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SQueeze
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Limited edition Air India 747 (BOM-DEL) in J with a peep into F

Sun Jan 08, 2017 6:02 am

Background

This trip report was not in my plan originally. One of these recent days, while I was looking for an evening flight from BOM to DEL, by luck, I stumbled across a 747 rostered on the route. I jumped at this rare chance immediately and booked with no other second thought in minutes.

A little background to AI 747. They are basically out of reach to most people as they are almost retired. They are still flying on some unusual routes which are also out of reach to most people - Hyderabad-Jeddah and also Cochin-Jeddah. The JED-HYD flights tag on to Mumbai 3x a week but at odd hours. I have been eyeing HYD-BOM tags including setting up HYD meetings around this flight but always narrowly missed.

So when I saw a BOM-DEL flight rostered with 747, I was incredibly overly elated. I am already over-saturated with A320s and 737s and 787s in this land of Incredible India. Now flying domestically suddenly becomes exciting again.

PS: a few days after the flight, I came across news that the 747 is on a limited edition run between 13 Dec and 15 Jan, and I was in fact on the inaugural 13 Dec flight.

Airline: Air India
Flight: AI 888
Seat: 15K
Class: Business
Load: 70%
Type: 747-400 (VT-ESO)


In my books, Mumbai airport is number one airport now. So I generally try to allow 2-3 hours here to enjoy the lounge and the experience. So I arrived quite some well before time in the late afternoon before dark.

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The architecture is actually more impressive in the evening .... these are my pics too from a previous shot.

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But nonetheless it is still stunning. And to me, it is always photo-worthy

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After the usual check-in and security, I landed up in the main waiting hall which is abuzz with many F&B and retail activities.

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I headed to the domestic lounge - which i truly think is one of the best in the world although it is a little over-opulent and overly-gilded for my own personal taste

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Unlike in Delhi and Bangalore, whose lounges are chronically overcrowded that one would be better off and less claustrophobic in the main waiting hall, BOM's domestic lounge is spacious enough. There is no paying customers here or credit card holders. They have a separate lounge across from this one.

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The more peaceful seating area which is furthest from the more buzzing dining area. Green wall is soothing to the eye.

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Next to it is the bar area with its stunning chandelier and mirrored wall.

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And last is the dining room which has sitting tables. On the left side (unfortunately cropped) is a long counter top facing the tarmac with plenty of charging points and high stools. Nice for single travellers catching up with work.

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It was peak hour for domestic travel. It was really busy. But the food never ran out. They get topped up fresh before they completely run out.

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The range is great - 6 or 7 hot options, salads, desserts, chaats, fruits .... And so is the taste. It's hotel quality / standard. They are still mostly finger foods (generally fried) but not overly greasy or soggy. Everything's perfect. In fact the quality of food here far surpasses any SKL food at SIN.

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I ended the meal with a yummy moist chocolate cake, buttermilk, and latte.

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Then I walked to the gate earlier hoping to be able to take pics of AI's rare Queen of the Sky - or their Maharani.

The walk to the gate was pleasant. BOM has warm soft hospitality-style lighting which makes it feel more like walking through a high-end shopping mall or a hotel

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I was secretly hoping that it would be a remote bay so we could board the Queen by staircase for a grand experience. But alas no, it's through jetbridge. Does the gate area look even like an airport? More like a hotel lobby?

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A typical waiting area outside each gate. Very pleasant.

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Lots of free terminals for internet use. Definitely world-class.

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And here's finally face to face with the beautiful elegant Maharani of the Sky.

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And then First and Business Class passengers were called to board and the actual journey began.

Down the voluminous jetbridge. Heart beating with excitement since the 747s are getting rarer now.

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I entered the aircraft welcomed by 3 FAs. I was immediately looking around beaming with my humongous SLR slung around my neck and they were quite amused. So I told them this is nostalgia for me.

"Why nostalgia", one of them asked.

"Well, most of this aircraft has gone out of fleet from most airlines".

They were just amused, and then directed me towards the upper deck. I had a business class ticket.

So up i went the stairway to heaven! :)

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SQueeze
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Re: Limited edition Air India 747 (BOM-DEL) in J with a peep into F

Sun Jan 08, 2017 6:05 am

This plane is some 23 years old but it has been refitted with angle-flat seats in the mid 2000s I reckon. It's still quite well kept. Business class seats are the same ones as those found on their 777s. but less dirty and better maintained.

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And side compartments. I don't actually recall these in other 747s. My impression is always that of A380s.

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Seat controls.

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IFE controls.

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And the flip screen of the IFE.

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The IFE offering is limited for English movies but very varied for Indian. The responsiveness is quite poor.

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Headset is quite decent. House brand. No Bose.

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Inflight magazine.

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I was then also quite early and the FAs (two of them) were still welcoming incoming passengers. They provided really good service with all smiles, and trying to help passengers with their bags. Very classy I must say, and warm. I started to notice that almost all the FAs on this flight were of certain age. I reckon they don't train new FAs on this type anymore since the bulk of AI's fleet is now 787s.

Having settled down on my seat, jacket stored away (they offered to take it away instead of the usual way of me having to insist as on the case of Jet's flights), my curiosity built up on the F class they have here so I headed downstairs and immediately stumbled into the most senior FA who was welcoming passengers at the door.

"Mam, do you mind if I take a look at the F cabin for a few minutes?"

Expecting a curt reply so typically reputed of AI, to my pleasant surprise, she was all smiles and said " why not, but I must be with you, come with me"

So we started chatting on the way. She said "I am actually pretty new here...."

I was stunned. Because she looks like of my mother's age.

So she said "yes, I have been flying for 33 years! " and we both broke into laughter. She has been flying almost as my age.

"This plane is 23 years old..." she said. "It came into service in 1993"

Then we steeped into the F cabin.... nose of the plane, and the last time I stepped into it was in 2010.

The cabin is not as vintage as I thought. This product is not from 1993. It's arranged in pairs of two, similar to Lufthansa's earlier generation.

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Seat pitch is humongous.

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And it reclines to full bed mode of 180 degrees. The width of the seat is not much wider than business class seats though.

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SQueeze
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Posts: 324
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Re: Limited edition Air India 747 (BOM-DEL) in J with a peep into F

Sun Jan 08, 2017 6:05 am

Then I was back upstairs and service had begun starting with newspapers and magazines in trolley (how classic)

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After take off ...

Then the meal service began and it's the most elaborate meal service for domestic flight I had seen so far, even more so than the 787s or 777s.

First it started with a glass of orange juice. Unfortunately it's not freshly squeezed type.

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It's still a tray service but it has so many items - salad, bread roll, garlic bread, main course, dessert, cheese and crackers, and chocolates, and yoghurt.

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Usually there are no cheese and crackers and no chocolates. Not sure if AI has changed their menu format or if this is only for 747 runs.

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Even after the full tray, after the meal, fruits were served and in basket (again, how classic). Fruit is usually not served on other flights.

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And then it was coffee and tea time, with which I had it with the dessert which was really nice.

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Full from the meal, I reclined the seats to bed mode. Well, this is as flat as it gets. So it's about 50 degree recline or so? It's not as flat as SQ's regional seats even. This is more similar to TG 747s. I don't mind it for a short 2 hour sector between BOM and DEL in any case.

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In any case, all in all, this was a great flight and it makes one of the best flight ever for domestic sectors in India. As per current schedule unfortunately it seems that the flight will discontinue post 15 January!
 
richcandy
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Joined: Sun Aug 12, 2001 4:49 pm

Re: Limited edition Air India 747 (BOM-DEL) in J with a peep into F

Sun Jan 08, 2017 7:17 am

Thanks for posting this. Makes me feel old when I hear of 744's being retired, I remember them when they were new. OK the product looks older but still looks really good and better than you would expect on a two hour flight in business in Europe or North America. Always like to see the AI Maharaja. Nearly 30 years ago when I started work as a travel agent in Belfast. AI came to a trade show and we were give pottery or clay Maharaja's I still have mine!
 
theobcman
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Re: Limited edition Air India 747 (BOM-DEL) in J with a peep into F

Sun Jan 08, 2017 11:45 am

Fantastic report cheers. Totally enjoyable every step of the way ! Catering is amazing for a two hour domestic !
 
ojas
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Re: Limited edition Air India 747 (BOM-DEL) in J with a peep into F

Sun Jan 08, 2017 11:48 am

lovely pictures and a nice trip report.

Many I know are grabbing this opportunity to fly the B744 on this leg.
Great leaders don't tell you what to do ... they show you how it's done!
 
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CanadaFair
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Re: Limited edition Air India 747 (BOM-DEL) in J with a peep into F

Sun Jan 08, 2017 7:34 pm

Surprised there is demand for First class on these when business is good enough.
 
sumantra
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Re: Limited edition Air India 747 (BOM-DEL) in J with a peep into F

Mon Jan 09, 2017 5:15 am

Thank you for sharing a lovely trip report on a rare type on a rare route! I have been trying to get some official work on the DEL-BOM route before 15 Jan to try this lovely refurbished bird out (I have experienced AI's B744s prior to their refurbishment). It is nice to see that the J and F are relatively well-maintained, and that AI has had that something special for the B744 J experience. Due to the slot constraints and congestion at BOM (and fog-season disruptions), AI put the B744s on two prime-time DEL-BOM slots. The rumour is that the B744 service may continue beyond 15 Jan as well. I am hoping for this, at least :-)
Cheers, Sumantra.
 
blrsea
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Re: Limited edition Air India 747 (BOM-DEL) in J with a peep into F

Mon Jan 09, 2017 5:25 am

Nice to see a report on AI 744s. Good report! I recall travelling on them long time back on the LAX-FRA-BOM sectors. Still recall the yellow tube type headphones they used to offer at that time. Surprised to see such good meal offerings on a 2 hour flight! Hopefully, they continue the 744 service beyond Jan 15th.
 
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KruegerFlaps
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Re: Limited edition Air India 747 (BOM-DEL) in J with a peep into F

Mon Jan 09, 2017 12:07 pm

What a fortuitous discovery. It's good to be able to stumble on an unusual flight and be able to take advantage of it. How lucky, too, that you met kind crew who was willing to indulge your wish to see the first class cabin.

Excellent service and meals for a domestic flight. Thanks for sharing.
Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves. - William Pitt Speech, 1783
 
VTAAK
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Re: Limited edition Air India 747 (BOM-DEL) in J with a peep into F

Mon Jan 09, 2017 7:28 pm

Nice trip report. I flew this same route BOM to DEL the next day (Dec.14th). I found out about the 747 flight on Airliners.net, (Yay!). I barely made the flight due to typical Mumbai rush-hour traffic at the 5PM hour (I ended up reporting at 5:50pm for the 7pm flight from BOM). I had bought the economy class ticket online just two days earlier for about $200 USD round-trip and then bought a one-way Business class upgrade for $60 USD at the airport. But due to the late reporting time at the counter, I missed the Business Class lounge visit.

The meal service and the crew were very nice (I ordered the Indian Veg meal), however they were a bit apprehensive about my taking pictures until after takeoff, oh well. Funny thing, or maybe not so funny: at the taxi and hold position on Rwy9 we were behind an Indigo A320 which was on the Active runway waiting for T/O clearance. Once the Indigo started its takeoff roll, for some odd reason the pilot on our flight applied the T/O thrust power to move up a little bit (I kid you not!). Within a second he applied the nose brakes hard and the whole plane shook and immediately the power was brought back to Idle. (Please let me know if this is a test of any sort, because I have never seen this happen anywhere else).

After the meal service, I walked through the whole flight and took pictures until landing at DEL, and for nostalgia's sake I also sat in various empty seats in Economy in the Window and the middle-aisle before returning to my seat upstairs for landing (it was only 40% full in economy). After landing, I spoke with the crew, until the Head FA came upstairs to ask if I planned to leave (as I was the only passenger remaining to deplane). I made my way down soon after and apologized to the entire crew as they were waiting for me to leave before they could clock out (..oops, sorry).

I came back immediately to Mumbai that night on the 11:30 Dreamliner flight from DEL to BOM as the only reason for my trip to DEL was the 747 ride....but the 787 was a close second. BTW, AI needs to upgrade its 787 IFE product to the 777 as well (what gives AI?).
 
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CollegeAviator
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Re: Limited edition Air India 747 (BOM-DEL) in J with a peep into F

Tue Jan 10, 2017 7:25 am

What a lovely trip report, thank you so much for sharing!

I have flown on the AI B747 just the one time, and it was in fact on the HYD-BOM sector that you mentioned. In Y class, at the very last section of the Maharani.

I love BOM T2. Its definitely the best one could have expected after the nightmare that was the old T2.

Service onboard looks absolutely fantastic - its India's busiest route, and they have something to prove to the other FSCs (9W, UK) on the route! Glad to know you enjoyed it.

Was F class empty for the rest of the flight?

Thanks again for sharing!

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anshabhi
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Re: Limited edition Air India 747 (BOM-DEL) in J with a peep into F

Wed Jan 11, 2017 4:57 pm

Amazing trip report!

AI posted on Twitter today that they are now getting near 100% load factors on all classes on B747: https://mobile.twitter.com/airindiain/s ... gr%5Etweet

Also, AI is allowing 40 kg baggage on Y and 50 Kg on J with B747. Comparitively, LCCs (also informally reffered as beggar airlines) offer 15 kg.

Also, PM and President travel in First class cabin that you captured above.
 
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BawliBooch
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Re: Limited edition Air India 747 (BOM-DEL) in J with a peep into F

Fri Jan 13, 2017 8:03 am

anshabhi wrote:
Also, PM and President travel in First class cabin that you captured above.

Not really.

Before every VVIP trip, 2 744's are taken out of service and reconfigured for VVIP travel.

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Mr.Kapoor's favorite poodle!
 
SQueeze
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Re: Limited edition Air India 747 (BOM-DEL) in J with a peep into F

Mon Jan 16, 2017 8:38 am

Thank you all for the comments and replies.
So i just came back from my second trip on the 747 limited edition to Delhi.
So as it appears, it is extended to 31 January.
There is no cheese crackers fruits and chocolates, so it was probably only for the inaugural 13 Dec. But portion is still sumptuous for the main course.
Still a great way to fly domestically. AI is getting better and better.

CanadaFair wrote:
Surprised there is demand for First class on these when business is good enough.


No it was empty on my flight. Which is why i could walk around and take photos and play with the seats!

KruegerFlaps wrote:
What a fortuitous discovery. It's good to be able to stumble on an unusual flight and be able to take advantage of it. How lucky, too, that you met kind crew who was willing to indulge your wish to see the first class cabin.


Excellent service and meals for a domestic flight. Thanks for sharing.

Contrary to popular opinion, AI crew is fantastically warm these days. Lots of smile, helpful, accomodating. They have changed in the last 2-3 years. Definitely an airline on the rise.

sumantra wrote:
Thank you for sharing a lovely trip report on a rare type on a rare route! I have been trying to get some official work on the DEL-BOM route before 15 Jan to try this lovely refurbished bird out (I have experienced AI's B744s prior to their refurbishment). It is nice to see that the J and F are relatively well-maintained, and that AI has had that something special for the B744 J experience. Due to the slot constraints and congestion at BOM (and fog-season disruptions), AI put the B744s on two prime-time DEL-BOM slots. The rumour is that the B744 service may continue beyond 15 Jan as well. I am hoping for this, at least :-)
Cheers, Sumantra.


It's extended to 31 January. And they are selling business class at INR15,000 which is half of competitors and for last minute bookings, even close to economy fares. Even compared to other AI flights, half price. The seats are so much better, and they sell them much cheaper. I think they are trying to fill capacity.

[
anshabhi wrote:
AI posted on Twitter today that they are now getting near 100% load factors on all classes on B747


I have travelled twice and I didn't see business class full. Between 50-60% at most even at peak hour. And that is even paying INR 15,000 fares, which is a real deal for this route.

BawliBooch wrote:
Before every VVIP trip, 2 744's are taken out of service and reconfigured for VVIP travel.


Wow, thanks much for the diagram. Incredibly fascinating

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