Featured, all image: Shyam VimalKumar/Airways

Trip Report: Air India Boeing 787 from Milan to Delhi

DALLAS — Welcome to another trip report from Airways. This time, we're flying to the land of spices—India!

We will fly Air India (AI) on an international leg from Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP) to Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL), whereafter we will fly to Kochi in the domestic sector.

With the recent change of management and multi-billion dollar aircraft orders, AI and Indian aviation are looked upon with great hope more than ever. Recently, Airways interviewed Mr. Devesh R Agarwal and Mr. Vineet Verma on what to expect from current and future Indian aviation.

Air India's wide-body fleet comprises four Airbus A350-900s, 27 Boeing 787-8s, 8 Boeing 777-200LRs, and 19 Boeing 777-300ERs. 

Some aircraft were leased during previous years; five of the eight Boeing 777-200LRs were previously operated by Delta Air Lines (DL), and six of the 19 Boeing 777-300ERs were operated by Etihad Airways (EY). These 777s are currently being flown to the USA, whereas others are flown to the EU, Asia, and Middle East sectors.

We'll travel with a 10.7-year-old AI Boeing 787-8 to New Delhi from Italy for today's first leg. 

Check-in counters at Milan Malpensa Terminal 1. Photo: Shyam VimalKUmar/Airways

Check-in at MXP

Air India flies from Terminal 1 at Malpensa, where the check-in counters are usually at counter 11. With excellent train connectivity from Milan city, I quickly transited to the check-in counters from the train station, only to be welcomed with a great smile. 

The check-in counters were relatively empty, and I dropped my bags in just 3 minutes. I received the new boarding pass Air India offers and have added them to my collection.

New boarding pass from Air India. Photo: Shyam VimalKumar/Airways

The check-in area also offers a great view of the airside, and if you have time, the spot next to counter four provides a great view of aircraft movements. Proceeding to the security and emigration, all the procedures were completed in under 15 minutes if I did not consider the time to walk. 

Shortly after the security check, I received a WhatsApp message from Air India stating that the gate had been announced. Air India has been updating and reminding me for the past 48 hours about web check-in, flight status, etc. I felt that a nice touch, which was something missing before.

The 3-3-3 cabin layout for economy. Photo: Shyam VimalKumar/Airways

Boarding

After boarding the aircraft, I headed to seat 31J, where I realized I had the row to myself. The AI Dreamliner offers a 3-3-3 configuration in economy and a 2-2-2 configuration in business class. A blanket and pillow were already placed on my seat. 

One of the best things about traveling in an AI Boeing 787 is the enormous leg space. I am almost 6 feet tall and could fit my palm between my leg and the seat. With the legrest available, I just made my seat comfortable.

In-flight entertainment system. Photo: Shyam VimalKumar/Airways

However, the downside of these old aircraft is the need for more modern in-flight entertainment systems. Currently, the IFEs need to be updated in these aircraft, and many of their switches must be fixed. 

As I knew this before, I already had some movies downloaded for the flight. AI is refurbishing the 787s, and the first refurbished aircraft is expected to enter service this year. Also, with the newer leased 777s and a350s, some aircraft in the fleet still offer amazing IFEs. 

Snacks and drinks after take-off. Photo: Shyam VimalKumar/Airways

Inflight Experience

After a 10-minute delay, the aircraft pushed back, and I was up in the air. It was quite a bumpy ride during the takeoff, but it settled down after the initial climb phase. The friendly cabin crew brought snacks and drinks, and I opted for a red wine. 

The dinner service started shortly after, and Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) and chicken were offered as vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, respectively. 

As you can see, I opted for the paneer, which came with a bottle of water, bread, Indian savory, and dessert. As they say, you get the feel of India right from stepping inside the aircraft, and I felt at home already. 

The cabin lights were switched off after the dinner service, and I slept well for another 3 hours (thanks to the empty row).

Dinner service. Photo: Shyam VimalKumar/Airways

Just an hour and a half before landing at New Delhi, the cabin crew served breakfast. It was a mix of fresh fruits, juice, and muffins, enough to wake me up and prepare me for the short transit time in New Delhi. The flight was on time, and the first half of my journey was comfortable. 

Breakfast before landing at New Delhi. Photo: Shyam VimalKumar/Airways

Transit at New Delhi

If you transit from the international to the domestic sector, customs clearance occurs at the first disembarkation point. Therefore, I had to go through immigration and get my bags, after which I had to recheck for the next leg of the flight. 

I had luck and long legs to my side; hence, I passed the immigration and collected my bags in just 15 minutes. Last time, I was this lucky at Singapore Changi, where I took just 10 minutes to get to the taxis from the aircraft. 

The hand mudras at Terminal 3 of New Delhi airport. Photo: Shyam VimalKumar/Airways

Even if IGIA is vast, it is marked with many people to help you around. On my way to the domestic terminal, I passed through many lounges where one can relax if the transit time is relatively longer. 

As it was the peak morning rush, it took me almost an hour to drop my bags, which was the bottleneck for the whole journey. I recommend having at least 2-3 hours of transit time for a smooth trip through IGIA. 

If you are an Indian citizen, you can pass through the security check with “Digiyatra,” where you just have to scan your face and are out of the line. Digiyatra also has a priority line, which makes it much faster. 

Lounges outside International arrivals. Photo: Shyam VimalKumar/Airways

Next Flight, Final Thoughts

An A321neo was waiting for me with a “Final call,” so I had to rush to the gates to be on time. The flight time for the next leg was approximately 3 hours, and I landed at Kochi (COK), the world’s first airport to run entirely using solar power. As per financial year 24, Kochi International Airport has India's fourth-largest international passenger traffic.

My journey was comfortable, except for the transit in New Delhi. But it will be improved, with a new airport (Noida) coming near New Delhi and its expansion. The crew was attentive to the passengers' needs and friendly. The complex product lets down the experience, but it is only a matter of time before they are upgraded.

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