Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Home Travel I flew the Air India A350 in all the three cabins back-to-back!

I flew the Air India A350 in all the three cabins back-to-back!

by Staff

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.

Since then, Air India pressed into service the second A350-900 aircraft as well, and both these planes are being flown with 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.

Booking these flights.

The only time I could find on my agenda to experience the aircraft was at the end of February 2024. The fact that the aircraft operates through Delhi NCR only one day a week also limited my choices, as I did not want to fly the aircraft just for the heck of it but also to be able to review it.

Air India’s A350-900 on display at the Hyderabad Wings India 2024

Eventually, the trip worked out like this.

  • Delhi to Bengaluru on board AI869 in Business Class on the A350
  • Bengaluru to Mumbai to Chennai on board AI589 in Economy Class on the A350
  • Chennai to Hyderabad on board AI587 in Premium Economy Class on the A350
  • Hyderabad to Delhi on board AI840 in Economy Class on the Boeing 777

To book the trip, I pegged it to availability on the A350 Business Class awards. I booked the Delhi – Bangalore flight using 12,500 Turkish Airlines miles + INR 580, while the flight itself was selling for about INR 40,000, so there was tremendous value in using those miles there.

a seat in an airplane

Air India’s A350-900 Business Class

Air India was offering the Bengaluru to Mumbai and the Bengaluru to Mumbai to Chennai segment on board the A350 at the same price. Those flying to Chennai won’t be able to alight in Mumbai, though. I thought that testing the seat and the cabin for two segments rather than one would be a good idea. Hence, I booked the Bengaluru to Mumbai to Chennai rotation instead of getting out of the plane at Mumbai itself. These tickets were booked on Air India’s own website, given that Air India gives you extra points for booking directly.

a red and grey seats in an airplane

Air India’s A350-900 Economy Class

From there, it became a bit tricky. I could have flown the same plane back to Bengaluru, but as you can imagine, I could either book Bengaluru-Mumbai-Chennai, Mumbai-Chennai-Bengaluru or Bengaluru-Mumbai, Mumbai-Chennai or Chennai-Bengaluru. So, I figured I could take a quick break in Chennai and step out for lunch at one of my favourite eateries in town before returning for the day’s final flight.

I booked myself on Chennai – Hyderabad, which operates in the evening rotation of the A350, in Premium Economy. From there, I also wanted to get home back to Delhi rather than hang out at an airport another night. So, the first possible flight available for me would be the one that I wanted to book (AI 840). However, with only one hour between the scheduled arrival of AI587 and the scheduled departure of AI840, I wanted to make sure that I ticketed these flights together so that if any delays happened in my arrival of AI587, I’d be automatically accommodated on another flight rather than being shown the door.

a row of seats on an airplane

Air India’s Premium Economy on board the A350-900

The Air India website was not able to ticket these together given this was a mixed class ticket, so I called the friendly neighbourhood travel agent to get the job done. Insisting on getting the two tickets on the same PNR also meant I paid 12% GST for both rather than 12% for one sector and 5% for the second one (in Economy).

a seat with a pillow and a seat belt

Air India’s Economy Class on board the 777

Eventually, the whole trip was back-to-back, and it allowed me to see how the aircraft and the crew would hold up across three different cabins and sets of crew. The only thought at the back of my head was that what if the A350 was grounded and I’d actually be making the whole trip on an A320neo, and in vain?  It is a different thing that by the time I stepped on the last plane on my 30-hour whirlwind journey, I was knocked out.

I’ll write the details about each of the sectors in the coming days, but here are some quick first thoughts about the business class section.

Let me know what you would like to know more about, and I will try to fit in the details to the extent possible. 


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