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DEL-BOM-DEL On AI  
User currently offlineCricket From India, joined Aug 2005, 2968 posts, RR: 7
Posted (2 years 1 month 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 11261 times:

I have read tens of trip reports over the years ever since I joined this wonderful website, and decided what the heck, I should post one now. So here is my first post about a work trip I just took to Mumbai from Delhi, flying on India's national carrier Air India on both legs.

One of the beats I cover is the automotive sector, so recently BMW invited me to Mumbai for the Indian launch of the sixth-generation BMW 3-series. I was supposed to fly out and back on the day of the event, but because Mumbai has an IMAX movie theatre and I wanted to watch The Dark Knight Returns (again) in an IMAX studio I asked one of my friend's in Mumbai to book tickets for a night-show a day earlier. Anyway, it had been almost four months since I had traveled to Mumbai so there was a lot of catching up to do. It also meant that I was flying again after a May and June with zero flights as I changed jobs and took a driving holiday to the north Indian hills in between.

So, my hosts BMW India offered to fly me on Air India, and since I hadn't flown on the national carrier for about eight-nine months, I decided that I would skip my usual routine of Indigo and SpiceJet and try them inside. I was a loyal Kingfisher customer with Gold status, and Kingfisher fares are the cheapest right now in India but I can't bring myself to fly an airline when at the back of my head I wonder if their maintenance is up to the mark.

The return fare came to Rs 16,600 booked a couple of days before the flight that works out to $300 approximately which shows how much fares have increased over the last few months as Kingfisher has cut back flights. This time last year return fares were in the Rs 10-12,000 ($200-250) range even when booked a day earlier. Although the decline of the rupee versus the dollar also has a part of play in fares increasing.

Flying Air India domestically involves travelling to the swanky T3 at DEL and I set out from office in a taxi a good hour before reporting time. On the way we crossed the Airport Express Metro line, which would have been far faster and cheaper for me to have taken, but the line is shut right now (18 months after starting) due to a construction fault on the pillars, I hope they can get it repaired soon.

http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000901.jpg

We also used the new access road to T3, a tunnel built under the Runway 10-28 threshold which is not advertised much by the operators of the toll road to the airport/Gurgaon because it is free.
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000904.jpg

This also took us part the massive Hospitality area coming up near DEL T3 called Delhi Aerocity
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000906.jpg

I had checked-in online but because AI screwed up by printing a 'D' on my boarding pass, I first went to the International Departures area (as one is supposed to if 'D' is printed on the boarding card) my common sense was to go to the domestic departures section, but the AI staff were quite clueless when confronted with the boarding pass, and had no idea which gate had been allocated to my flight which could have helped me a lot to identify which gate I had to go to. In DEL gates 1-26 are in the international area and gates 27-54 are in the domestic area.

Long story short and thanks to the fact that I had lots of time, I eventually managed to get to the right (well, it is the left) side of the terminal. Security was hassle free as usual, in fact, I have never faced issues in major Indian airports, but anytime I fly through small Indian airports my electronics can drive security (and me) nuts - at Bhuj (BHJ) a security man refused to believe me when I told him what an external hard drive was, saying such things didn't exist. It took me 45 minutes of arguing to convince him. That is another story!

DEL T3
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000911.jpg

A quick beer and kebab before I board - here was a promo so...
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000921.jpg

And a smoke as well, I know it is a bad habit, but what a view from the smoking room in the domestic side. Once upon a time, you would have seen a few Kingfisher tails in the Jet mix, but I only saw two Kingfisher planes at DEL - one A319 and one ATR72. And the airline had a major hub in DEL, how the mighty have fallen.
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000922.jpg

AI uses the western side of the domestic pier, which is shorter and my gate 28A was a short walk


[b]AI 659 DEL-BOM-GOI
Airbus A321-231
Seat 27A
VT-PPB c/n 3146
Delivered 17.07.2007
Scheduled Time 17:00-19:00
Actual Time: (Gate to Gate) 17:15-19:05[b/]


View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Raymond Ngu



Whaddya' know, the plane was almost exactly five years old. AI uses the A321 on almost all DEL-BOM flights and this particular plane was going to carry onwards to Goa. Wish I was going there.

I boarded a bit late, and found my seat easily. Load factor was close to 100% in Y and J, I did not see an empty seat on the plane.
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000925.jpg

AI used the same planes for domestic and regional international, and legroom is not bad at all
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000926.jpg

We left our gate at T3 and surprisingly headed for runway 9-27 taking off in an easterly direction, which is common during the monsoon months. But I was surprised that we used the runway which was farthest from the Terminal and also the oldest and shortest runway at DEL. But is appears that there is maintenance work on 10-28 and 11-29 and 9-27 were being used multi-mode.

Taxi-ing to take-off
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000931.jpg
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000934.jpg
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000937.jpg


Take-Off video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWHIhLQ1ssg


The flight was uneventful, albeit quite bumpy, but given the monsoons that is something I have grown up with. But this was not a 'wet and wild' ride as has happened with me a few times. Quite normal actually. AI also served us a nice evening snack - of a chickpea stew (ragada) a vegetable cutlet and some chicken kebabs, and AI also has a (not the best resolution) IFE screen on every seatback with a loop of Hindi/English movies and songs. I carry my laptop for my own entertainment rather than depend on the airlines.
Safety Demo
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000930.jpg
Pufffy Monsoon clouds underneath - no sign of land from 35,000 feet
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000953.jpg
Food
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000946.jpg

Landing in Mumbai - no rain, slightly out of focus in parts - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cgIKzDym2E

We landed on runway 27, which is standard in Mumbai and proceeded to terminal 1A, a terminal shared by AI and Kingfisher.
Approaching our gate A9
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000958.jpg
at the gate, our neighbour
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000961.jpg

I noticed BOM to be a bit nicer than last time, and the airport, like DEL is also getting a new Control tower and it is almost ready
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000963.jpg

After my day in Mumbai, where I got to meet India's top cricketer Sachin Tendulkar at the BMW event, it was time to head back to DEL
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000972.jpg

Having accounted for traffic, and taking two hours as a precaution for the 15km from South Bombay to Chhtrapati Shivaji International Airport it just had to take me 60 minutes. I had an hour to kill at Bombay. Beer it is then - BOM T1C, the newest part of the T1 complex between T1A and T1B - everything is interlinked has the Ultra bar in front of gate A5 with nice views of the passing (almost all Jet Airways) traffic
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000974.jpg
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000975.jpg

Going to our gate, I saw VT-SCF, one of the A319's that is yet to be changed to the AI colours still wearing the short-lived 'Indian' livery of IC
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000976.jpg

[[b]AI 660 BOM-DEL
Seat 15A
Airbus A321-231
VT-PPI c/n 3557
Delivered 18.06.2008
Scheduled Time 17:00-19:00
Actual Time: (Gate to Gate) 16.55- 19.00[b/]


View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Vivek Manvi



As usual, another A321, but like an idiot I had chosen row A instead of F, the sun is quite sharp at this time and facing west at sunset isn't a great idea in India during the summer and monsoons. Boarding got done fast, despite the 95% load factor (how can AI lose money at these fares and these load factors is beyond me) and we actually pushed back ahead of schedule from the gate and began the looooong taxi to the threshold of runway 27, which made us pass the entire domestic and international apron. Saw a KQ 763, an LY 763, an SV 772ER, several AI birds and the occasional 9W international bird in addition to all the 737's on the domestic side with the other Indian carriers.
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000981.jpg
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000986.jpg

As the last entry to runway 27 N4 was undergoing repair we turned on at N3, which made as little as no difference. After waiting for five minutes we were at the head of the line for take-off and we just waited for a company A319 to land before beginning our roll.

Take-off video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1K-63mjqd24

The flight was uneventful again, the food was the same and well, quite routine. This must be my 200th flight on a DEL-BOM sector over the years, and with the monsoons there wasn't much to see again, and the sun was so bright I actually shut my window shade for much of the flight. And this is AI, the airhostesses are efficient, but pretty, well, erm, not really. Much more traditional than any of the other carriers though in their sarees.

Seeing our progress, halfway back home and 33,000 feet over rajsthan
http://i1246.photobucket.com/albums/gg609/kushanmitra/KushanLumia800_000992.jpg

We landed on Delhi's runway 11, and this meant a long taxi back to our gate. The airline surprised us by parking at Gate 26, an international gate, my adventure with that pier hasn't ended and we left using airstairs from the R1 door, only the second time in my life I deplaned using that door, even after innumerable flights. The plane must be going off to BKK, KUL or some destination like that. We were bussed over to the domestic side.

Landing video - short and sweet - http://youtu.be/3NNZLSmWprc

With no checked-in luggage, I quickly left the terminal and into a taxi and headed almost straight to a friends party. Plane to exit, less than five minutes despite the bus!


I hope you folks enjoyed this TR, I will be sure to post more as I travel more inside India and all over the world


A300B2/B4/6R, A313, A319/320/321, A333, A343, A388, 737-2/3/4/7/8/9, 747-3/4, 772/2E/2L/3, E170/190, F70, CR2/7, 146-3,
13 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinelukeyboy95 From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2008, 1092 posts, RR: 31
Reply 1, posted (2 years 1 month 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 10761 times:

Hi Cricket.

A very nice report. Many thanks... and also very well written and to the point. Was there a drinks service on these flights? Really interesting to see an almost post-kingfisher aviation scene in India these days.

Whilst the airports seem to be looking better by the day - the sector looks like it still needs to work hard. AI looked impressive - so no wide-bodies are offered on this route any more?

Quoting Cricket (Thread starter):
at Bhuj (BHJ) a security man refused to believe me when I told him what an external hard drive was, saying such things didn't exist.

ha. Probably quite a tricky concept to get your head around initially!

Luke



Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
User currently offlineCricket From India, joined Aug 2005, 2968 posts, RR: 7
Reply 2, posted (2 years 1 month 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 10502 times:

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 1):
ha. Probably quite a tricky concept to get your head around initially!

Thanks for the reply!

He wanted to open it up, which freaked me out; my adventures at smaller Indian airports with security have been manic at times; at Aurangabad IXU and Bhavnagar BHU with everything from belts, cameras and watches have been insane to say the least. Nothing that gets you held up at DEL and BOM but in cities where there are only a couple of flights a day the security guys try to be far too earnest.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 1):
Many thanks... and also very well written and to the point. Was there a drinks service on these flights?

Nope, no drinks run on either flight, come to think of it AI used to serve a bottled lime juice or fruit juice before take-off earlier.



A300B2/B4/6R, A313, A319/320/321, A333, A343, A388, 737-2/3/4/7/8/9, 747-3/4, 772/2E/2L/3, E170/190, F70, CR2/7, 146-3,
User currently offlineMSS658 From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 2474 posts, RR: 15
Reply 3, posted (2 years 1 month 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 9904 times:

Hi

Great first report,

Thanks for sharing! It seems like AI is really improving their domestic product as well.

Greetings
Marc



Next trip report: Well worn A330s and Hassle free MUC transfer
User currently offlineabrelosojos From Venezuela, joined May 2005, 5089 posts, RR: 55
Reply 4, posted (2 years 1 month 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 8841 times:

Thanks for the report. Interesting to note that AI (read IC) has maintained their service levels despite all the drama. Thanks for sharing again.

Saludos,
A.



Live, and let live.
User currently offlineNimish From India, joined Feb 2005, 3224 posts, RR: 9
Reply 5, posted (2 years 1 month 18 hours ago) and read 8669 times:

Great report - thanks for posting! How would you rate the overall experience with AI domestic vs. say 9W or the LCCs?


Latest Trip Report - GoAir BLR-BOM-BLR
User currently offlineaeroblogger From India, joined Dec 2011, 1363 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (2 years 1 month 16 hours ago) and read 8556 times:

Great trip report.

Quoting Nimish (Reply 5):
Great report - thanks for posting! How would you rate the overall experience with AI domestic vs. say 9W or the LCCs?

I'm curious about this too.



Airports 2012: IXE HYD DEL BLR BOM CCU KNU KTM BKK SIN ICN LAX BUR SFO PHX IAH ORD EWR PHL PVD BOS FRA MUC IST
User currently offlineCricket From India, joined Aug 2005, 2968 posts, RR: 7
Reply 7, posted (2 years 1 week 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 7166 times:

Quoting aeroblogger (Reply 6):
Great trip report.

Quoting Nimish (Reply 5):
Great report - thanks for posting! How would you rate the overall experience with AI domestic vs. say 9W or the LCCs?

I'm curious about this too.

Honestly, inconsistent. My best recent flight was on SpiceJet DEL-MAA where I dropped my wallet in the loo and the Head Purser, Jerry checked the manifest and brought it back to me - unlike 9W planes which have eaten up three of my phones over the past decade (yes, I lose a ton of stuff) and since I was a breakfast flight I actually BoB and I was impressed by the pricey grub, then again a sandwich at Costa before take-off costs more or less the same. AI, and I've flown a bit on them recently are well, ok, good food though, preferred their earlier magazines though.
The last Indigo flight I took DEL-BOM had positively rude crew, "No you can't take photographs of the food or seat incline, you can't use your Laptop (during cruise mind you)..." blah, blah, blah until I politely told her to buzz off, and actually wrote a note to Indigo's management about this flight. Out of the ordinary given that usually Indigo flights are like little personal bubbles for me - I get in to my (usually window) seat put my head against the wall and sleep.
I desperately miss Kingfisher though, even though I have strongly advocated that they be shut down, they had stellar service, particularly up front. I mean when the girls (and due credit to VJM about the girls, at least in the first two-three years) came around to clean ones specs the first time I was on First DEL-BOM I was blown away. I flew Kingfisher consistently, and well, I'm left holding tens of thousands of miles now.
Any suggestions on how to use those miles.



A300B2/B4/6R, A313, A319/320/321, A333, A343, A388, 737-2/3/4/7/8/9, 747-3/4, 772/2E/2L/3, E170/190, F70, CR2/7, 146-3,
User currently offlineaeroblogger From India, joined Dec 2011, 1363 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (2 years 1 week 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 6975 times:

Quoting Cricket (Reply 7):
Any suggestions on how to use those miles.

Donate to charity  



Airports 2012: IXE HYD DEL BLR BOM CCU KNU KTM BKK SIN ICN LAX BUR SFO PHX IAH ORD EWR PHL PVD BOS FRA MUC IST
User currently offlineCricket From India, joined Aug 2005, 2968 posts, RR: 7
Reply 9, posted (2 years 1 week 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 6970 times:

Quoting aeroblogger (Reply 8):
Donate to charity  

Arrey yaar, I would do that if they were worth something.



A300B2/B4/6R, A313, A319/320/321, A333, A343, A388, 737-2/3/4/7/8/9, 747-3/4, 772/2E/2L/3, E170/190, F70, CR2/7, 146-3,
User currently offlinegr8circle From Canada, joined Dec 2005, 3100 posts, RR: 4
Reply 10, posted (2 years 1 week 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 6868 times:

Quoting MSS658 (Reply 3):
It seems like AI is really improving their domestic product as well.

Honestly, most a.netters just love bashing AI and chucking mud all over them....and I daresay AI offers plenty of opportunity for criticism, especailly of late, so can't blame them.....but the reality is that their product is really quite good.....problem is, it's not consistent.....

I flew NAG-BOM on an AI A319 couple of years back....flight was absolutely on time, plane was clean and neat, with seatback screens, service was very efficient and staff was warm and friendly.....and best of all, they served juice and a hot snack on a 1 hr 10min flight......Terminal 1A at BOM, predominantly used by AI, was clean, neat and totally uncluttered, baggage arrived in a jiffy and I was at the curb catching a taxi hardly 15 minutes after I stepped off the plane......I was very happy that I chose to fly AI and not one of the other carriers that day....


User currently offlineCricket From India, joined Aug 2005, 2968 posts, RR: 7
Reply 11, posted (2 years 1 week 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 6785 times:

Quoting gr8circle (Reply 10):
I flew NAG-BOM on an AI A319 couple of years back....flight was absolutely on time, plane was clean and neat, with seatback screens, service was very efficient and staff was warm and friendly.....and best of all, they served juice and a hot snack on a 1 hr 10min flight......Terminal 1A at BOM, predominantly used by AI, was clean, neat and totally uncluttered, baggage arrived in a jiffy and I was at the curb catching a taxi hardly 15 minutes after I stepped off the plane......I was very happy that I chose to fly AI and not one of the other carriers that day....

Totally agree that on its day AI can be brilliant, their food, I mean they still serve food unlike 9W on most sectors, is edible, although AI would do well to start BoB. They give the biggest free luggage allowance at 30kgs, which is why I insist anyone with heavy luggage specifically book AI rather than Indigo or SpiceJet.

Ther problem is as you mention, inconsistency. For everytime that they're good, they almost cock-up some other time. In feb I flew JDH-DEL on AI, instead of the scheduled 1330 departure, which meant that I had to leave Jaisalmer at 0800, the plane took-off at 1757, three minutes before the Jodhpur Air Base 'shut down' civil ops. A rolling delay and little information made things worse. Then again, the captain managed to take-off by making it free seating and I didn't have to deal with the nightmare of AI hotel bookings.

Given an option, I would fly AI but nowadays I usually combine a mix of price and convenience when buying a domestic air ticket. I really don't care what I fly as long as it isn't Kingfisher whose schedule integrity and maintenance are suspect right now.



A300B2/B4/6R, A313, A319/320/321, A333, A343, A388, 737-2/3/4/7/8/9, 747-3/4, 772/2E/2L/3, E170/190, F70, CR2/7, 146-3,
User currently offlineaeroblogger From India, joined Dec 2011, 1363 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (2 years 1 week 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 6595 times:

Quoting gr8circle (Reply 10):

I flew NAG-BOM on an AI A319 couple of years back....flight was absolutely on time, plane was clean and neat, with seatback screens, service was very efficient and staff was warm and friendly.....and best of all, they served juice and a hot snack on a 1 hr 10min flight......Terminal 1A at BOM, predominantly used by AI, was clean, neat and totally uncluttered, baggage arrived in a jiffy and I was at the curb catching a taxi hardly 15 minutes after I stepped off the plane......I was very happy that I chose to fly AI and not one of the other carriers that day....

That is the consistent experience which I get from AI. The airline is a nightmare during IRROPS, but when things are going well, AI is a lovely airline. And since I was based in HYD (AI's most on-time station), I rarely had to deal with those IRROPS nightmares.

AI usually has a ~80% systemwide OTP, and their excessive delay rate (3+ hour delay or cancellation rate) had not exceeded 6% in months before the IPG strike. AI needs to handle IRROPS better to improve perception - people will remember that 1 time out of a hundred where the IRROPS situation was treated poorly, regardless of the fact that statistically, AI isn't that awful compared to its peers.

Quoting Cricket (Reply 11):
Totally agree that on its day AI can be brilliant, their food, I mean they still serve food unlike 9W on most sectors, is edible, although AI would do well to start BoB.

Don't give them ideas  

Regardless, there was a study done a while ago which came to the conclusion that passengers find airline food that was free tastes better than airline food which is paid for. I guess it's about matching expectation to reality - when you expect nothing and you get a great meal, it's far more impressive.

Quoting Cricket (Reply 11):
In feb I flew JDH-DEL on AI, instead of the scheduled 1330 departure, which meant that I had to leave Jaisalmer at 0800, the plane took-off at 1757, three minutes before the Jodhpur Air Base 'shut down' civil ops. A rolling delay and little information made things worse. Then again, the captain managed to take-off by making it free seating and I didn't have to deal with the nightmare of AI hotel bookings.

If you notice here, a 3.5 hour delay isn't the end of the world. What makes the experience so awful is the way the delay is handled... Rolling delay, little information, nightmarish hotel bookings are all examples of places in which AI can improve it's IRROPS handling.



Airports 2012: IXE HYD DEL BLR BOM CCU KNU KTM BKK SIN ICN LAX BUR SFO PHX IAH ORD EWR PHL PVD BOS FRA MUC IST
User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31679 posts, RR: 56
Reply 13, posted (1 year 10 months 1 week 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 4993 times:

Nice TR.......

About Bom Airport....Lots of work still going on....Going to take a long long time to complete....



Think of the brighter side!
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