Well after 10 days or so of good times in India, it was time to head back to the good ol' US of A. (To read the amazingly awesome TR of my trip to India, click here). This time we would be routed NAG-DEL on 9W, then on the AA nonstop to ORD, then I'd catch my connection to OKC (through DFW) and my sis would continue on to DTW. I was looking forward to this as in all my years of flying to India, I'd never been to Delhi's airport, and DEL-ORD would trump DFW-NRT as my longest ever flight! Good times. Now let's just hope our flight out of NAG was ontime so we wouldn't be stranded in DEL, right?
No time to waste, so let's head to Wardha Road and over to NAG for departure. The Pride Hotel, right by the airport, is Nagpur's finest (it's where the cricket teams stay!):
Approaching NAG's new terminal:
Forget low fares - give me 9W any day! (on Indian domestic routes, anyway)
And after saying our goodbyes, we made it inside where Rahul checked us in. Everything at NAG is manual, so our bags were hand-tagged only to DEL, where we'd have to haul them to the Int'l terminal and re-check them in with AA. I'm still a bit paranoid about taking pics inside Indian airports, but here are the interior shots of NAG that I got:
Waiting area before security:
Small shops before security:
Now inside security, here's the waiting area from where all flights are called:
Soon enough, it was time to board 9W367 to DEL (I don't think this dude wanted to be on camera - haha)
Date: Thurs July 3, 2008
Flight: 9W 367
Equip: 737-700 (reg unknown)
Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes
Another shot while boarding:
Headed to the bus:
On the bus - that's our plane in the back the of the frame:
The monsoon was in full swing that night, so we had some umbrella assistance:
Looking up the staircase:
Inside the F cabin:
And from our seats:
The FAs brought 9W's special lime juice around before takeoff. A slight delay as we had to hold short for an arriving aircraft (I couldn't make it out unfortunately), and soon we were airborne, on our way to DEL. Dinner was served shortly after takeoff and I opted for the nonveg meal which was Chicken Curry and Dal Makhani with Yogurt and Mango custard for dessert:
This might have been the finest airline meal I had on this whole trip - which is saying something because I had quite a few airline meals! But it was just perfect. The chicken was so moist and tasty, and the main entree was perfectly complemented by the yogurt. The Mango custard was impeccable as well, slightly sweetened but not overly. Well done, 9W!
Well not more than 45 minutes later, we were on the ground in DEL. Got kind of nervous because we'd stopped by the transfer desk which is right by all the baggage carousels and found out that the shuttle to the Int'l terminal runs only hourly. Well we'd landed around 2135 and by the time we got inside the bag claim area it was around 2140. That gave us a cool 20 minutes to have our bags and be on the bus. Otherwise it would have been take a taxi as the AA flight was scheduled for a 12:15 departure. Well fortunately 9W's awesomeness came through again and our bags were out by 2145. Breathing a little easier, we made our way to the transfer desk again, but not before I took some pics:
The bag claim area:
More shots inside the domestic arrivals area:
The Int'l Terminal transfer desk:
Didn't catch any good views of the bus from outside, sorry. After 20 min or so, we reach the Int'l Terminal:
After snaking our way inside (it was hard to find out exactly where the entrances were - there were so many people outside!), we look around. I thought you know, there must be some way to find out where exactly we're supposed to check in. After wandering around aimlessly for a few minutes, we manage to find a white markerboard where in barely legible handwriting, there's a list of the flights and which row the check-in desks are located. Then we were able to locate the AA check-in area and proceed for check-in. Went pretty smoothly, but I was surprised at the intrusive questioning we got - much moreso than I remember from previous India departures. "What are you final destinations?" "What electronics do you have with you?" "Where did you buy them?" "How long have you owned them?" While checking in, I asked the agent if there were any pay-phones in the terminal since I hadn't seen any on the way in (our relatives in Nagpur just wanted to confirm that we'd gotten everything set for departure in DEL). She summoned an employee dressed in blue who would then tag along with us until we got to the pay phones, then walked us to immigration! I thought this was kind of annoying actually, as I'd wanted to take some pictures and such. Finally after reaching the area just before immigration, I told him "thanks - we can take it from here", and took the chance to get a few pics. Sorry - in my mild rush and boneheadedness I didn't get a pic of the AA area or the markerboard!
Finally inside the secure area, here are shots of DEL's boarding gate area. Apparently this is much nicer than it was before - I cringe at the thought of what it must have been like if this is "nicer!"
Departure screens - Interesting to see Mahan Air as I hadn't heard of them. Looked it up after coming back home and apparently they're banned in the EU - but not in India!
And our flight to ORD:
The world at your doorstep:
Boarding was about to begin any minute, so we proceeded to Gate 3, where in fact boarding had already begun. No microphone or PA system at our gate, so the poor agent had to scream over the voices of 300 Indians to make her announcements! Another annoying thing about this gate was that it afforded no view whatsoever of the aircraft, I mean none at all! Good old Indian airports right? So user-friendly!
Proceeded down the jetway for yet another security check and bag search! Man, I had NEVER gone through this much security before - is this standard practice at DEL now? They made me give up my big Aquafina bottle that I'd purchased at NAG before security - apparently making it through NAG security, the NAG-DEL flight, then DEL security isn't good enough. Slightly annoying. I mean, just a bit. But oh well, such are times these days I suppose. Soon after, we were on board the 772ER. I'd kind of looked forward to this flight because I thought the seats would be more comfortable than the 763 on the ORD-BRU flight, and thus would allow for much better rest and/or sleep. Too bad the seats on 9W's 77W had upped the standards for me, as this time I was actually a bit disappointed. Don't know why - when I'd flown DFW-NRT a few years back I thought AA's seats were perfectly adequate - but I guess the book has been re-written! In any case, it was a typical AA cabin, nothing spectacular but does the job. The PTVs are sure small as heck though, sheesh.
Directly over the wing again - oh great
The forward Y cabin:
AI 772LR parked next door:
Date: Friday July 4, 2008
Flight: AA 293
Equip: 777-200ER (reg unknown)
Duration: Approx 14 hrs 15 minutes takeoff to touchdown
Load: 100% in Y
Close to departure time, the captain came on the PA and announced that we'd had some airways closed, so they'd have to re-do the flight path and there would be a small delay until they sorted that out. Sat there for about 20 minutes past departure time, then pushed back, taxiied onto the runway. Sat there for a few minutes and the Captain came on again and said that "The winds had shifted" so we'd have to leave the runway so they could "re-assess things." Yikes - didn't know the winds at DEL could be this big a deal, or is it because our bird was so loaded down with fuel that they want to ensure maximum lift? Either way, we then taxiied off the runway and back close to the terminal, but not back to the gates. Caught the Mahan Air flight from my window, which at this point was over 2 hours late!
Well finally after another 15 minutes or so, we were ready for departure. Taxiied down to the other end of the runway, and after a long takeoff run, we were airborne. AA's 777s I guess still have the old-style moving map, which I don't mind one bit. Only 7477 miles from Chicago!
After takeoff, we head northwest over Punjab, then Pakistan:
Still showing a late arrival, but we'd make up this time in-flight:
Then we head north to the 'Stans and towards Siberia:
An hour or so into the flight, we were served "dinner." AA has dichotomized their meal choices into Veg (Indian) or Non-veg (non-Indian). After 2 straight weeks of Indian food, I was sort of ready for something in which butter and salt were the primary spices, so I settled for the non-veg meal which consisted of chicken and gravy, mashed potatoes, a chick pea salad, and a delectable brownie. Not bad, AA!
I thought it was strange that they served their largest meal right after takeoff though, Usually on flights out of India, custom is to serve a light snack after takeoff, and the larger meal before arrival in Europe - I wonder why AA does it this way? Right after the dinner service, FA's came by with a snack pack:
There was a candy bar inside the napkin too, a little bonus which I didn't find until several hours later And believe it or not, that was it for the FA's until the final meal service, about 2 hours before landing. Seriously this has to be the flight to work if you're an AA flight attendant - let's see - you work for about 2 hours after takeoff, take a 10 hour or so break (the hundreds of tea requests in the galley notwithstanding), then serve another meal? Not too shabby. I was pretty tired so I crashed for a few hours, or at least tried to, but AA's seats just didn't do the job, not after what I'd experienced on 9W. A few hours into the flight, my sister actually began feeling ill, so we told the FA's and they were kind enough to let me sit in their seats in the last row of the Y cabin so she could lay down for awhile. Tried to sample some of the AVOD, but the system just stunk. It's so counter-intuitive and user-unfriendly. Definitely not designed for use by a human being. It takes forever to respond, and when you finally do make it into whatever category you were trying to (say, TV Shows), then there's no titles or labels - just pictures to identify which show you're actually selecting, and the pictures are too small to really make out what it is they're actually showing! Really a pain in the @$$ to deal with. Finally I was able to select an episode of "The Office," so I was a bit satisfied until 20 minutes into the show when I got an error message, and my screen went blank for a minute, then returned to the homepage. Just great. This aircraft also had not been fitted (I don't think) with the "nearly on-demand" movie viewing. Fed up with it at this point, I just decided screw it, I'd rather just sleep or chill the rest of the flight anyway. Good thing we only had 10 or so hours to go! If you were dying to see it, here's a shot of AA's crappy IFE:
Their mini-me screens:
The rest of the flight went pretty smoothly really - I kept an eye on my sister, who really wasn't feeling so hot. The FAs were great though and made sure to let her cut in line to use the lav (which she needed to pretty often), and I made sure she stayed as hydrated as possible. After awhile though they became concerned because it was apparent that it would not be the best idea for her to take her onward flight to DTW. Our parents actually live in AZO, so we decided we'd try to explain to the agents on the ground at ORD her situation, and since it would take my parents a few hours to get to ORD, I'd see if I could get rebooked on a later flight to OKC so I could stay at ORD with her until my parents got there. The FA's also called for a wheelchair at ORD for her so that way she wouldn't have to walk so much. I wasn't sure what exactly she'd gotten sick from - since I was perfectly fine, but who knows. The FA's were used to this type of thing happening though and asked if we'd eaten at the Subway at DEL - apparently it's a common culprit! It was then that I thought - thank goodness we're booked on a nonstop - I don't think my sister would have been able to continue on another flight if we'd stopped in Europe, and that would have added another headache to the situation.
Well back to the photos - we took a polar route so that allowed for some cool viewing about halfway through, otherwise they kept the cabin dark.
This is what the cabin looked like for about 12 hours straight:
And creeping closer - 884 miles never seemed so close!
Finally an hour and a half or so before landing, the crew came by with breakfast, again dichotomized into Indian-Veg or Non-Indian-Non-Veg. This time I opted for the veg, which was a dosa-like-but-not-quite spinach crepe, potatoes, fruit, and a croissant:
It was bleh, like most other AA meals - the crepe was rather bland really - I was expecting it to taste at least a little "Indian", and the potatoes were pretty dry too. Oh well, good thing I don't have to live on this stuff!
And finally, Chicago is oh-so-near:
For what it's worth, we'd be arriving into M8:
They showed connecting gate information, here you can see the flight I was supposed to take to DFW. Interestingly, they didn't show the DTW flight that my sis was booked on. Ah well it wouldn't matter. Interesting to see that this flight had attracted people from all over the USA:
And now estimated to arrive at 5:24 - we made up 25 or so minutes from the initial projected arrival time:
And descending into ORD, couldn't really see anything, thanks to the wing, of course:
And taxiing to our gate at the Int'l Terminal M:
We waited for everyone else to deplane then went up front to wait for my sister's wheelchair. There were quite a few pax who needed assistance on my flight and we ended up waiting, so we took this chance to check out the F cabin - seems pretty nice!
I would have loved a chance to look into the cockpit but the pilots had already left - oh well
Finally her wheelchair came and we made it down to immigration, where the officer was friendly enough and seemed concerned and asked if we wanted some medical assistance. I assured him it was only a rough case of traveler's diarrhea, that I'd keep her hydrated, but thanks. However, he said he'd need to report this to the CDC, so he took all of our flight information, including where we'd stayed in India, which 9W flight we'd taken from NAG to DEL, what we'd eaten, and all that. My sister's a statistic of some sort!
After claiming our bags and escaping through customs, we went to the baggage re-check area where thankfully there were a few AA agents on duty - I explained the situation to them. Ordinarily it wouldn't have been that big a deal for my sis to no-show her DTW flight (we could have just told them over the phone, right?), but I wanted to see if I could get rebooked on a later flight to OKC. Initially the agent hesitated and insisted that I would have to go stand-by, but I politely nagged just enough, and she conceded that since it was July 4th, there were several open seats throughout the day. Finally she got me a confirmed seat on the 10 AM nonstop to OKC. Having taken care of that, we left the area and settled in for the 3 hour or so wait until our parents arrived to pick her up. I made my way upstairs to the McDonald's to get some powerade, but there were several AM flights leaving at this time, so it was quite a wait, but finally I was able to get some nourishment for us.
My parents didn't end up arriving soon enough, so I had to leave my sister before they got there to catch my connection to OKC - thankfully there was a very nice couple sitting close to us, and I just asked them if they could keep an eye on her for a few minutes, which they agreed to do. I wasn't too concerned because she was alright by this point - just very tired. Took a few pics of the arrivals area and the transit:
This was the first time I'd actually connected between Int'l and domestic flights at ORD (through Terminal M anyway), so I'd never actually been on the train before. Always exciting for an a.nutter I suppose
Terminal 3 from the outside:
and the train station:
Departure monitors inside Terminal 3:
Well folks if you were expecting to see pics of an exciting domestic segment to OKC, sorry to disappoint you, but this is where my camera died I know, tragic right? But in any case, I made it in plenty of time to AA 4286, and arrived intact into OKC, thus ending another awesome trip to India.
9W: The short leg to DEL was superb as usual - 9W really have their act together on the domestic circuit. Maybe their jets aren't pimped out like IT's with PTVs and all, but who cares? If you can't go 2 hours without TV, you have problems. Read a book! And unlike others who've commented about stuck-up attitudes among their cabin crew, I guess I got lucky - I didn't encounter any of that whatsoever.
AA: I gotta say, their cabin crew were just great on our flight, took great care of my sister, and were looking after us the whole time. Went out of their way to make sure we had arrangements on the ground and everything. Really superb. I made sure to send an email to AA letting them know how impressed we were. Really when I think about it though, AA's crew are really never the problem. Their product - well we know about their product, but you definitely can't fault their crew very often. Having taken the DEL-ORD flight, however, I have mixed opinions. If the few hours it would cost you to transit Europe really do mean that much, then I guess it's worth it. But as an a.nutter, I'd take an extra flight, airport, and segment anyday. Plus the chance to walk around, stretch the legs. It might be a little easier as far as jet-lag is concerned too. If I become a high-roller one day and can afford to fly F or J, then I don't think the nonstop would be a problem, but for now, I think I'll settle for connecting in Europe
As far as their meal service, I thought it was really strange that they served their largest meal right after takeoff. Wouldn't it make more sense to serve a light snack (who eats dinner at 1:30 AM), then serve a good breakfast 5-6 hours later? Or maybe they don't want to disturb the cabin during flight - but honestly who can sleep for that long in their Y cabin anyway? And overall, I don't think they serve enough - I think I definitely eat less than the average American, but I found myself going back to the galley and availing myself of the snacks, rolls, and chips quite often. Their IFE though - what a joke. I don't know what the deal with it was this time, as it had worked a lot better for me before. Ah well, I'd rather sleep or read a book anyway than squint to watch a 3 inch screen.
But overall, it was definitely a good trip. If I lived near a city that offered a nonstop to India, I'd think long and hard about taking it. It doesn't hurt to earn all those miles either! Oh, and I know I'm posting this TR a few weeks "late", but if there are any 9W or AA insiders who can help me out with the regs of my aircraft, that would be great!!!
Well as a bonus, here are some pictures of aamchi Nagpur:
My home away from home, haha:
The new VCA Cricket Stadium - should be done by the fall - hopefully!
the Starbucks of India:
Deeksha Bhoomi - this is where BR Ambedkar (who NAG's airport is named after) led a mass conversion to Buddhism:
My aunt spoke at an Indian Menopause Society Conference so I went to see it for a bit:
A shopkeeper gave them a bath, then chased them away with a stick - lol:
The world's greatest snack shop (no, not Haldiram's):
Cricket on my aunt's farm - I hit this for 6!
Nagpur Railway Station - I took a daytrip to Durg (Chhatisgarh) to see a friend from undergrad:
My friend's rice mill in Durg:
Well that'll about do it - as always thanks for reading!!! Sorry it took me so long to get this TR up - hope you guys enjoyed though. Be sure to leave me some comments!
[Edited 2008-07-26 18:50:33]