MUMBAI- On January 22, 2024, India witnessed a history, new chapter in Indian Aviation, and I was lucky to be part of it as Air India (AI)’s first Airbus A350 made its second commercial flight from Mumbai (BOM) to Chennai (MAA).
To witness this milestone, there were many avgeeks, including Josh Cahill and Sam Chui, and I talked with them, gathered their insights, shared my opinions, and much more, so fasten your seat belt as we take takeoff to a new era for Indian and global aviation industry. You can also spot me in Josh and Sam’s video.
Air India First A350 Flight Review
Before we begin, I want you all to know that all expenses for my flight are borne by Aviation A2Z and not by the airline. So, it will be an honest and truthful review. I bought tickets like many others at around 4,000 Indian rupees and it included free seat selection. My seat was 28A.
I have divided the review into sub-sections to give you the exact same insights on what I actually experienced on Jan 22, 2024.
Check-in and Security
I reached Mumbai Airport (BOM) almost three hours and 30 minutes before the flight to get into all the corners, lounges, and gates and meet my fellow aviation geeks.
If you are traveling from Mumbai and 13 such airports that have DigiYatra facilities, download it and scan your boarding pass. But honestly, in the early morning (6:30 am IST), there was a light rush outside Terminal 2, but still, it saved me 5-7 minutes.
Then, at the Air India Check-in counters, due to the international departures, there was a wait time of around 30-40 minutes, but I did not carry any bags for check-in, so I printed my boarding pass at the Self-check-in Kiosk; you can also self check in your baggage there.
But you will get the plain boarding pass and not the Air India branding one that has the premium new red color for economy and purple for business class.
The security was pretty smooth and took me just 7 minutes, as there was no rush. After passing through security, I took an escalator to level 3 for my domestic departure and went to the Adani Lounge (I will make a separate review on it with all the tips, so stay tuned).
After going across all the gates to do some planespotting, I went to Gate 53, there, I was surprised to see hundreds of avgeeks, some of them knew me, and it was a great moment.
There was a special ceremony by Air India for the first A350 flight; I took the picture, got my special gift, and waited for the modern beast, the A350-900.
I met Josh Cahill, and he is one of the most humble people I have met in my life. We talked about the aircraft branding. He asked me how I felt about this new branding, and I said that this is a game changer; earlier, some didn’t like it on display, but in reality, its awesome, and now people started to like it.
He did not recognize me earlier, but later, after completing our flight, he met me and said, “Now I know you, you are that guy who wrote about Me and Sam Chui’s Twitter rivalry.“
I also met Sam Chui, he is also kind and took pictures with all the other avgeeks. But he was mostly surrounded by Air India staff; on the contrary, Josh was chill and was talking with us, sharing his experience and clicking pictures.
Arrival of the First A350 and Boarding
The A350 arrived on time from Bengaluru (BLR), and many avgeeks were stunned by looking at it. It was delayed for around one hour as one of the avgeeks wanted to shoot inside before others could and also due to some other technical reasons.
We started boarding the flight, and there was so much rush, but we felt like we were going with an aviation family, so it was fun.
The aircraft has Pansonic Pansonic-manufactured Inflight Entertainment system and has multiple features, as seen in the photo.
The seats are comfortable, reclining with decent legroom in Economy, more comfort in Premium Economy, and a lie-flat bed, door, and some special features in Business Class. For more details, click here.
The pilots told the ground staff to get off the plane and asked the cabin crew to close the door, and we pushed back. You can see the outside view with two cameras, one on the tail and another at the front, just behind the nose gear.
The weather was beautiful, and it seemed like a perfect day for flying; we took off from Mumbai at around 11:23 AM IST.
After the seat belt sign was off, the cabin crews started preparing to serve the meal. For the Economy, there are a few options: fruit meal, Veg meal, and non-veg meal. For Business class, they have a menu and some more options for meals.
As I am vegetarian, I chose a veg meal, and it included a croissant (not that good), then Idli sambhar, upma, butter, fruit yogurt and water. The meal was decent and not of top quality. They also gave a refreshing tissue. They gave us the breakfast, so it was light. They didn’t have any time to serve tea or coffee as it was just an hour and 30-minute flight.
Landing at Chennai
Everyone was happy with the experience, and the crew was welcoming. I took a picture with the crew with new uniform designed by Manish Malhotra, and they greeted me nicely, and they always kept a wonderful smile.
The landing was smooth, but we felt like sitting in a roller-coster, and we landed at Chennai (MAA) at around 1:00 PM IST. The newly inaugurated Terminal 4 was quiet and looked stunning.
Finally, it was time to say goodbye to all my fellow avgeeks, especially to Josh, as he was very happy and he then went to the international departures section for his flight to Colombo. Rest all have to catch a return flight back to their home.
I stayed in Chennai for 8 hours with some of my friends to do some sightseeing, and my return flight was on Akasa Air (QP) 737 MAX 8. The review will come in a few days.
They are likely to deploy Airbus A350 to the United States, Canada, and some far new destinations in the Pacific. They might open up new routes from Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru that are not served by any other airline.
The Experience was really good, and I have mentioned all the positive points above. Now it’s time to recommend some things so our Air India can make some improvements to their service and make its passengers satisfied.
First and most important, they should improve the quality of food and try to keep it warm, if serving something like chole bhature, upma, and sambhar. Further, they need to provide some refreshment juice to freshen up the passengers.
They should make a separate counter for people doing check-in without baggage to print them the physical boarding pass. They can do this in Business class check-in counters as there is less rush.
Finally, they need to improve their on-time performance; what if some passenger has a connecting flight within 1-2 hours then he/she might miss it.
Overall, it was a great experience; the crew was nice, the interiors and new branding were stunning, and my favorite aircraft is beautiful to see. It felt like this journey should never end. I have so many things to share, but I think it’s time to conclude. I might make a video on it and add more details soon.
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