Learned today morning that my boss wants me back in office tomorrow (My two weeks vacation unfortunately cut short!).Fortunately my travel agent was open till 12 noon. Not worried very much by the late call up (other than my ruined vacation) as both Indian Airlines and Jet Airways have only evening flights on the Trivandrum Madras Sector and normally seats are available on both.
Travel agent confirms the same and invites me to make a choice. Since IC departure is at 1740 hours with a 1 h 10 min flying time, decided to chose it ahead of Jet which leaves at 1800 but takes 1 hr 30 min. (In case u are wondering , IC operates a A320 while Jet now uses an ATR72 on the route).
Purchased the ticket, went back home and got to the airport by 1620.
Security was efficient but hassle free. Both Check in and Hand Baggage were X rayed before check in and there was an additional xray of handbagage at the gate. Pax also had to identify checked baggage at the tarmac before boarding but this was all accomplished in an efficient manner.
Trivandrum has a comapct and beautiful domestic terminal with one of India's best departure lounges with an upstairs area full of potted plants as well as a nice fountain. Also the lounge has a wonderful view of almost the entire apron.
Went for check in and requested a window seat. Got the boarding pass and something seemed disturbingly familiar with my seat number, 28A. Waited in the lounge for about half an hour till the flight was called at 1720. There was surprisingly no ladder point frisking.Entered the aircraft and found out that my fears were true. 28 was the last row.However there was no one else in B or C , in fact the only other pax was in 28F, so it was much better than expected.
In addition to our aircraft, the only other aircraft was another Indian Airlines A 320 going to Sharjah. Just before we started up, the other IC aircraft taxied past and immediately took off. Immediately afterwards an A 310 of Air India landed followed by the Jet Airways ATR from MAA.We taxied soon afterwards (Trivandrum does not have aerobridges, hence there is no need for aircraft pushback from any stand), and took off without delay.
Flight was more than 95 % full in economy and equally full in business. The flight IC 802 operates on the TRV MAA DEL sector and there was meal service
on the flight. For a late evening flight, the meal was quite good, with noodles, a couple of savouries, a sandwich along with a sweet which was quite filling.
Tea/coffee was also offered. Within minutes of the meal being cleared away,
we started our descent to Chennai and touched down on time at 1850 hours.
There were two A 320s of IC already on the apron as well as a 737 800 of Jet as well the second ATR based there. Also surpisingly there was an IC AB3 which was parked in a remote stand (which usually operates the evening departurwe to BOM, most likely combined today with the later departure).
Since disembarkation was through the aerobridge at the front, had to wait till everyone else dismbarked but disembarkation was fast. Since I had only hand baggage, got straight out and home in 30 min.Surprisingly about 40% of the pax were for DEL, (normally most pax on the flight are for MAA).
This was my first Indian Airlines DOMESTIC flight for some time and the impressions have been very good. The service was efficient without being fussy and there was no areas in which I feel it was lacking.
Jet may have more glamorous/younger cabin crew, but there was nothing to fault this set of crew and for people who value efficient service, I would certainly noit hesitate in recommending this flight over Jet Airways , escpecially on this sector at this time of the year (since this is monsoon time and heavy turbulence do occur and an area where a JET scores over a PROP.
Before I conclude, a word about the domestic fares. I paid Rs 3950 (nearly US$ 80) for this flight. However if I was able to book 21 days before, the same would have been avaialble for Rs 2450 (US$ 48) which is a 40% saving. Of course these APEX fares have a 50% cancellation charge but still the fares are attractive for pax planning their holidays in advance.