29. December 2002: SQ KUL-SIN
30. December 2002: AI 411 SIN-DEL-BOM-GOI
Well, that year I had the pleasure to go to South-East-Asia the first time. Before going back to another term at Uni, I wanted to fade out 2002 in Goa with some friends. My trip actually started with an AF flight TXL-CDG-SIN two weeks before and ended with BOM-CDG-TXL in the New Year. But I will just skip these details, because they were rather unspectacular (nice aircrafts though: 320 on the short-haul, 777 to SIN and 343 back to CDG).
I decided to pay a visit in KUL (or ‘KL’, as locally branded). So I inquired about how to reach SIN on time in order to reach my flight I had booked at
KUL-SIN on SQ:
The MH/SQ shuttles – a cooperation of both airlines – are organized as following: One pulls a number, and if there are any free seats on an MH or GQ flight from KUL-SIN, one pays and can proceed to check-in. After hearing from multiple sources what great airline SQ is, I sincerely hoped that I will have the luck to catch an SQ flight. And.. here you go! My number was announced for the SQ flight. Checked in until GOI while showing the separate ticket, I proceeded to the aircraft. It was a brandnew 777, beautiful. Not more than 30 people on the entire flight made an interesting ratio of FA’s and passengers. Indeed, I had a quiry about receiving my boarding-card for the connecting flight they could no issue in KUL and raised my hand. A handful of FA’s came immediately and assisted.. real good service. Flight was hardly 30 min. Hence, the experiences were limited but good.
AI 411 SIN-DEL-BOM-GOI:
After having about three hours layover at the beautiful Changi Airport in Singapore, with free internet at that time, good shops etc. I proceeded towards my AI Aircraft to take the flight (more than 10 hours), which resembled, considering the routing, rather a local bus-service. Since I was not really interested in airliners that time, I did not note the registration. Boarding had already started. Ratio of ethnic Indians and Foreigners was about 50/50, flight was almost full. Boarding went quick. Then I entered the A310 Aircraft, The first impression was the wall-paper in the area of the door, which reminded me at the interiors of houses in the GDR in the mid-60s. There are nice German films showing them, and in some houses here in Berlin, one can still discover their remainings.
People, my child dreams came back. In our age, these modern jets take away almost all pleasure of flying: everything so hyper. But it was nice to see an aircraft again, where you can see the screws coming out of the seats in the area of the joint with the soil. Nice to see some simple-designed seats. Nice to see cheap interiors, and, as Jaysit always says, 70s style projector screens!
Well, as in every AI flight, every passenger had four pieces of hand-luggage, which they started to store very carefully in front of the emergency exits. The Chief FA told them very politely that they were not permitted to do so. The next ½ hour, he was busy in helping to store the baggage at alternative places in the plane, also in the business-class.
My neighbor was an Australian guy, who already had the smell of cheap alcohol. Nevertheless, he was an entertaining guy, as we see later. Take-off was, considering the antique aircraft, smooth. After the seatbelt signes went off, food was served. The days before, I had browsed AI’s meal choices and decided to order a Guju-Meal, just to try. Of course, it happened that they did not have the meal. As I asked the FA, instead of receiving an excuse, I received such a charming: “Oh Sir, this is almost Gujarati!” with the complementing veggie meal.. OK, whatsoever I thought and started to enjoy the delicious Veggie Biriyani. Everything accompanied with adequate beverages.
One thing special with Air-India is the way kids and old people are treated. Instead of ‘following the economies of scale concept’ and asking the passengers what they wish and handling upon their requests, my other neighbor on the opposite of the aisle, a very old and charming Punjabi lady, had to endure the following conversation with the FA: “Mataji, you have to eat”. “Nahim nahim” [No, no]. After the FA repeated her plea four times, she finally agreed, and after the former disappeared, she would tell me: “Accha, le lo, beta [OK, eat my son]”. I tried but could not argue against and had my second Biriyani. Yummi!
During that time, the projector was running. But taking Jaysit’s logic.. it was indeed partly broken. Only half the screen was working (already the security comic – in four languages – was difficult to see). Some passengers complained because they could not view the Bollywood movies. And (Jay, I am not kidding), the FA hammered a couple of times against, it worked! Some weird movies (I am not the Bollywood Person). So my Australian neighbor and me went in the back and asked for some more Whisky. Indeed, we kept on chatting in the back of the plane, supplied by the friendly Fas with Whisky and Cashew Nuts. A nice Indian doctor joined. Then, you can imagine, boose makes you tired. So I wanted to sleep. The nice FA, who had distributed the food, saw my wish to go to sleep and showed me another place where I could sleep better, because an additional place was free. I followed her hint thankfully.
Well, I am a very good sleeper on planes. 3’o Clock in the night, the loud-speakers turn on loudly, and the captain announces the sleeping passengers that we have arrived Indian Airspace and are approaching Bhubaneshwar.. Then he continued that he further wishes us a nice sleep.. Thanks! Rest of the flight is again out of memory, but I woke up at every stop of the aircraft and every times for snacks (I told them to wake me up when something is served – I am an Airline-Food-Junky and especially appreciate the AI Cuisine!). They served food on every leg.
In BOM, although the flight had the same flight number, we had an equipment change. I was requested to contact the transfer desk after arrival. Before leaving, the same FA who served food gave me a bag and said: “Your stay in BOM is long, and I saw you enjoyed the two meals. I have packed you some food!” This was really nice. So I had another of these wonderful meals. In BOM, after proceeding to the transfer desk, they gave me a voucher for breakfast and told me that it was ‘part of my flight package’. Well, I thought, why not and proceeded to the snack-bar. OK, the food quality and variety there was really not representative, but nevertheless it was free and better to sit there and eat than sleeping on the couches in the BOM transit area and being eaten up by the hordes of mosquitos there (it is horrible there, really!). I chatted with some other passengers, who mostly were on the way to the Middle East, before boarding the ½ hour flight to GOI, which was packed, especially with Europeans. The flight was pleasant and even with another full meal – for the short flight not bad. I also appreciate the pre-departure drinks.
In conclusion, I say that the service and food was distinctive. The routing could have been more convenient, but for the price no problem. Aircraft interiors and IFE need an upgrade. But I really want to point out that the individual and charming nice way I was treated puts AI on my priority list. It is nice to see the personal touch and not the Euro-American mentality: you get what you pay for with the standartized service and the ‘chicken or pasta’ choice. Especially if you give the FA a smile and a nice word, they are extremely friendly… - something where AI erns distinction: if old people travel – never seen staff being so polite and respectful. If kids travel: never seeing staff being so patient, taking the babys in the arm to help the parents and being kind to the kids. Really great!
I know, rather a story than a factual trip report, but maybe someone or the other enjoyed. Tell me what to improve.. it was my first!
P.S.: Too tired to speck chell-checking
[Edited 2004-10-05 00:52:19]
[Edited 2004-10-05 00:59:57]