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Air India Starts Flying Former Delta 777-200LRs – One Mile at a Time

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It’s a big day for Air India. Not only has the airline today launched nonstop flights between Mumbai and San Francisco, but the route is being operated by a pretty special plane.
In this post:
A few months ago we learned how Air India would be leasing roughly 30 planes. This is intended as a temporary solution to meet the increase in travel demand. Air India has a bit of a competitive advantage on long haul flights right now, since the airline can use Russian airspace on flights to North America, unlike airlines from the United States and Canada.
These leased planes include six Boeing 777-200LRs, all of which initially flew for Delta Air Lines. Delta retired its 777 fleet at the start of the pandemic, and I guess Air India got a great deal on these jets.
Air India adding these planes to its fleet has a couple of interesting implications in terms of the passenger experience. Shortly before Delta retired these jets, the airline spent tens of millions of dollars outfitting these planes with new interiors. The planes have Delta One Suites, featuring direct aisle access and doors. They also have premium economy, which is a product Air India historically hasn’t offered.
Suffice it to say that this is a massive improvement over Air India’s previous inflight product. The airline will be spending $400 million reconfiguring the interiors of its Boeing 777s and Boeing 787s, though that’s a long term project that will start in mid-2024. Air India is also expected to place a big new aircraft order for long term fleet renewal, but that hasn’t been finalized yet.
In the meantime, suffice it to say that this…
…looks a little better than this.
The first former Delta Boeing 777-200LR has entered service with Air India as of this week. Specifically, the roughly 15 year old jet with the registration code VT-AEF is now flying.
While the plane has the Air India livery, it’s a bit different (and simpler) than the standard livery. It doesn’t have the red painted around each window, as you’ll find on the rest of Air India’s fleet.
.@airindiain ‘s ex @Delta #B777-200LR VT-AEF will operate the 1st ever non-stop flight between #Mumbai@CSMIA_Official and #SanFrancisco @flySFO tomorrow. More importantly, this route will predominantly be operated by VT-AEF in the near term.#AvGeek #PaxEx pic.twitter.com/fmUTGBYCnJ
So, what are the interiors like? Air India has done almost nothing to change up the cabins, so they should look very familiar.
Here are first cabin photos of @airindiain ‘s VT-AEF and of seats which may be sold as premium economy (Y+) on these 5 ex – @Delta #B777-200LRs.
For sake of comparison, I have added a photo of the Y+ cabin as flown by @Delta.
Thank you @sachmihika for the photos.#AvGeek#PaxEx pic.twitter.com/Iykg9QWGOx
More cabin photos of @airindiain ‘s VT-AEF taken by @deep_choudhuri who flew the aircraft from #Mumbai to #Delhi today.
I love the use of the @TataCompanies logo alongside that of AI and the mood lighting.
This is a fantastic product and a massive upgrade !#AvGeek pic.twitter.com/LJJkCCcRZy
Hello from #Vihaan @airindiain #VTAEF pic.twitter.com/t47dunbwvd
It seems the seats haven’t even been reupholstered, but rather the Delta logos have just sort of been scratched off the seats. For example, the headrests used to have the Delta logo in red — you can still see where it used to be when you zoom in, but it’s no longer red.
So while this isn’t exactly on-brand for Air India, I doubt any passengers used to Air India’s inflight product will be complaining, since this represents a massive improvement.
This particular jet has entered long haul service as of today, flying between Mumbai (BOM) and San Francisco (SFO). This route will operate 3x weekly with the following schedule:
AI179 Mumbai to San Francisco departing 2:30PM arriving 5:00PM
AI180 San Francisco to Mumbai departing 9:00PM arriving 3:40AM (+2 days)
The 8,406-mile flight is blocked at 16hr to the United States, and 17hr10min to India.
Air India has just started service with its first former Delta Boeing 777-200LR. The plane will now be flying 3x weekly between Mumbai and San Francisco, and represents a very nice upgrade to the Air India passenger experience. Business class passengers can enjoy suites with doors, and this also marks the introduction of premium economy at Air India.
What do you make of these forner Delta 777s flying for Air India?

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Hate to break it to all here. The airline will go on and probably be successful. 99.999999999999% of the population is neither interested in OMAAT nor its readers. Happy commenting!
lol
Just returned from Delhi ~ Chicago on AI’s 777. The plane was plain DIRTY and had the stewardess clean the armrest area. She was apologetic. Food service was good but their video and audio on the entertainment system failed to work including their external cameras. Mind you, this was in First Class.
Flew Air India this November LHR – DEL – CCU – MAA – DEL – LHR. Long haul was Dreamliner-the worst experience!!
The FLGTS were punctual but nothing positive on anything else.
The general upkeep cleanliness was appalling. None of the AV systems were functioning. After a lot of complaining the screens started functioning! It seems that some rebooting was required! Toilet conditions were terrible too.
Since Air India has a monopoly…
Flew Air India this November LHR – DEL – CCU – MAA – DEL – LHR. Long haul was Dreamliner-the worst experience!!
The FLGTS were punctual but nothing positive on anything else.
The general upkeep cleanliness was appalling. None of the AV systems were functioning. After a lot of complaining the screens started functioning! It seems that some rebooting was required! Toilet conditions were terrible too.
Since Air India has a monopoly on these routes, I am forced to fly with them!!!
Flew the same (LHR – DEL) biz but my experience was contrary to yours. A comfortable flight, decent food and good service. Cabin was as dirty as in most western airlines that I have to frequently fly. Easily preferable to the aging BA metal flying in this route.
The filthiest aircraft that I’ve flown was an AA 777. Not surprised drive what does one expect of a population with zero emphasis on personal hygiene accustomed to wearing track pants and tights in public.
Can you translate that in English, please?
@KK13- It’s pretty legible. I also think you’re missing one ‘K’ in your alias.
Good one!
The only thing that matters to a frequent flyer who flies several carriers both domestically and internationally to India in particular, is that Air India is able to make a profit while charging no more than 15% extra to fly their true volume customer, ie the economy class passenger, nonstop.
If Air India cannot manage this, then Air India cannot continue flying nonstop from SFO be it to Delhi or Bangalore or Mumbai.
I am…
The only thing that matters to a frequent flyer who flies several carriers both domestically and internationally to India in particular, is that Air India is able to make a profit while charging no more than 15% extra to fly their true volume customer, ie the economy class passenger, nonstop.
If Air India cannot manage this, then Air India cannot continue flying nonstop from SFO be it to Delhi or Bangalore or Mumbai.
I am sure that the new top execs at Air India already know this.
They also probably know that unless they can also have seamless connections to other Indian cities from the 3 gateway cities in India, they can never truly compete with the Middle East or European or American carriers.
Seems like trashing AI and Indians is a full-time discipline on this blog. Lovely to read the vitriol below. However, what does one expect from the historically racist western population.
Glad to see AI plug the shortage in its fleet while it finalizes deals for new aircraft acquisition, not happening any time soon. I hope that AI continues to provide a better product in the non-premium cabins, significantly more comfortable than any of its competitors…
Seems like trashing AI and Indians is a full-time discipline on this blog. Lovely to read the vitriol below. However, what does one expect from the historically racist western population.
Glad to see AI plug the shortage in its fleet while it finalizes deals for new aircraft acquisition, not happening any time soon. I hope that AI continues to provide a better product in the non-premium cabins, significantly more comfortable than any of its competitors (especially when it comes to seat pitch and quality of dining). As for in its premium cabins, I hope that the soft product remains on par or better. Certainly, the quality of dining is significantly better than the food (aka trash) served on the US and EU airlines on India routes. Rooting for them to return and surpass their earlier glory from my early days of flying.
Since your brought it up, things you do have been expressed on here. How’s that racist? But all is okay when you call westerners (esp. Americans) bunch of idiots while living in their country? If you think you aren’t racists think again what you do and how you treat your own people. And you think we don’t know?
I’m an (old) Caucasian Englishman. We portray the best form of racism. I do think a vast majority of Americans are ignorant and that we, the Europeans, are the global leaders in racism. Really, we’re just hiding our dismay of not being at the centre of the world anymore.
I see that almost every month when I visit Europe. But you guys hide it well compared to others.
Delta’s 777 had the best configuration of the big 3 U.S. airlines. Too bad they retired it so soon after the new interior. These will be the most comfortable Air India planes for some time.
I wonder how long it will take for AirIndia customers to trash the Delta interiors.
AI is not selling premium economy yet. Even economy seats start at row 20 and business ends row 9. So not sure how to book these premium economy on VT AEF
These aircraft – sadly – in a few short months will be nothing more than a pig sty.
Imagine , truly imagine the state of those aircraft interiors in less than a years time – the whites will become dirty and those doors will all be broken – guaranteed
Less than a year? I would give it 3 months max
Do we know if all flights from BOM-SFO will be w/ the DL planes? I’m considering booking this route, but only if I can guarantee i get the DL planes
It’s absurd that the DOT and DoS have not taken action against Air India for anti-competitive breach of the spirit of the US-IN bilateral air services treaty. Air India continues to make use of Russian overflight at the direct harm of United Airlines, which previously had 4 daily flights to India and has been reduced to 2 frequencies on less economical routings through Europe. Meanwhile Air India has drastically increased frequencies and fares to take…
It’s absurd that the DOT and DoS have not taken action against Air India for anti-competitive breach of the spirit of the US-IN bilateral air services treaty. Air India continues to make use of Russian overflight at the direct harm of United Airlines, which previously had 4 daily flights to India and has been reduced to 2 frequencies on less economical routings through Europe. Meanwhile Air India has drastically increased frequencies and fares to take advantage of the Russian war of aggression. Secretary Buttigieg, are you paying attention?
I am sure DOT and DOS would have taken the advantage just like Air India did in a heart beat if the shoe was on the other foot.
Air India is hardly the only one here. Emirates, Qatar and Cathay Pacific (to the east coast) – to name a few – use Russian airspace on their flights to the United States.
US airlines can still fly to India; they just have to spend some extra fuel and fly a roundabout route. I would recommend you call Secretary Buttigieg to force United and American to launch their cancelled routes. They can have a stop over in Kiev if they want to refuel and help support Ukraine too
Take a chill pill before sucking off Putin again! Or, better go settle down in Russia. Let’s see how it goes for you Russian lovers. No one threw a red carpet for you to come here.
You do realize that Russia was initially the one to ban US airlines from use of their airspace? India and other countries are not responsible for the conflicts nor accountable for the consequences. If so, how about the US accept that India will fly through the Russian airspace to allow students and the highly skilled workers economic passage to the US, which benefit the US ultimately?
Interesting & a great second life for these former Delta 777’s. Delta likes to take on used aircraft with former airline’s cabins so it seems to come full circle. Great up cycling in that the life of these aircraft continues. At least Air India is giving a good effort in improving although the process will take some time.
It was a given that AI would simply remove the DL logos in order to put the cabin into service.
Hopefully AI can take care of the plane and use it as a springboard for its expanded network as well as bridge to a new order for new widebodies, including a reported order for A350s.
Since they are now partially owned by Singapore Airlines, perhaps they will use the outstanding maintenance facilities there…
It was a given that AI would simply remove the DL logos in order to put the cabin into service.
Hopefully AI can take care of the plane and use it as a springboard for its expanded network as well as bridge to a new order for new widebodies, including a reported order for A350s.
Since they are now partially owned by Singapore Airlines, perhaps they will use the outstanding maintenance facilities there to maintain their planes.
And FNT, below, Delta has more than replaced the capacity it lost when it retired the 777s with new, much more fuel efficient capacity. Delta, like American, used the pandemic to restructure its operations and fleet in order to be more efficient longer term.
Delta still has A330-900s and A350s due for delivery this year and into 2023. They have growth capacity in their fleet and also updated their capex in their investor update yesterday to indicate they are buying even more planes in 2023-24 than planned, including the potential A350-1000 order that DL execs told employees they intended to do. Some of the ex-QR A350s are sitting in New Zealand and France and Airbus also has A350-900s built for Aeroflot which they can’t deliver. Just as with the United order which supposedly includes some B787 whitetails, the US airlines are in a position to go shopping for new technology aircraft while other airlines take their discards.
and the real target of AI’s growth is UA which is the largest US carrier to India and has been selling the SFO-India routes for months but clearly cannot operate them due to Russia airspace restrictions which AI doesn’t respect.
You are once again incorrect on the Russian airspace restrictions – They do not apply to India. I think your sources of information on airspace restrictions are pretty sub-standard. I get the whole strategy of “lie enough to make others feel it’s the truth” but these things are easily verifiable even for amateurs. It is an absolutely fantastic decision by India to continue to use Russian airspace, since there is no international regulation preventing them…
You are once again incorrect on the Russian airspace restrictions – They do not apply to India. I think your sources of information on airspace restrictions are pretty sub-standard. I get the whole strategy of “lie enough to make others feel it’s the truth” but these things are easily verifiable even for amateurs. It is an absolutely fantastic decision by India to continue to use Russian airspace, since there is no international regulation preventing them to do so.
Also incorrect that UA is ‘the real target’. Largest traffic between the subcontinent and US is sourced by the ME3 and Air India can undercut them with nonstops. UA actually offers a more competitive overall product internationally than AI and even Delta (their planes aren’t tired, Polaris pods are top notch, perhaps the only drawback is the 10 across in economy vs Delta’s 9). UA flights to India on routes they compete head to head with Air India on such as EWR DEL are absolutely full regardless. It’s also not hard for whoever can do basic math that when you’re talking about 1.4B people and their ties with one of the biggest immigrant groups to India, we’re talking about very high demand over here. Furthermore, it’s actually Delta that is incapable of making NYC-BOM work, unlike UA, AA and AI as they have not shown interest in tapping into this huge market. UA actually has EWR-BOM back on schedule later, when they expect your so called ‘restrictions’ to be lifted.
lots here and I am glad you replied
1. Russia sanctions including regarding overflowing Russian airspace are choices by country. India, as you note, chose not to participate in most of them so it is correct that AI does not respect those sanctions just as India does not respect other sanctions.
2. AI gains a competitive advantage by flying through Russian airspace, something that American and United and every other carrier cannot do.<br…

lots here and I am glad you replied
1. Russia sanctions including regarding overflowing Russian airspace are choices by country. India, as you note, chose not to participate in most of them so it is correct that AI does not respect those sanctions just as India does not respect other sanctions.
2. AI gains a competitive advantage by flying through Russian airspace, something that American and United and every other carrier cannot do.
3. As the largest US carrier on a nonstop basis between India and the US, UA is very much AI’s most direct target.
4. Middle East carriers do carry a very large share of India traffic and it is very much the expectation of India that the AI can more effectively carry that traffic. I have stated my optimism that they will succeed.
5. Delta has had a 35 year on and off “in-person” presence in India but they still consistenly carry substantial portions of the revenue that United carries – Delta just does it through its joint venture partners – AF/KL and VS. you can’t argue that the ME airlines carry such large shares w/o acknowledging that US and EU carriers to also carry significant shares.
6. Delta retired the 777 because it didn’t have a terribly large fleet and it was the least fuel efficient widebody in the US carrier fleet. That fact is still true for AA and UA as well as for AI operating the same aircraft. Not following the Russian airspace sanctions offsets some of the higher fuel burn as AI can fly shorter flights than UA or AA can in the same market.
7. The A350 is now the longest range aircraft available now; Delta just took delivery of one new A350-900 with the latest Airbus advances which increase range and payload. They have another in flight testing. If American or United can operate nonstop, Delta can if it wants. We will see in the near future if Delta chooses to re-add nonstop US-India service but I suspect they will do so – expressly because everyone can see the huge market which you note and which is heavily carried on ME airlines.
Good conversation.
India is a sovereign country. It is not the 51st state; U.S. sanctions apply to U.S. citizens and entities only. India has it’s own bilateral relationship with Russia. The U.S. is hoping that other countries will support them in their sanctions but no one really has. Case in point is that Europe continues, and has increased, its import of Russian gas.
there really is no disagreement with what I, Sarthak or you wrote in that regard. Other people who have responded don’t agree.
AI still has an advantage compared to UA which cannot fly India to SFO.
How’s that dystopian coffee treating ya?
So much bilateral love, yet the lines outside all the US embassies in your sovereign country can be as long as Appalachian Trail – isn’t that a bit strange? Never heard any Indian lining up for Russian citizenship either.
Wait! We know what you guys want. Don’t be ashamed, just ask for it.
@Tim Dunn – the use of the word “respect” is provocative. I think you have the entire concept in reverse. Sanctions preventing the use use of Russian airspace were imposed by Russia on adversarial states. Russia has not included India in its sanctions since they maintain strong diplomatic ties. The EU and the US did not chose to restrict the use of the Russian airspace, originally. Those “sanctions” came much later as a stance to…
@Tim Dunn – the use of the word “respect” is provocative. I think you have the entire concept in reverse. Sanctions preventing the use use of Russian airspace were imposed by Russia on adversarial states. Russia has not included India in its sanctions since they maintain strong diplomatic ties. The EU and the US did not chose to restrict the use of the Russian airspace, originally. Those “sanctions” came much later as a stance to look as if they are in control. India does not need to “respect” anything. Basically, your explanation of the situation is akin to propaganda.
Happy to clarify.
Delta does have a huge market, it taps through KLM via AMS, which is much older than the US or AA as they don’t have a traditional European hub like DL. Hence, DL doesn’t have an absolute need to fly non-stop to India.
Also, UA flies ORD-DEL besides EWR-DEL. UA’s SFO-BLR starts in Mar’23.
I don’t get how US goes head to head with AI that flies to almost 9 or 10 destinations…
Delta does have a huge market, it taps through KLM via AMS, which is much older than the US or AA as they don’t have a traditional European hub like DL. Hence, DL doesn’t have an absolute need to fly non-stop to India.
Also, UA flies ORD-DEL besides EWR-DEL. UA’s SFO-BLR starts in Mar’23.
I don’t get how US goes head to head with AI that flies to almost 9 or 10 destinations in the US, compared to 3 by UA, currently. Saying Polaris pods are top notch got my head spinning! Oy vey… *smh*
Correction – NYC/India (since AA flies to DEL and is now in process of applying for permission to fly to Mumbai)*
How AI can deliver profits, be competitive and deliver quality service in the long run using less fuel efficient planes ? Fuel prices are going up and profitability will be dwindling even further.
Tarry – I agree. That’s what I see as the biggest concern. Economy traffic to India is notoriously price sensitive, but recently with the pandemic having created the ‘haves/have nots’ there’s been a big surge in premium demand. UA’s 787-9s Business remains consistently full on India routes and they’re not cheap. AI would need to up their game several notches to command any price premium at all; and that’s not going to be easy or quick.
It’s a good stopgap arrangement until such time Airindia retrofits it’s own planes with new interiors
Bit of a shame that newer planes will likely lack the iconic red around the windows, that being said this could be a good way to win over passengers and repair AI’s reputation. Hopefully they are kept well-maintained…
And within a few months all of them will become dirty, trashed, and worn out/broken.
Such a bad end for these planes.
Air India is a truly hopeless, awful airline.
Delta retiring 777s that it just spent hundreds of millions to retire has to be one of the worst decisions ever by a major U.S. airline. So bad that Delta has had to scramble and buy used 350s with inferior seats and hard products.
You think Delta would have at least taken the like-new seats out of the 777s and found a way to use them in another aircraft.
I meant to say, Delta retiring 777s that it just spent hundreds of millions to RETROFIT …
I agree. But I assume that the 777 Delta One suites are too big to be refitted on another aircraft, while the economy seats are also specific in dimensions to the 777. I assume that if any cabin could be refitted on another aircraft, it would be premium economy. But DL likely wouldn’t want to take out only one cabin and leave the rest, so it was likely better to sell the aircraft with the same interiors in terms of profit (or minimizing losses).
You’re not considering the pilot costs or maintenance costs for such a small fleet. There’s likely still a lot of benefit to retiring them.
Are you implying that Delta made a bad business decision? But according to Tim, that’s impossible.
….or, you could use your common sense (*chortle*) to figure out that it was worth more to them to sell the aircraft with intact interior, than it was to parse the cabin and attempt to shoehorn its widest aircraft’s interior into narrower models.
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Delta retiring 777s that it just spent hundreds of millions to retire has to be one of the worst decisions ever by a major U.S. airline. So bad that Delta has had to scramble and buy used 350s with inferior seats and hard products. You think Delta would have at least taken the like-new seats out of the 777s and found a way to use them in another aircraft.
I wonder how long it will take for AirIndia customers to trash the Delta interiors.
It was a given that AI would simply remove the DL logos in order to put the cabin into service. Hopefully AI can take care of the plane and use it as a springboard for its expanded network as well as bridge to a new order for new widebodies, including a reported order for A350s. Since they are now partially owned by Singapore Airlines, perhaps they will use the outstanding maintenance facilities there to maintain their planes. And FNT, below, Delta has more than replaced the capacity it lost when it retired the 777s with new, much more fuel efficient capacity. Delta, like American, used the pandemic to restructure its operations and fleet in order to be more efficient longer term. Delta still has A330-900s and A350s due for delivery this year and into 2023. They have growth capacity in their fleet and also updated their capex in their investor update yesterday to indicate they are buying even more planes in 2023-24 than planned, including the potential A350-1000 order that DL execs told employees they intended to do. Some of the ex-QR A350s are sitting in New Zealand and France and Airbus also has A350-900s built for Aeroflot which they can't deliver. Just as with the United order which supposedly includes some B787 whitetails, the US airlines are in a position to go shopping for new technology aircraft while other airlines take their discards. and the real target of AI's growth is UA which is the largest US carrier to India and has been selling the SFO-India routes for months but clearly cannot operate them due to Russia airspace restrictions which AI doesn't respect.

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