Report of my most recent trip to Bangalore and back.
Carrier: Indian Airlines (IC)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200 (VT-ESJ)
STD: 1315, STA: 1540
ATD: 1445, ATA: 1715
Check-in and pre-departure at PNQ:
Reached the airport at 1115 well in advance of the scheduled check-in only to find that all outgoing flights were delayed because of runway closure. The excuse given today was that a Mig-29 had overshot the runway earlier that day. Sorry! Not buying!
The closure meant that all flights of all airlines: IC (to GOI/BLR and BOM/DEL), 9W (BOM and BLR/MAA) and S2 (DEL, BLR and HYD/CCU) were shown delayed by 15 mins to 2 hours. Check-in at the IC counter was very biz-like though the agents appeared slightly hassled by all the passengers crowding around. The staff at the 9W and S2 counters on the other hand, were calm and composed. I noticed that some pax were assigned seats but some who were booked on APEX fares were simply assigned boarding cards with FREE written in the seat column. Pretty annoying! Nowhere does the airline mention that pax booked on APEX fares will not be allowed seat selection? And it never happened on other sectors before!
Went to the visitor’s gallery that has a view of the tarmac. The first flight to come in was the delayed S2 flight from CCU/HYD. From the number of pax getting off the CRJ-200 (VT-SAS), it seems S2 is doing pretty well on the route! The CRJ is one helluva noisy bitch! Also for some reason the pilots left atleast one engine running while it was on the ground. This was immediately followed by a 9W 737-700 (VT-JNE) operating the turnaround flight from BOM. Both left within 30 minutes in pouring rain!! Another 9W 73G(reg not noted) came in from MAA/BLR.
2 IC Airbus A320 arrived within a minute of each other. The first VT-EYE came in from DEL. This was the first time I was seeing a single bogie A320 from this close. Following closely was VT-ESJ from BLR, a normal double-bogied A320. Both were in superb condition. As soon as the aircraft arrived, I went down and cleared security to get on the airside. However within minutes the weather deteriorated and visibility reduced to less than a mile! At around 1415 visibility improved and boarding was called. Pax were frisked by airline security and carryon baggage was thoroughly checked on the tarmac before we walked on to the waiting aircraft and boarded from the front.
Photo © Vector Grafix
Photo © Airsnaps
My ride for the day, VT-ESJ, was in superb condition on the outside and the inside. The aircraft was fully packed even though only 40 or so pa had boarded at PNQ. Every seat on the 140 seat aircraft (including 20 in J) was occupied. Among the pax in the J-cabin was a dotcommer type executive with his old granny/mom who sat in the seat with her legs on the seat! Only in India!
I made my way to my seat in the last row of the aircraft 28F as the cabin-crew handed out sweets. There was a further delay because of the weather in which time the cabin crew made the safety demo and went through the cabin checking on the passengers. Cushions and Blankets were handed out to those who asked for them.
We made a leisurely take off (45 secs) from RWY28 into some pretty ugly weather at around 1445. The lunch service began even as the aircraft was climbing and was completed by 1515! Pretty quick! There was no post-lunch beverage as is the usual which was surprising. Also the pax were not asked for their meal preference and only veg meals were being handed out. Again very surprising! The turbulence made eating the meal quite a task!
Tray served (Lunch):
Cutlery:3 piece metal. (Spoon, Knife and Fork).
1 bowl veg salad (without dressing)- carrot sticks, capsicum and cucumber slices and whole sweet jamuns.
1 slightly soggy bun wrapped in plastic.
Main Dish: VERY small serving of rice with 2 vegetable dishes. The exact vegetables varied, but my dish had a serving of paneer butter masala and something that tasted like a de-spiced version of Veg. Kolhapuri. Food was hot and tasty. But the quantity was hugely disappointing! There was hardly HALF a bowl of rice in the dish!
I slab of Amul butter and mixed pickle. (They should change the pickle supplier!)
Dessert: 1 bowl of kheer (payasam). Excellent quality.
250 ml water bottle.
Salt, pepper and Wet tissues. No napkins as in pvt carriers. And no beverage service.
We arrived at Goa (GOI) and landed at 1535. Aircraft spotted at GOI: S2 737-400 (SIY?), another S2 CRJ, 9W 737-800 and an IC A320. Vijay Mallyas personal B727 corporate jet with winglets was also parked at a remote stand. Looked amazing! During the halt, one FA advised me to shift to seat 8A (very first row of economy). Good advice! Legroom in this seat was amazing! Something like 40-in! On the down side, this seat was much more noisier as it was directly ahead of the engine.
After a 35 minute halt, we pushed back for the 50 minute flight to BLR. Again the flight was completely packed in Y while J was completely empty! Only this time a very attractive girl and her mom were seated next to me on this segment. Her very very Short skirt meant that the next 50 mins were to be occupied by a can-u-spot the panties game!
VERRY Powerful takeoff (~32 secs) from RWY26. Snacks were served on this flight. Weather fortunately much better on this flight. With the rains the whole of Bangalore had a very newly washed look with hundreds of little lakes spread out across the city. Pretty sight! Landed at BLR RWY28 at ~1715, 1.5 hrs later than scheduled.
Tray served (Light Snack):
3 piece metal cutlery.
Sponge Cake dipped in a strange sweet yellow sauce.
Main dish:2 paneer wadas and 2 strange veg wadas (more like the chaat tikkas). Hot and tasty (atleast the paneer). But quite oily as well.
2 pieces mayonnaise and chutney sandwiches.
Fruit Juice (frooti type prepaked).
250 ml water bottle.
Ketchup, Salt, pepper and Wet tissues. No napkins as in pvt carriers. no beverage service here either.
My Baggage was already on the carousel as I arrived and I was out of the terminal within 2 minutes! A very professional, English speaking cop stood outside the arrivals area helping pax get a ride into town. We were asked to lineup like school children as one rickshaw after another lined up. All rickshaw numbers were noted along with the destination. The cop told me the approximate fare and handed me a card mentioning the phone number I could call if the rickshawwalla tried any harassment! Very nice!!! All this meant that I was at my meeting at the Bagmane IT park within half an hour without enduring a screaming match with the rickshaw-wallas! Kudos to the Bangalore police and city admin! Why cant Pune and every other city implement a similar system?
Check-in: 5/10. Professional but the staff could do with some courtesy training. The staff at the 9W and S2 counters handled the stress (the delayed flights etc) much better. The IC counters had the typical sarkaari chaap all over. Not nice!
Seating: 9/10. Something like 32-33” in 28F. Last row had restricted recline. But at no time did my knees touch the front seat even when it was reclined! Plus it was quiet! The first row seat 8F had phenomenal legroom but was very noisy esp on takeoff! IC should consider replacing the transparent “windows” on the bulkhead between the J cabin and Y. Would help make the J cabin more private. On the second segment, I could see the cabin crew fool around in the empty J-cabin! The cabin was spotless and othing shook or rattled! Seemed like it had a refurbishing recently.
Cabin crew and inflight service: 7/10. Professional and to-the point service. The extra-effort that 9W and S2 FA’s put in is clearly missing, atleast with the older crew but it wasn’t bad! Also the way the FA’s carried the business magazines around was hilarious! For gods sake, it’s a silly magazine, not the Kohinoor diamond!
Counted 5 crew on this flight, mebbe 6. The J-cabin had a balding male purser who was in his late 50’s as well as a young female attendant while the Y cabin had 3 female attendants, one of whom was in her late 40’s while the other 2 were in their late 20’s. While they were not as glamorous as the bimbettes on 9W and S2, the female crew were not entirely unfortunate looking.
I asked for the feedback forms during the halt at GOI which seemed to worry the FA’s no end! While handing it over, she made it a point to enquire whether there was any specific aspect of the service that I did not like. There wasn’t anything like that but the concern was nice.
No pre-takeoff drink on either segment. Meal service, especially on the first segment PNQ-GOI was rushed. Meals were handed out even as the aircraft was climbing steeply. Pax preference was not asked for and only veg meals were being handed out on the first segment. No beverage service either. But to be fair, the turbulence did not make it an easy task! On the GOI-BLR segment, meal service was more relaxed and the young FA serving the section asked for the preference and was more courteous.
Meals: 7/10. Good quality. Hot and better than average. However quantity of the main dishes, especially on the lunch service was a shocker!!