A long-haul return business class fare that costs less than 1000€ from Europe to Asia is rare. When I saw a Swiss/Lufthansa offer from Milan to Delhi for 920€ return in business class it took me one second to decide to go for it.
The Swiss flight on the way back from Delhi to Zurich was cancelled so we were rebooked on Air India via Vienna.
When entering a terminal building at any airport in India you must be able to show a ticket or confirmation with your name and the flight details - it's checked by soldiers. As I was rebooked by Swiss and I didn't have the full confirmation I had to go to an Air India office (accessible without a flight confirmation) to get a printed itinerary.
Other than this inconvenience Terminal 3 at Indira Gandhi International Airport is nice, modern and spacious (Terminal 1 is mostly for domestic flights and Terminal 2 is mostly for low-cost airlines). Business class check-in was available with no waiting time. The check-in agent didn't say a word and didn't smile but was very efficient. Both priority security and passport control were quick.
Inside Terminal 3:
You have to follow the signs saying Lounge A to go to the Air India lounge which is one floor up.
The agents at the front desk were not friendly and clearly not interested in providing any service. When I asked about wi-fi they simply said "Wi-fi is not working". When I insisted they gave me a password; I managed to connect for very short times but the connection was always interrupted after a half a minute or so. Is it so complicated to have working wi-fi at an airport lounge in 2020?
The best thing about the lounge is that it had plenty of comfortable seating and it was not crowded.
Food was available and it didn't look bad.
Quality was however what you would expect at a cheap buffet lunch offered at a three star hotel.
There are so many luxury hotels in India with great service and catering. Why is Air India unable to offer this at its main lounge at its main hub?
It was time to go to the gate.
There was one more passport control before boarding which brought the total number of stamps on the boarding pass to four. The view from next to the gate:
Priority boarding was available and enforced.
The first impressions were very good. Air India has a business cabin with only three rows in a classic 2+2+2 configuration on its Dreamliners.
Seats 1A and 1C:
Seats 2H and 2J:
The seats are very spacious and comfortable not only for lounging but also for sleeping when converted into a full flat bed. This is very important and is clearly the strongest point of Air India's business class product on the B787.
A welcome drink was offered: orange or watermelon juice. The cabin crew was a lot friendlier than the staff at the lounge.
A choice of hot or cold towel was also offered.
Slippers and magazines were also offered. India Today had a lot of very interesting articles.
The headphones were more what you'd expect in economy class
Push-back was at 15.00 for a scheduled departure time of 14.55. Take-off was at 15.17 from runway 29.
There was no drink menu but drinks were offered from a trolley. I had some Lanson champagne (retailed in France for about 30€ a bottle - note that alcohol in India is much more expensive than in Europe). A few types of cognac, whiskey and other drinks were also available.
Here's the food menu:
First a choice of of packed snack was offered - twice. I choose some cashews.
The meal was served on a tray from a trolley about one hour after departure.
The hors d'oeuvre which was not described in the menu was some kind of paté with salad and dried apricot. It was not very good.
I chose Grilled chicken with Black Pepper Sauce as a main course. It would have been a very good meal for economy but was disappointing for business class.
The cheese and the cake were the only part of the meal service that visually reminded me of what you expect in a proper business class but the taste brought me back to reality.
After this not-so-wonderful meal let's have a look at the in-flight entertainment.
The screen is small, the menu old fashioned and reactivity is slow.
If you go into Movies and then into English you'll see this:
The category called Hollywood latest has four movies:
Hollywood movies has 42 titles. Some of them:
Some films are available in Indian languages other than Hindi:
One film is available in French, Spanish and Russian.
Only Indian music is available.
About Air India: no video, only a text.
The highlight of in-flight entertainment? These absolutely stunning views over the mountains of Afghanistan.
The air show on the screen:
I slept from about the middle of Turkmenistan to Baku. The seat, as I mentioned earlier, is very comfortable for sleeping when converted into a full flat bed.
A short time later we were near Batumi in Georgia:
A second service with tea or coffee and cake or sandwich was offered from the trolley. The cake was industrial, the kind of cake you can buy at a supermarket.
We landed in Vienna at 18.15 for a scheduled arrival time of 18.45.
What I liked about this flight:
Plenty of seating in the lounge
Delhi is a modern airport; quick security and passport control
Flight on a Dreamliner
Small cabin with only three rows of seats in business class
Comfortable seats that are also comfortable for sleeping when converted into a fully flat bed
Good pillow and blanket
Friendly and helpful cabin crew
Arrival ahead of schedule
What I didn't like about this flight:
The Air India lounge at Delhi Airport: unfriendly staff, low quality food, no working wifi.
On-board catering would have been for good for economy class but was very poor for business class
Small screen, slow reactivity, moderate choice of movies, zero choice of non-Indian music
Low quality headphones
Strong ventilation from the top that cannot be individually regulated