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Lakshadweep Islands And Back On Indian Airlines

Sun Apr 21, 2002 8:39 pm

After reading SOOO many Trip reports here, I thought I will take a shot at writing one myself. This one is from a trip made to the Island Resort of Lakshadweep some time back.

Pretty Long.


Part 1:
Dec-20, 2000: Planning the Trip.
My friend and her friends were to come down to Pune for their holidays. We had originally made a brilliant plan of motoring down the Western Ghats on our mobikes to a little known beach resort in Southern Maharashtra called Dapoli. But there was to be a change of plan…

But after listening to a friend wax eloquently about Lakshadweep, I was suddenly overcome by the desire to visit that place. So I called up a few travel agents who quoted atrocious prices for a 3-4 night stay. So I took the next best option and called up a Local Adventure Group who gave me the numbers of a few locals in the Island who provide acco. and food and show you around the place in return for a small fee. I set up a deal with one such guy called Hussain.

The next day I went down to the local Indian Airlines office to book my trip. My routing would be PNQ-BOM-COK from where I would have to take another flight to the Island Resort’s Airport at Agatti (AGX). I also planned to complete some work at Cochin. Hussain would arrange for our stay at a cottage on Agatti Island itself before leaving for Kadmat Island the next day. Our ancestral home is quite near Cochin, so I planned to stay there while I was in COK. My friends would be coming to AGX via Goa. So everything was set for the trip!

PNQ-BOM; Boeing 737-700; Jet Airways 9W103

My flight to BOM was scheduled for 07:40 so I had to reach the airport atleast at 07:40. Woke up at 5:30 and rushed through the morning rituals and my shower. I was going to be late! My father put on his “this boy of mine will never learn” expression but then kindly agreed to drop me to the airport. On the 20 mile ride to the airport, I asked my father about the new COK airport. On my previous Kerala trip we had landed at the old Naval Air Stn at Cochin. My father mentioned that it was within *walking distance* of our ancestral home in Ankamali. Well!

We pulled into the civil Terminal at Lohegaon AFB at around 7:00, and knowing IC, I was sure that the check-in agents must have closed the counters. Visitors weren’t allowed inside the terminal building itself, so my father waved goodbye from the car itself and was gone by the time I turned around! Entering the reception area, I saw a note scribbled with chalk on the Black notice board: IC664 cancelled because of Radar Inserviceability at Pune Airport.

Not a nice way to start the Holiday I thought! Walking over to the Check-In desk, I asked the stern looking check-in agent. He gave me the option of taking the Afternoon flight to BLR and then the evening flight from BLR-COK, which meant I would reach COK only by 2000 hrs, and i would also have to pass time until 14:00 hrs at Punes small excuse of an airport. Alternately, he gave me the option of travelling to BOM on a Jet Airways flight departing at 10:00. I decided to take that option since I wanted to check out the ATR’s that Jet was operating on this route. But a 10:00 departure meant that I would miss my originally scheduled connection on IC161, so he put me on another IC flight departing BOM at 1330. I noticed that he booked me on the Jet Airways flight (a rival airline) through his own computer system. So airlines can do such things! Hmmm. He told me though that I would have to check in separately.

All southbound passenger’s who had opted to take the connection to BLR were escorted to the badly named *VIP rooms*, while others made themselves comfortable on the plastic chairs. Whoever designed the Civil Terminal at Pune Airport, obviously didn’t expect more than a Couple of Dorniers to operate from here, because the Terminal was fully occupied. So I decided to browse through the bookstall that had just opened. When I went to the coffee shop, the man at the counter looked at my ticket jacket and refused money. “Complementary”, he told me pointing to the IC check in counter. Whatever!

Around 08:30, when I should have been in BOM, the IC ground staff came around distributing complementary Cheese Sandwiches and apologized for the cancellation of the flight. But they also took the ugly step of marking my ticket after giving me the packet. Crass!

The sandwiches were ice-cold, but I was hungry so I wolfed it down. The Jet Airways counter had opened, and I checked in quickly. The attractive bombshell seated at this counter told me that the flight was going to be delayed because of the Weather and wasn’t expected till atleast 11:30. Which meant I *could* miss my 13:30 connection as well. So this was going to be a very bad day!

The Visitors gallery facing the apron was being opened, so I thought I’d walk up and watch some aircraft while I had some time to pass. Surprisingly there was traffic even at this early hour. A couple of King Airs were parked at the far side along with a privately owned Dakota DC3. A Beech 1900D belonging to a regional airline arrived from AMD and departed for HYD in under 20 minutes! Boy that was some turnaround! In addition a dozen Mig-29’s and Ishkara fighters of the IAF took off in quick succession mebbe for some early morning trg session. Also caught a couple of An-32’s and a HS748 VIP transport of the IAF. This was busy for what is considered a *minor* airport.

Suddenly at around 09:35 I saw a Jet Airways 737-700 making its usual high-speed approach to the apron. For a moment I wasn’t sure it was my flight. I had thought the flight to BOM would be an ATR. But all the other 9W flights were in the afternoon. Rushing downstairs, I found the sole security check gate crammed with pax bound for BOM. So the flight WAS on time. And it WASN’T an ATR!

By 10:05 I was onboard the brand new 737-700 (VT-JNE/JNF). The cabin was sparkling clean. The 4 cabin staff in Y-Class were all in their early twenties and looked smart in their uniforms. The flight was totally packed, not surprising since many of us who had booked on the early morning IC flight (an A320) had been put on this flight.

The aircraft left the gate at around 10:20, with the Cabin-staff making hurried safety announcements. We made a high-speed taxi down the entire length of the runway, turned around and made a leisurely take-off run back the way we came. The –700 was certainly no match for the –200 as far as TO performance is concerned!
Since this 120-mile sector takes barely 15-20 minutes, only beverage service was offered. The aircraft was still climbing when the cabin attendants came around offering Coffee/Tea or *Fresh* Lime. The aircraft leveled out at barely 10000 feet or so, and the entire Western Ghats could be seen from the Window. The brand new 8-lane Expressway, which is expected to cut travel time between Pune and Bombay to under 2 hours could be seen snaking through the Ghats.

Before I knew it, we were descending through the clouds right into BOM. We passed over the slums (was it the Ghatkopar slums?) and landed on RWY27. Again there was this mad rush from the runway to the Terminal 1B. Were the pilots practicing their Formula 1 skills or something?

I deplaned and boarded the bus which took us to the terminal. On the bus ride, I made friends with this cool guy called Rahul who worked for Motorola and was headed for NAG on the late evening Alliance Air flight. Unknown to me at the time, He was to be my companion for the rest of the day.

Both CD and IC flights depart from Terminal 1A, so we put our bags on the cart and rolled it onto the main road for 200-300 meters to 1A. I checked in my bags immediately and was told of a possible delay in the flight. By now I had quite accepted my fate and collected my carry-on and walked back to where Rahul was sitting.

Exploring BOM Terminal 1A:

We sat chatting at the waiting area inside the swanky waiting area at 1A till around 12:30, when a Technical Delay was announced. My flight scheduled for 13:30 would now depart at 15:00. Since we had a lot of time to pass, we decided to explore the new Terminal which had not yet been completed. Despite all the hype about the extra security, we weren’t stopped as we exited the Terminal through the Departures gate. We actually climbed on top of the flyover-wall to watch an arriving IC A300 inch towards the jetbridge, right under the noses of the cops watching nearby!

We made our way to a small restaurant that is located right under the flyover leading to the Departure Area of 1A and had some lunch. Returning to the Terminal I found that my flight had been further delayed to 18:00. Just great! It was better if I had taken the BLR routing!

BOM-COK; Airbus A320; Indian Airlines, IC167(?), Flying Time: 1hr 30 minutes

Around 17:30 I bid goodbye to Rahul and made my way to the security check, and was shocked at the level of security. Apart from the Genital fondling routine which is quite the norm at BOM, there was an X-Ray device through which we had to pass, as well as the Metal Detector! And if this wasn’t enough, Cops were subjecting some pax to manual searches at the entrance of the Jet-Bridge leading to our aircraft. The Aircraft for this flight was a rather tired looking Airbus A320.

I had asked for my favorite seat in the last row of the aircraft. I saw some bald guy hunched over my seat trying to repair the reclining mechanism. One of the FA’s, who sounded like she had just sniffed some Helium or something, requested me to shift to the middle seat around 6 rows ahead. But I wanted a window/aisle seat, so I put on the best sulk I could muster in the given circumstances and insisted on a window or an aisle seat. As it turns out the window seat on the other side (F) was empty, so I plonked myself down as another FA handed out the sweets and the cotton balls, an aviation tradition that is unique to India I hear. A family of 3, returning to Kerala from the Middle East, was seated next to me. The young boy next to me was a wannabe aviation freak, and his enthusiastic father was telling him about how the aircraft we were in was the *Most Advanced Boeing 737*! Hmmm.

The safety demo was conducted rather leisurely, and the aircraft started taxiing towards RWY27 at ~18:45. There was plenty of traffic around us, domestic and intl. 2 FedEx aircraft (A300’s?), a Cathay Pacific (A330?) and almost a dozen Jet Airways 737’s took off in quick succession. I saw an unmarked white 747 Freighter land and proceed to the AI terminal. Wonder which aircraft this was?

We turned onto RWY27 and then stopped. From the window on the right side, I could see an Airport Jeep following us, gesturing frantically to the flight crew. They must have spoken on the radio or something, because the pilot then decided to return to the apron. The FA’s were clearly as exasperated at the delay as the passengers, but nobody informed us as to why we were returning. We parked at a stand away from the Terminal 1A, and a full 5 minutes later we were told that due to a technical problem the flight would be further delayed. There seemed to be a genuine problem, because from the window I could see a dozen personnel work in and around the area of the rear cargo door.

While still on the ground, The FA’s came around with Chicken & Veg. sandwiches along with Coffee/Tea. The Veg Sandwich I took was all wet and soggy but the Chicken Sandwich the brat next to me was hogging, looked good. Half an hour later, we pushed off again and made a rather slow take off from RWY27. Lights had been dimmed for the take-off and the atmosphere in the cabin was quite eerie. The angle at which we climbed was rather steep as we passed Mumbai’s crowded Parle and Andheri suburbs on my right. We made a sharp left turn and were soon passing through the clouds.

This is one the reason I dislike flying at night. The scenery outside was blanked out because of the clouds, and since there was no IFE I could only stare at the ceiling. Soon the lights came on again and the FA’s began the meal service. Despite being over 1:45 hrs flight, This was not a full meal service flight, and so we were to be served what is called a Dinner-Snack. The Veg option had Puffs and what looked like Paneer pakoras. I chose the Non-Veg option which had roasted Chicken Legs done the Punjabi way. IT tasted good enough, but there wasn’t a single gram of
Oil in the food and it looked quite dry. Now I am not really all THAT much health conscious. Agreed that it would probably quadruple the Calorie count, but Indian Food isn’t Indian food unless it is dipped in pure homemade ghee! The FA saw me examining the leg and came back with some butter packed in 2 layers of aluminum foil and plastic. I was supposed to rub the slab of butter on the leg? How absolutely brilliant! >L.

After the plates were cleared, the FA’s did’nt seem to have anything left to do, so after some time they were chit-chatting in the rear galley. 2 rather attractive FA’s seemed to have taken a liking for the brat next to me (or mebbe it was just good PR), because they were soon fawning all over him. IC should choose FA’s with better eyesight I think. How could they ignore someone much more cute-er and more their age seated RIGHT NEXT to that &*&!@* Brat! I hate IC!

We began our descent quite early and the FA’s began distributing some kind of take-away packet. It was marked with the airline logo and *Kerala Tourism* and had a few sweet meats of different kinds and around 5-6 pieces of salted Cashew nuts. Pathetic and Hardly any way to make a statement, if that’s what they were trying to do!

We Landed in Pitch Darkness at COK. It was pretty smooth and I don’t recollect thrust-reversers being used.

The Terminal looked quite swanky from the inside and was very clean. As I collected my baggage and moved to the Visitors area, an attractive girl was handing out Roses welcoming visitors to India’s first privately built airport. Nice touch.

My Cousin had come to receive me and had bought his car, a trusty old Ambassador of 70’s vintage. I reached home from the airport in under 5 minutes, but it was certainly not *walking distance* as my father had said!

My ticket to Agatti had now been confirmed, but my aunt was horrified that I planned to leave the very next day (24-th Dec). A *good Christian boy* should be in Church on Xmas eve according to her. Well who told her that I was a *good Christian Boy*? But who is going to argue? So I had to push my ticket to the 28th.

The next 3 days were spent visiting relatives and attending some family functions. I also had to confirm with Hussain about my exact schedule in the Lakshadweep Islands.

COK-AGX; Dornier 228-212; Indian Airlines, IC-502(?), Flying Time: 1hr 25 minutes

I reached the airport at 08:00 am to find the counter virtually deserted. Another delay I thought? But the counter staff told me the flight was to leave on time. This flight usually operates on time he added, since the aircraft is based in COK itself. Gr8! IC actually bases a 737 at COK only for tourist flights? At that time I assumed that IC operated A320’s and A300’s on mainline routes and the 737’s for offline routes. I was in for a shock.

There were 14 or so pax booked for the flight. And we were led out on the tarmac, from where a bus took us to our aircraft, which I found to my utter horror was a Dornier 228-212.

A word about the Dornier 228 here. This 18-seater was India’s second attempt at building a passenger airliner, and was as disastrous as the first attempt, the equally frightening 48-seat Hindustan 748’s. Thankfully, most of the HS748’s and 228’s are being dumped by airlines and so mostly fly as military transports, where their short field capabilities are particularly useful.

The aircraft I was to be on clearly looked dated, but it had just been washed so it looked sparkling clean. Onboard, the seating seemed quite cramped, but u got used to it after a while. And every passenger had a window seat! The last 2 rows of seats had been removed, which the flight crew said was for a stretcher. Stretcher?

The Dornier doesn’t inspire the same confidence as a large aircraft, and I was distinctly uncomfortable. The discomfort was to get worse once the engines were started. The whole aircraft started shaking and rattling, and the cabin was filled with the sound of the 2 monstrous engines starting up. Imagine being stuck in a garage with 2 motorcycle engines with failed silencers running full throttle? Well… u get the idea!

Looking out of the window, I saw sparks and black smoke coming out of the rear of the Engine, which only served to make me even more worried. We took off from RWY27 at around 0915. The Dornier’s take-off really impressed me. It wasn’t particularly powerful, quite slow actually, but we must have been off the ground in under 2000 feet of runway! And COK has over 12000 ft of asphalt! The pilot put the aircraft into a gentle climb at first while we picked up some speed, and then increased the climb angle gradually. COK airport looked gr8 from 1500 feet!

We leveled out quite low, must be around 8000 feet or so. It was unnerving to fly this close with the Arabian Sea right beneath us. Call me queasy, but there are dangerous sharks here you know!

As we approached Lakshadweep, the pilot came on the PA system to point out the islands that make up the archipelago. The place sure looked superb, even more so from the air! One of the European tourists started walking up and down the aisle with his Camcorder to get the best shot from the air, but a sharp rebuke from the First Officer and he was back in his seat, quite red-faced!

Soon we were making the circuit pattern at Agatti airport and with a sharp Descending Turn we were on Final approach to AGX. There didn’t seem to be anything on the entire island except the runway and the terminal building. But I had been told that there was a 5-star resort on the island itself. That last turn to finals was particularly scary as I was found myself staring right into the water from barely 800 feet or so! After a series of Click. Clang Pfft And Bangs, I heard a whooshing sound, which probably meant that the Wheels were down. Or atleast I hoped it was! The landing was pretty hard and full brakes were applied. Again I don’t think Thrust Reversers were used.

On the tarmac, there were a couple of Pawan Hans Helicopters and some private Twin-engine piston aircraft. Our aircraft was to operate a return flight from AGX to Goa before returning to COK in the evening, and my friends were expected to arrive from GOI on the flight.

In the terminal, I had to locate Hussain. I walked out to find a man holding a paper, which had the word “ROYEE” (which is how most Malayalees pronounce my name) written in large lettering. Hussain!

I still had a 4-hour wait before my friends came down, but Hussain wasn’t unduly worried. He took me to his relative’s place on the island itself and I was treated to a fantastic homely meal. I guess this is one advantage of hooking up a deal with a local, something that an expensive package deal can never give!

A word about Lakshadweep here: Only about a dozen or so islands in the archipelago are actually inhabited. Most of the population consists of Malayalee Muslims and most of them earn a living thru fishing. Foreigners are not allowed on the most of the islands except Bangaram and Agatti, which are among the least happening islands. Kadmat Island was my personal favorite. Hussain wasn’t really a *local* local since he had grown up in Kerala but he had relatives here.

The gang arrived from GOI quite late at around 1700. Since it was late we decided to take the boat ride to Kadmat Island the next day.

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RE: Lakshadweep Islands And Back On Indian Airlines

Mon Apr 22, 2002 12:16 am

Wow excellent trip report. We don't get too many Indian domestic flight reports, so it was particularly interesting to read. From your report, it seems that you liked Jet better compared to Indian Airlines, is that the case? Anyway, I look forward to your return leg.  Smile
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RE: Lakshadweep Islands And Back On Indian Airlines

Mon Apr 22, 2002 3:05 pm

nice report. The only time i'v ever flown IC is from DEl-BOM and that was a while back. That flight was rather pleasant, but, nothing like jet airways. I flew them last summer del-jaipur-bom and was blown away at the fact that it was an indian airline.
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RE: Lakshadweep Islands And Back On Indian Airlines

Mon Apr 22, 2002 11:14 pm

Looks like IC - other than the technical delays which are rife even in the US, except that you never get an explanation - have improved their inflight service.

So what are the lakshadweep islands like?
Atheism is Myth Understood.
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RE: Lakshadweep Islands And Back On Indian Airlines

Tue Apr 23, 2002 8:45 am

Nice report. Dont be hard on IC. When you have travelled American Airlines as much as I have IC compares with Singapore. US airlines are notorius for delays,lousy service, old hags for FA's, and above all the famous packet of peanuts. Dont let anyone fool you by saying the service sucks because the pricing is cheap. As a business traveller I pay premium price and still get the old hags snarling at me.Post some pictures of the islands.
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RE: Lakshadweep Islands And Back On Indian Airlines

Tue Apr 23, 2002 2:47 pm

That was a very entertaining report, Roy! Made me homesick as well, since I'm from Cochin too  Smile My own home is in Kakkanad, though I've relations scattered all around town. COK is certainly a fantastic airport - very clean and well maintained. I'm looking forward to your return trip report.
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RE: Lakshadweep Islands And Back On Indian Airlines

Tue Apr 23, 2002 9:14 pm

Part 2:

AGX-COK, Dornier 228-212, IC-501, Flying Time: 1 hr, 30 minutes

All the activity of the past 4 days had obviously taken its toll, and it was 6 very tired souls who checked in at the IC counter at AGX. The flight was scheduled to leave at 11:30, and the hour-long wait seemed more like 3! When the aircraft finally arrived, it was greeted with sighs of gratitude. After thanking Hussain for his hospitality, we virtually ran towards the aircraft as fast as our tired legs could carry us.

As our aircraft lifted off from the runway I looked back at the AGX terminal and knew I was going to be back. Much as I wanted to return to the warm bed at home in Cochin, I was also sure that I was going to miss this Heaven on Earth. I had also missed out on quite a lot of activity like Scuba Diving or even just plain relaxing! We had basically been running around from one beautiful beach to another. By God I was going to be back! And next time I would come here atleast for a week if not more.

Most of the pax were totally tired to exchange stories, as was usually the norm. But 2 girls from our group managed to find the energy to enter into an argument about the shopping they had done at Kavaratti. And my friend, seated across the aisle, was telling me about some coir mat she had bought which would look rather lovely on the wall of *our* living room! (And I thought the Coir mat was for to be used as a doormat!) Women! But I couldn’t care much about that! I was soon fast asleep, probably dreaming about home.

When I woke up, we were already close to final approach at COK, and I could see the menacing hills on one side of the runway, which looked too close for comfort. Actually the hills are quite far, but it seemed so much closer! We made a hard landing and then pretty much coasted to the apron without much of Braking or Thrust Reversers. Heck with 12000 feet of runway…!

The rest of the gang were returning to BOM the same evening by Jet Airways, but I had to stay back in COK for a wedding in the family. Saying our goodbyes, I boarded a rickshaw that would take me home.

COK-BLR, Airbus A320, IC-804, Actual Flying Time: 1 hr, 30 minutes, Stops-1

It had been a crazy 3 days, and I had just been driven back the previous night from a place called Varkala in south Kerala all the way to Cochin and was too pooped to do anything but crash. My cousin drove me to the airport and I checked in my stuff immediately. I had extra baggage this time, 2 extra-boxes containing gifts from relatives: everything from spices to dried coconuts. That’s right coconuts! I was in half a mind to dump the boxes, but couldn’t with my cousin watching over my shoulder. Apart from the extra cash I would have to shell out, and all the coolie-work I’d have to do, I was deeply conscious of the embarrassment of lugging around boxes filled with coconuts. But the check-in agent seemed to have seen this many times before, and didn’t bat an eyelid on seeing my unusual luggage.

I didn’t particularly like the Terminal building from outside, way too retro for my taste. But from inside I was faultless. Simply superb, and kept clean by an army of workers who continuously swept the floors. After checking in went straight for the security check, and then on to relax in the lounge on the airside. It maybe called the airside, but not much of the apron was visible.

Our aircraft arrived from BLR at around 12:40. This flight began at DEL and the routing went DEL-BLR-COK-TRV-BLR-DEL. The main disadantage, for pax bound for BLR like myself, COK-BLR took over 2 hrs 10 mins instead of 50 mins non-stop. And it was stupid, traveling south for the short hop from COK-TRV and then traveling north again to BLR!

Boarding began at around 13:00. Around 100 pax were boarding at COK, most of them headed for BLR, and others for TRV and DEL. The aircraft was totally full, and every seat on the 144 seat airplane was taken. I took my seat 22A as pre-flight service commenced. Next to me was this absolutely filthy European and his wife/girlfriend who was equally filthy. Gawd! They smelled to high heavens! And though I didn’t understand their language, from the tone they were obviously abusing India, which pissed me off even more. I hoped he would getting off at TRV.

I counted 4-5 FA’s on this flight in the Y cabin, one of whom was male. All the Cabin-Crew seemed to be from Calcutta and had obviously flown together many times because they were quite pally with each other. They spoke to each other in Bengali, which irritated some of the more cosmo passengers on board. The Cabin-Crew profiles were a study in contrasts. The oldest whom I called Aunty, was clearly over 50, terribly overweight and her features were hidden behind an inch of makeup. Brrr. Hideous! As for the sole guy on board, whom I called Shorty hmm. He wasn’t exactly gay-acting but he was what we in India called “Chikna”, u know, like Jugal Hansraj or that new actor Nakul Kapoor: way too pretty to be straight! In any case he was getting (and giving) plenty of attention to the ladies. (As a side note: Are Male FA’s usually gay? Most of the ones I have seen usually seem to be.). The 3rd girl was from the North-East, with Mongoloid features. Decent.

Finally there was this total bombshell. The most perfect woman I have seen in my entire life! In her late-late 20’s, Almost 5’ 9” tall, v slim and perfectly proportioned, dark but flawless skin, and legs that seemed to stretch forever; With hair colored a deep brown, and blue-ish contact lenses to go with the color of her blue-green sari, she looked like WOOOW! And she didn’t walk down the aisle, she kind of glided up and down the aisle! Decent enough to take home to meet Mom, but also decent enough to take to bed! No wonder that when she walked by, heads were turning all around. So others were pretty much thinking what I was thinking! Her name was Parul BTW, as I figured out during the halt at TRV. I certainly didn’t expect to see an FA of this kind on dowdy old IC. Hopefully IC will start taking in more like her!

Now back to the Flight Report! After a slight delay, we pushed back at around 13:50 and made a brisk take-off for the short 20-minute hop southwards to TRV. Fresh Lime was served or Coffee/Tea for those who wanted that. We were flying quite low and hugging the coast, and it was simply breathtaking. Someday I think I’ll take a Cessna or some such slow flying aircraft and fly over the Kerala coast as well as over the backwaters stretching into lush green fields! Gawd, I am dreaming again!

It must have been an unusually clear day, because the airport at TRV came into view long before we landed. The Runway at TRV seems to aligned N-S I think, and we made Sharp Descending Left Turns to align with the runway. The landing itself was smooth but we seemed to be rolling both ways on final approach due to heavy winds. The aircraft did not park at the aerobridge as usual. Instead we parked at a remote stand and old-style air-stairs were placed against the aircraft. The aircraft was also surrounded by cops. Was something amiss? AS it turns out a couple of politicians were returning to DEL by this flight, and their lackeys had come to see of their Mantriji off at the airport. Thankfully the minister(s) sat in the J-Class section and the IC staff were probably trained to handle this situation well without causing trouble to other pax, which they did. However, 2 unfortunate souls sitting on the very first row of the Y-Class section were sent back to make place for 2 well-armed commandos. The presence of the VIP and their slogan shouting lackeys meant that pushback was delayed by atleast 20 minutes. Unfortunately for me, the smelly European stayed put in his seat and did not get off at TRV as I had hoped!

During the wait, I walked to the loo at the rear, hoping to catch a glimpse of my latest sweetheart. Luckily, both the loos were occupied, and I got an excuse to hang around the rear door, which was open. Shorty came up to the rear galley and I took the opportunity to befriend him, hoping Parul would also be coming shortly. She didn’t, but I did find out that the entire gang was from Guwahati but based in Hyderabad. And I also found out that she was married. L. Meanwhile the old FA came up and while making conversation I made the unforgettable gaffe of addressing her as *Aunty*. To make matters worse, that statement was heard halfway down the cabin. She turned a shade of purple with rage, while Shorty was trying to suppress a guffaw. Realising that I had put both my feet in my mouth, I beat a hasty retreat to my seat, waiting for this flight to be quickly over!

After pushback, we made a brisk taxi towards the runway only to have to wait for a Jet Airways 737 bound for MAA to take off.

Taking off, we headed north for the One-Hour flight, cruising at 24000 feet. The FA’s seemed unusually rushed, and meal carts were being rolled out even as the aircraft was still climbing. The Veg. Selection had a choice between Veg Pulao or Plain Rice with Dal/Some Mutter Dish. The non-veg selection had Chicken Biryani. Both selections came with a Paneer/Chicken Croissant that was actually warm! Pretty Crowded Tray must say! Almost as an afterthought, Shorty then came around bringing a sweet dish, which was either a SINGLE Gulabjamun or a few slices of Fruits packed in plastic wrap, followed by Coffee/Tea. Way cool, and definitely one of the best airline meals I have had, though the sweet dish part was rather stingy. But for such a short flight and that too in Y-Class…!

News of my gaffe had obviously got around the crew, ‘cos both Chinky Eyes and Parul gave me a bitchy “We Know!” smile as they passed me. I almost expected an announcement on the PA! I swear, if that had happened, I would have jumped off the airplane! Mercifully, while Jet staff may make the occasional joke or personal announcement (like Birthdays) on the PA, IC doesn’t yet have that culture.

WE started our descent early (somewhere immediately after CJB as the pilot said). The pilot probably made an ILS approach, as on finals, the aircraft kept banking right then left and then right again before straightening up. We actually landed 5 minutes early, (Mebbe it had something to do with Mantriji being on board?), and deplaned via the Airbridge. There was this mad dash for trollies, and I soon realized why. There were none left by the time I got round to it. Finally a cop took pity on me lugging around those heavy boxes and fetched me a trolley, but muttering abuses in Kannada under his breath!

07-Jan to 10-Jan, Bangalore City

My old friends Mazahir and Ranjeet had come over to pick me up and greeted me in their usual enthu. manner. I was to stay at Mazzy’s place for a couple of days. This wasn’t the first time he had played the perfect host to us. I had earlier stayed with his family at Bhopal from where he had gone on a trip to this superb place called Panchmadhi. He was now staying in BLR officially looking after his family’s business interests there. Though if his father ever found out about what his dear son was really upto in India’s sin-city, he would probably die of shock!

During the drive we made plans for the next couple of days and just as I was wondering how Mazzy (The incurable Boozard) hadn’t yet mentioned liquor or its many cousins, that Mazzy pulled up at a liquor store to stock up for the night. I could hardly wait for the party to begin!

I don’t think I should continue copying the contents of my diary like this verbatim. For one this is an aviation forum, and secondly, some of the details are certainly not fit for minors and Johan would probably throw me off this board for good! Suffice it to say that we had a pretty good time and I discovered such wicked pleasures as going skinny-dipping in the Cauvery among others! We also went to this real cool place called Hoganabelle (Have I got the name right?) which is like way cool and definitely worth a second visit!

I woke up on the morning of the 10th with a terrible hangover and realized that I had a flight to catch. Mazzy’s fiancé Meenakshi aka Minx had kindly agreed to drop me to the airport and we lounged around till she came.

Since I hadn’t had breakfast, Minx took me to this cool outlet where you get a hundred varieties of the humble dosa, and after grabbing a quick bite, we were off to the airport. The smog at BLR in the mornings (900-1000) has to be seen to be believed! The effect of the previous nights partying hadn’t fully worn off, and Minx (as nagging a Tam-Brahm as they can possibly get!) was tch-tching for the rest of the way about the *evil* effects of liquor!

BLR-PNQ, Airbus A320, IC-917, Actual Flying Time: 1 hr, 45 minutes, Stops-1

Since I had arrived early I had plenty of time to check through the well-stocked book stall at inside the domestic terminal at BLR. Also picked up a couple of souvenirs from the stall next to it. The Check-In for IC917 was announced at 10:30. and I was through in under 5 minutes.

Security was called at around 11:15. After clearing security, I made my way to the airside lobby, which was truly packed to the wazoo.

A note on the lobby at BLR. It contains about a dozen (?) gates, and in front of each gate around 30 plastic seats have been placed. Usually, only 2-3 flights are handled at a time so this is mostly sufficient. But what happens when there is a delay and a number of aircraft come in simultaneously? Chaos for sure! But otherwise, it has all the basic amenities in place as well as add-ons like Television etc.

When I entered there was a giant IC A300 about to depart for BOM. There were a couple of Jet Airways 737’s bound for various places like MAA, PNQ, HYD and GOI. 9W had more departures out of BLR than any other airline, and here was the living proof of that!

The aircraft that was to take me to PNQ was to arrive as IC915 from HYD, but it had been delayed. It finally arrived at 11:40, and boarding commenced at around 11:50 via the air-bridge. The aircraft was rather muddy from the outside, but it was quite clean on the inside. My assigned seat was 17A, but the FA requested me to swap seats with an *old* man who had been assigned the emergency exit row seat 14A over the wing. He didn’t look particularly old or frail, but that seat had extra legroom and that convinced me to switch. Unfortunately I saw that this seat (and 14F) didn’t have the armrests on one side, but it was already too late.

The female capt came on the PA to announce that this was to be an all-women crew flight. Nothing unusual on IC, but they still think its cool enough to be mentioned. We pushed back at ~12:25 and headed for the runway. Those who have visited BLR before may have seen this unique gate on the Taxiway. This gate is reqd to regulate the flow of traffic because there is a road running right thru the airport. We had a minutes halt on the taxiway until the gates were opened.

We made a brisk takeoff and headed East. After directly passing over what looked like a golf course, we made a sharp left turn until we were pointing West, at which point we entered the clouds. Snacks were served on this short flight, which included Warm Croissants, some Sweetmeats and Coffee/Tea.

Though this flight was also packed, most of the passengers were headed for GOI, and only few of us were actually headed to PNQ. IC has lost the BLR-PNQ market to 9W ever since the prev. non-stop flight was replaced with a one-stop flight via-GOI. 9W has a non-stop on the route at almost the same time.

Descending towards GOI, we made a P-shaped approach over Goa, and returned over the sea towards RWY09. The Capt. announced that we had to make a go-around because a Naval Sea Harrier hadn’t exit the runway. The go-around was made about 1500 feet above Goa, and the sight of Panaji from above was simply breathtaking. Thank you IC!

The civil apron at GOI seemed unusually crowded, with atleast 2 IC A300’s and a 9W 737. I could have sworn I saw an ugly black and yellow 757, but no Indian carrier uses either that scheme or aircraft! Wonder which aircraft this was?

After a 40 minute halt, the aircraft pushed back again for the flight to PNQ. The flight was again nearly full. IC was obviously sacrificing the BLR-PNQ market in return for heavy loads on BLR-GOI and GOI-PNQ flights. This was a meal flight, but I was already stuffed as I had eaten on the previous segment as well as had a full breakfast at BLR so I passed it. From what I could see, the meal was pretty much the same as on the TRV-BLR sector give and take something here and there. So much for their claim of changing the meal everyday of the week!

Once again we flew a P-shaped approach into Pune, leveling off for finals somewhere over the Holkar bridge. Since Pune doesn’t have any aerobridges, we deplaned via airstairs. Baggage took a while in coming so in the meantime I met my friend who had come to receive me. Walking out of the terminal I chuckled to see the auto rickshaw drivers fleecing the arriving passengers.

Al in all, this was a great trip. Even though I was disappointed at missing out some activities at Lakshadweep. But overall it was gr8, and the aviation experience was also superb.

IC has definitely improved since the days when it was the sole bird in the skies. Competition sure has done Indian Aviation a world of good!

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RE: Lakshadweep Islands And Back On Indian Airlines

Wed Apr 24, 2002 11:56 am

Again, a very entertaining report  Smile It would help if you were a tad less derogatory though, I mean 'Chinky eyes' just isn't PC. Plus, the Hindi slang would be hard to pick up for the non-Indians. As for the FAs on IC, they do have a few hotties, though 9W has far more  Laugh out loud
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RE: Lakshadweep Islands And Back On Indian Airlines

Mon Feb 09, 2004 9:08 pm

Entertaining report & Amusing too. Smile
I may not win often, but I damn well never lose!!! ;)
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RE: Lakshadweep Islands And Back On Indian Airlines

Tue Feb 10, 2004 12:04 am

"I could have sworn I saw an ugly black and yellow 757, but no Indian carrier uses either that scheme or aircraft! Wonder which aircraft this was?"

That would be Monarch airlines. They fly charters from the UK during the tourist season (Oct - Apr).

Great report by the way! And I agree about the view of Goa from the air....the beaches just beckon to you!
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RE: Lakshadweep Islands And Back On Indian Airlines

Tue Feb 10, 2004 4:18 am

I quite enjoyed reading that report,many thanks.


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