Encouraged by kind words from Nimish and BA319-131 on my last trip report (Transcon...), I'll continue my report on the next two legs of my 11-leg trip:
LHR-MAA BA35 'J' Seat 62K 747-400 about $1,500 this leg:
Spent the night at the Paddington Hilton since I wanted to get to LHR on time for my 9.40 am flight, and I'm really a big fan of the Heathrow Express (why can't we have one in NYC?) The Hilton was just right, quite an experience walking straight out into the station from the Lobby!
Got up next day at the crack of dawn, and charged off to T4 to catch the flight. Searched for Gobstoppers for my 2-year-old niece on the way, but no luck. Once at T4, check-in was fast and automated, and had time to catch up on last-minute gift shopping. I've grown to really like T4, and wondered how it'd stack up against Changi, where I'd end up in my next trip report...
Stopped by the Terraces Lounge for a cup of tea. Wonder why tea in the UK, like coffee in India, always tastes just right.
Boarding was pleasant and ontime. The agent who took my boarding pass had the same name as my niece, and the flight attendant who greeted me had the same name as my niece's mother - a good omen for the trip ahead indeed.
Comfortably esconced in my favorite cabin (B747 Upper Deck), I settled in to enjoy the long flight. The cabin crew were not as fantastic as to be expected from BA, and I wonder what's going on. A few years ago, BA flights were 95% fantastic, and this has dropped to about 50% for me. I wonder if BA is switching from a Flying as Hospitality vs. Flying as Transportation business model (horrors!), having just read about the 600 managers recently sacked by the new CEO.
Nice lunch, wines and finally tea before landing. They had sandwiches wrapped in cellophane - cellophane finally arrives in Club World. The old reception sandwiches were a lot better. I was really looking forward to the scones as the clotted cream and jam was dispensed, only to be cruelly told that they had forgotten to load the scones in LHR. I guess one of the fired managers must have been the VP in charge of Scones.
Finally landed in MAA, walking past a glass wall separating passengers and crew waiting to board the flight back to LHR. Wonder how I'd feel when it was my turn ten days from now.
Cleared Immigration, bags already arriving on the carousel. Not all bags however. After waiting an hour, I asked the BA baggage agent why it was taking so long. The Young Thing tried to look surprised, but broke down and confessed that the pallet had been sent off to another destination. Fortunately someone noticed, got the pallet back and the bags finally arrived.
I's say overall a nice flight, but the Club World product is getting a little predictable, and it's time for something new. Also, might be nice to have the local cabin crew help out in the premium classes too, and add a little 'spice' to the service.
MAA-BLR 9W B737NG Y Seat 26F $95 one-way:
Checked in at MAA - efficient and pleasant. Cleared security, proceeded to Gate 4 - had to climb stairs as the one escalator was out of order, as indicated by a red scrawl from the Airports Authority of India. Gate 4 was an actual Jetway, so I missed the usual bus ride on the tarmac to the aircraft.
Boarded, greeted by a young and energetic cabin crew, working their tails off. Newspapers, Candy, Cold Towels, Water - all before take-off. It is a tradition on Indian domestic flights for passengers to hit the call button upon being seated, usually for water. They have eithered wandered in from the desert, or were hydrating themselves for the long, 32-minute journey ahead. Anyway, 9W should stop spoiling their passengers and are overdoing the service to a fault.
A decent flight to BLR, clean aircraft, nice to see the VT-xxx markings on the wings like in the 60's. Even 9W's logotype is reminiscent of Pan American World Airways. We land in BLR on a curved final, (hoped the pilot had judged it right) and stop at the end, Turn around 360, and then taxi off to the terminal. I thought that happened only at airstrips...
Picked up my bags, rented an a/c taxi, still got bitten to death by mosquitoes on the way, and then settled in for a ten-day stay in the outsourcing capital of the world, soon to be quaintly renamed Bangalooru.
Summarizing the flight: 9W's formidable service is based on young, energetic FA's and plenty of food and drink. Seems to work, though it'd be really cool if they wore Indian-style uniforms and evolved to a more restrained style...