Air India brings first class back to London


Air India confirms the return of first class on its flagship route to London’s Heathrow Airport from Delhi from May. Heathrow-Mumbai will be upgraded later.

Air India’s first class product currently features exclusively on the Star Alliance member’s Boeing 777 routes to North America.

Air India currently has 12 777-300ERs and eight 777-200LRs in active service, although Business Traveller Asia-Pacific understands that more 777-300ERs, previously operated by Etihad, are on their way to the Indian flag carrier.

For now, all Heathrow bound flights are on 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft, but Business Traveller Asia-Pacific understands that from May Air India plans to roster daily 777 aircraft on the Delhi route with first class whilst maintaining supplementary 787 rotations.

Air India has just four first class suites on its 777-300ER fleet; on the 777LRs there are eight. Both are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration (versus 2-3-2 in business) and come with extra amenities including sleepwear. The upcoming ex-Etihad 777-300ERs for Air India will have eight first class suites again.

All Air India 777 aircraft will be retrofitted with the airline’s new premium economy by 2024.

This week, the Indian flag carrier launched four new services from London Gatwick to Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Kochi and Goa, switching them from London Heathrow, and flying on each route three times a week.

Each of the four new Gatwick services will be operated with a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.

From London Heathrow, Air India is adding five additional weekly frequencies, with flights to Delhi increasing from 14 to 17 times a week, and to Mumbai from 12 to 14 times a week, effective March 26.

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“We have ambitious yet focused plans to restore Air India to its rightful place as one of the world’s foremost carriers. Our substantial investment in customer service, new aircraft and the brand overall will enable us to gain market share on key routes from the UK to India as well as drive more business and leisure travellers to visit India itself.

We are pleased to be launching services from London Gatwick as well as expanding our Heathrow operation, enabling our passengers to have even more choice on how they enter India,” Air India managing director and chief executive, Campbell Wilson, said this week.

Air India also flies from Birmingham to Amritsar and Delhi three times a week on each route.

In total, there are currently 49 Air India flights a week between the UK and India.

The Indian flag carrier, which has 126 aircraft currently, has embarked upon a major transformation, having recently placed the largest-ever firm orders for a total of 470 aircraft with Airbus and Boeing, with deliveries starting later in 2023.

The orders for new aircraft are in addition to 36 narrowbody and widebody aircraft that the airline had leased in late 2022, which are already being inducted into its fleet.

The airline has also committed over US$400 million in a project to fully refurbish its entire legacy widebody fleet, comprising 27 787-8 and all 13 777-300ER aircraft, which will see a complete overhaul of existing cabin interiors.

As part of the firm orders for 470 new aircraft, Air India has selected 250 new Airbus aircraft, consisting of 40 A350s and 210 A320/A321neos, as well as 220 Boeing aircraft, consisting of 190 Boeing 737 MAX, 20 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, and 10 Boeing 777X.

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The first A321neo, a leased aircraft, arrived in India earlier this week. The first six Airbus A350s, originally destined for sanctioned Aeroflot, are due to arrive by the end of 2023.