I came in last night (25SEP) with AI112 LHR
-DEL and thought I'd post my experience of this trip. So here goes...
STD 0945LT STA
ATD 1105LT ATA 2348LT
Aircraft: B747-4B5, VT
-AID, Kaziranga (ex HL-7481)
I arrived at LHR
T/3 nice and early at 0620 with the first train from Kings Cross St. Pancras. My ticket (interline) was waitlisted in J/cl and I thought I'd take a chance coming in early enough. The AI
counters are located in Zone F of T/3 - an area which either by design or coincidence seemed to house most of the Subcontinent janata carriers - AI
to name a few. Even at 0640hrs, the AI
counters were already full even though F/J were empty.
The girl from Aviance at the J/cl counter informed me that the flight was full in F & J and I would have to settle for Y. Thinking that I'd be disappointed, she even checked out AI128 (STD 1200LT) and informed me that even that was full in F & J. I assured her it was not an issue at all and requested her to allocate me a starboard window seat just aft of the wing. She gave me 61K and informed me that boarding was at 0845hrs. Even though I had come in only with hand baggage, I chose to check in my strolley as I did not fancy fighting for an overhead bin in economy class.
The gate had (understandably) not been announced yet. I went over to the Food Court at T/3 and had breakfast there after which I waited at the departure lounge for them to announce the gate. At about 0830, the board showed AI112 at gate 36. I recalled seeing a sign shortly before that showing the estimated walking time to gates 30-42 (or so) as approximately 20minutes and the question that invariably comes to my mind whenever I travel hounded me once again... why was it that most of the flights that I took had gates at the farthest possible point? Is it just me or have some of you had that feeling as well??
At security, the Sardarji Englishman wanted me to remove my shoes and show him the soles. I mentally said a prayer of thanks to God that Richard Reid didn't pack explosives in his underwear!
Reached gate 36 in about 10 minutes at a quick pace where I saw 'Kaziranga' was still disembarking passengers. I was the first to enter the gate waiting area. One of the ground staff (from AI
I imagine) kept announcing to passengers that anyone who wished to go to the washroom had better do it now before entering as there was no washroom in the waiting area. Next in after me were the AI
cabin crew who were take the flight to DEL. Boarding was not announced until the STD of 0945hrs. Boarding was supposed to be zone wise. Those in rows 65-82 first, 45-65 next and the rest thereafter. But it does not cease to amaze me that my fellow country men still do not understand the concept of queueing as three lines formed, each jostling with the other and falling over each other in a me-first to get to the airplane. I ended the race placed about 93rd (a good score considering that there were about 348 competitors).
Kaziranga! A name I must admit I just did not like for an AI
747. I mean after naming them after Emperors, Temples, historic cities... Kaziranga?? I mean if it was old man Gogoi's lasting contribution to AI
, I just hope Thulasidas does not come up with something like "Arulmigu Thirumuruganpundi" for VT
I took a quick peek into F/cl. The 12 new beds were there. J/cl was upstairs and cattle class commenced immediately after F. The seats were shabby at best and with a mix of blue and maroon. I made my way to 61K and even as I put my briefcase into the overhead bin, noticed the thick remnants of hair oil on the window-pane from the head of some fellow Southie catching forty winks on an earlier flight. So I went straight ahead to the galley, asked for some tissues and H2O and proceeded to wipe the window clean. Again, is it just me or do some of the others here also end to get these awful hairoiled window panes?
I had come in with LH
. If LH
scores 9/10 in cleanliness of the airplane interior, I'd give AI
about 4/10. But that's about the last point where I'd give AI
a lower score. I fully agree with Jaysit who mentioned in an earlier post that AI
was like ITDC. But then I found LH
(Y/cl) like Steigenberger/FRA
(a disaster of a hotel service wise) and BA
more like Holiday Inn Express (again no great shakes in Y and Premium Y). The ITDC comparison kept coming back to me as I watched the crew - senior citizens all (except a couple of ladies in their early 30s). They were extremely helpful and sweet though, coming around with orange juice as passengers settled down. I had a young couple next to me with the wife in a night suit and husband in a sleeveless T and shorts looking as if he'd just left the LON Marathon mid-way to catch the flight.
Looking out of my now clean window, I noted some stains on the innermost flap track fairings which I could have sworn were "paan stains". Also a part of the earlier HL registration was clearly visible under the current registration painted on the wing. At 1045 the Captain came on the PA with an announcement that he was sorry for the delay and though we were now ready, it would be another 20 minutes before we pushed back due to other traffic. He was true to his word and at 1105hrs, we pushed back. A thick puff of white smoke came out of engine no. 4 as it came on and I recalled seeing an AI
B742 (VT-ENQ/Himalaya) doing a spectacular wet start one evening in CCU a long time ago. Pushback through, we were taxying towards 27L when another AI
744 touched down. A 3rd AI
744 was already on the ground at this time as well though I didn't get either of their regs.
So it was that finally at 1130hrs we lifted off from LHR
27L after 25 minutes of taxying, waiting and taxying. The screen ahead showed us the flight path and other flight details and though the crew announced the LHR
-DEL distance to be 7358kms, the screen showed about 6727kms. Seatbelt signs were switched off at about 27000ft and breakfast service commenced almost immediately.
Breakfast (non-veg) comprised of 'Akuri' (masala scrambled egg) with two pieces of chicken tikka and some preparation of potato, cold crossaint, yogurt and canned fruit besides the mandatory tea/coffee. It wasn't exactly delicious, but definitely brought back memories of LH
whose grub (whether F/J/Y) is nowhere near AI
(I'm talking taste here, not the presentation).
Inflight music: I love Hindi music - old Bollywood, new Bollywood, originals, remixes, ghazals all. I'd choose AI
's selection anyday over the "sarkailo khatiya" other weird numbers which some of the European carriers dish out in the name of Hindi music. Only AI
's channels reflected in the magazine did not match with the channels that actually had the music... but who cares as long as it works. Excellent set of old songs (Mere naina, Hum bewafa, O Saathi re..) and new ones (Its the time to Disco, Bin tere sanam, etc.). Movie was Yuva, though I did not watch it.
Window shutters were downed after breakfast as the movie came on and most passengers opted for a bit of shut-eye. Crew kept coming around with a variety of juices for the few that were awake. I went to the back of the cabin to open the window and check for contrails (didn't see any though). The flight was largely uneventful, except for me waking up my snoring seatmates a couple of times to go to the loo.
The Loo: This was probably my 10th flight on AI
(long haul) in 2 years about half of which were in Y/cl. I still find the allegations of overflowing loos a bit of a myth. Yup, there are queues of people at any given time dying to get in, but it really wasn't the nightmare that its often made out to be on this forum. The loo visit also brought on that great argument that goes on in my mind... conventional loos or vaccuum loos. I personally find the latter to be noisy and inefficient in cleaning up the basin especially if the meal served is of the greasy Indian variety. The traditional type with the blue liquid coming around in swirls probably did not clean up entirely the first shot, but repeated jabbing of the flush button often improved the situation. Same story here too, with no amount of flushing of the vaccuum loo getting those pesky tiger stripes off! (don't puke guys... its just an observation).
About 3 hrs prior to landing cabin lights came on and crew came with a round of drinks (I had some apple juice) and snacks (Haldirams potato crunchies and chiwda/conflakes mixture). That over, dinner service commenced.
Dinner: That great event on an AI
flight. We were handed out little menu cards which showed dinner to be the following:
Vegetarian: Mixed Salad with dressing. Main course: Rice Pulao with spiced vegetables. Dessert: Badam Phirni. Tea/Coffee.
Non Veg: Mixed Salad with dressing. Main course: Grilled Cape Hake with Mushroom Marinara Sauce, Roast Potatoes with Paprika, Sauteed Vegetables
Methi Murg, Rice Pulao with spiced vegetables.
Dessert: Badam Phirni. Tea/Coffee.
Yummm! as always.
Following dinner and handing out of landing cards, there was the usual rush of passengers to the loo which only came to an end when we started our final descent about 200kms from DEL. I add here that most of our flight was at FL370 and after crossing Pakistan we came down to FL330 for about an hour. Landing took place exactly at 2348LT (as promised by the flight map when we took off). A BA
343 and KL
MD11 were already at their bays with the KL
being the latest arrival. We deboarded without much pushing and shoving (probably because there were a lot of BOM bound pax).
Immigration at DEL remained the usual mess with almost 500 pax from various flights waiting. My airport colleauges fortunately managed to get me out without too much of a delay and surprise surprise even my bag did not take more than 20 minutes to come.
Taking the prepaid cab back home, I was crossing the airport perimeter wall as I saw "Kaziranga" being readied for the last leg of her journey to BOM. I made a mental note not to feel bad about her name for I personally had quite an enjoyable flight on her.
That was it. Its 0320hrs here in exactly 2hrs and 10mins I'm on my next flight 9W
-701 DEL-AMD and six flights and two weeks of living out of a suitcase.
This is Vimanav signing off.
(P.S. have had no time to recheck and I'm too sleepy.. please excuse any spelling or grammar boo boos)
Sarfaroshi kii tamannaa ab hamaare dil mein hai, Dekhnaa hai zor kitnaa baazu-e-qaatil mein hai