Survival tactics: Air India is adding more frills

New Delhi: Air India, which has inched past other airlines to take number two position in the domestic market over the last two months, is now trying to modernise services to improve the entire experience of flying with it.

So from the end of this year, when you fly in the new Dreamliners (Boeing 787) to any international destination, you can order from a variety of international cuisines on these flights - and specifically the cuisine of the destination country.

Until now, international flights of Air India merely offered a 'Continental' meal on international flights. But now, if the flight is going to France, you can order a French meal on board; if you are landing in Germany, German cuisine would also be offered.

As of now, apart from the international meal, the airline offers only specific country cuisines from Japan and South Korea.

Another interesting change which will soon be visible on the Air India network is integration of the liquor served on domestic and international flights.

Yet another interesting change which will soon be visible on the Air India network is integration of the liquor served on domestic and international flights.

Until now, even when the erstwhile Air India and erstwhile Indian Airlines were merged way back in 2007, the drinks menu on the two sets of flights was different.

A senior airline official explained that the two erstwhile airlines had different SOPs (scheduled operators permit), different caterers and liquor suppliers so food and drinks were different for the two sets of flights. This is now being integrated.

"The amount of space available on a narrow body aircraft to store food is obviously less than that on a wide body. So choice of food and drinks is limited on the narrow body aircraft. But whatever is possible within this space limitation will be done," this official said.

Indian rules bar AI from serving liquor on domestic flights so the liquor menu change is applicable to those narrow body flights which fly to short or medium haul international routes.

And if you have been complaining about the dowdy dresses of the cabin crew on Air India flights, take heart. The airline has already roped in the National Institute of Fashion Technology to design crew dresses.

The official quoted earlier said this time, lady crew members would be given the option of wearing salwar-kurtas instead of only saris on the domestic leg.

"For the international leg, they are already allowed to wear kurtis with trousers and this will continue. We don't see any point in asking NIFT to look at skirts for lady crew members......the average age of our lady crew members is much more than those working in private airlines, where skirts are allowed," this official said.

He also pointed out that NIFT has been asked to give more than one choice of dress for the male crew members on AI flights.

The new dresses for cabin crew would be available from the summer schedule of 2013, which begins in March.