Jet Airways Bangalore-Pune
Carrier: Jet Airways (9W)
Routing: BLR-PNQ (non-Stop)
Aircraft: Boeing 737-700 (VT-JGB)
STD: 1130, STA: 1250
ATD: 1130, ATA: 1255
Class of Travel: Y
Seat: 23D (4th row from the last)
(16 morning BLR city): Had retd late night from a day trip with friends to Hogenakkal falls just across the Karnataka border and then stayed up watching the Hockey match with Holland (which we lost miserably!). End result was that we ended up getting up late around 0830. Washed up and had breakfast with a friend in his company after which he dropped me off at the airport around 10ish.
The domestic terminal at Bangalore airport now has 2 modules: Module 1 is for IC flights and Module-2 is for the pvt carriers. Entry for Jet and Sahara pax is now around 100 feet to the right of the old point of entry. Both lead to the same airside section though, and share a joint section where those bookstalls etc are located. So I fail to see the point of separate entry points etc!!
Got my check-in baggage x-rayed and sealed and proceeded for check-in. The staff at the Check-in counter was friendly and very courteous and handed out newspapers to (SOME) of the pax checking in. No window seats were available (or so she said!). I was checking in 1.5 hours before flight time! How could that be?!! Could it be the snob factor that 9W is so notorious for? There were only a couple of pax in the lobby even around 1100 hrs when security was being called for the flight. One of the counter staff told me it was because most Jet pax preferred to use the tele-check-in facility for pax traveling with hand baggage. Oh so there was a tele-check in facility? Now she tells me!!
Walked around the shops on the IC side of the departures area till security was called. With that out of the way I settled down with a cup of coffee in the newly refurbished airside lobby. I like the new jhatang seats in the lobby, though many have already got holes etc. There was little airline activity on the tarmac except for a lone 9W ATR-72 (VT-JGD?) preparing to leave for Mangalore. So most of the next hour was spent in what city-bred Mallus like myself call “Mouth-looking”! Must say this: Most of the 9W pax streaming in, even the economy class, had a certain profile, quite different from the typical profile of pax on IC or S2 which is more varied. 9W on the other hand has a pax profile (atleast on their PNQ and BOM flights), which is mostly what a certain Arun Jaitley famously described as “babalog”. Mebbe that is the source of the famed snob factor?
The flight I was to be on originated at MAA (routing MAA-BLR-PNQ) but this time there was an equipment change at BLR from a 737-800 to a 737-700, allegedly because of “poor runway condition at destination”! If IC can operate a larger A320 without any problem and 9W itself can send in a –800 everyday then what was the problem today? Seriously why cant airlines tell the truth? Is it that bad to admit that the original acft had gone tech?
Boarding was announced at 1110 and after another round of frisking and carry-on check outside the terminal building, we walked down to the aircraft where we were frisked again by airline security! Our ride today was a Boeing 737-700 (VT-JGB) which was in perfect condition, inside and outside.
Photo © Royal S King
There were 5/6 cabin crew of which 2 were male (1 in each cabin). All the 6 cabin crew were in their 20’s. 2 very attractive girls and 1 senor Tight-ass were assigned to our cabin while 2 others were in the J-Cabin. While the 2 female FA’s kept themselves busy distributing sweets etc to the boarding pax, the purser was helping pax load the bags in the overhead compartments. A female attendant came round with Cold-Towels (Yes!! In Y class!!) and the purser later came around with a pre-packaged takeoff drink before hurriedly taking his place for the safety briefing as the engines started up. A leisurely takeoff (~35 secs) was made from one of the runways (we directly started the takeoff roll after turning onto the runway from the taxiway so I presume it was RWY09) followed by a steep steep climbout.
The Meal carts were rolled out almost immediately. The purser who served our section did ask for the preference before laying out the meal trays. Food was hot and decently tasty though qty wise it was on the lower side like IC. Once again, seems like both 9W and IC are going full steam with the cost-cutting! Before clearing the trays, the purser came around asking for Tea/Coffee which was poured in a mug laid out on the meal tray. Ten minutes later he along with his colleague went through the cabin and picked up the trays, while the 3rd purser distributed extra water bottles to those pax who wanted them. Quick and efficient!
Meal Tray (Lunch)
Cutlery: 3 piece plastic.
Main Dish: VERRY small helping of Rice with 2 veg dishes on either side. Paneer gravy and French Beans subzee.
Boondi Raita (fried balls of gram flour in a curd concoction)
Sweet dish: no longer the “tuttee paste” (chocolate mousse) that was the norm earlier on 9W. Instead a Bowl with a weird rice kheer. Tasted of some chemical or something! Not very nice!
200-ml water bottle.
Salt, Pickle, Pepper, Sugar, Toothpick and mint all in sachets put together in a neat packet.
Nicely designed Cloth napkin. (Very nice touch. IC/S2 must emulate this!)
IFE: none. On their website they talk of a selection of piped music which would play on every 9W flight. I didn’t hear any though! S2 is the only domestic carrier to offer 3 channels of audio. The lack of IFE was more than made up by the commanding pilots 15 min long speech made on the address system. Short version:” we are flying at 41000 feet (for a 1.25 hours flight! Really?) at a speed of 950 kph(for an aircraft with a max speed of 870kph!). Easterlies blah blah blah.. condensation…blah blah blah…Poor rwy condition at Pune.. blah blah blah….)”
After the meal service, one FA went through the cabin distributing feedback forms to SELECTED pax (more on that later) while another went through the cabin with a charity box. We started our descent around 50 miles out (as the capt said) and around 30 minutes before STA. The instrument Landing was smooth though there was a heck of a lot of braking followed by a longish taxi to the tiny apron of Pune airport. An IC A320 (VT-ESK) which had operated the same route 20 minutes earlier was the other occupant of the tarmac.
Baggage took a full 20 minutes to arrive from the aircraft and the task of retrieval was made more difficult because the airport authorities had decided to lay out fresh tiles in the area of the carousels at about the same time! 30 minutes after having landed, I was on a rickshaw headed home. In sharp contrast to the scene at BLR, I had to shell out atleast 150 bucks (TWICE the normal rate) for the 12 km ride which wouldn’t go farther than the University, from where I had to take another rickshaw! And people wonder why Pune is loosing out to Bangalore in the IT/BPO race?
Check-in: 9/10. Very courteous and helpful with most pax. The newspapers etc were a nice touch. However they are very selective with the courtesy extended!
Seating: 8/10. One area where IC seems marginally better. Seat pitch around 29-30”. Not very sure of exact specs but certainly less than on IC. Seat also reclined less and was less wider. Overall the benefit of the wider cabin of the A320 was very evident. The –700 was configured with 122 seats including 20 in J. However the cabin was kept spotlessly clean.
Cabin crew and inflight service: 9/10. Being younger (in their 20’s), most of the cabin crew seemed very motivated and did not hesitate to go the extra mile! One of the male crew (the senor tight-ass I referred to earlier) seemed to be genuinely pissed off at someone or something. He did his job thoroughly and was very competent, but his face had a look that said “I should be GETTING served, not serving!”. 9W should consider operating with all-woman cabin crew. Male cabin crews just don’t cut it! The female crew should go a little easy on the makeup though if they don’t want to end up looking like whores. Cold Towels on boarding: wonderful idea!
Meals: 8/10 Good quality. Hot and better than average. However quantity of the main dishes is the issue again. Cost cutting has taken its toll? Pre-takeoff beverage drink was cold buttermilk, which was rejected by most pax. Normal frooti type drink or a can of Coke would have been better.
Make no mistake about it: 9W is THE airline designed for the “babalog”! Indian members would understand what I mean by this. The snob factor is evident right from check-in to every aspect of the flight! While some may like it, this is offensive to many others who may have got caught at the wrong end. At check-in only SOME of us were given newspapers, while others weren’t. After boarding, only some pax got a special smile or a helping hand thrown their way, while many were just plainly ignored. The feedback forms were handed out inflight only to SOME pax. It was hilarious to see the FA walking slowly through the aisle scanning each row of pax carefully to decide if the passenger fit the “profile” and if he did, handed out the form! The chinky guy sitting next to me passed some very interesting comments on this weird behavior! Again when the FA’s handed out soft toys/bags etc to the children there was lot of this snobbishness on display. A young girl sitting 2 seats away from me never got the “honor” of receiving the takeaway! Well 9W certainly lost one future passenger just because she didn’t “look right”!!
From the jazzy ads coming out on TV, it would seem that the state-owned IC is also getting into the act of enticing the “babalog” passenger. I hope they don’t take this new idea too far and end up driving away a large section of the travelers like 9W is doing!
Overall however, I would say that 9W is undoubtedly one of the best airlines and would certainly recommend it to others. It is everything that dowdy old Air India should be but isn’t.