Sydney to New Delhi
Boeing's 787-8 Dreamliner. Air India expects to have 27 Dreamliners in its fleet by October 2017. The aircraft's 256 seats are split into two classes – 18 business-class flat-bed seats and 238 economy seats.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Flying Returns; Air India is also part of Star Alliance, allowing passengers to earn points towards other member airlines' programs.
Economy, window seat 26J.
Usually 13 hours and 10 minutes; we land half an hour late after circling east of Delhi.
Air India flies non-stop from Sydney to New Delhi four times a week; on other days, a non-stop service operates between Melbourne and New Delhi.
The economy cabin features a 3-3-3 configuration. The vibrant red and saffron fabric seats, which channel India's colourful nature, feature a 33-inch pitch (more generous than the 32 inches Qantas offers economy passengers on its Dreamliner), a 17-inch width and six inches of recline.
Eight kilos of carry-on baggage; 30kg of checked baggage.
It's the much-lauded Dreamliner so, as expected, the flight is quiet and smooth – at least until we hit turbulence descending through rain-bearing clouds into New Delhi. The lurches prompt a collective gasp. There's a blanket and pillow but no other amenities for the daytime direct flight. The Dreamliner's oversized windows are electronically dimmable, removing the need for manual shades. I dim my window straight away to keep glare off my entertainment screen. Later in the flight, the crew dims all windows. The Dreamliner is also noted for minimising odours with its air purification system but, on top of that, the cabin is perfumed with a zesty scent before meals are served.
Economy-class headphones aren't usually known for comfort but thumbs up to the padded ones provided here. English-speaking movie buffs can probably (just) entertain themselves throughout a return flight, with the seatback touchscreen offering 10 recent-release Hollywood movies and more than 40 older releases.
No printed menus are provided – flight attendants simply ask if you want a vegetarian or non-vegetarian meal. On this flight (and the return), meals follow a distinct pattern: a substantial meal, a medium-sized meal then a snack. Drinks service accompanies only the first meal (although attendants provide more drinks to those who ask). My main meal is an enjoyable chicken and potato curry and rice served with flat bread kept warm in foil, pickle, popped rice and a chickpea salad.
After asking the flight attendant about our first dessert (kesar phirni is a rice custard), he remembers me while serving the next meal and – unprompted – tells me that dessert is gajar ka halwa (a sweet carrot pudding). It's a small thing but to be remembered is quite delightful.
ONE MORE THING
I adore the way flight attendants press their palms together to greet us upon boarding. Namaste to you, too.
While Air India might not offer the wide entertainment options of other airlines and could be more informative about meals, it's hard to go past the legroom and convenience of a direct Australia-India flight aboard the comfy Dreamliner.
4 out of 5
Tested by Katrina Lobley, who flew as a guest of Air India.