I shall skip my DEL/BOM flight on 9W primarily because it was uneventful and it was no different from the usual good service of 9W. Aircraft was a B737-700 VT-JNT and barring a delay of 3 hours there was nothing much to it.
The real fun started when in the wee hours of Sunday/04JAN I trudged wearily in through Gate No. 2 of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport and headed for the KU counter for my flight KU302 BOM/KWI. Since the counters were not open yet, I went over to the airport restaurant and helped myself to a masala dosa. I was indeed pleasantly surprised by the lighting and appearance of the international departure terminal at BOM. It was after 16 months that I was using this airport for an international departure and it sure looked a lot better than it did the last time.
KU302/04JAN BOM/KWI A300-605R
The counter opened at approx 0330hrs. KU along with other carriers have been suffering a space crunch and the J/cl counter was also doubling up as a Y/cl counter when the rush became too much. Booked load was 19J/18S/220Y against a capacity of 18J/18S/196Y. A word regarding S/cl: It is actually the J/cl cabin. KU uses the F/cl cabin on the A300s operating to the Indian Subcontinent for J/cl and the J/cl cabin for a kind of premium Economy - branded S/cl which is available at a surcharge only for the sectors KWI-ISC-KWI.
A denied boarding situation was inevitable and by the time the counters closed 4 passengers had been bumped off besides some KU staff who were returning to KWI after their vacations. Interesting thing is that KU gives its staff (with confirmed seats on vacation) denied boarding compensation in the event of getting bumped off. As a non-rev, even though I had a confirmed J/cl ticket I was downgraded to S/cl and eventually to Y/cl: No complaints there... I was extremely glad to get on.
My adventures started at security: I had not had a shave, so before checking in my luggage, I had quickly transferred my shaving kit from my suitcase to my briefcase. Passing through security I was in for a rude shock when the security man called me aside and pointing to the screen asked me what was in the briefcase. There it was, the outline of a wicked looking dagger lying diagonally across my briefcase. I was stunned, the security men seemed excited at the prospect of having caught a potential threat. I opened my briefcase and there in the confines of my shaving kit was the object of consternation - an Air India paper cutter (at least 20 years old) shaped like a dagger which I had presumed for lost and which God knows how, had landed up in my brief case.
My thrill of finding my long lost paper cutter was over in a nano-second as the cops (and now their superiors) insisted on seeing my papers and bombarded me with questions. 15 minutes and many, many proofs of identities later, they confiscated my beloved paper cutter and ushered me along to the flight. I was the last guy in as the Station Manager looked daggers (again!) turnwise at me and his watch!
Photo © Marlo Plate - IBERIAN SPOTTERS
Our A300-605R, 9K-AMC 'Wafra', was just over 10 years old having joined the KU fleet in JUL93. The F/cl cabin (now used for J/cl) had 18 seats (6 abreast) of 62in pitch and were really comfortable. S/cl also had a similar number but 2/3/2. It was my first experience of KU Y/cl and was comparatively comfortable as against EK whose seats I have found to be cramped in Y/cl. I was on the first seat in Y/cl (aisle) on the starboard side. Dying to sleep, I just stayed awake to survey the tarmac for other airplanes as we taxied out for take-off.
BOM Airport early morning is a busy place with a host of Gulf bound departures. Other planes I saw included a GF A320 A40-EE (an airplane just 2 months older to the one I was in), GF 763, WY B737, a white tail 747-200 (which I assume was a Haj charter), QR A320, BG A310, Polar B74F, Eva MD11F, 2 AI B742 / 1 B743 / 5 B744 / 5 A310s and one IC A300 VT-EVD. A brief wait just short of the runway to allow a 9W B737 to land and we were on our way, climbing up and away into a dawn sky heading West over the Arabian Sea. As always, when I take off from BOM, I remembered 'Emperor Ashoka' and her tragic tryst with destiny on 01JAN78.
I was out like a light within 15 minutes of lift off. Deciding to give breakfast a miss, I was jolted off and on, out of my slumber by consistently turbulent weather which seemed to be characteristic of the entire 2759kms from BOM to KWI. 98% of the passengers on board were Indians returning to their workplaces in the Gulf and USA. Families with children were the norm. While the crew were not overly friendly, they were professional and efficient. A rather corpulent lady was my neighbour and was fast asleep from the moment I stepped on board. Even while deboarding I do not recall if she had woken up.
Coming over the sea, dotted with boats, oil tankers and freighters, our A300 passed over the sandy landscape of KWI and touched down at precisely 0810hrs. Besides and assortment of KU airplanes, A USAF C-5 Galaxy, an Atlas Air B74F and the VIP B744 and A310 of the Kuwait Amiri Fleet were on ground at KWI.
I quickly cleared immigrations and customs, picked up my bag and was out of KWI Airport - a small and a highly functional airport with a propensity for the colour pink.
I had all of 15hrs to finish my meetings in KWI before emplaning on KU204 that very night.
But more of that in PART II