Air India Begins Major Widebody Cabin Retrofit Program
Air India has begun a transformative cabin refurbishment program for its widebody fleet, the latest in a series of significant fleet investment announcements made since the carrier’s privatization.
The airline said it has committed more than $400 million to refurbish the cabins on all of its current widebodies, comprising 27 Boeing 787s and 13 777s.
This closely follows the recent announcement that Air India will be leasing an additional 11 777s, most of which will arrive in 2023. The airline is also in discussions with manufacturers regarding new aircraft orders.
Since taking over Air India in January, Indian conglomerate Tata Group has said that modernizing and expanding the carrier’s fleet, and improving the product, are among its top priorities. This follows a period of relatively little fleet investment while the Indian government sought a buyer for the airline.
Under Air India’s transformation program, the carrier has “committed to attain the highest standards of product and service befitting a world class airline,” says CEO Campbell Wilson. “We know that, at present, the cabin product on our … widebody aircraft falls short of this standard.”
The retrofit program began months ago but is only now being publicly announced. Wilson said Air India is working with partners to accelerate the program as much as possible.
Regulatory and engineering preparations were started earlier this year. The first of the refurbished aircraft is expected to return to service in mid-2024.
In the meantime, the addition of the leased widebodies will provide a short-term improvement in the airline’s widebody product as they already have new interiors, Wilson says.
One of the main features of the retrofit will be the addition of a premium economy cabin for the 787 and 777 fleets. The carrier currently offers three classes: first, business and economy. Air India confirmed first class will be retained on its 777s after the refurbishment. Six leased 777-300ERs being added next year also have four cabin classes.
Air Vistara, which is due to be merged with Air India, offers economy, premium economy and business products.
Air India said the widebody refurbishment will mean “a complete overhaul of existing cabin interiors.” This will include new seats and inflight entertainment systems in all classes.
The carrier has hired London-based product design companies JPA Design and Trendworks to help with the program.