Air India’s makeover, which includes new uniforms for crew and renovated lounges in Delhi and New York, will lead to a better customer and employee experience.
Air India, privatized in 2022 and now part of the Tata Group, made big strides in 2023 to make up for years of neglect. The airline ordered a large number of aircraft for its ambitious growth plans, unveiled its new brand imagery, and showcased the planned retrofit of its existing widebodies. The airline is also preparing to induct its first A350 aircraft into service.
Air India’s New Uniforms
Air India had engaged the services of Indian designer Manish Malhotra to revamp the uniforms for Air India’s frontline staff, including the cabin crew, cockpit crew, ground staff, engineers, and security services.
Tuesday, Air India unveiled the uniform for cabin crew and cockpit staff. The female cabin crew attire features a ready-to-wear ombré saree paired with a blouse and blazer. The ready-to-wear sarees can be worn with pants. For the male cabin crew, the airline has gone with a bandh gala. Different color variants of the uniform will be allocated to the cabin crew to depict seniority.
The cockpit crew’s uniform features a classic black double-breasted suit with a print inspired by the Vista, Air India’s new logo icon. Female cabin crew will be provided dual-tone (black and burgundy) block heels, and the male cabin crew will wear black brogues. The uniforms include pearl earrings and sling bags for the female cabin crew.
The new uniforms will be introduced in phases over the next few months, starting with the entry of Air India’s first Airbus A350 into service, which is expected to arrive in India during December.
Air India is also working on the ground experience for the over 400,000 premium guests the airline handles. The airline has its own lounges in Delhi’s IGI Airport’s Terminal 3, which is the primary hub for Air India, as well as in New York JFK Airport’s Terminal 4.
Air India has engaged Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA), a hospitality interior design firm, to refurbish and rebuild the Air India lounges in Delhi and New York. The firm has prior experience designing hotels for the Taj, Marriott, Hilton and InterContinental brands, but has also done lounge design for Singapore Airlines at Singapore Changi Terminal 3.
The Coming of a Third Cabin
While this awaits formal confirmation from Air India, the Indian newspaper Hindu Businessline recently reported that Air India would retrofit its narrowbody fleet to add a third cabin between the conventional business class and economy cabins.
This will likely be a Premium Economy cabin and intended to build on the efforts of Vistara, which introduced the cabin in India. The Premium Economy cabin will also allow Air India to offer an affordable experience above the Economy cabin for their corporate and leisure guests on domestic and regional routes.
Air India has seen significant success with Premium Economy on its non-stop flights to the US. It has subsequently decided to add the cabin to all its widebody aircraft during the retrofit exercise.
Changes to Airbus Orders
Air India, when it placed its orders with Airbus earlier in the year, had ordered a total of 40 A350 aircraft, which included six A350-900 aircraft, originally made for Russian carrier Aeroflot, but since being lightly touched up to be sold to Air India due to the global embargo on aircraft dealing with Russia.
The remaining 34 aircraft were originally intended to be the larger A350-1000 variants, delivered factory fresh. However, in an update published by Airbus, the airline has modified the order to take delivery of 20 A350-900 and 20 A350-1000 aircraft.
Not just that, Air India has also significantly modified the split of its 210 A320neo family aircraft. The airline had originally intended to take 140 A320neos and 70 A321neo aircraft.
However, the Airbus Order & Delivery update for November 2023 indicated that the airline has now updated its order to take 140 A321neos and 70 A320neo aircraft. This makes sense because it allows the airline to ferry more customers every trip, which becomes important as slots dry up in India’s major airports and air travel demand continues to soar.
The airline, a Star Alliance member, also intends to relaunch its frequent flyer program in early 2024.
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Photo credit: A look at Air India's new cabin crew and pilot uniforms. Air India