The demise of Jet Airways has led to a major churn in Indian aviation. One of the major fallout has been that the international traffic to and from India is up for grabs. Emirates wants more capacity but cannot get it. Air India, Indigo, SpiceJet have all launched new international routes recently. Still, the ticket prices have risen significantly – up to 2 times in many cases.
Jet Airways used to fly Mumbai to Dubai route seven times daily. I travel this route often and Jet Airways was my preferred airline. From June 1, 2019, Air India launched Boeing 787 service from Mumbai to Dubai (AI 911) and return (AI 912). A few days earlier, I had flown AI 912 in business class. This is a review of my experience.
I prefer to fly out of Dubai in the night so as to reach Mumbai early morning. Therefore, AI 912 which is scheduled to depart from Dubai at 02:50 AM made perfect sense for me. However, the plan for this trip was made only two days earlier. And the fares were ridiculous
$550+ for a 3 hour economy class ticket! I almost cancelled my meetings and dropped my travel plans.
Thankfully, I have a stash of Air India Flying Returns miles. A major of chunk of those came from a co-branded Air India credit card which I owned earlier. The credit card was, without a doubt, the most generous airline linked card in the whole world!
I logged into my Flying Returns account and saw availability in business class for 46,080 miles and other charges of AED 130 ($35). At 1.5 cents a mile, this was a very good value. The redemption went hassle-free and I had my ticket issued in less than 5 minutes.
Kudos to Air India here. I have redeemed miles before but I do not remember not having to phone the Air India call center. They must have upgraded the back-end infrastructure.
Air India flies from Terminal 1 of DXB Airport. About 16 hours ahead of the departure time, I received an e-mail from Air India that the flight time has been changed.
A delay of 35 minutes does not bother me. Especially, if I am informed well in advance. I only had a carry-on and I reached the Air India terminal at 1:30AM. There was a dedicated check-in counter for Business passengers (note ETD in the picture below).
I waited patiently for my turn to come up but there seemed to be a never-ending argument at the counter. Thankfully, one of the employees from the Economy section noticed it and asked me to come for check-in. I inquired whether the flight has been delayed further. To my utter surprise, she said that the flight is scheduled at 2:50AM. I showed her the e-mail I received regarding the schedule change. She gave me an incredulous look for a microsecond and then said, “Maybe they want to prepare you for the eventual delay”.
If it was any other airline, I would be shocked. But in the case of Air India, I was only mildly bemused. Most Air India staff I have met are very good at customer service. However, they are strangely apathetic towards the airline itself.
In any case, I did not panic. I know my way around DXB airport and using the smart-gates, I knew I would comfortably reach the boarding gates in time for a 2:50AM flight.
For those who are keeping track, the schedule changed soon enough. The revised time of departure was 3:25AM, as it was communicated to me earlier. After spending some time at the Ahlan First Class Lounge at Concourse D, I entered the aircraft at 3:00AM.
I was offered the choice of a hot or cold towel and a welcome drink – water, orange juice and lime juice. Next I was offered the amenity kit.
I liked that Air India has given a lot of Indian touches to the amenity kit and food (more on that soon). Not only were the products made by Khadi India, they also use ingredients like sandalwood, lavender etc.
Air India 787s have 18 business class seats arranged in 3 rows of 2x2x2. These are lie-flat seats with enough width and length to fit a 6ft well-built person comfortably. While the lie-flat seats are not really required for a 3-hour flight, I did appreciate the 2 hours of sleep I managed. The seat, pillow and blanket were quite comfortable.
There was a compartment at the bottom to stow your carry-on and another smaller one for your shoes. On my side, there was a bit more space to keep reading glasses and there was a charging plug and a USB port as well.
Food & Beverages
The flight took-off at exactly 3:25AM. About 15 minutes into take-off, food was being served.
As mentioned earlier, the food had a very Indian touch. I was given the option of vegetarian or non-vegetarian and I chose the latter. There was chicken tikka, seekh kebab and a couple of Indian sweets. There was also something called a ‘chanachur’, which I cannot translate in English. However, it will pair well with certain drinks 🙂
All in all, a food that should be served in a national airline.
For drinks, there was a full menu of juices, wines, whiskey and sodas. I did not check whether they had champagne on board.
The food tasted good and was served hot as it should be. Soon after eating, I slept off and was woken up only by the landing announcement.
While the flight was landing, I quickly browsed the IFE for purposes of this review. The system was controlled by a remote and was responsive. Although, you may take a while to know which is the ‘Select / Enter’ key.
The English titles were a bit dated but the Indian movies section was recent and extensive. You will find enough content in there for a long-haul flight. Headphones were also provided.
Arrival at Mumbai
Depending on the time of your arrival, the immigration queues at Mumbai airport can be very long. However, if you are travelling business, there are separate counters. I crossed immigration in no time and checked-in at the Aviserv Lounge.
The newly launched flights – AI 911 and AI 912 – are a welcome addition on the Mumbai – Dubai route. These flights especially make plenty of sense for business travelers who want to spend a day in either city.
Overall, the experience was very good. The miles redemption went smoothly. The food was great and the cabin crew courteous and attentive. I would certainly be flying to Mumbai on Air India again.