B747-437B From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Posted (11 years 3 months 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
Sorry for the brevity of this report and its overall poor quality compared to my usual opus, but this is something I literally threw together during a short weekend break due to popular demand for an Air India 777 report.
I had meetings scheduled in London last week that due to unavoidable circumstances wound up having to be postponed. Rather than sit in freezing England cooling my heels for a week, I decided to hop a ride home to India for a few days. Fortunately eastbound loads were wide open, so I decided to nonrev one-way to sample the brand new Air India Boeing 777-200ER.
I checked out of my hotel in Kensington around 630pm and headed down towards Heathrow on the tube, arriving right around 730pm. Air India uses Zone G (usually dedicated to United) to checkin the evening flights (AI 160 and AI 120) so it was absolutely deserted as I approached one of the many bored Aviance agents.
Checkin was smooth and I confirmed that the paid load today was 5 First, 31 Business and 138 Economy Class passengers (on an aircraft configured for 12 First, 49 Business and 214 Economy). Due to the light load, I was able to get myself assigned to a Business Class window immediately. The interesting part was when the agent noticed my Indian passport had been issued by the Indian Embassy in her native country and was very excited that I actually spoke a few words of her mother tongue. After a few minutes of chit-chat, I headed up the stairs and through FastTrack to the Maharaja Lounge.
The lounge was actually pretty crowded today, but I found myself a seat and helped myself to the sumptious buffet. The lounge features an open bar with the usual line of premium liquors, plus a buffet that featured Samosas, Seekh Kababs, Kathi Rolls, Pakodas, Batata Wadas, Dhokla, sandwiches, Aloo Chaat, a veggie tray with dip and a fruit tray.
Around 830pm, the lounge attendant came around and invited all the passengers to proceed to gate 27. The Duty Free area was bustling, but I managed to dash across to the VAT Refund desk and claim my money without any delay. There was no line at the gate and I breezed through the secondary security check.
It was time for my date with destiny. It was 13 years ago that Air India formed its first committee to evaluate acquiring the Boeing 777, a process that meandered and procrastinated and stalled for an entire generation. Although this aircraft may be "only a plane" to some, to me it is a symbol of so much more. It is a symbol of what might have been and of the promise that still may be. It is the symbol of a new attitude, a new perspective and of a new guard poised to write a new chapter in a proud history. As I walked through door 2L and set foot for the first time aboard an Air India Boeing 777-200ER, I immediately fell in love.
I settled into my seat 9J and was immediately offered a hot towel and a choice of drinks. I picked apple juice and drained the glass as I studied the safety card. At precisely 929pm, the Inflight Supervisor came over the PA system and requested all ground personnel to deplane. At 930pm, the doors were closed and an announcement was made welcoming passengers aboard Air India 160 to Mumbai. So far it appeared that I did not know any of the crew on board, so perhaps I might actually get to sample an Air India flight incognito. Our pilots today were an American commander from Boeing, a Brazilian four-striper who had taken early retirement from Varig and a junior Air India First Officer under check.
We pushed back immediately and held in the alley while the crew performed a the manual safety demonstration in both Hindi and English. I was able to snap a picture of the Turkmenistan Airlines 757 to Ashkabad de-icing on the stand next to us during the English demo (having paid due attention to the Hindi version that preceded it). We taxied out to 09R , fittingly passing by the hulk of the soon-to-come Terminal 5 - a project that can rival the Air India 777 acquisition in sheer scope of delays.
Immediately after we were airborne, the crew came around with the cocktails cart featuring a wide range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. I relaxed with a vodka/orange juice and a plate of smoked almonds as we began to make our way east across continental Europe.
Soon after this, dinner was served. The options featured a grilled salmon, a chicken curry and a vegetarian selection - of which I chose the chicken curry. It came with an appetizer of pate on a bed of salad, a decent Chablis and a tasty fudge brownie for dessert. Of course, no Air India meal service would be complete without the fresh fruit basket being offered and I helped myself to some grapes. After 2 months away from India, I had been craving authentic Indian food and the curry did not disappoint. All in all, the meal lived up to the usual exceptional standards of catering that I have come to expect from Air India. During the meal, I watched "Taxi" on the PTV system. There were 3 other English movie choices, 2 Hindi movies and a handful of variety entertainment programs in English and Hindi.
After dinner and the movie, I took the opportunity to ask permission to wander through the aircraft and explore which was immediately granted by the friendly Air Hostess. As I returned to my seat, the Purser approached me and asked if I was Sean. I confirmed my identity and he introduced himself as a distant relative of my father. So much for incognito. We chatted for a while and caught up with all the family and Air India gossip. That done, I reclined my seat, pulled up my blanket and retired to dreamland for the next 4 hours.
I awakened over Southern Iran and was immediately brought a glass of fresh Orange Juice by the attentive Air Hostess. She offered to serve me breakfast at any time of my choosing since she figured the various passengers would be waking up at different times. I told her to go right ahead and she brought me the tray containing a cheese omlette with chicken tikka and potatoes, a fruit bowl and yoghurt. A fresh croissant and muffin made up an excellent and filling meal.
That done, I was approached again by the Purser who told me that the captain had asked if I would like to visit him on the flight deck to discuss the project I was working on (and that the Purser had mentioned to him earlier). Dang, you do not have to ask twice!! I spent an excellent 30 minutes or so on the jumpseat chatting with the pilots and they were kind enough to permit me to snap some photographs and shoot some video. I have visited 777 cockpits briefly inflight in the past, but spending an extended period up there was a new experience. I came away with a new awe for the 777. The layout of the Boeing 777 cockpit is just so beautifully intuitive and uncluttered that it is hard not to appreciate the art underlying the technology.
I took my leave as we entered Indian airspace over Gujarat and made my way back to freshen up before landing. It was a lovely cloudless day as we made a spectacular approach to runway 27. One does not realize the sheer extent of the slums surrounding the airport until you fly over them on short finals during daylight hours. I filmed out the window as we touched down smoothly, applied reverse thrust and exited the active runway by Taxiway Charlie.
Customs and Immigration were deserted at this hour with the only other arrival at Terminal II-C being Egyptair and an Air India Airbus returning with Hajj pilgrims. I was able to clear formalities in a few minutes and emerged into the hot Mumbai sun right after noon. They always say that you never forget your first time, and my first time on an Air India 777 was one of those memorable flights that will live with me forever. I hope this trip report helped to share some of those memories with you too.
Karan69 From India, joined Oct 2004, 2913 posts, RR: 17
Reply 1, posted (11 years 3 months 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
Thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful experience with us Sean,
Air India have found the one thing that kept them from being a world class carrier , which was modern fleet and IFE --they are already pretty much head and shoulders above any other carrier in departments of catering, Traditional indian hospitality by staff.
Hopefully the new AI order will not take more time now, and we can see them touch the sky and truly become "your palace in the sky"
Sean, i must say you are very lucky to have flown this lovely lady ----do tell us more about your time with the pilots in the cockpit
Usagypsy From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 60 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (11 years 3 months 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
I don't mean to rain on the parade.... BUT..... a "brand new Air India 777-200ER"??? Its a United Airlines 777 that Air India got second hand and didn't even bother to update the totally outdated UA C class product, let alone remove the obvious UA carpet on the bulkhead!! What is AI thinking?! This is an opportunity to atleast show they are updating their fleet and product for the internationl market and all they are doing is showing that they can take an old 777 and serve an Indian meal...... where is the Palace in the Sky? thats really a shame for them and the other AI fans on A.net
Mrniji From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (11 years 3 months 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
Nice Sean, thanks for sharing.. though I could neither see the pics nor the videos with Win MEdia 10 (did anyone else encounter these problems???), the report is really nice, especially since you come to the point and not like me making endless stories of unimportant things - I will fly the 'rustbucket' latest in End of July (i.e. FRA-DEL) and hopefully can confirm your experience.. will take vids etc then, too - nice Sean! By the way, how do you rate the comfort of Eco, since I do not have the money to enjoy biz?
Quoting B747-437B (reply 0): We chatted for a while and caught up with all the family and Air India gossip
So, shae it with us! We won't let you go, Mendis!
Quoting B747-437B (reply 0): I spent an excellent 30 minutes or so on the jumpseat chatting with the pilots and they were kind enough to permit me to snap some photographs and shoot some video. I
So, the american Pilot probably took the spirit of AI in order to grant this..
As Karan said, once new aircrafts will arrive (and as Jay said, hopefully with more modern interiors ), AI will enter world class again.. the 'rustbucket' seems to be a good intermediate choice.. Mendis, I hope you take me along sometime, as travelling with you seems to be special.. I can guarantee you taht I will bring you in some unconventional problems as compensations (i.e. dripping ceilings etc )
The777Man From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 6832 posts, RR: 54
Reply 11, posted (11 years 3 months 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
Very nice report Sean! The interior looks very familiar for some reason.....
I'm surprised too that they didn't even change the upholstry from UA but I guess they will do that in due time. I guess they wanted to put it in service as quickly as possible.
Too bad I didn't make it to LHR this past weekend. Hopefully next time!
Need a Boeing 777 Firing Order....Further to fly....LX and LH 777s
Sabena332 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (11 years 3 months 5 days 12 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
Fantastic report with a great text, great pics and great vids. I enjoyed it very much.
The cockpit video was very interesting, while you moved the camera around I could see how big the 777 cockpit actually is. Very interesting for someone like me who only flew jumpseat on the A 32X series, I really hope to get a jumpseat flight/cockpit visit on a widebody in the future.
Nice to see that AI's mascot also appears in the inflight entertainment, I thought it is only used in ads.
The food looks great as in every Air India report!
You need to download the correct codecs for he media player.. start the video, on the top right corner, a !! will be.. click on web help and be referred to the codec page (they will tell you the no of the codec).. if it is not avail with Microsoft, google... takes sometimes, I had the same problem, and with some downloading, it finally worked
AirWales From UK - Wales, joined Oct 2004, 453 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (11 years 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
The only thing better that the report was the pictures! I am still yet to fly a 777 (although I am booked to fly a BA one to Beijing later in the year) but enjoyed looking at your pictures - especially on the flight deck.
TKMCE From India, joined May 2002, 841 posts, RR: 2
Reply 23, posted (11 years 1 month 4 weeks 22 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
While I do not hav anything against the benefits an ex airline employee gets, some times you beigin to wonder whether they are a little excessive esp with regard to some of the legacy carriers, not just Air India. I remeber a mate of mine literally flying accross the pond LHR YYZ as if he is taking the national express to Milton keynes for a night in town!!! And this continued even after his Daddy was fired after the airline conccerned decided they had a little excess flab!!!
Also the way B747-437B seems to be getting such excellent service in Air India and keeping in mind my past bad experience in the aline (an expereince so revolting that I have since resisted the temptation to fly again on the Maharajah), I do get a feeling that a you should have a skin which is white or similar shades (unfortunately mine is in the darker shade of the spectrum) or in the absence of the same you should flaunt credentails like " I am the daughter of my father's gradmothers step grand child who worked in Air India) to get something called service. I am a little ashamed to say this, about one of the flag carriers of my country! However this is purely from my personal experience, and again from my personal experience I would agree with Indian Guy about the much better service offered by Air India's sibling Indian Airlines with whom I have flown frequently both in Domestic and International services and whose services I find more than acceptable.
Also to be fair with Indian Guy (and at the outset let me say that I am as of date in fairly good terms with both him and his fellow gladiator B747-437B having had occasion to meet them "separately I muist hasten to add" in my frequent travels outside my base town), that Air India staff (esp the pilots) spats in trying to get non rev pax on board at the expense of fair paying passengers is quite well documented(this is not to suggest for one moment B747-437B did so). Also while I do agree that it is inappropriate to recall the tragic Kanishka incident in this context, I do know that the aircraft carried quite a few of Air India non revs on the flight while I know of atleast one revenue pax who was only able to get a ticket at the very last minute on the flight and subsequently transferred from Air France and flew on his last journey !!!
Jaysit From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 24, posted (11 years 1 month 4 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 32767 times:
Apparently A340s were not available, but a month later, AI's new rival 9W managed to find spanking new A340's all the same
That is incorrect.
These A340s are ex-South African Airways.
that Air India staff (esp the pilots) spats in trying to get non rev pax on board at the expense of fair paying passengers is quite well documented
With all due respect, I've found that ex-Bombay, AI staff have always upgraded me from Business to First (on 2 occassions now), and on one occassion asked a non-reving family of an employee to leave her First Class seat for me. Needless to say, I found out that I was the only fare paying passenger in First on that flight, but that's a different story.
As far as AI's induction of 777s is concerned, that was the best decision the airline has taken. You need to take a flight on a 777 one of these days, Roy. It's a fantastic airplane.
: Jolly good! Finally something really exciting is going on in the Trip Reports Forum.
: Seriously and this is nothing to do with personal battles or petty jealousy, but dont you think it is high time that such "perks" are rationalised? I
: plus quota limited international for non-dependant children, brother/sister and parents. Wow !! My mom was a stew for TWA back in the day, and all we
: Yeah, it's like Superman and Lex Luthor. Who is Superman and who is Luthor is open to interpretation of course.
: Maybe a good PHD or MSc Topic for air transport sudents. "A comparison of staff perks on Legacy carriers vs Low Cost Carriers" Case Study of 'Air Indi
: I don't care what other people might say about the AI 777. I think it looks GREAT in the colors. Great trip report, keep it up....
: Yeah, it's like Superman and Lex Luthor. Who is Superman and who is Luthor is open to interpretation of course. Mendis is Superman. After all, he's do
: Good one, Jay! If only he could fly around the world so fast in an AI 777 that he can turn back time to the day Lex Luthor was born... Of course the
: Whether this is justified or whether it is the way to run an airline is a different story. If the document that Sean has pointed out does indeed make
: From what I can tell IndianGuy, it sounds like you're jealous of Sean. So quit hijacking this thread with your garbage. If you've got issues with Air
: I can't speak for IndianGuy and his jealousies (or lack thereof). I may not agree with his vitriol but I do think there is a point to be made somewhe
: A very very interesting thread. I've always enjoyed Sean's reports, his elaboration of inflight service of various airlines. I've always been intrigue
: Well, given those very liberal benefits that AI has, its no wonder that none of AI's employees, unions, management, babus, etc., want it privatized. B
: Boy... I was on a trip and the last week but followed up this hillarious thread.. it looks like that as consequence IndianGuy has been Perma banned..
: Just to set the record straight here and answer the dozens of emails I have received, I will clarify exactly under what provisions I am entitled to tr
: 37yrs..! Wow! I think it is great that companies reward this loyalty
: Its no wonder that Business Class on Air India is packed with non-paying passengers pax who are friends and family! With its gigantic workforce, and a
: I have a Question on the "Space available basis" on business class staff tickets Let us say an Air India 744 First Class - Total Seats 4 Booked 0 Busi
: Just curious because Jay mentioned that he finds many times in Air India flights, the cabin has a large number of staff discount pax. I find it surpri
: In your scenario, all revenue passengers will be accomodated in cabin seats ahead of any of the non-revenue passengers. This will be done via upgrade
: Great report! I give it ***** Star!
: Nice report. I thought I recognized the FC seats!!
: Every airline in the world gives their staff some sort of free tickets as part of their overall pay package. Air India is no different. AI will not al
: I think airlines which dont give a crap about their own employees just treat them like robots instead of human beings are the ones who need to get th
: You are only observing the perks that AI grants employees who have served 25+ years and retired at Senior Manager level or above. The total number of
: Excellent report !!!! It made me feel as if I was on this flight too Captain777
: Agreed regarding the lifelong perks. But it might be interesting to see how the eligibility norms stand as far as off duty travel in J class is conce
: Employees are entitled to only Economy class travel on duty under all circumstances. Officers (Deputy Manager and higher) are entitled to space-avail
: Assuming that there are 1200 eligible employees and retirees (assumption on the very high side) But aren't you assuming that these privileges are not
: Fantastic! It must have been some woman on her way to some beauty farm in the states, haing a fat belly hidden below her sari.. probably 5 shouting a
: My dad retired as an AGM in AI. During his entire tenure in AI, we never used our quota of 4 tickets per year. After his retirement in 2002, we have
: The problem is like everyone else Air India managers and their kith and kin want to take their holidays at peak times and in destinations which are po
: I just got a chance to read this trip report. I think its great ... and extremely unfair of those who have had negative experiences on AI to take thei
: Sean is currently in Accra,Ghana. regds MEL