Sydney to Delhi.
Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Air India has recently joined Star Alliance, although they currently have an arrangement with Qantas to use their Sydney lounge.
Business (Executive), Seat 1B.
12 hours, 10 minutes.
Flights daily, start from Melbourne and stop in Sydney before non-stop to Delhi. Return flights to Sydney via Melbourne with a one-hour stopover.
The Executive Class cabin has a 2-2-2 configuration. There are 18 flat-bed seats with 22-inch (56 centimetre) width and a 74-inch (188 centimetre) pitch. Storage is limited, with the entertainment remote control awkwardly placed under the armrest. Several times during the night I accidentally switched on the overhead light by knocking the remote. Headphone jack is also in a hard-to-reach position, while the power outlet (Indian adaptor required), located under the armrest at the back, is almost impossible to find.
40 kilograms of checked baggage for Business Class passengers.
15-inch (38 centimetre) screens make movie viewing easy-on-the-eye, but new release Hollywood movies are limited (11 choices, most of which I'd already seen). Instead, immerse yourself in Indian culture with a large choice of fun Bollywood and regional films. Noise-cancelling headphones are provided, but they are not adjustable to fit my small head and I struggle with them sliding off.
The seats face in a forward direction and, on conversion into a bed, are long enough to comfortably accommodate my lanky frame. Some passengers seemed to be struggling with the electronics to convert the seat into a bed; some had to be adjusted manually by staff members. The 2 x 2 configuration doesn't allow much privacy for those seated next to strangers. Amenities include eye mask, two pillows, a choice of blanket or quilt, socks and fab pyjamas/tracksuit pants. Toothbrush and paste provided on request.
Patchy service, ranging from extremely attentive to downright invisible. A cabin crew request for water was ignored during the night, which may have been due to turbulence but was never explained or apologised for. Generally though, the staff is courteous and helpful.
There are two meal services during the flight, lunch and a light supper. Main course choices include both Western and Indian fare, with a good selection available for vegetarians. My palak kofta curry is extremely tasty and far superior to most airline food. The meal is followed by a cheese platter, but the choices are not labelled so it is difficult to know what to order. Alcoholic beverages include H. Blin champagne and French wine (no menu available), but I am disappointed to find there is no tomato juice for my favourite pre-meal tipple of Bloody Mary. Supper of vegetarian biryani is delicious, but by the time it arrived I am famished.
ONE MORE THING
Extra-large windows with electronically-dimmable window shades are a nice touch, allowing passengers to adjust the amount of light without bothering others. Cabin crew can also set the brightness level of the windows, dimming them during the flight and "opening" on landing.
I rarely sleep on planes, so to have several hours solid sleep on a comfortable bed during a flight is a revelation. The food is excellent, though more would have been appreciated. See http://airindia.in.
Tested by Julie Miller, who flew courtesy of Mantra Wild Adventures with upgrade by Air India.