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Air Sahara, Air Deccan And SpiceJet In India

Tue Aug 02, 2005 1:26 am

Finally!! I had not been to India for over two years now and I was itching to go back to visit my family and travel around India.

June 19 2005
Air Sahara S2 82 SIN – DEL B737-800

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My father booked my tickets through his travel agent who was able to get the special introductory fare of S$ 400. After taxes the total round trip cost was S$500, which is still a pretty good deal.

I reached Singapore Changi International Airport Terminal 1 at about 7:20am for my 9am departure. The check-in rows were quite empty and I was done checking in by 7:40. I sat around with my parents for about 20 minutes before going through immigration and then headed towards D32 for boarding my aircraft.

Boarding the 737 did not take very long and just as I was settling into my aisle emergency row seat we were on our way. The flight was very full with lots of Indian tourists returning back to India just before the end of school vacations. It was quite obvious that –SJF had been previously flying within the United States. All the factory signage was in English and Spanish. New English and Hindi sticker signage had been stuck to the doors, etc. The safety briefing was both in English and Hindi. A cool part about the briefing was that during the part they mentioned exit path lighting, they actually had the lights light up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. Another modification that had been made to this aircraft was that the last two rows had been taken out and storage racks for extra carts had been built on both sides. I guess these were done to accommodate more food that the international flight would require.

We were served breakfast/lunch which was really good (don’t remember what was served). Air Sahara does serve alcoholic beverages on board their international flights but since it was so early in the morning I had to pass the free booze. I have to applaud Air Sahara’s service that was well above my expectations. I was thoroughly impressed with their approach towards customer satisfaction. The flight attendants were extremely attentive and passengers did not have to wait more than a couple of minutes before somebody answered the call button. However I did feel sorry for the FAs since people kept walking in the aisle while the carts were out. Again the FAs were very patient and accommodating (even though it was driving me nuts).

There were little folding screens installed throughout the cabin (not sure if they are present in the domestic version). The movie today was Garfield which I didn’t watch since I wanted to catch some shuteye. After the movie was over, the screens displayed a map showing our progress toward Delhi. As we passed over Calcutta (Kolkatta) I wanted to jump off the plane since I’d be coming back here in a few hours.

Our decent into Delhi was quite turbulent. I remember there being a couple of screams from within the cabin during some of the bumps. However since I like turbulence, I was enjoying myself quite a bit. However the landing was smooth and we quickly taxied to the terminal about 20 minutes after our scheduled time (12:20 pm).

Since my last time at IGI, there have been quite a few cosmetic changes to the airport. The immigration folks have new counters to work from and they are quite a bit nicer than the older ones. My worn out passport came under the scrutiny of the immigration officer there and I had to confirm to him that it was indeed my passport and not a fake (Arre bhaiya mera he passport hai).

I collected by bags and happily hopped and skipped outside to greet my waiting cousin who told me that my Air Deccan flight to Calcutta was now rescheduled from 4:15 pm to 9pm. Hurray I said and headed home.

June 19 2005
Air Deccan DN 634 DEL – CCU A320

I had my cousin drop me off at the airport at about 7:45pm for my now scheduled 9pm departure to CCU. Wow!! The domestic terminal in DEL is a huge mess with lines snaking everywhere and check-in booths where you don’t expect them to be. It was quite crazy. However I managed to get my boarding pass as was surprised to see a sticker which showed my seat assignment. This sticker was placed over a printed seat assignment (different from the sticker). I have no idea why Air Deccan had this 2 fold system.

I passed through security check and decided to sit and wait for my flight. 9pm came and gone with no announcement of my flight. I decided to camp closer towards gate 1 where the Air Deccan busses are supposed to depart. I noticed that the passengers for this flight had surrounded a lone Deccan customer service representative and were now interrogating him. They wanted to know when exactly the incoming flight would arrive and when we would depart. I felt sorry for the guy. Luckily our incoming aircraft came in at 9:30 and we were all on board the shiny A320 within 20 minutes. Air Deccan boards it’s aircraft using both the front and rear doors, but unfortunately passengers were a bit wary of using the rear door and had to be convinced by the ground staff that it was OK to do so.

We took off at exactly 10pm (5 hours and 45 minutes after the scheduled departure time). The flight was quite smooth. The FAs on this flight were again very professional but I found not as warm as the Air Sahara FAs. This might have been due to the long delay and the fact that they have probably been working since morning. They were selling water, samosas, veg rolls, chips and some other things I don’t remember. I decided to sleep for the duration of the flight since I still had to travel to Balasore (Orrisa) by train after reaching CCU. I woke up just as we were about to land at CCU. The captain informed us that it had been raining for the entire day in CCU and therefore the outside temperature was quite pleasant. We deboarded using a jet bridge where I saw people waiting to board this plane. I felt sorry for them since they would be getting to their destinations very late. Since I didn’t have any check in baggage, I walked out and joined the growing line at the pre-paid taxi line to catch a taxi to Calcutta train station.

June 26 2005
Air Deccan DN 633 CCU – DEL A320

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I reached Calcutta station at about 5:30 am. I took a taxi to the airport which deposited me at the airport at about 6am. I now had to kill 4 hours before my 10:05 am flight back to Delhi. The security guards were not allowing Air Deccan passengers into the check in area since there was a while before the flight and so I had to kill a lot of time before I could go in. They finally let me in at about 8am during which time I quickly checked in and then proceeded to wait for the flight. The security check in CCU seemed a bit more organized than Delhi. I passed through with nothing raising an alarm and proceed towards the gate to wait for my flight. At about 9:40am I started getting worried that this flight was going to be delayed as well. However I sighted the pretty 320 coming towards our date at about 10:10am and boarding commenced shortly after that. My seat 17C (sticker on boarding pass) was quite comfortable and I quickly fell asleep even before the safety briefing. I woke up after some time to see the FAs selling their goodies.

I visited the toilet on the aircraft to see if they myth about the legendary Indian toilet on board aircrafts was true. Even this early in the morning the toilet was quite dirty, with stay napkins on the ground. People who did not have great aim had also previously visited the toilet. I quickly returned to my seat. I read the inflight magazine in which Capt. Gopinath explained how Air Deccan managed to keep their costs down. Interesting article but I guess most airline companies in the US have already implemented these measures.

Anyways the ride into Delhi was smooth and we landed at IGI at about 12:30pm. What I really love about Indian airports is the lack of jet bridges. I love to get off the airplane on the tarmac and see the engines and get a real close look at the aircraft. I really enjoy this aspect of Indian airports.

I called my cousin who told me that he was in the vicinity and would be able to pick me up from the airport. I had to wait for about 20 minutes but I spent that time looking at some really cute Indian girls who come on a Jet Airways flight from somewhere.

July 7 2005
SpiceJet 0S 118 AHD – DEL B737-800
VT-SPD ‘Chilli’

I had managed to purchase this ticket for only Rs 1470 and so had decided to take a flight instead of the train. I reached the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel at 8:45 pm for my 9:45pm departure. However at the airport I was told that the flight was delayed by 45 minutes and would not leave at 10:30pm. SpiceJet has a check in counter for people with only carry on. There was no line at this counter and so I decided to check in here. I received my boarding pass and waited for security check to begin. This again was quick and efficient and I waited for 10:30 come so that I could get back to Delhi. However the incoming aircraft was delayed some more and we finally boarded at aircraft at about 10:40pm. Departure was quick following boarding.

I have noticed that all the private airlines in India hire extremely attractive female FAs and SpiceJet is no exception. I really like the uniform worn by the SpiceJet FAs. The generous amount of red used makes them look very approachable. Unlike Air Deccan we were offered bottled water and a small pack of Haldiram’s namkin. We were also offered candy. The flight was very quite and it seems like the crowd on SpiceJet is a couple of notches above the crowd on Air Deccan. The interiors of the aircraft were very clean and the lights were nice and bright. The longest taxi I have ever encountered followed a smooth landing at IGI. I am quite sure that the captain (an expat) was last at the airport and did not know where the parking bay was. Another odd thing about the landing was that the captain applied very little reverse thrust at landing and used the entire runway before turning into the taxiway. Perhaps it’s just company policy at SpiceJet.

I realized that sitting very close to the front of the aircraft is not as advantages when jet bridges are not used. I still had to wait for the entire bus to fill up before we headed towards the terminal. However sitting on the bus I did notice the large number of aircrafts on the ground at that time of the day. I reached the terminal with no further incidents and my cousin was waiting for me there.

July 14 2005
Air Deccan DN 603 DEL – BOM A320

A family emergency forced me to have to go to Mumbai for a couple of days. I managed to find fairly inexpensive tickets for Rs 3500 each way to BOM from DEL. Terminal 1B was a mess in the morning and I had to fight my way through the crowd to get my boarding pass. This time since I had checked in baggage I had to get my baggage screened. Air Deccan uses a tie wrap to seal the bags after they have been x-rayed.

The flight again was quite ordinary with the FAs selling their goodies. I have been quite surprised to see that people are willing to buy snacks at these exorbitant rates. I was quite tired (early morning flight) and so slept most of the way to BOM. I did notice that this aircraft was not as nice as –ADV. The light and PA control were switches rather than the touch screen that had been on the sister ship.

Landing in Mumbai I immediately noticed the large number of Air India aircrafts. I also managed to catch a glimpse of the new Jet hanger under construction. It took some time to get my baggage from the belts but overall I think I still made good time. Its amazing how big Jet is at Mumbai. They had signage everywhere for their connecting passengers.

July 16 2005
Air Deccan DN 665 BOM – DEL A320

As I was approaching the airport I saw the massive renovation that is currently underway at the Mumbai airport. The glass exterior wall was coming up and starting to look good. However I’m still not sure how they plan on handling the excess capacity during peak hours. There was a huge check in line in Mumbai and so I had to wait for about 25 minutes before I could check in. However I still managed to secure a seat in the front of the aircraft. The security check was efficient as always. There were several Jet FAs going through the security line and they were courteous to passengers on the ground as well. That certainly spoke volumes about the customer service at Jet.

It was back to the bus that I like so much to get to the aircraft. However it felt quite silly since the aircraft was parked about 30 meters away from the terminal gate. I was glad that my friend –ADV would be making the flight today. We departed ontime and were soon airborne. The ride into Delhi was very smooth. I was already well versed with the service offerings on Air Deccan by now and so decided to just read my book all the way back to Delhi.

July 19 2005
Air Sahara S2 81 DEL – SIN B737-800
VT-___ (unknown)

This month felt so short and it was already time to head back to Singapore. I was terribly disappointed that I did not get a chance to visit some of the places that I really wanted to. When I reached IGI, I saw something I have never seen before. It was empty. There were no lines to enter the airport, none to get my baggage x-rayed, none for checkin in and nada for immigrations. That was definitely the first time for me. But I guess most of the international traffic starts later than the S2 departure at 10:30pm.

Today’s flight was extremely empty. I was disappointed to see only about 70 people on our flight back to Singapore. I was hoping that S2 would be getting more traffic due to the excellent fares that they offer. I found a row of empty seats (there were plenty of empty rows) and slept like a baby for the entire time to Singapore. The FA awakened me for dinner that I relished. The non-vegetarian option included rice with matar paneer and murgh maharani. The food was really excellent especially the murgh maharani.

Landed in Singapore about 10 minutes early and I ensured that I was the first one in the immigration line.

Well that’s my entire India trip for you. I had lots of fun. However I must apologies to all the A.netters in India that I could not meet up. I was so busy with my billions of relatives coming to meet me. I had to also make trips to Rajasthan, Jammu and attend two weddings. I usually didn’t have a clue what I had to do when I woke up in the morning. Sorry guys. But I promise that I will definitely meet up when I come to India next.

My overall ratings would be:
Air Sahara
Aircraft – 8/10 They were showing their age and the toilets could have definitely been cleaner
Service – 10/10
On Time performance – 10/10 Not sure if I took enough flights to say anything

Air Deccan
Aircraft – 10/10 They were extremely nice. Hope they stay that way.
Service – 8/10 I didn’t expect anything and didn’t get anything but I think that the FA could have definitely been more polite
On Time Performance – 6/10 Most of my flights didn’t really take off on time

Aircraft – 10/10 It was nice.
Service – 10/10 Very nice for the price of the ticket
On Time performance – 5/10 Again I only took one flight.

Edited to add airline names in title block.

[Edited 2005-08-01 18:36:42]

[Edited 2005-08-01 18:38:08]
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RE: Air Sahara, Air Deccan And SpiceJet In India

Tue Aug 02, 2005 1:52 am

Great TR! Sounds like S2's service on the international sector is quite good. Did you sleep through teh drinks service on the return DEL-SIN? If not - do you recall what they had on offer?
Incredible India!
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RE: Air Sahara, Air Deccan And SpiceJet In India

Tue Aug 02, 2005 3:22 pm

I did sleep throughout the return flight. But I think I remember seeing wine, beer, Vodka, Rum and perhaps Whisky for their drinks service. I hope you were talking about alcoholic berverages  Smile They had all the regular soft drinks that you can expect on a carrier.

Oh ya..just remembered. S2 offered really good nimbu pani (lemonade) on the DEL - SIN sector. It tasted really fresh.

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RE: Air Sahara, Air Deccan And SpiceJet In India

Tue Aug 02, 2005 3:28 pm

Nice Report.
I may not win often, but I damn well never lose!!! ;)
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RE: Air Sahara, Air Deccan And SpiceJet In India

Tue Aug 02, 2005 3:40 pm

Your DEL CCU flight on Air Deccan later operates the CCU HYD flight which is scheduled to reach HYD at 2100 hours! The aircraft night stops at HYD and operates HYD-CCU/CCU-DEL/DEL-BOM and back the same way (all separate flights).

And regarding VT- SJF you are right. The aircraft is leased from GECAS, was earlier Irish registered and had been used by both the Spanish charter carrier Futura and later subleased by the US based Ryan International Airlines.

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RE: Air Sahara, Air Deccan And SpiceJet In India

Tue Aug 02, 2005 6:18 pm

Also getting more and more curious about Air Deccan.

1 Now confirmed that Air Deccan has dropped free seating since Himmat's trip report also confirms the same. I took their flight an year back and also had a friend who took the HYD MAA (A320) flight four months back and till then there were no seat numbers!

2 Deccan using Jet Bridge in CCU?- I thought LCCs generally avoid Jet Bridges ?

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RE: Air Sahara, Air Deccan And SpiceJet In India

Tue Aug 02, 2005 6:48 pm

Nice report Hawaijahaz, S2 seems to be going great guns on the international sector.
70 pax is also not that bad considering that Internationally Configured aircrat seats 126 pax.--So a 60-65% load is not that bad.

Had i been you i would have also done one leg each on IC/KF/9W  wink  wink  thus flying all operators in the Indian Market---but thats me wink 
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RE: Air Sahara, Air Deccan And SpiceJet In India

Thu Aug 04, 2005 6:47 pm

Your grades at the end are an indicator what luxury air travel in India is! In Europe, NO airline would get more than 5/10 from me. Within the US, hardly 2/10 can be surpassed

Good report!
"The earth provides enough resources for everyone's need, but not for some people's greed." (Gandhi)
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RE: Air Sahara, Air Deccan And SpiceJet In India

Fri Aug 05, 2005 1:46 am

Quoting Karan69 (Reply 6):
Had i been you i would have also done one leg each on IC/KF/9W

Karan. I would have loved to do that. But I guess in the end the Rupee was the king. I just went with the cheapest. My mumbai trip was booked only 2 days before departure and DN was by far the cheapest.

Quoting Mrniji (Reply 7):
Your grades at the end are an indicator what luxury air travel in India is! In Europe, NO airline would get more than 5/10 from me. Within the US, hardly 2/10 can be surpassed

Totally agree. I don't think that US carriers can be compared with Asian carriers esp. for domestic flights.

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