Home sweet home, the pleasure to be back at your pad, lazing in your own bed, channel surfing with your pet remote, sitting on your own pot... one word for the feeling - PRICELESS!
This was the culmination of 19 days of living out of a suitcase - a combination of work and vacation related travel which took me to FRA
, LON, AMD, BOM, BLR, HYD, MAA, COK. This trip report just covers the last flight of this trip COK-DEL via BOM with Air Sahara today/09OCT04.
The day started off in unique fashion. I witnessed a phenomenon which for me came after many years (maybe even a decade)... a sunrise at 0/AGL. Yep, I'm one of those who wouldn't wake up (to quote my Dad) "till the sun kisses his butt". So here I was, up and visiting the nearby temple with my Dad and son to wish God a bright good morning. We had agreed to a departure from home at 1100hrs for the flight at 1505, allowing 2hrs 45mins for the 100kms odd ride from our home in 'God's Own Country' (Kerala, for the unordained) to Cochin Airport. Saying goodbyes and other formalities took a further 20 minutes and we were on our way by 1120 with ETA at COK airport 1405... just purrfect! The old Amby (Ambassador - India's workhorse of a car for 5 decades) we were on however had different ideas as her engine overheated and we had to pull up about 15kms short of the airport. Five litres of H2O and 20 minutes later we were once again on our way and finally arrived at the airport at 1420hrs. My office had already blocked us (the son, the wife and yours truly) Y/cl row 12 A/B/C for S2
A word about COK Airport. Its one of the best thought out airports in the Subcontinent and a torch bearer for private enterprise. Only, its location is reminiscent of (though not as bad as) FRA
/Hahn or BRU
/Charleroi. It is some 30 plus kms from Cochin city centre which due to the limited public transport system seems more like 100. The airport itself is India's fastest growing (QR has just announced twice daily A321/A330 services effective WI
/sked - up from 3/7) and despite its relative newness is already bursting at the seams during peak hours. The terminal buildings themselves are designed in traditional style resembling the old Kerala palaces. People are friendly, touts are rare and nobody really bothers you or swarms around you like at DEL, BOM, BKK
etc. Entrance fees for visitors at the international is a whopping INR 75 while the domestic side charges INR 20. Viewing gallery is a pitifully small space as somehow nobody amongst the powers-that-be at Airports Authority of India or the Ministry of Civil Aviation seem to be able to comprehend that airplane spotting can be a serious past-time for millions of my countrymen who anyway spend many hours per day watching birds with and mostly without feathers (every innuendo most definitely intended)
Back to the present: After a speedy check-in of our 60kgs of luggage at the AI
manned counters (all ground handling for all carriers in COK is by AI
who are co-owners of the airport), we proceeded to bid my parents goodbye. Suddenly there was somebody in a Captain's uniform waving and approaching us and my Dad quite excitedly was reciprocating the gesture. It turned out to be the Captain of our flight (flying as FO since he was doing a check-ride) and an old mate of Dad's. Dad introduced us and we exchanged pleasantries before we headed off for security checks.
-203/09OCT B737-700, VT
-SIV (leased by S2
from Bavaria International Aircraft Leasing GmbH): She was the only other aircraft at the domestic terminal apart from a Jet Airways B737 (VT-JGB). We were amongst the last to board the aircraft and to our very pleasant surprise, the F/A advised us that with the compliments of the Captain, we were being upgraded to J/cl for the COK-BOM leg. Now that was indeed nice. We weren't complaining.
Welcome drink was pineapple juice/coconut water. Push-back was bang on time at 1505 and the F/A, a young man in his early twenties hurriedly came around taking meal orders from the 10 odd passengers in J/cl. Veg or non-veg was the the simple query. We opted for the latter. Being in the last row - 4, we understood his rush as his colleague was already in the process of telling the Y/cl cabin about seat-belts and flotation devices. A word about the flotation devices: J/cl on S2
have regular life jackets while Y/cl have seat cushions which double up as flotation devices for an emergency. So they have separate announcements for J and Y.
We taxied past an IC DO
-228 and onto Rwy 27 from where we rocketed up after a very brief t/o run. This service was to have only snacks/light meal. We were first served roasted dry fruits, namely cashews and almonds before the main course which consisted of Almond soup followed by the typically Keralite preparation of Appams with Chicken curry and a vegetable dish on the side. Dessert was an absolutely delectable Orange souffle. Cutlery (including knives) were all of stainless steel. A word on the J/cl seats. Apart from plenty of leg room (as is expected in J/cl) the deep blue leather seats had retractable leg rests as well. I found this to be different from 9W
whose J/cl seats did not have this feature (if I recall correctly). However I must add here that seat types in J/cl differed from aircraft to aircraft in the S2
fleet (especially the 734s whose J/cl seats are simply the best). Following the meal service we were cruising at FL
400 (yup! that high) when the F/A came up to me with an invite from the Captain to see the flight deck. I took my son (an airplane fanatic at 2 1/2 yrs) and went up ahead where he briefly introduced himself to the crew with a 'Hi' and proceeded to ask the Captain if he could sit where he was sitting! I am sure in his decades of flying, he probably never had been asked such a question by a 2 1/2 yr old and he his incredulous look said it all.
. After I quickly pointed out 'throttles / control column etc" as best as I could to him, I thanked the crew and proceeded to take him back to the seat amidst much bawling and hair pulling (mine, that is!). I mean the kid absolutely insisted he wanted to take control!!! Now would this classify as a hijack attempt? I wonder...
After the usual approach to BOM Rwy 27 amidst alternating ground scenery of water bodies and lush green hills (past the Renaissance hotel far away to starboard) followed by the slums of Dharavi, we touched down without much ado. It was extremely nostalgic and brought a lump in my throat to see AI
's last 4 B742s on either side: 2 on the main tarmac and 2 on the Kalina side (one was Krishna Deva Raya without engines). Ground time in BOM was supposed to be 40 minutes but it took a bit longer. There was a change of crew as well. We moved back to our originally assigned seats 12 A/B/C in Y/cl and discovered that we had better control over our son's movements than we had in the J/cl cabin which he had converted to his private auditorium cum karaoke bar!!!
Departing from Rwy 27 bidding a final goodbye to the Emperors we headed out over the Arabian Sea before taking a U-turn back over land heading North-East. Food on this leg was excellent. Singapore rice noodles with potato salad as child meal. Regular non-veg fare had noodles with a chicken side dish and a cheese sandwich before of course the standard tea/coffee.
I did a quick comparison vis-a-vis 9W
and came to the following conclusions:
Seats: Seats in both J and Y/cl were a shade tardy in their upkeep with S2
was definitely better, though in the latter the awful seat pitch in Y/cl screwed up your knees. Their ATRs trust me, are far more comfortable than the 737s in Y/cl.
definitely way way ahead in sartorial elegance. S2
F/As (I'm talking of the girls) have quite a few BTMs (behenji turned mods). The male F/As wear this weird shirt with crossed collars, buttoned down on opposite ends which make them look more like hotel bell-boys minus the caps. Both airlines however are definitely way ahead of IC
who have real F.A.s (Fossilized Aunties) as F/As.
both score very highly especially for meals. For presentation however, I'd give 9W
9.8/10 and S2
9/10. Ditto for Y/cl. Tastewise, I am somehow inclined to give S2
the higher score (for both classes).
Coming back to the flight, it was now adventure time: About 30 minutes before ETA DEL my wife took our son to the loo for a change of diapers. No sooner had she entered the lav, we encountered 7 minutes of the severest turbulence I've experienced in recent times. I saw two guys at the back of the plane being bounced about as the Captain announced all passengers/crew to be seated with their seat belts fastened. An F/A plonked herself down on the empty seat, one seat away from mine which had just been vacated by my wife and secured herself in. I was in a state of near panic as I imagined my wife and son being rattled about in the lav like peas in a can. Standing in my seat (and obviously creating a bit of a scene) I asked the crew to help them out. Without blaming them, I must say that they were in no condition to assist at that juncture. A few minutes later my wife and son emerged thoroughly shaken but thankfully unhurt. My wife had held our son tight and clung to the handrail while taking up a braced position which kept them from being bumped about. On Sunday last we had watched on NatGeo the story of UA811 which experienced an explosive decompression after the forward lower lobe cargo door had separated in flight following take off from HNL
. My wife was apparently convinced that something similar was happening with S2
-203 as well.
We landed at DEL at around 1940hrs and for once, instead of hot dusty winds and choking pollution we were pleasantly surprised by a strong, cool wind accompanied by light showers. Incidentally we maintained our 100% record of winning S2
's inflight auction bids - this time sets of stainless steel utensils which we have been assured will be delivered to us within 21 days.
In about 45 minutes thereafter we were back home and to para 1 of this report.
Next trip could be DEL-BOM-DEL 17OCT04 to catch the air show at BOM. Will definitely post a report if that trip materializes.
Sarfaroshi kii tamannaa ab hamaare dil mein hai, Dekhnaa hai zor kitnaa baazu-e-qaatil mein hai