Passengers will have to wait longer for a better in-flight experience on Air India's long haul flights to Australia, Europe and North America. 

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. However the project is now pushed back to next year.

"There are some issues related to certification," said a source. The first of the 40 aircraft (27 B787s and 13 B777s) was to undergo cabin refurbishment in August with the rest over the coming months. However now the actual refurbishment work on the Boeing widebody aircraft will start next year, it is learnt.

On a positive note, reconfiguration of Air India's narrow body Airbus A320 aircraft from a twin class to three class (business, premium economy and economy) configuration will start from later this year. Vistara operates three class Airbus aircraft and thus this will reduce product complexity between the two airlines that are set for a merger.

Air India has already inducted four new Airbus A350 aircraft. It also operates eleven leased Boeing 777 aircraft ( ex Delta and ex Etihad) with better amenities on certain long haul routes.

However, the delay in introducing newer generation products on its legacy aircraft is a setback. Air India inducted its first Boeing 777 aircraft in 2007 while the B787 entered in its service in 2012.

Over the last few years the airline has expanded its long haul network - Mumbai - Melbourne service being the latest addition to its routes. The Russia-Ukraine war has limited US airlines expansion to India.

Air India's in-flight product in its legacy aircraft, however, remains inferior compared to its peers. Complaints of broken seats and non functional in-flight entertainment system are common. The airline's engineering team has worked with Tata Technologies to manufacture small parts, panels and assemblies. Repairs are being regularly carried out but problems have not fully resolved. 

Air India did not respond to email query. Boeing declined comment.

"Aircraft cabins need upgrades due to obsolescence or wear and tear. A full cabin refurbishment is an elaborate exercise. It's like redoing cabin architecture completely. While an airline refurbishes cabins for greater passenger comfort, it is critical to ensure that the modifications do not hinder safety, fuel efficiency and performance of the aircraft especially its stability," said an aviation expert.

Typically approval process in a refurbishment exercise is two fold. Products like seats need to be certified (unless pre- approved) as they need to withstand extreme stress caused by accidents. Then the installation and assembly too requires regulatory approvals.

The exact reason for certification delay in case of Air India aircraft is unclear.

Air India will be introducing premium economy cabins on both these Boeing aircraft. The first class cabin will also be retained on the 777s as a part of the upgrade.

Air India has 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.