and pillows are provided and there’s a power supply and USB port under each seat too.

The Dreamliner 787’s cabin pressure is set to 6,000 feet above sea level (most conventional planes fly with the cabin pressure set at 7,500 to 8,000 feet above sea level) and this is designed to offer a more pleasant flying environment by minimising the effects of dehydration and fatigue. Considering it’s a long daytime flight I do get off the plane feeling quite fresh. I don’t drink too much alcohol though and stick to downing mainly water.

Customer Service: Staff members were kept busy with a fidgety crowd (a consequence of daytime flying) but were courteous, kind and happy to help whenever needed. Service always came with a smile, food was served and cleaned up quickly and amenities were well maintained for the duration of the flight.

Baggage: A generous 30KG of checked-in luggage allowance (one or two bags) is allowed. Guests can take on an 8KG carry-on piece, laptop and handbag. It’s worth noting that if flying with Air India domestically the checked-in allowance is 15KG.

Tatyana flew courtesy of Air India.