In January 2006, Air India announced an order of 68 Boeing aircraft, including 27 of the yet to be launched Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The 787 Dreamliner was touted to be the aircraft of the future – built primarily of composite materials and having 20% lesser fuel consumption as compared to the similarly sized Boeing 767. It was meant to be a game changing aircraft for Boeing and also the airlines who ordered it.
The first 787 rolled out of the Boeing factory in Everett in July 2007, and after a series of lengthy delays in production, the aircraft had its first flight in December 2009. More delays followed due to various issues and the first 787 was delivered to launch customer – ANA on September 25, 2011.
Due to the delays mentioned above, Air India’s 787 deliveries were pushed back repeatedly. Then there was a disagreement between Boeing and Air India about the amount of compensation that was due to the latter. Finally after long negotiations, Air India took delivery of its first Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner on September 6 2012. The first commercial flight by an Air India 787 was on September 19 2012.
In the first few weeks of operation, Air India has planned to deploy the 787 on domestic routes for crew familiarization. It operated the aircraft on the DEL-BLR, DEL-MAA & DEL-CCU routes.
I thought this would be the best opportunity to experience this brand new aircraft before it flies off to foreign shores!
I quickly booked my tickets on AI 403 – the afternoon flight from DEL to BLR on the 787 Dreamliner.
With Kingfisher Airlines declaring a partial lockout due to staff protests over unpaid salaries, the airfares on the busy BOM-DEL route were quite high. I was lucky enough to snag a last minute ticket on an overnight superfast train – The Rajdhani Express which reached Delhi late in the morning.
After a 30 minute taxi ride through some moderate traffic, I was dropped off at the Departures level of Indira Gandhi International Airport’s Terminal 3 at around 1145.
I need to head to Gate 3 or 4
Terminal 3 Entry Gates
AI 403 departed DEL at 1630, which meant I had more than four hours in hand. The check-in counters opened three hours in advance, so I walked around and browsed through a bookstore. With some more time to kill, I bought some coffee and croissant and sat down observing the activities at the check-in counters.
This has become a tourist attraction now!
Rows of check-in counters
Around three hours before our scheduled departure time, I headed to the Check-In counters.
Air India’s check-in counters for domestic flights are located at Row E.
The check-in process took around five minutes and I asked the agent if the aircraft was indeed the Dreamliner, and she replied in the affirmative. Phew…. No last minute substitutions!
Security check took another five minutes, and I made my way through the maze of retail outlets into the sterile area.
A view of the retail outlets in the sterile area.
I made my way to the huge glass windows of the terminal and I saw our aircraft parked at Gate No. 30
Another view of the retail area
The Food Court is on the upper level.
FIDS screens. We would be leaving from Gate 30 today.
With over an hour left for departure, I walked to the gate area.
The yellow boarding gates used by Jet Airways.
The lavs inside Terminal 3 reflect traditional Indian attire. This is the attire from Bengal.
Riding the travelators to Gate 30
Gate 30 – from where we would be departing today.
My first time seeing the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Being prepped for departure
Airline: Air India
Flight: AI 403
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
Scheduled Departure: 1630 Actual Departure: 1630
Scheduled Arrival: 1910 Actual Arrival: 1905
Photo © Sanat Gaba
Photo © Vivek Manvi
Boarding for our flight was announced at 1545, 45 minutes before STD. From the queue that had formed at the gate, I figured that the loads on this flight would be around 80%. Air India has configured the 787s in a two class 18J/238Y seating configuration.
The Economy Class features a rather tight 3-3-3 configuration.
I had selected seat 39A, a window seat in the last row of the aircraft. This is the only row which has a 2-3-2 configuration. There is a largish gap between the window seat and the actual window in Row 39.
As soon as I took my seat, I explored the Boeing 787’s biggest attraction as a passenger – the auto darkening windows. Here are two windows at their darkest setting
Here is one window at an intermediate dark setting
And here is one window at complete transparency while the other is completely dark!
If you notice, one can see outside even when the window is at its darkest. It takes around a minute or so for the windows to turn completely dark and vice versa.
The window dimming switch
Here is a video of the cabin while boarding and a demonstration of the auto-darkening windows.
The legroom is around 32 inches.
The seating rows are staggered as you can see in this photo. If you look carefully, you can see the power ports below the seats in the last row.
The AC vents and reading lights.
The Economy Class seats feature a 10.6 inch touchscreen PTV.
The PTVs can also be controlled via a wired remote controller
Each seat also has a USB port to connect your personal entertainment device such as a tablet or a smartphone
The seats also have a foldable leg rest.
As we waited for our pushback clearance, I had a nice chat with one of the FAs about my first flight on the 787 Dreamliner. She told me that I was lucky to get on the 787 as Air India was planning to substitute the aircraft type that day for running some tests! Phew!!!
We were push backed on time at 1630. One by one the two GE GEnx engines came to life. The cabin with both engines powered on was noticeably quieter than other twin engine jets, and at a completely different level as compared to the Boeing 777!
We began taxiing towards Runway 29. After roughly 5-7 minutes of taxiing, we pulled up to the threshold of Runway 29 as a JetLite 737 took off ahead of us.
After a minute of holding, we rolled on to Runway 29 and slowly the twin powerplants spooled up to their take-off thrust levels. With a muted growl from the engines, the 787 rocketed down the runway and took off in the westerly direction.
Enjoy this video of the 787 Dreamliner taking off from Runway 29 and banking left to turn south towards Bangalore.
The crew darkened the windows to an intermediate level as we climbed through the early evening sky and set course for Bangalore.
It was now time to explore the IFE. Air India’s 787s feature the Thales i-8000 AVOD in-flight entertainment system. As mentioned earlier, Economy Class seats have 10.6 inch touchscreen PTVs.
Two language options are available for the IFE - English & Hindi
This is the Home Screen
I browsed through the Movie selection
Not too many Hollywood movies on offer
Plenty of Bollywood movies however
Here’s the music selection
Duty Free Shopping on board. Of course this was not available on this domestic flight.
As I selected the Map option, here is what I got!
A look at the 787’s wing.
Around 30 minutes after take-off, the crew began the meal service. I chose the non-vegetarian option consisting of a small chicken quiche, grilled paneer (cottage cheese) and a puff along with a bun, cut fruits and dessert.
As always the quality of food was fantastic. Air India never goes wrong with its on-board catering!
As I was enjoying the meal, the crew made an announcement about the new features of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. They also mentioned that the 787 flies faster than any commercial aircraft in service except the Boeing 747.
I saw this in action as this JetLite 737, which had taken off a few minutes before us (also headed for Bangalore) came into view.
A few minutes later, we had overtaken the 737!
Here is a video of our aircraft cruising at 39000ft as folks enjoy the IFE.
As I finished my meal, the crew came around for a tea/coffee service. I decided to watch a movie as it started getting darker outside
Air India headsets in Economy Class – obviously meant for longhaul flights on the 787. These were quite comfortable and sounded great!
I chose “Austin Powers in Goldmember”
The Air India logo on the tiny LCD screen on the wired remote controller.
After an hour of watching the movie, I visited the lav to freshen up. Funky blue lighting in the lav!
The lavs have a really cool flush mechanism that automatically flushes with a wave of a hand in front of the IR sensor or as soon as you close the cover.
Around 20 minutes before arrival, the FO announced our descent into Bangalore. The cabin crew went around making sure everyone was strapped in.
As we descended through the night sky, I realized that I could barely hear the engines. All I could hear was the hiss of the air coming out of the AC vents! The 787 was really quiet!
After making a sharp 180 degree turn we lined up with BLR Runway 27. The Dreamliner made an almost silent approach but slammed down hard on the runway. The reversers kicked in and we slowed down to a crawl within seconds.
As we exited the runway, it all became silent once again. One could barely hear the engines above the noise inside the cabin. We docked at an aerobridge at exactly 1905 – five minutes before our scheduled arrival.
As soon as the engines spooled down, everyone unbuckled their seat belts, stood up and reached for the overhead bins. I on the other hand remained seated savouring my final moments on board this technologically brilliant aircraft.
As people from my section of the cabin walked away, I got up and thanked the crew for a great flight – my first on this game changing aircraft. Hope Air India utilizes this aircraft to the fullest, and is able to make some money out of it.
A view of the cabin before deplaning
Baggage Reclaim area at BLR
Arrivals area at BLR
Thank you all for reading!