IrishAyes From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 1727 posts, RR: 6 Posted (2 years 10 months 1 week 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 27580 times:
Well, unless I am wrong, this is probably the first trip report for Continental’s nonstop service between Delhi and Newark, and will also probably be the last report featuring a flight originating in Terminal 2 of Indira Ghandhi Int’l Airport in Delhi. As many of you know, the long-awaited, state of the art Terminal Three opens later this month. You can read more about it here.
Today we were traveling from Delhi to Dallas/Ft. Worth via Newark on Continental.
Flight Info: Continental Airlines, Flight 83
New Delhi Indira Gandhi Int’l (DEL) to Newark Liberty (EWR)
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Scheduled Departure Time: 22:50 PM
Actual Departure Time: 23:06 PM
Scheduled Arrival Time: 04:25 AM
Actual Arrival Time: 04:11 AM
Flying time: approximately 14 hours and 35 minutes
Aircraft: Boeing 777-224(ER)
Registration: N77019 (Larry Kellner)
Delivered: March 7, 2007
This was my 7th time to fly out of Delhi on an intercontinental flight. Previously, I have flown mostly Lufthansa via Frankfurt to DFW, thereby departing at peak hour (i.e. midnight or shortly afterward, when the majority the Europe-bound flights leave). Since we were traveling on the nonstop flight to the States on this occasion, we would be leaving at an earlier time – allowing us to clear all formalities whilst dealing with a significantly lower volume of traffic passing through the airport. However, I will readily admit that during previous journeys, I quite always enjoyed the “energy,” of the terminal atmosphere during rush hours when it felt like ten flights were leaving all at once from Delhi to locations worldwide.
Arrival at IGI
We were dropped off outside T2 around 8:30 PM. As usual, the exterior of T2 was teeming with too many cars and abounding with various odors as millions of people, relatives, drivers and the like were present to drop off departing passengers. This is something commonplace to frequent travelers to India – and in a peculiar way, almost a comforting and nostalgic sight to the eye. It serves a dual purpose: it reinforces the value of kinship because everybody from the family will come to the airport see you off, and also it serves as a reminder about how seriously overpopulated and chaotic the country is.
Incredible India, indeed – it is a mob scene, full of honking cars, traffic jams, children running amuck, families wheeling overstuffed suitcases, loiterers, occasional vagrants, and three to four uniformed guards who walk around attempting to establish some order in midst of the anarchy. Such a sight is a very real representation of what will greet you the second you step out of the terminal upon arrival in India, as well as be the very last sight that bids you farewell upon your departure on your way out - a natural means of due diligence for every visitor to India, both new and returning.
Check-In and Interior Views
The interior of the check-in area of Delhi airport has improved significantly over the past few years. In order to control the volume of people inside the terminal, now only ticketed passengers are allowed to enter even the baggage-check area of the building. Hopefully, that will change with the new T3, in order to allow the public (i.e. aviation nuts like ourselves) inside the non-sterile area to scope it out.
I always like the “classic” flight information display marquee that contains departure and arrival data in the retro, spin-roll motion encased in a glass frame. You’ll probably never find it in the US, but I did manage to see one in Frankfurt airport and again here at Delhi, as seen in this photo. Based on the data shown according to the marquee, the lineup this evening would kick off with a few flights to the Middle East, with Continental’s departure to Newark next, followed by a series of flights to Southeast Asia, then the American nonstop flight to Chicago, and finally the European “bank” to the big league hub airports like CDG, AMS, FRA, LHR, ZRH, etc.
What I particularly found interesting was that the Uzbekistan Airways flight to Tashkent was open to Security and Check-in long before its scheduled departure time – in fact, with a lot more allocated time to clear formalities than the rest of the airlines. Do any readers know the reason for this? Security perhaps?
Continental’s check-in area was located towards the far right hand side of the terminal marked “H.” The check-in staff was, well, not quite the brightest. Continental offers online check-in and quick bag drop for a reason – to expedite the process. We had done just that, but the ground agents walking around on foot kept redirecting us towards the normal check-in line, despite the fact that there was a clearly marked, “web check-in” line designated for savvier travelers like ourselves.
After several explanations, including showing our official, printed passes, we managed to convince them that we knew what we were doing. They still felt the need to recite the rules that we had already agreed to on the computer hours before. Moreover, we continued to stand in “quick bag drop” line, which ended up taking longer than the normal check-in. The lady stationed at the counter was about as sharp as a butter knife and in our case, took about 10 minutes to take care of the three of us.
Not good – this only added to my beliefs that outsourcing in India still has a pretty high failure rate despite common notion.
Immigration and Security Check
Immigration formalities were a breeze – we presented our visas and various documents and then proceeded to the secure area. Fortunately for us, the line was short – but my relief was short-lived upon discovering the appalling manner in which IGI conducts security screenings. Here’s how the frightening process works:
You approach one podium-seated agent, who checks your boarding pass and passport, using the flashlight, etc, and then forwards you to a detector where you are to place your articles on a belt to pass through the screen. Fairly normal, right?
Wrong. After depositing your belongings, you are sent to a SEPARATE line to walk through a SEPARATE detector for body screening. Not only is it a good 20 feet way from where you placed your belongings, but the two locations are hidden from sight from each other by opaque glass dividers, including a private area designated for women needing to undergo additional screening.
So, in a nutshell, you send your stuff through one machine, walk through a separate detector that is completely disconnected from the one where you set your stuff, and if additional screening elapses, not only are your belongings sitting idle on the end of the first belt; they are completely out of your sight and you may go 5-10 minutes without seeing them.
Once you complete the body scan you can proceed to cross your fingers and shout a few Hail Mary’s that your phone/wallet/laptop/carry-on etc. hasn’t been claimed by somebody else during this inane separation tactic. In my opinion, not only does this open one up to getting their stuffed taken, but also it’s a pretty poor security standard. What if they need to conduct a bag search? How can they find the owner if they’re stuck in a separate line or being searched 30 feet away?
Aside from that fiasco, we entered into the main departure concourse at IGI, and it’s about as drab and dull as it has been for the past life it has enjoyed. The waiting areas by the jet ways provide semi-comfortable seats, but there aren’t enough for everyone to sit comfortably. The glass on the windows are not viewer/spotter-friendly and do not really allow passengers to see much outside the terminal.
Concession locations are…there, but I do not believe there are many, if any, restaurant or sit-down establishments. Most of them are express eateries, but I have made it a habit to avoid eating at any of them to prevent stomach illness before I journey 24 hours by air back to the states (I speak from experience - the Subway shop in the corner looks particularly menacing).
Duty Free shopping left much to be desired – actually, there really wasn’t ANYTHING left to shop…other than booze and cigarettes. No fragrances, jewelry, gifts, chocolates – basically, with the new terminal opening soon, most likely what was left was part of an exhaustive process to clear out the shelves, and not much remained. What was the point?
I discovered a swanky lower-level departures area for Gates 1 and 2 accessible by escalator, which featured a very inviting Kingfisher Bar that looked slow for business tonight. I assume that this part of the terminal provides bus/shuttle services to certain aircraft parked remotely on the apron, most likely servicing 9W, AI, and IT flights.
I roamed around for hardly 20 minutes before the tedious boarding process began. We were seated in row 19, so we had to wait a fair amount of time to allow the passengers seated behind us to board. After collecting our passes, we had to undergo an additional security screening in the jetway – something that I think all passengers traveling directly to the US from Asia and Europe have to undergo, right? (Correct me if I am wrong).
Again, I was disgusted with the dismal security standards at IGI. After my backpack went through the check, the agent picked it up and threw, yes, actually threw it five feet down the rack. I elected, instead of opening my mouth to shout at the ignorant jerk, to instead stand in place, not moving and starting back at him until he caught my eye, and I proceeded to shake my head at him. I spoke with my scowling face and pointed at my bag, in order to indicate – “that is not how you treat other people’s property.” He got the message, and looked scared, and then looked away to return to his job (and hopefully not with a repeat performance).
I have little to no power in situations like these, and I’ve learned that causing a scene (even despite your innocence) only flags you for trouble. So, I guess by being passive aggressive, I still could make a point.
Well, the bag had been tossed anyway because it had to be searched - I had bought two water bottles for 10 rupees (about 25 cents each) for the long flight in the sterile area – it didn’t occur to me that we would be re-screened. Oh well. Those were dumped, after I had to wait for the agent to spend five minutes pawing through the box of almonds belonging to the guy in front of me who was also being searched. Idiotic.
Finally, we boarded – and entered into an immaculately clean 777-200ER aircraft, which I would later discover was named “Larry Kellner” after deplaning in EWR. It was hardly 3 years old in age. The cabin appeared fresh and roomy, and the seat was very comfy. Pillows and blankets were already in place, and the IFE screen was all-fired up and ready for use. The first thing that I noticed upon boarding was that none of the cabin members were of Indian descent – something I found interesting. In addition, other than the safety demonstration video, which had Hindi subtitles, NONE of the announcements during the duration of the flight were made in Hindi/Punjabi, etc. The entire crew was American and English-speaking. The passenger make-up, however, was probably 80-90% South Asian, with a few foreigners, most likely American tourists and a few business travelers. I would speculate that the Indian passengers were probably a 50/50 split between Indian nationals and US citizens of Indian descent traveling for VFR purposes, based on the immigration lines at Newark.
Load factor was 90%+, although not entirely full. Leg room was pretty comfortable (for somebody around 6 feet tall). Pitch was standard 32 inches, and fortunately the IFE boxes towards the front of the seat in front of you, so you could stretch your legs out reasonably before your toes would hit them. I found this much more preferable than having them on the sides, which is far more uncomfortable.
There was a pretty big gap between the window panels and the edge of the seat cushion, which could make it difficult for sleeping – so I’d suggest bringing a larger pillow for those who like to utilize the window for sleeping. The neck pillow, by the way, is a fantastic $15 investment, which I highly recommend for those wanting to sleep on planes.
The flight attendants walked around offering complimentary newspapers for passengers, with the selection of either USA Today or the Times of India. Nice touch – something I hadn’t seen often on long-haul flights in coach post 9/11.
Pushback and Take-off
We pushed back from the jetway with a few minutes to spare, and from the window I saw the American 777-200 parked, bound for Chicago, along with an MAS A330-200 to Kuala Lumpur, Thai 777-200 to Bangkok, and a Singapore 77W to Singapore Changi.
Much to my dismay, and beyond my control, this ticket was booked on the night of the World Cup final. I knew ahead of time that we would not be able to watch the game live at all. Prior to pushback, the captain spoke and assured that they would make periodic announcements at halftime and after the final to update us on the score.
As the safety demonstration feature was shown on the individual screens, I noticed the flight attendants standing still near the LCD monitors close to the galleys – something I had never seen before, even on the likes of Lufthansa and British Airways. I found this to be very professional and reassuring – in a corny way, taking the passenger’s safety as a serious manner or something of the sort? Nice gesture – keep it up.
As we taxied towards the runway, I saw the arrivals of a KLM MD-11 from AMS, an AF A330 from CDG, and a BA 777 from LHR. I also noticed that all of the widebody flights belonging to Kingfisher, Air India, and Jet Airways were parked remotely from the terminal and accessed by stairwells on the apron – anyone know if this is normal protocol – and is linked with the lower level gates 1 and 2?
Take-off was very powerful, and as we ascended, I got to experience a nice lightening show from the thunderstorms in the clouds adjacent to our flight. Regardless, we glided along smoothly until we reached our cruising altitude. Service announcements were then made: immediately we would be receiving dinner, followed by duty free – which would be available until breakfast/brunch – which would be served an hour and a half prior to arrival at Newark. After the dinner trays were collected, “snack bags” would be distributed containing 100% vegetarian items to be consumed at the passengers’ convenience for the middle portion of the flight.
Anyways, I relaxed in my seat enjoying an episode of Two and a Half Men, and awaited the meal service. Dinner trays were distributed rather abruptly, typical U.S.-based carrier style, without really receiving much of a smile or friendly greeting like you would get on foreign carriers. Still, this wasn’t first class, and I presume the cabin attendants just wanted to harry through the process so that everybody on board to get on to other things. The trade-off was that passengers received their meals and drinks quickly so that they (and the flight attendants as well I guess) could settle down for the long, night flight. The first round of drinks was served alongside the meal – and as usual, cocktails, beer and wine were only available for purchase at $6 USD. While this might be irksome for many, I secretly was glad – some Indians have a notorious habit of taking it to the extreme with the boozing on the European airlines when complimentary liquor is available, so this helped keep things at bay.
Choices were, the usual, “Veggie or non-veggie.” My younger brother and I agreed to order one of each and trade/share if we weren’t satisfied with our selections, so I requested the Vegetarian choice.
The main course itself really was quite tasty, and consisted of a mixture of Achari Paneer (paneer is an Indian cheese with a tomato/yoghurt curry-sauce) basmati rice pilaf, and a vegetable medley with tomatoes, green peppers, onion, okra and cumin gravy.
Alongside it we received an Indian salad with tomato, cucumber, and dressing, along with a nice spicy lentil and potato salad that was quite flavorful. Additional items included a semi-soft dinner roll with butter (an awful spread - do NOT use the Annul brand), Dahi (plain yoghurt) and a macadamia-nut cookie.
However, I was really impressed that CO went all-out with the accompaniments. We received Achar mango-pickle (Indians and Indian-food enthusiasts know what this delicious stuff can do to enhance your meal) along with a wrapped sweet, which although I had never tried before, seemed to a Mysore pak – which is made of ghee, sugar, and chick pea flour.
We also received a nice little packet of Paan/Supari, which is a mouth-freshener that contains a mixture of Areca nut, betel, cardamom, and sugar. This can either be chewed and spat or swallowed. Finally, there was a moist towel to cleanse the hands, and a toothpick. There were metal cutlery as well.
I did manage to see what the non-vegetarian offering was, and it appeared to be a Chicken breast with some sort of sauce, mixed vegetables, mushrooms, and mashed potatoes – standard items you would receive in a main course on an Economy-class meal.
You can ordinarily rely on the first meal on an ultra-long haul flight to be relatively hard to screw up, since it is pretty fresh out of preparation. This one did the trick – it was nice, filling, and the extras were a nice bonus – Continental really did their homework on this one, and I was reasonably satisfied.
After dinner trays were collected, an announcement was made about the snack service, and soon the “bags” were distributed. In them was a squashed vegetable sandwich, which I did not even bother to try (it looked like a slice of tomato wedged in between a hot-dog bun that had sat out in the sun for hours), along with some Masala chips, a kit-kat bar, and a bottled water.
And after this service, folks, that was pretty much the last I saw of the flight attendants for the next 10 hours.
In-Flight Entertainment (IFE)
Back on the ground, while we waited for boarding to complete, I browsed the IFE system and was extremely impressed by the selections Continental offered – over 197 AVOD films – by far the most I had ever seen on an airplane. The choices are excellent as well and definitely provide something for everybody. What I really liked was that they offered film series as well – i.e. one could watch all three Bourne films, The Godfather Parts I-III, Kill Bill, all of the Harry Potter books, etc. Films were also available in a multitude of languages with subtitles or dubbed, and I also noticed a healthy selection of Bollywood/Filmi selections available as well along with some other national favorites.
The short programming options were awesome – I did not browse the entire selection, since I do not really watch TV, so I stuck with exploring whether my favorite shows like The Simpsons, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Family Guy were offered, which they were – and in some cases, with as many as up to five episodes each per sitcom! This is great – perfect if you have a short attention span with TV or if you just want to watch something light in between/before/after sleeping without getting into a heavy/lengthy film.
In addition, the music selections were extensive, and allowed one to build their own “Jukebox” playlist from a variety of genres. There were also games, but I neglected to explore them, opting instead for the other provisions.
When it comes to comparing touch screens amongst various airlines, Continental’s is the best. Until now, I had always thought that LAN had the best offering (I’ve never had the fortune of traveling on EK or SQ), but I think CO even tops LAN. Their system is extremely very user-friendly and intuitive. Unlike Air Canada’s, it takes little to no time to load, and you can always depend on the selection being available and quick to fast-forward, pause, rewind, etc. The sound quality and appearance was far superior to the likes of Lufthansa (which I flew on the outbound journey, and will elaborate in a separate TR), so that I could actually hear the dialogue, using my own headsets. Also, I didn’t need to tamper with the volume control often, something I have found commonplace on other carriers to make sure I am not too loud.
Overall, full marks to CO in this department!
Flight routing and happenings
Our flight path today seemed like it would take us north into the Indo-Pak border, where we would snake around Lahore and Islamabad and fly directly over Kabul in Afghanistan. Then we would veer northwest over Uzbekistan, crossing over the Aral Sea, then continuing northwest over Moscow and Helsinki.
About three hours into the flight, I had finished my first film and then put on my eye shades, hoping to get some rest by falling asleep by around 2 AM local Delhi time. Here, I took advantage of the IFE system and built a “jukebox” play-list with some good old Duran-Duran, Jackson-5, Michael Jackson, Dire-Straights, and soporific Enya (random, I know) and I surprised myself by basically crashing for the next 5 to 6 hours, which was splendid.
I do not think I stirred once during that period, and the jukebox kept playing on loop. Believe me, I am not one to sleep on airplanes, especially long-haul flights. So, this was great.
I awoke a little after 7:30 AM local time for Delhi, with a little less than 7 hours of flight time remaining. I was happy with how quickly it seemed like the flight was progressing. By now, we were off the coast of Norway and there was a beautiful view outside the plane of the sun. It was probably around 2 or 3 AM in whichever region we were in, but being so far north in the summer season, with longer days, the sun was visible. This was quite extraordinary, as we would experience nightfall in just a few hours time.
Unfortunately, I dislike how the shape/angle of the 777 wing doesn't really allow great viewing outside of the plane.
I spent the next three hours or so rotating between dozing in and out of sleep, listening to music, or watching episodes of my favorite TV shows. At one point, I got up to stretch my legs (having an unnecessary DVT-phobia at my age). I walked to the rear of the cabin where the flight attendants had closed off the aft galleys, hidden from sight and they were chatting away loudly in a large group. Near the lavatories (which were very clean btw), an area had been set up where passengers could help themselves to water and juices at their convenience.
Around the four-hour mark, we crossed on the outer edge of Greenland and began our downward crawl into North America. Shortly after leaving the icy landmass, it became pitch-black outside and we returned to nightfall – which was quite an interesting phenomenon given the contrast we had just experienced with the sun over Scandinavia.
Four hours turned into three hours which became two, and time was dropping away quickly. The cabin lights were still dim, but most people were awake by this point, fully accustomed to it being around 11 AM Delhi time in accordance with their body clocks. I concluded another film and started a third before Customs and I-94 cards were distributed. Last calls for duty free were made before the lights slowly came on and the carts were rolled up the aisles for breakfast service.
Again, options were divided between vegetarian and non-veg meals and were distributed alongside the coffee/juices/tea service. As with dinner, everything was handed out rather quickly and brusquely, and commenced with about 90 minutes prior to arrival.
I initially ventured to test-out the non-veg option. The main course consisted of scrambled eggs, grilled mushrooms and cherry tomato, and roasted potato wedges. There was a fruit tray consisting of pineapple, papaya, honeydew melon, and watermelon, along with a croissant with jam/butter, a rather bland and dry muffin, and regular Dahi yoghurt, the same that had been served at dinner. As with the previous meal, the presentation also included Supari (mouth-freshener), toothpick/towel/real cutlery. Much appreciated.
Well, despite my bravery for the non-veg, the Eggs were just ghastly, and I knew that if I consumed them I would exhaust the air-sick bag in the seat pocket in front of me. So, I swapped with my younger brother, and instead consumed the vegetarian option.
This offering took me some time to figure out exactly what it was, but I soon determined that it was a few slices of regular parantha (whole-wheat Indian flatbread) with mattar wali tikki, (a seared potato, green pea and herb patty) and aloo rasmissa (potatoes in a yogurt tomato sauce). The food was hot and tasty – despite the initial ambiguity of what was on the tray, I still ate everything in it, and must say that it was probably far superior to the eggs. I was happy, and didn’t feel the need to supplement this with a breakfast on the ground after arrival in Newark. As I mentioned earlier, the first meal in an ULH is pretty hard to screw up, but the second one can be hit or miss – I mean, it’s been HOURS since it was cooked, so you can’t really predict how it will taste.
Once the trays were cleared, the crew began preparing the cabin for arrival into Newark. Trays were cleared quickly (as had been the case with dinner – much appreciated) and soon the lights of upstate New York appeared. I walked to the aft of the cabin to use the lavatory one more time and was pretty shocked to see how filthy it had become over the course of the flight – quite the opposite of the state it had appeared in when I had passed through at mid-point seven hours prior. There were plastic cups, crumbs, wrappers, napkins, all KINDS of garbage just strewn throughout the aisles. Now, I mean, I know that Indians tend to be fairly messy eaters, and there were a few young kids and toddlers on board, but I had never seen anything quite like this in all of my years of flying, especially since the cabin had been so immaculately clean when we had boarded.
Perhaps this is what happens on an ultra-long haul flight. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be caught in one of those nightmare situations where passengers are stranded on board a grounded plane for 3 hours +. I mean, the sight I saw pales in comparison to what some people have experienced (my condolences) but now I have a greater sense of conscience to what it must be like.
Descent into and landing in sleepy Newark was smooth and the airport was fully dark as we taxied to gate number 121 in the C Concourse. Upon disembarking and ascending the escalators to head towards passport control, I did notice the “Larry Kellner” titillation on the fuselage, and attempted to snap a better-quality photo of the a/c than what I could have meagerly accomplished back in Delhi.
IrishAyes From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 1727 posts, RR: 6 Reply 1, posted (2 years 10 months 1 week 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 27383 times:
Our arrival time was approximately 4:13 AM local hour, and the terminal was more or less dead, most of the aircraft still parked away from the gates snoozing through the night. It was great to see the American flag before heading to the immigration line, but also mean that I had to be discreet with my camera from this point forward. It looked like the Delhi flight was the first of a slew of international arrivals from all around the world: flights incoming from Bombay/Mumbai, Lima, Tel Aviv, Port of Spain, and Sao Paulo – would all be arriving shortly after our flight. Clearing immigration was quick and we proceeded to the claim area.
Interestingly, we received an announcement in the baggage claim area about our flight that due to the high volume of luggage checked on this flight, there would be TWO carrousels used to retrieve luggage – again, something I had yet to experience in my flying history. Supposedly, this cut down claim time by almost an hour, according to the individual making the announcement. How bizarre.
Fortunately, no luggage was lost – and we proceeded to the transfer desk and printed our boarding passes for our onward flight to Dallas from the automated kiosk. We breezed through security and headed to our gate. While waiting, I took some nice snaps of the sunrise over downtown Newark, Midtown and Lower Manhattan.
Mid-town and Lower Manhattan
Onward flight to DFW
It was hardly a 90 minute wait before we boarded our flight to DFW, which was full. Interestingly, the Elite passengers who received priority boarding seemed to comprise nearly half of the flight – which isn’t surprising for an early Monday morning departure between two huge business cities.
FLIGHT: Continental #1131
Departure time: 07:00 AM (EST)
Arrival Time: 09:30 AM (CST)
Duration: 3h and 10 mins
The flight to Dallas itself was pretty uneventful – it was a 737-700 series that had been equipped with Direct TV, available for $6. Well, I wasn't feeling tired enough to sleep, but certainly not awake enough to read my book, so I hedged my decision on whether or not to pay for it based upon if we would receive a free breakfast or not, which ended up being the case after an announcement was made shortly after take-off.
So, I went ahead and swiped my credit card, and enjoyed the benefits of the DirecTV. I was able to watch the World Cup highlights on ESPN and catch up on all the news and chatter about everything from the MLB to LeBron, much needed dosages after spending two weeks outside of the US. The system works great! Lots of good options, definitely enough to keep you entertained for a long flight, and well worth the small fee.
Breakfast consisted of the typical Total cereal with milk and a banana. Really, really nice gesture by Continental.
I relaxed the rest of the flight watching a re-cap of the game and some classic Frasier episodes while enjoying the view outside. We had some pretty awful turbulence (actually, I like turbulence so I found this exciting) pretty much several times through the entire 3hr. 10 minute stretch of the flight. Regardless, I captured some pleasant photos of cloud formations. It may just be me, but I am a sucker for looking outside and seeing the winglets against the exterior views of the aircraft - it is just such a relaxing and pleasant sight!
Before long, views of the lakes north of DFW airport became visible and we had begun our descent into the Big D. I noticed that the landscape from the air appeared significantly greener, which makes sense given all the rain that seems to have fallen throughout the past few weeks. Touchdown was on the remote runway but taxi, deplaning, and baggage collection was quick and smooth.
Overall impressions, afterthoughts, and remarks:
I’ll focus primarily on the international segment of this journey as it is the most pertinent:
I have long been skeptical about the nonstop flights from North America to India because I have always been accustomed to “breaking up” the journey mid-point in Europe and never found this to be too tedious – but I must now admit that I have switched loyalties. The nonstop flight on Continental is the way to go, especially if you are New York/East Coast-based and your final destination is Delhi or Mumbai.
Here are my top reasons:
Timing: the flights depart and arrive at a time that suits your body clock and helps you combat jetlag with greater ease, not to mention cuts out hours of lost time due to a connection or caused by potential delays, the odds increasing with each additional segment you take on.
Onboard service: is absolutely sufficient. The catering is good and plentiful. The IFE options are superb and are bound to keep you entertained for the entire flight (power ports are also available for charging laptops and working).
Rest: The aircraft and cabins are clean and roomy. The seats are comfortable with decent lumbar support. Because it is longer in duration, it is bound to fall at least at some point within your regular sleeping cycles, so you will be able to get in at least 5-6 hours of decent snooze. Granted, that is not much, but you will be surprised at how much this can energize you for the long journey and ease the burden somewhat, and you will feel satisfied. And here’s a tip: buy the neck pillow!
Ease: Transfers on either side are quick. Even for us, living in Texas (which is NOT close to the eastern seaboard). We were back home by 10 AM. Had we flown Lufthansa, it would have been closer to 4 PM.
Well, IGI T2 continues to suck despite marginal facility renovations – the ground handling and security screening were enough to cause a stress test – but let’s pray that those things will be disappear when T3 opens up, so I’ll keep that commentary minimal.
Don’t be daunted by the thought of spending 15 hours in a pressurized tube – you’ll discover that it’s far worth it based on how much time you save. If you can do without the free booze, and are fairly capable of traveling without needing to rely on a Hindi-fluent crew, then there’s nothing to fear. Perhaps consider working out/exercising or doing Yoga on the day of your flight so that you can rest easier, or a travel-sickness pill after you eat dinner on-board.
I have little to say to Continental other than a job very well done, I was thoroughly impressed overall. Dealing with Indian airports is beyond their control, but the airline service itself more than made up for it. Perhaps some areas of improvement could include:
• Better training of their grounds crew in Delhi. It seems like they really didn’t know how to operate the check-in process very smoothly. Rarely is it a good sign when the passenger has to tell the agent how they should do their job in compliance with company policy. This, of course, is irrelevant if the ground staff is outside contractors, which wouldn’t surprise me.
• Catering was fine, but maybe it couldn’t hurt to offer complimentary beer and wine with the meal service on the long-haul flights in coach. I mean, it’s not a huge concern, but Delta and Air Canada allow it, and offering it during meal services seems to help keep it light, but I digress.
• The mid-flight snack service was a little sub-par. Maybe serving something hot/light like a chicken sandwich or maybe a Samosa or two would be better?
• Face to face interaction with the customers could have been a little more personal and friendly. Only because this would help you be more consistent with Star Alliance propriety. On the likes of Air Canada, Lufthansa, and SWISS, you can always expect to be greeted with a smile and a nod. This seemed kind of watered down on both the DEL-EWR and EWR-DFW segments in favor of efficiency.
Nonetheless, Bravo Continental! I do hope they bring their good standards to United when they integrate, as I am moving to Chicago in three weeks and hope to see more of it when I become a frequent flier.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this TR as much as I did to put it together. Comments and feedback are always appreciated.
wingsofman72 From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 116 posts, RR: 0 Reply 4, posted (2 years 10 months 1 week 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 26841 times:
Great report, and very accurate, and I should know, I was on the flight the night before.
A few comments-
- Yes CO like everyone has most of the services out-sourced, but still agree they can do better. I know that this is
a new vendor in the last few months (it was AI) , so that may be part of it.
- Security, what a joke. I entered on the right side of the airport (since it was at gate 9), and was sent to to to secuirty all the way at the other end... A/B/C area, when there were NO lines right in front of me.
At the A/B/C are was a line of about 5 people, not moving, since some "DIPLOMAT" was having a fit since he could not take something or other on the plane (or something like that), there was a lot of "you don't know who I am kind of thing".
I don't know where he was from (Europe??), but nothing moved until he shut up, then a family in front of me proceeded to unload 500lbs of electroics into the bins (camera/3 pcs/power cords/etc.), so I move over lines.
Here they were going throught everything, and took a great interest in my noise cancelling headsets, and it parts!!!
Finally after about 20 min, I was cleared and went to the gate.
Gate securtiy was as you said, rude and pushy, and I did not feel like they did much anyway.
Since I was in Business, the service was great as usual, with no problems, and while we were about 10 min late getting in, thanks to a long taxi to 11 in DEL, and several landings, I still made the 530am flight to Houston with time to spare (Global Entry is worth every penny).
You will miss the flight info. screens, as the new FIDS in the new terminal are giant flat screens. The whole terminal is very nice (that is why I was there to work on some things at T3), but not sure they will be ready...it's going to be close even for the 28th. I will miss some of the "ATMOSPHERE", as the new terminal will be very modern, and I do understand they will also restrict entry.
SpdBrdConcorde From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 169 posts, RR: 0 Reply 5, posted (2 years 10 months 1 week 3 days 9 hours ago) and read 26254 times:
Great trip report..It reminded my of my college days as i spent most of vacation flying CO82/83 back and forth as an employee..I was called Mr 82 at work due to my trips lol.....I am happy you enjoyed the Continental product.
United960 From United States of America, joined Apr 2010, 36 posts, RR: 0 Reply 7, posted (2 years 10 months 1 week 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 25839 times:
Quoting IrishAyes (Thread starter): If you can do without the free booze, and are fairly capable of traveling without needing to rely on a Hindi-fluent crew, then there’s nothing to fear.
Does Continental have a language qualified flight attendant program? I would assume they do. It is very strange that they didn't have Hindi announcements on this trip. UA and AA certainly offer such services. Perhaps this flight was just short the Hindi line holder? Are there Continental people that could clarify this? When I was with UA, we would have had 2 Hindi speakers on a trip like this (our Hindi base was actually at LHR for the LHR-DEL-HKG flights). Speakers would have made all major flight attendant and pilot announcements.
tok7474 From United States of America, joined Jan 2010, 5 posts, RR: 0 Reply 8, posted (2 years 10 months 1 week 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 25778 times:
Very well written Trip Report,
Thank you for sharing your experience with the A.net community.
I have always found Continental to be a very professional airline, to me their quality of service has always been very well maintained. As you mentioned, I too hope their merger with UA doesn't diminish their level of professionalism. I'm glad Continental's performance met your expectations, again thank you for posting.
JL418 From Italy, joined Jun 2009, 493 posts, RR: 7 Reply 9, posted (2 years 10 months 1 week 3 days 5 hours ago) and read 25482 times:
thanks for the report, it was really nice and ironic as well. I'm happy to see that Continental offers such a good product on long-haul flights. You see, here airlines from the US don't get good notes, Continental aside. I hope their "gentle touch" will be shared by United as well, as the merger goes on.
Quoting IrishAyes (Thread starter): So, in a nutshell, you send your stuff through one machine, walk through a separate detector that is completely disconnected from the one where you set your stuff, and if additional screening elapses, not only are your belongings sitting idle on the end of the first belt; they are completely out of your sight and you may go 5-10 minutes without seeing them.
This is utter nonsense, really. But, maybe, it serves a purpose, whatever it is.
lychemsa From United States of America, joined Oct 2009, 904 posts, RR: 3 Reply 10, posted (2 years 10 months 1 week 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 25213 times:
I would not fly CO if I had a choice:
1. Seating on the 777: tight 31" legroom and it shows in the pictures.
2. Yes they seem to make an effort in catering on flights from India as they are competing with the Indian airlines. But the "cookies" as a desert get on my nerves.
The catering to Europe is meager. Interesting though that they try harder on flights to / from India.
IrishAyes From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 1727 posts, RR: 6 Reply 12, posted (2 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 24504 times:
Thanks for all of the comments and feedback, everyone.
Quoting wingsofman72 (Reply 4): Gate securtiy was as you said, rude and pushy, and I did not feel like they did much anyway.
Yup, standard bureaucracy. You'll find it in Toronto, Frankfurt, Sao Paulo, Delhi, Dallas, O'Hare, you name it. The passport control officer in Newark was a complete asshole to me. In front of my family, he used a pretty unnecessary tone of voice to question why I had so many passport stamps, and so I had to explain that it was because I studied abroad for a semester in Latin America and traveled throughout. Then, he proceeds to bark at me for needing to get a new passport because I was running out of space, before I pointed that I had new pages recently appended inside in the middle section, and there were at least 12 blank ones he could choose from. He couldn't even look at me directly in the face afterward because he made such an idiot out of himself.
Quoting wingsofman72 (Reply 4): Since I was in Business, the service was great as usual, with no problems, and while we were about 10 min late getting in, thanks to a long taxi to 11 in DEL, and several landings, I still made the 530am flight to Houston with time to spare (Global Entry is worth every penny).
Seriously, the long taxi in Delhi sucks! When our Lufthansa flight landed on the outbound journey, it took at least 20 minutes before we showed up to the gate. What's with that?
Quoting wingsofman72 (Reply 4): You will miss the flight info. screens, as the new FIDS in the new terminal are giant flat screens. The whole terminal is very nice (that is why I was there to work on some things at T3), but not sure they will be ready...it's going to be close even for the 28th. I will miss some of the "ATMOSPHERE", as the new terminal will be very modern, and I do understand they will also restrict entry.
Let's hope. I collected a few Times of India articles during my stay there and there seems to be a lot of apprehension that there will be a logistical repeat of the Heathrow T5 disaster at T3 in Delhi. Unfortunate to hear that entry will continue to be restricted, but perhaps that is for the better.
Quoting JL418 (Reply 9): thanks for the report, it was really nice and ironic as well. I'm happy to see that Continental offers such a good product on long-haul flights. You see, here airlines from the US don't get good notes, Continental aside. I hope their "gentle touch" will be shared by United as well, as the merger goes on.
Haha thanks...but what is so ironic? The fact that CO is a US carrier?
1. Seating on the 777: tight 31" legroom and it shows in the pictures.
2. Yes they seem to make an effort in catering on flights from India as they are competing with the Indian airlines. But the "cookies" as a desert get on my nerves.
The catering to Europe is meager. Interesting though that they try harder on flights to / from India.
Thanks for the comments, Lychemsa. I read your recent report on Continental to GNV and loved it, as usual, and left you a note. I did botch on the seat pitch measurement - I appreciate the correction - but I still didn't think that it was too bad. However, if I was over 6'2, then I would probably complain.
I take it, based on what seems to be consistent in your reports, that the dessert offerings are important to you on flights. To be perfectly honest with you, I think that the reason why the cookie was served was because of dietary needs for Indian passengers (speculation). Some vegetarians, for example, are very strict about consuming eggs. Case in point - on the outbound journey, we flew Lufthansa DFW-FRA, then FRA-DEL. On the DFW-FRA segment, we were served a brownie sundae. On the FRA-DEL, it was a fruit salad. That's why I suspect that it may have something to do with Indian passengers and the diet, hence why they'll serve a dry crumble cookie and offer an Indian sweet or fruit instead? Who knows.
Well, to be frank - I am really not much of a sweets person, and I agree with you that the Y catering on flights to Europe, on most airlines for that matter, tend to be "child size" as our dear friend Alex likes to put it. But I understand your point entirely.
abrelosojos From Venezuela, joined May 2005, 4915 posts, RR: 55 Reply 13, posted (2 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 24483 times:
Thanks for the report. CO's product looks pretty good actually ... and I am impressed with the meal service. Personally, I am gonna miss the scene of Delhi's T2 ... it has a certain vibrancy to it that will be missing in T3.
Quoting IrishAyes (Reply 12): Well, to be frank - I am really not much of a sweets person, and I agree with you that the Y catering on flights to Europe, on most airlines for that matter, tend to be "child size" as our dear friend Alex likes to put it. But I understand your point entirely.
= If this is me (Alex), I must agree ... and these "child size" meals are even present in Lufthansa JCL!
IrishAyes From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 1727 posts, RR: 6 Reply 14, posted (2 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 24426 times:
Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 13): Thanks for the report. CO's product looks pretty good actually ... and I am impressed with the meal service. Personally, I am gonna miss the scene of Delhi's T2 ... it has a certain vibrancy to it that will be missing in T3.
You are good! Your global traveling has gotten you worldwide fame and attention (and a little envy hahah) - so yes, you have a dual reference in this TR. I subtly hint here towards your sentiments in your TR when you flew Turkish from GRU to IST, and you mention loving the "chaos" of GRU. It is, by far, one of my favourite airports. Eu amo o Brasil...and that includes São Paulo and Guarulhos!
I really wish I knew somebody had contacts in the Favela located near the runway so that I could do some spotting at GRU...but my favela visits were restricted to Rocinho in Rio.
Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 13): = If this is me (Alex), I must agree ... and these "child size" meals are even present in Lufthansa JCL!
Wondefully detailed report. Many thanks.
Thanks! And yes again, this was referring to you. I laughed so hard when you wrote in your Air Koryo TR that you would send the pics of the North Korean meals to Lufthansa. I can only imagine what how their product development team would react!
I still have to post my two remaining TRs on Lufthansas services from DFW-FRA and FRA-DEL, but you'll see from those photos that yes, the meals are quite scant. They weren't bad though!
MHTripple7 From United States of America, joined Feb 2008, 1050 posts, RR: 5 Reply 15, posted (2 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 23552 times:
Awesome TR, I'm actually very impressed with CO's service. I've taken AI's nonstop flight between DEL and JFK, and this seems to compete with it nicely in terms of the product and service.
Regarding your experience at DEL airport, I've flown out of the airport a few times and I've given up trying to make sense out everything that goes on there. I've learned that it's just best to in there expecting everything to be inefficient and impractical. My personal favorite was when a table that was being used for bag searches in the jetway wasn't level to the ground because of a problem with one of the legs. Well, we all stood there for 15 minutes or so watching them attempting to fix this table. Well, they failed and we just had to deal with the slightly askew table.
bastew From Australia, joined Sep 2006, 1006 posts, RR: 2 Reply 20, posted (2 years 6 months 2 weeks 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 17056 times:
Wow what a comprehensive trip report! Thanks!
Quoting IrishAyes (Thread starter): As the safety demonstration feature was shown on the individual screens, I noticed the flight attendants standing still near the LCD monitors close to the galleys – something I had never seen before, even on the likes of Lufthansa and British Airways. I found this to be very professional and reassuring – in a corny way, taking the passenger’s safety as a serious manner or something of the sort? Nice gesture – keep it up.
At BA all crew are required to stand in the cabin for the entire duration of the Safety video.
Quoting IrishAyes (Thread starter): After dinner trays were collected, an announcement was made about the snack service, and soon the “bags” were distributed. In them was a squashed vegetable sandwich, which I did not even bother to try (it looked like a slice of tomato wedged in between a hot-dog bun that had sat out in the sun for hours), along with some Masala chips, a kit-kat bar, and a bottled water.
Its kinda weird that they distribute the 'mid flight snack' straight after collecting in from the dinner service. Surely it would make better sense to pass them out in between the first and second service to those that are awake/hungry? At least that way they are kept refrigerated til eaten.
Its odd there were no Indian based crew on board. Do the other US airlines have Indian based F/A's? I know most of the european ones do.
IrishAyes From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 1727 posts, RR: 6 Reply 21, posted (2 years 6 months 1 week 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 15216 times:
Quoting Victr (Reply 17):
how do you go throught customs at newark terminal c explain
It's fairly standard?
Quoting ChopChop767 (Reply 18):
Great report. co does seem to offer a very competitive product on this routing.
I thought they did. It will be interesting to see what United/CO does with the EWR-BOM flight with AI now flying nonstop EWR-BOM - especially since they can code-share via Star Alliance.
Quoting LFutia (Reply 19):
wow! very nice trip report! have you tried AA's service to Delhi from Chicago? Its quite good although I flew it about 4 years ago...
I personally have not, and probably will not. Even though I am a frequent AA Flier, I don't trust their Y product on LH flights, and especially not on ULH flights. This CO service was far superior - and my first choice is actually Air India. They had an excellent Y service when I flew them JFK-DEL in 2008.
Quoting bastew (Reply 20): At BA all crew are required to stand in the cabin for the entire duration of the Safety video.
Sorry - I flew them in 2007 and didn't remember this at all! Thanks for the correction. They certainly did not on Lufthansa.
Quoting bastew (Reply 20): Its kinda weird that they distribute the 'mid flight snack' straight after collecting in from the dinner service. Surely it would make better sense to pass them out in between the first and second service to those that are awake/hungry? At least that way they are kept refrigerated til eaten.
Its odd there were no Indian based crew on board. Do the other US airlines have Indian based F/A's? I know most of the european ones do.
Well, it does make sense for the snacks, I guess. Basically, what makes this flight tolerable is that it is a night flight - basically giving pax a 10 hour window to sleep through the night. I think that providing that snack at a time when everyone is awake is the most convenient for both the passengers and the crew. However, as I mentioned in the TR, the downside to this is that the cabin becomes filthy throughout the flight because nobody is passing through.