In typical fashion, Air India pulled a surprise on me when a Boeing 787 Dreamliner turned up to take me from Delhi to Mumbai, instead of a scheduled short-haul Airbus. I scrambled to get an upgrade, but I had to make do with economy class this time around.

Flight: AI537
Delhi (DEL) T3 - Mumbai (BOM) T2
Date: September 22, 2020
Departure: 17:00
Arrival: 19:15
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8
Seat: 33F
Cabin: Economy class

Booking the flight

I confirmed this flight after booking my earlier journey on Air India's 747 aircraft. This was made directly on the Air India website and cost a total of INR 3,956 (USD 53).

At Delhi airport

I arrived at Delhi airport well in advance, as I planned to review Air India's domestic Maharaja lounge and the Plaza Premium lounge at T3 as well. The check in process was smooth, and I moved through security pretty quickly before heading next to the lounges.

I arrived at the boarding gate on the final call, as I was busy convincing the Plaza Premium lounge staff to let me click pictures (which I managed to do!).

I boarded the flight at 4.30pm, while still trying to catch my breath from running all the way from the lounges to gate number 32B. As the airline personnel carried out their procedures at the gate, I instinctively asked which aircraft we were flying today, to which he replied: “787 Dreamliner, Sir!”.

Air India B787 Dreamliner - Before departure at Delhi

This caught me off guard as my flight was originally due to be operated by a short-haul Airbus.

Excited about getting the opportunity to do my first review of the Air India 787, I enquired if I could upgrade to business class, but the gate agent didn’t have an answer to that (you’d expect them to be able to solve these queries on the go, at least).

Even though I was at the gate, I didn’t want to risk missing the flight by having a back and forth, so I quickly moved to the aircraft door and asked the crew to let me have a peak inside the business cabin, before giving it my all (unsuccessfully!) to get the upgrade. I was pretty bummed at this point as this was by far the best business class product I have seen on any Air India flight so far.

I even had the ground staff called onto the aircraft to try to process an upgrade transaction for me. Unfortunately the agents had no means of carrying out any cash-related transactions over there, and I had to admit defeat (though I did request the crew to let me take a look at the business cabin, post-arrival in Mumbai).

Air India B787 Dreamliner review

The moment I stepped inside the aircraft, I could tell this journey was going to be very good, unlike the 747 experience. This aircraft felt more airy, spacious and had much better lighting.

Air India B787 economy class - Cabin

Honestly speaking, even the economy on this aircraft, which is in a 3-3-3 configuration, feels better than business class on the 747.

Yeah yeah, I know what you’re thinking - how can a wide body business class be compared to economy? Well, remember that aviation is a service industry, and the main goal for anybody in the service industry is to sell an experience. In terms of experience, I had a better time on the 787 in economy.

My original seat was 33F, which is in the rear economy cabin, however Nemerina, a crew member, informed me that I could have the empty centre row (19D, E, and F) in the forward cabin, which was very lightly occupied.

Air India B787 economy class - Cabin

We pushed back at 4.50pm and were airborne at 5.10pm. It was a quick ascend and the seatbelt signs were turned off at 5.13pm, so I started checking out the Dreamliner economy seats, which have a total recline of six inches and a seat pitch of 33 inches. I was very comfortable and the leg space was enough for me (I am 5’10).

Air India B787 economy class - Seat

The seat looked in a good condition, I didn’t see any wear and tear of any kind throughout the aircraft.

The IFE on this aircraft seems to be outdated, though it was still in a good condition. The three-way headrest is comfortable for the longer journeys when you want to catch some sleep, and it held its position, unlike the one I had on the Vistara B737 business class.

Air India B787 economy class - Headrest

There is a coat hook at the seat, and a USB port (one that actually works, unlike AI B747 business class). The windows are bigger on this aircraft as well, and have automatic controls so there are no shades to pull down.

Air India B787 economy class - Window

The food service started at 5.20pm, when prepackaged cold meal boxes were given out. The meal box I received on this flight further adds to my argument about this economy experience being better than the one I had on 747-400 business class.

Air India B787 economy class - Meal service
Air India B787 economy class - Meal box

It contained a veg croissant with a corn filling, a small puff with aaloo inside (though it was too sour for my liking), a small dessert that was packed much better than the one I was served on the 747 business class, a small pack of butter cookies, mango juice and a water bottle.

Air India B787 economy class - Meal box

Despite the improved presentation, the food itself was anything but special. I only took a bite of the croissant and the puff - both were too cold to bring any sort of pleasure to the taste buds.

I checked out the toilet after this, which is located at the rear of the forward cabin. It was of an adequate size, and only had hand wash.

Air India B787 economy class - Toilet

I decided to get some work done but soon after, at 6.05pm, the captain announced that we were flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet, had already crossed the cities of Jaipur and Ahmedabad, and would soon be starting our descent into Mumbai.

The crew were kind enough to allow me to check out the business class after landing in Mumbai, and I was pretty impressed.

Air India B787 business class
Air India B787 business class

The Dreamliner is the only aircraft in Air India's fleet to offer fully flat-bed seats.

Air India B787 business class

There was a nice finish on the tray table in business class, which seemed similar in size to the one in Vistara's A321neo business class.

Air India B787 business class

There was also ample storage on the seats here, which is always a plus.

Air India B787 business class

Summing up

I wasn't planning to write about this flight, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed the economy product on Air India’s Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.

Perhaps my expectations were at rock bottom after a series of recent disappointments with Air India but, for whatever reason, I found myself very happy walking out of this aircraft at the end of my journey.

While I would avoid Air India's 777 and 747 planes in future, I would like to fly this business class product, preferably on a longer route.

Have you flown Air India's Dreamliner? What are your thoughts?