The shrill alarm of my cellphone woke me up at an ungodly 4AM. After getting ready in thirty minutes, Ojas and I dumped our bags into the “cargo hold” of our waiting cab, and were on our way to the airport. It took us not more than twenty minutes to reach the Domestic Terminal 1A of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. It is such a pleasure to drive on Mumbai roads at night or early morning, when there is no traffic. The same journey can easily take an hour and fifteen minutes or sometimes even more during the day!
I had checked in over the Internet the previous evening, and had my printed boarding pass with me. Ojas managed to check-in within two minutes courtesy the “roving Kingfisher check-in agent” My King Club Gold status allows me and a companion lounge access, so we decided to visit the Kingfisher lounge. Kingfisher’s obsession with red can be seen here as well, as the lounge had red leather sofas all around. The lounge itself was a small affair, and was virtually deserted at that hour.
The snack menu was disappointing with only cupcakes and cookies on offer. I guess there must be hardly a few visitors to the lounge that early in the morning. As we were finishing our snack, I received a call from Karan, who had finished check-in. After clicking a couple more pictures of the lounge, we headed out towards Security Check, where we met Karan. The security check was done within five minutes, and we proceeded towards Gate No. 6, which is at the extreme end of the Terminal.
Boarding started at around 0605, and looking at the number of people in the queue, we knew that it was going to be a light load. Once inside, we were greeted by a smiling Kingfisher FA. IT had six FAs for the all economy configuration A319. Boarding was completed pretty quickly and we awaited pushback clearance.
Air India A319 parked next to us:
We pushed back just as the Gulf Air A332 in the golden Formula One c/s exited Runway 27. Earlier, we were debating which runway would we use for take-off. Ojas was hoping they would use Rwy 14 as he had never taken off from that runway. Unfortunately, we taxied straight on towards A4, and Mumbai’s favourite spotting location, and held short of Runway 27. To add insult to injury, a Jetlite 737 took off from Runway 14! Ah well, maybe next time Ojas The take-off run was quick and powerful and we lifted off in no time into the hazy morning sky.
The weather was fine, and there was hardly any turbulence as we banked to the left and headed towards HYD.
The load on this early morning service to HYD was quite low at around 50%
The crew started the breakfast service, and I opted for the non-vegetarian meal. This was followed by a round of tea and coffee, and I chose the latter.
The IFE was quite nice, and had live TV powered by the Dish TV network. However, I chose to track the progress of the flight on the moving map.
The weather remained fine throughout, with a sprinkling of white clouds in between.
Soon, we started our descent into HYD, and made a complete 180 degree U turn to line up with Runway 27.
As soon as we touched down, the spanking new Rajiv Gandhi International Terminal came into view. Here is a view of the terminal with a company A321 taxiing towards its gate:
We finally docked at an aerobridge, right next to the above mentioned A321.
Looking at the terminal, as we waited to de-plane, I was impressed, and could not wait to see it from inside. I did not have to wait long, as I walked out of the aircraft, and into the Domestic Arrivals section.
Here is a look at the baggage claim area:
Impressed with the overall design and aesthetics of the terminal, we made our way towards the exit and the Airport Village.
Spotting at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Shamshabad (HYD/VOHS):
After visiting the Charminar, and “Eat Street” at the Husain Sagar lake, we decided to head back to the airport for some more spotting. We called for one of the “Easy Cabs”, which are available in plenty. At exactly the right time, the cab picked us up and we began our hour long drive to the airport. The traffic was slow moving, especially near the Lakdi-ka-Pul railway station, but got better as we started moving towards the outskirts of the city.
Again, as I had checked-in on the Web, and had my boarding pass printed, this was no hassles at all. I got the lounge invite printed – it was an invite to the publicly accessible “IIFA Buzz Café” The only difference was that with an invite, you could enjoy a snack and a drink free! I wish the new airports at HYD and BLR quickly open their respective airline lounges.
Snacks at the lounge:
We spent a good two hours in the lounge, looking at the various departures. The departure area of HYD airport is again, pretty well designed with plenty of options for food and drink.
At around 2045, we proceeded to Gate 25F, which was two levels below. This meant that our aircraft would not be docked at an aerobridge, and we would be bussed to the aircraft. There weren’t too many people at the gate, which gave us an idea about the load on our flight.
Boarding was called for, and passengers seated at the rear were asked to board first. Now, I was seated in the second last row, and so boarded the bus. Along with me, around 15 odd passengers boarded. Within 5 minutes, Karan and Ojas boarded too, which meant that boarding for the front half of the aircraft was also called for.
Karan then told me that there were only 52 passengers on the flight, translating into a load factor of only 35 percent!!! As we drove to our aircraft, Ojas punched his fists triumphantly, as he saw the registration. It was VT-KFH, which meant that Ojas would be completing Kingfisher’s entire fleet of A319s. Small statistics for some, but it means a lot for us aviation nuts!
The boarding process was over quickly, and we waited for our turn for pushback. The crew handed out the menus and the downgraded “amenity kits”.
I was happy sitting at the rear of the aircraft with the entire row of seats to myself. In fact, the poor load on this flight meant, that one could pick and choose a seat if one wished.
At exactly 2118, we pushed back. The glass and steel terminal of the HYD airport was a sight to watch in the night. There wasn’t any traffic ahead of us, and we quickly made our way to Runway 27. After a brief halt of 10 seconds on the runway, we throttled up and pulled away into the night sky.
There was absolutely no turbulence, and the seat-belt signs were quickly switched off. The crew came out quickly with the meal trollies and began the dinner service.
I chose the Non-Vegetarian meal consisting of rotis, butter chicken, dal, rice, salad and Gulab jamuns.
The dinner service was followed by a round of tea/coffee, but being quite full, decided against it.
The captain made an announcement over the PA system at around 2205, mentioning that we were around 120 nautical miles off Mumbai, but we would be holding for some time due to the usual air traffic congestion at BOM, and we should expect to land at around 2300hrs.
We passed Pune, and started a nice, big loop somewhere to the north of the city. At that time, I could imagine Ojas getting restless, and wishing we would land in his hometown – Pune rather than carry on to BOM
After circling over Pune, we approached Mumbai from the south, and made a nice pass over the city. I could make out all the famous city landmarks, and also my own building and street, before we banked right and proceeded towards Navi Mumbai to line up for landing.
We passed through some really heavy turbulence as we passed through low, dense monsoon clouds. We landed at exactly 2305 on a wet runway 27 and exited right in front of the Terminal 1A.
But our journey was far from over, as we continued taxiing towards the International Terminal, and finally parked at a remote bay right opposite to Terminal 2A. I could see an Etihad A320 taxiing out as we came to a halt.
We then boarded a bus to begin a 10 minute ride to the Domestic Terminal 1A. Along the way, I saw an Air France 772 land and taxi past us. I was extremely tired at the end of a very long but exciting day and was happy to be back home.
All in all, it was a pretty good experience on Kingfisher; their in-flight service being one of the best in the Indian skies. Hope you enjoyed the report and also the sights at the new Hyderabad International Airport.