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Air India is rebranding after years of decline. Here are the biggest changes, from updated uniforms to swanky new Airbus A350s.

Air India is rebranding after years of decline. Here are the biggest changes, from updated uniforms to swanky new Airbus A350s.
  • Air India is undergoing a complete transformation after years of decline under government control.

  • The airline has ordered hundreds of new aircraft and is investing $400 million in cabin retrofits.

  • New uniforms for cabin crew and pilots are part of the rebranding.

Between 1932 and 2021, Air India went from being the gold standard of aviation under the Tata Group to a nationalized airline in complete disarray.

People flying Air India's older planes routinely faced bad customer service, poor reliability, dirty cabins, and broken seats patched with duct tape. Even in business class.

The downfall started in 1953 when the Indian government took over, stripping control away from the Tata Group.

However, with government ownership proving disastrous and Air India in desperate need of modernization, the Tatas announced a deal to buy the company back in 2021 and quickly got to work with a completely new brand identity.

"The list of things to do at Air India, and the list of opportunities ahead of us, are astonishing," the airline's new CEO, Campbell Wilson, told Business Insider in January. "And, in most of these cases, it is not a matter of 'Is there a case to do it?' but 'What do we do first?'"

Some of the changes are less in-your-face, like an updated mobile app and website and a new inflight safety video.

However, customers will soon start seeing the "new Air India" everywhere, thanks to the Tata Group's huge multimillion-dollar investments in its planes, products, and people.

A record Airbus and Boeing order

The author standing in front of the Air India A350.
Air India unveiled its brand-new A350 in January at the Wings Airshow in Hyderabad, where Business Insider got a full tour.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

At the Paris Airshow in June 2023, Air India announced orders for a record 470 Airbus and Boeing aircraft, including 40 Airbus A350s, 20 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, 10 Boeing 777Xs, 140 Airbus A320neos, 70 Airbus A321neos, and 190 Boeing 737 Maxs.

The aircraft, worth an estimated $70 billion at list price, will sport Air India's new livery and logo.

The latter is known as "The Vista." Air India says it's "inspired by the peak of the gold window frame" and signifies "limitless possibilities, progressiveness, and the airline's bold, confident outlook for the future."

The gold Vista logo on a purple inflight menu.
The business class inflight menu features the Vista logo.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

The first delivery was an Airbus A350-900 in December. The new plane launched on domestic routes, like Bengaluru and Mumbai, in January and will eventually launch overseas, Air India says. It's very likely to fly to the US, though Air India has yet to release specific cities.

"We are proud to be working with all our partners in this journey to rebuild a global airline which reflects India taking a more confident posture around the world," Wilson said.

Passenger comfort is getting a much-needed refresh

Air India new business class.
Air India's new A350 was originally destined for Russian carrier Aeroflot before sanctions. The seats onboard are Aeroflot's design, but Air India has added its own branding.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

The legacy cabins on Air India's Boeing 777 and Boeing 787 aircraft haven't seen an upgrade in years and are some of the main reasons the airline has such a poor reputation.

Travelers regularly complain of things like the in-flight entertainment not working and stains on the carpet. Air India's business class is also way behind industry standards.

Most notably, business sports a 2×3×2 layout — meaning travelers can still be assigned a dreaded middle seat. This also means those sitting in the center and window seats do not have direct aisle access.

Air India's legacy business class, 2x3x2 with yellow seats.
Air India's legacy business class does not offer direct-aisle access to window seat passengers.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

This is unlike many other airlines that have upgraded their business class over the years to offer more privacy and convenience, like adding sliding doors and opting for a 1×2×1 seat configuration.

For example, Qatar Airways has added a unique quad-seating feature in its famous Q-Suite. Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines offers business class with sliding doors, and Emirates offers an inflight bar and lounge for its premium customers flying on its Airbus A380.

Qatar Q Suite
Four passengers can chat and dine together in select quad-seats in Qatar Airways' Q Suite business class.Christophe Archambault/AFP via Getty Images

Air India, however, now has to play catch-up — and it's investing $400 million to retrofit its legacy widebody planes.

Air India economy cabin.
Air India's Boeing 777 legacy economy cabin where seats are commonly broken.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

Wilson, Air India's CEO, said he wants to compete with the likes of Qatar and Emirates and has taken inspiration from their successful products.

Some of that can be seen in upgraded cabins on the A350, where business-class seats have privacy doors and closets, for example, with access to a small bar behind the section. The plane also sports premium economy and upgraded coach seats.

New economy cabin on Air India with red seats and grey headrests.
Air India's new branding includes bold reds and purples, which can be seen beyond the aircraft in places like the airport check-in counter and the boarding gate.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

"By the end of 2025, the entire legacy widebody fleet will also be upgraded to match what we're getting on the A350," Wilson told BI, "So, essentially, our fleet will be completely reborn by then."

Flight attendants and pilots are getting a makeover

In December, Air India released photos of its new crew uniforms.

Created by Indian designer Manish Malhotra, the collection features the airline's new red- and purple-heavy color scheme with items like a ready-to-wear saree (which can be worn with pants) for female flight attendants and a bandh gala for male flight attendants.

Pilots will sport a black suit with the Vista logo, "signifying professionalism, timelessness, and the gravitas of the flying profession."

Air India new cabin crew and pilot uniforms. Six people are in the photo.
The female cabin crew will wear a black and burgundy block heel, while male cabin crew will wear black Brogues.Air India

"We are confident that our new crew uniforms will rise to the heightened expectations, distinctly making a statement that defines the very best of Indian heritage and hospitality," Air India said in a press release.

The new uniforms were deployed with the launch of the new A350. Ground staff, engineers, and security personnel are also set to get new uniforms, which Air India said it will reveal in "due course."

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