On Saturday December 27th, my dad and I went over to the Jet Airways city office in Mumbai to re-confirm our flights. All three of our tickets were re-confirmed and mine was even stamped with the date and time of re-confirmation
Jet Airways 351
Mumbai (Bombay) – Delhi
Boeing 737-800 (VT-JGD)
Seat: Never Got One
Scheduled Departure Time: 13:50
Scheduled Arrival Time: 15:45
Actual Departure Time: 15:10
Actual Arrival Time: 16:55
Photo © David Matyas
Photo © Royal S King
Check In: I approached the Business Class check in counter around 11:45 as I am allowed access to this facility with my Northwest Elite status. My mother, father and I were flying to Delhi with me today. We showed all three tickets and typing proceeded and two boarding passes were printed and the baggage tags were printed, but they both were printed for BDQ (Baroda), the place my parents were flying to tomorrow from Delhi. As it turns out the flight was delayed till 14:50, all right, no nig deal. Suddenly the agent summoned a supervisor and two more boarding passes were printed and the baggage tags were printed correctly. But why two boarding passes, there were three of us. At that point I should have known what was going on, having worked behind an airline desk myself.
The supervisor came over and said,
“Sir, do you have your PNR number?”
“Here you go,” as I hand him the paper with the information. I then decided to ask,
“Is there a problem?”
“I am afraid so sir. It seems as if you reservation has been canceled.”
“WHAT! That’s not possible, I reconfirmed the reservation at your office, you can clearly see the stamp on the ticket wit the date.”
“Yes sir, I can. But I am afraid there is nothing I can do yet. There are no seats available on your flight. In fact it is oversold.”
“Well you better do something as I have a connection later tonight on KLM to the United States, so I NEED to get to Delhi. Can you please check if there are seats on Indian Airlines or Air Sahara?”
“I am afraid sir that all flights on all carriers to Delhi are full. We have had to cancel a few flights and now all of them are fully booked if not over sold”
“Look, someone on your side has messed up. I have a legitimate reservation that was canceled for no reason. Could you please check if there are no other seats on the other airlines first before telling me no.”
“Yes sir, I shall.”
Meantime I go sit down with my parents discussing alternatives that could be done. I could go to Delhi on my own and take my dad’s seat. My dad and I could go to Delhi and my mother could go home and get a flight to BDQ tomorrow. Things were just running around in circles. I quickly picked up the cell phone and called NW. As an elite with them they said they could guarantee me a seat in coach tonight out of BOM. I accepted that and told them to hold both reservations.
All of a sudden I realized that B747-437B was in Mumbai. I could easily call him on the phone and see if he has any extra info for me. I called him up and we discussed the situation. He told me that the 18:00 BOM-DEL-HKG flight on Air India still had seats and that looked like it would be my best option in case I could not get out of here by then. “Oh, by the way Anosh, physically walk over to the Sahara and Indian Airlines counters and make sure for yourself that they have no seats.” Of course, why did I not think of that, thanks Sean! Quickly I ran to the new supervisor as shift changes had occurred. She smiled at me and said, “Sorry, no new developments. I am still waiting for check in to be closed before I can tell you anything.”
My dad and I walked over to the Air Sahara counter as Indian Airlines uses another terminal. At this point it was 14:00. We walked up,
“Do you have a flight to Delhi leaving soon?”
“Yes sir, we have one leaving in 30 minutes. How many seats would you like?”
I explained the situation Jet Airways had put me in and she said,
“No problem sire. Just bring your tickets over here and make sure Jet Airways endorsees them. That’s all you need. We have three seats available for you.”
I ran back to that supervisor, told her Air Sahara had seats available and I needed Jet Airways to endorse them.
“No problem sir, we shall get it done.”
They picked up the phone to clear this all with a supervisor. My dad stayed at the counter and I dragged the bags to get them re x-rayed by Air Sahara security. Once that was done, dragged them back to the Air Sahara counter and the bags were tagged quickly. Our boarding passes were issued and handed to us with a box of candy.
I immediately called Sean back up while heading towards security and told him the news. We said bye, wished each other good luck with the Delhi fog tonight as both of had flights through Delhi in the morning.
All three of us pretty much ran through security, had the boarding passes stamped as well as the baggage tags. We then got to the large common lounge used by Jet Airways, Air Sahara, and Air Deccan. We sat down near gate two. The lounge was very primitive and really no different from the architecture of the main International terminal. Drab and lifeless with white walls and blue floors. We sat there 14:15 rolled by and an Air Sahara employee finally ended up on the podium. Went over to him and he said it would be a little longer as the plane has not landed. Turns out Mumbai was only using one runway as the other one was closed plus with the fog in Delhi, all aircraft were running late for all three airlines running the route, a short while later our cockpit crew came and stood by one of the buses. Around 14:25 in the distance I clearly saw an Air Sahara 737-400 come in for landing. Five minutes later the Jet Airways 737-900 that I was suppose to be on came in as well.
Air Sahara 206
Mumbai (Bombay) – Delhi
Boeing 737-400 (VT-SIY)
Scheduled Departure Time: 13:00
Scheduled Arrival Time: 14:55
Actual Departure Time: 15:00
Actual Arrival Time: 16:45
Photo © Charles Falk
Photo © Charles Falk
Boarding: Around 14:45, boarding commenced and there was a huge line. Thought we would go to the end of the line simply because we would end up on a bus anyway. We ended up on the second bus, which waited for the first bus to offload her passengers first. We were then dropped off at the front of the aircraft and I boarded via the stairs, something I have not done in a long time, a very welcome sight to see the plane so up close like this.
I entered the doorway and was greeted with a warm smile from the flight attendant standing in the doorway. I went down to look for row 11 and low and behold it was the exit row, which was a welcome, surprise after all the problems encountered today. I opted for the isle and my dad took the center seat with my mother across the isle.
The seat was nothing spectacular but the legroom was fantastic being in an exit row and all. First a very good looking flight attendant came around to each person sitting by the exit door on the wing and briefed hem like I have never seen before. Going into detail about how they should only open the door on the crews command etc… I have never seen this much detail even on my North American flights, impressive. Soon the flight attendants stated coming around the cabin just as the door was closed. The load factor was a 100% today and I suspect a few people had transferred from the Jet Airways flight like us. First the crew walked around telling people to put their bags in the overhead bins and not in the seat in front of them. They were very adamant about this and I still have no idea why. Good to know that safety has not taken a back seat on this airline.
The service commenced with some type of green mango drink in a container. I was revolted by the taste but my mother happily drank mine. My dad did not even open his. I guess I am too “Western” for my own good now. Soon the flight attendants came around with bottles of water and cotton wool for anyone that wanted either or both. I opted for a nice small bottle of Himalayan water to get the taste of that mango thing out of my mouth. The crew came around one more time to hand out auction booklets, more on that later. Soon the safety demo was performed manually and much to our amusement the aircraft started push back at that very moment. The crew was trying to hold their balance while showing how to use the seatbelt and so on. Not an easy task when you are already wearing a sari to begin with. Too bad it was not this entertaining two weeks ago when my senior NW crew did the manual demonstration when the entertainment was causing problems on the A330.
As we taxied out I could see the Jet Airways 737-900 having its stairs retracted. We taxied to the runway and the pilot asked the crew to take their seats a minute or two before we got to the runway threshold. When the engines revved up I looked back at the galley and clearly saw one of the stewards still standing closing one of the oven doors. He immediately plopped himself into one of the seats without a seatbelt, or at least it seemed that way as he was on the edge of the seat and no leaning back.
The Flight: We were up in the air in no time, the plane creaked and rattled, but no more than what is common. Once again I was very happy with the legroom this being the exit row, I could easily cross my legs and sit very comfortably. Soon the service started. The crew sprang into action a short while after the seat belt sign was turned off. The curtain separating business class was closed, a nice touch that I miss now from the US carriers. She almost instantly came around with a tray of “Lime-N-Pudina” peanuts. Seemed like an odd flavor and tasted equally odd, but like I said, I am too Western for my own good at times. The other passengers seem to enjoy it, including the German lady across the isle from me. Once they were handed out to each passenger, the flight attendant came by once more with a tray of drinks. The tray consisted of half coke, and half “Mirinda,” an orange soda that is similar to Slice in the U.S. and Fanta in Europe. I picked an orange soda out of the tray, she looked at me and said, “I’ll serve it to you sir.” I smiled back and said “don’t worry about it, this will make it easier for you.” She gave me a nice big smile back after that.
Shortly thereafter the flight attendant came with packets moist toilettes to help clean up after the “Lime-N-Pudina” mess. All the while the passenger seated behind me, tried to read his newspaper while leaning it on my head. I lost it after the about 3 times. I smacked my head back really hard, and he continued to lay the newspaper on my head. At that point I got tired of subtle messages and just threw my hand back to flick the newspaper of my head and I did the same thing for another minute until he finally gave up trying to rest it on my head.
The crew came around with the meal service. It was a choice of either vegetarian or non-vegetarian. The flight attendant serving our isle started in the front of the cabin and worked her way down. The other flight attendant started serving at row 15 and worked his way down. As I mentioned before that this flight was 100% full, thus our flight attendant ran out of the non-vegetarian option by row 8, four rows into the coach cabin. I took the vegetarian option that was put down on my tray table graciously and with a beaming smile. My dad opted not to eat anything and the flight attendant was really trying to get him to take something.
“Sir, I am sorry, but all we have is vegetarian. I assure you it is very good.”
“Its all right, I am really not hungry. I promise I would not have eaten even if you had the non vegetarian option.”
“I am really sorry sir. We did not expect so many passengers today. I am really sorry. Is there anything else I can get you?”
My dad opted for a bottle of water and she was somewhat satisfied. Now this is what I call service, a flight attendant that genuinely cares about their passengers! Something of a rarity these days.
The meal itself was pretty good quantity wise as you can see in the picture. The main dish consisted of paneer and green peas in tomato gravy, rice and yellow dahl, all Indian specialties. There was a salad that consisted of cucumbers, tomatoes, an olive and a chili with no salad dressing. There was also a bun wrapped in plastic with some “Amul” butter. Despite the bun being pre packaged, it was actually very nice and soft. There were also three mini papads in a small zip lock bag which my dad ate and from what I understand it was as good as it can be.
The tray was cleared a short while later with another beaming smile. It amazed me how graceful and charming this sari-covered girl was trough out the flight. How I miss flying Asian airlines! I then realized that we had not had any dessert on the tray and thought to myself, is this going to be Air Sahara’s downfall? What can I say? I am a sucker for sweet things. Soon the crew came around with cups of Baskin and Robbins banana and strawberry ice cream. Whoa! I can’t believe this was all served on a two-hour flight, amazing!
A short while later the auction winners were announced and instruction were given as to where the lucky folks could claim their prizes in Delhi. Decent started shortly thereafter with the crew coming around to collect any last minute trash by hand, not with a plastic bag in head yelling “trash” at the top of their lungs. Once again the flight attendants, both male and females did everything with a smile with plenty of “thank you” going around.
Arrival: We touched down into a foggy Delhi where visibility must have been under a mile. We taxied to the domestic terminal and parked at a hard stand. Soon the doors were opened and we exited through the front door with each flight attendant saying “bye” with a smile beaming from ear to ear. I walked out and was still mesmerized by the 737 so up close. Boarded the bus and took off for the terminal with the Jet Airways 737-900 landing in the background. At the baggage carousel momentarily and out bags were out in the first half as we were one of the last to check in. Collected the bags and we were out in no time and on our way to the hotel.
Verdict: When I got to the airport I had no idea of what was in store for me. I had not even imagined I would ever board an Air Sahara plane. In the end I was though roughly impressed. What a flight it was. The crew was a credit to their airline and defiantly showed true Indian hospitality at its best. I am glad I got to try Air Sahara out, as they were a nice change from the norm. I would have no hesitation buying a ticket on them, nor would I have a problem recommending them to anyone. They are a great little secret and I am sure they will do well in the future, as they certainly know how to treat their customers. Good for you Air Sahara! Too bad you can’t seem to make a profit; otherwise you would be an excellent business model for other airlines to follow.
Jet Airways 351
Check In: 3 (Nice and smiling, but always avoiding telling me how they managed to mess it up)
Air Sahara 206
Check In: 10 (Efficient and courteous, a life saver at this point)
Boarding: 6 (Not done by rows, but there were at least two busses to relieve congestion)
Seat: 9 (A little worn out but an exit row none the less)
Crew: 11 (A warm caring bunch of crew that were constantly on their feet with a genuine smile)
Aircraft: 9 (Little run down but it is a classic and the 738’s are replacing them)
Entertainment: 0 (None what so ever)
Meal: 9 (Outstanding for a 1 and a half hour flight. Quality was pretty good as well)
Arrival: 10 (Bags were out fast and none of them were lost. What else can I ask for?)
64/80 = .80
Air Sahara gets an 80% for this flight. The only thing bringing them down was the entertainment, but it is the same with Jet Airways and Northwest, so nothing unusual over here.