Air India has announced plans to refurbish its entire legacy widebody fleet, comprising 27 Boeing B787-8 and 13 B777 aircraft, committing over US$400m for the project. The programme, which aims to create a travel experience comparable with that of the best airlines in the world, will include a complete overhaul of the aircraft cabin interiors, including the addition of latest-generation seats and upgraded IFE across all classes. This will cover economy and business class, including premium economy, which will be introduced in the process, and first class, which is being retained on the B777s.
The announcement is another milestone event in 2022 for Air India which, after 69 years as a Government-owned enterprise, was welcomed back into the Tata group in January 2022. The cabin refurbishments are part of a five-year transformation roadmap, named ‘Vihaan.AI’, which aims to establish Air India as a ‘world-class global airline with an Indian heart’. Vihaan.AI is focused on dramatically growing the airline’s network and fleet, developing a completely revamped customer proposition, and improving reliability and on-time performance. The airline also seeks to attain a leadership position in technology, sustainability and innovation, while aggressively investing in the best industry talent. Overall, the ambition of Vihaan.AI is to put Air India on a path to sustained growth, profitability and market leadership.
Air India has engaged two London-based product design companies, JPA Design and Trendworks, to assist with the cabin interior design elements of this refurbishment programme. JPA has over 30 years of experience in transportation and product design, with clients including Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and American Airlines, while Trendworks has over 20 years of experience in CMF, trend research and industrial design.
The interior refurbishments will entail significant regulatory and engineering preparation, which commenced earlier this year. Allowing for this process, and for the time required to manufacture the seats, the airline expects the first refitted aircraft to enter service in mid-2024.
Commenting on the programme, Campbell Wilson, CEO of Air India said, “Under our Vihaan.AI transformation programme, Air India has committed to attain the highest standards of product and service befitting of a world-class airline. We know that, at present, the cabin product on our 40 legacy widebody aircraft falls short of this standard. Although the project commenced some months ago, we are delighted to now publicly announce this significant investment on a complete interior refit, and we are confident that, when revealed, the new interiors will delight customers and show Air India in a new light. We are working closely with partners to accelerate the refit process as fast as possible and, in the meantime, leasing in at least 11 new widebody aircraft with brand-new interiors to improve our offering at the earliest opportunity.”