Passengers on Air India's domestic flights can expect new business class seats with better cushions and premium economy cabin as it begins reconfiguring its Airbus A320 aircraft fleet.

The move will bring product commonality with Vistara which is being merged with Air India. It will also help the airline grow its corporate business.

One aircraft has already been readied with a three-class cabin (business, premium economy and economy) at AI Engineering Services Limited facility in Delhi and will be introduced into service upon receiving regulatory approvals.

Reconfigured Air India planes and those from Vistara will be prioritised on metro-to-metro routes and short-haul international routes with heavy business traffic. 

Overall, Air India hopes to reconfigure 40 Airbus A320 aircraft by middle of next year.

Improving occupancy

"The seats will not be same like that of Vistara. However, it will be better than the existing Air India domestic product. Seats will have better cushions and good leg room," said an executive. With these changes, the airline also hopes to improve occupancy in its business class on domestic routes.

Vistara's Airbus A320 aircraft have eight business class, 24 premium economy and 126-132 economy class seats. It is learnt Air India planes will have identical configuration.

Currently, Air India operates A320 aircraft in a single all economy or dual class (economy and business) configuration. Separate regulatory approvals are required to carry out modification work as Air India's Airbus planes fly in different configurations now. 

While work is on Airbus aircraft, a refresh of legacy Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft is delayed. A senior official said that discussions are on with the seat manufacturer. "We will give an update on the timeline," he added.

While Air India is keen on growing its long-haul network, it is hamstrung due to unreliability of its legacy planes.

$400-million plan

In December 2022, Air India had announced $400-million plan to fully refurbish its legacy Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft with latest generation seats and new in-flight entertainment system.

Air India had engaged leading London-based product design companies, JPA Design and Trendworks, to assist with the cabin interior design elements of this refurbishment programme, it earlier said