Having arrived in Dubai for work 3 months prior, I decided to go on a small trip for the Eid-el-Fitr holiday in October. I was able to get a couple days off and decided to go visit a good friend of mine in India – a country that I had always dreamed of going to but hadn’t seen yet.
My itinerary would see me ending up in New Delhi, but I had two requirements that I wanted to stipulate. These were to travel on Air India and get myself on AI 308, a flight from Bombay to Delhi operated by a 747-337C! I hadn’t been on a 747-300 nor a 747 Combi before so this was my chance.
I booked my ticket via a Dubai travel agent and this was the plan:
Cathay Pacific Flight 750 (773)
Air India Flight 308 (74D)
Air India Flight 747 (A310)
Overall a very satisfying itinerary, although I wouldn’t be staying nearly as long in India as I would have liked!
I printed out my itinerary and took it to the lovely Indian Consulate in Dubai – arguably the biggest mess I have ever seen in my life. It was quite the experience getting through the bureaucracy and the crowds. I had to make an extra photocopy of my UAE visa, so went to a little shack which they had set up for photocopying and as I was waiting in the queue got into two separate arguments with two extremely rude and disrespectful people who didn’t understand the concept of a queue. Anyway, I eventually got my application approved and paid for my ticket.
A colleague of mine from work was travelling to Barcelona on KLM the same night, and so we decided to split a cab from the airport since we were both going from the same area. He came round and collected me at 8:30pm and we took Sheikh Zayed Road to the airport.
At Dubai airport, the check-in area is separate from the visitors area, so passengers go through security screening before they reach the check-in counters. Since I had my British Airways silver card with me, I was able to use the Cathay Pacific business class check in desk. The lady who greeted me was a Cathay Hong Kong employee and she gave me seat 34D. She also gave me a pass to the British Airways business class lounge.
While my friend was stuck in the KLM check-in queue, I went upstairs to get my E-gate card. For those not familiar with the system, Dubai Airport has a system whereby UAE residents can expedite their way through immigration by swiping a card (called E-gate) and by verifying their identify with a finger print. It’s all electronic, not does require the use of a passport, and is a massive time saver. I paid 200 AED for the card and as a result, immigration was a breeze.
After an endless series of moving walkways, I finally reached the Sheikh Rashid terminal and the duty free area.
The shopping is one of the best things about Dubai airport – there are plenty of shops, stands and restaurants and they make the time fly by. I bought a hookah for my friend Rahul (who I was visiting) and bought a two-piece baby outfit for my Rahul’s new niece, who is 3 months old.
I then proceeded to the BA terraces lounge. At the desk, I asked the two ladies working there (let’s call them Lady A and Lady B) if I was entitled to bring a guest to the terraces and they both said no. Nevermind, I thought. I went inside and had a sandwich while waiting for my friend to call. In the meantime, Lady A came over to where I was sitting and told me that they had just checked the room, and that I could in fact bring a friend to the lounge with me. “Even if he is not travelling on Cathay”, I asked? She said yes, even if not travelling with me. I didn’t think that that was right but didn’t say anything.
Here are some photos from the lounge. Notice the Concorde:
About five minutes later, my friend finally called and told me that he had just gotten through immigration. I asked him to join me in the lounge. On my way out to collect him, Lady B asked me if he was travelling on the same flight. I said that he wasn’t and she responded that she could not allow him in. Lady A, in the meantime, had gone white and told Lady B that she had told me the contrary. They argued back and forth for about 10 seconds and finally agreed that since the lounge was empty, they would let him in under the condition that he had to leave when I left. I said that that was lovely, and thanked the two of them profusely.
We sat in the lounge together for about ½ an hour and enjoyed a couple of beers while watching the planes on the tarmac. We were sitting in between a Lufthansa A340-300 (which I assume was bound for Munich) and a KLM 777-200ER (Hadrian’s Wall) which my friend would be travelling on in about 2 hours. Here are we enjoying a couple of Heinekens:
Randomly, I asked to see my friend’s passport and while looking for it, discovered that he had lost it. In a panic, he left the lounge to go and look for it while I called the E-gate office to see if he had left it there. After about 10 minutes, he called to give me the good news that one of the airport staff members found it and left it at the KLM desk for him.
At this point, boarding for CX 750 was about to start and I went over to gate 13 to start boarding. Upon entering the departure lounge, I was greeted by the obnoxious smell of body odour that seemed to pervade most of the passengers. Not particularly pleasant, but within a matter of two minutes, boarding started and I used my silver card to board with business class.
Walking down the jetway, I was interested to see that there were two separate branches, one going to the front of the aircraft for business class passengers and the other going to the main cabin. There was also an extensive selection of newspaper for all passengers to take. I couldn’t catch the tail number on the way in, so once I sat down in seat 34D I asked one of the F/As and she told me that this aircraft was B-HNH.
26 October 2006
Departure time: 11:20pm (scheduled), 11:55pm (actual)
Arrival time: 03:40am+ (scheduled), 03:40am+ (actual)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-367
Photo © Edward Lai
Photo © Micheil Keegan
The 777-300 economy class cabin in the Cathay Pacific configuration is quite comfortable at 3-3-3. The cabin was clean and well kept, and there were pillows on each seat. The fact that the overhead bins fold completely in to the ceiling gives it a roomy feel compared to the A330 or A340.
Here are a couple of quick photos:
The rest of the passengers soon boarded, and it was quite the challenge for the CX crew to control everyone, as most passengers seemed to be carrying their lives’ possessions with them on board – multiple overnight suitcases, boxes, camera bags, duty free shopping goods and the like! Someone came and sat in 34F, but fortunately 34E remained empty.
On the other side of the aisle however, a woman wearing the Islamic headdress arrived at row 34 with two rowdy children. There was already someone in 34C and she sat down in 34A, carrying one of the children, and put the other in 34B. She asked the guy in 34C if he wanted to trade with her, and understandably, he declined her request.
We soon closed the door and pushed away from the stand. The pilot, noticeably Australian, apologised for the late push back and announced that our flying time to Bombay would be 2 hours and 12 minutes. He told us that the aircraft was late coming into the Dubai because of “the usual” ATC difficulties in Bombay, from where it had just arrived. One of the F/As translated this into Hindi after the pilot made the announcement, but interestingly there were no Cantonese announcements of any description.
On the taxi out, the cabin crew did the safety briefing, and literally had to stop at every aisle to ask people to put their seat in the upright position and fasten their seatbelts. Most people complied, but there were a couple who reclined their seats right away after the F/A had moved on to the next aisle. In the meantime, I started chatting with the Indian gentleman in 34F, who turned out to be from Chennai but was living in Bombay.
Following an Emirates 777-300, we taxied on to 30R and with a roar, the Rolls Royce Trent 892 engines spooled up and we were quickly blasting down the runway. We lifted off climbing at a very flat attitude, but the pilots quickly pulled the nose up, presumably to avoid striking the tail of this very long aircraft! All this time, the baby in 34B was crying and shouting and screaming.
Before the fasten seat belt sign was turned off, a couple of people got up and started opening overhead bins and going to the bathrooms. One of the F/As quickly put a stop to that however, and asked that they remain seated until the pilot had switched off the sign.
After about 15 minutes, the drink service started. At this point, the aforementioned baby was still making a major racket. His mother decided to try flashing the overhead reading light on and off a few times to get him to stop, but not surprisingly – it didn’t help.
The meal service soon started and I was given the option of vege or non vege. I asked for non veg with a glass of whiskey and was pleased to discover that the dinner was some of sort of an Indian chicken masala. It was quite enjoyable. I tried to flip through the entertainment system but there was nothing which really interested me.
Here are a couple of photos of dinner:
In particular I like the Cathay bamboo lookalike tray as I think it has character:
The seats and entertainment on this aircraft were different to those on the CX 747-400s I had been on to and from Hong Kong in July of 2005. I found that the seats were slightly firmer and that the entertainment system was lacking a number of channels and all the games that the other one did. I imagine this is the case because this aircraft is in the regional configuration, as that would also explain why the business class looked quite rubbish, in contrast to the plush CX international J class offering.
Right after dinner, the cabin crew came round the cabin with Indian landing cards. After filling mine out, the gentleman in 34C asked if he could borrow my pen. He filled his own out and was also asked by the lady in 34A and B if he could fill out hers as well. Perhaps she doesn’t know how to write in English? She was travelling with an Indian passport, though.
Here is a photo from the back of the first economy cabin:
And a quick shot of the moving map:
I noticed that there were a series of ads being played on the entertainment system, and thought I’d take a photo of this one in particular for my friend Graham:
I soon fell asleep and was woken up with only 30 minutes left before landing. The F/As came round the cabin with some sort of a spray as per regulations for arriving in India. We seemed to descend quickly and circle around the city once before coming in on Runway 14. I was astonished to see how many different airlines including some that I, as a self-proclaimed Airline aficionado, had never seen before! Spicejet, India Jet, GoAir, Air Deccan, Paramount Airways, Kingfisher and others!
We had hardly turned off the runway when several people got up and started moving to the front door. The F/As got up after their seats and spoke severely with them, telling everyone to sit back down until the plane had come to a complete stop. Eventually we did park at the gate, but by that point many people had already made their way to the door, only to be pushed back by the F/As. I got up and helped the lady in 34A get her bags from the overhead bin as she put her niqab on (covering the face) and then exited the plane. It was now about a quarter to 4 in the morning.
I arrived at the immigration desk and found an Iraqi men’s sports team going through. I tried to figure out which sport they were playing, but it didn’t say on their outfit. As I didn’t have any luggage in the hold, I simply walked through the airport to exit. Just before the arrivals area, I had to put my cases through security again. The security officer asked me what make of cameras I had in the bag. The conversation went as follows:
Security officer (SO) and Me (Airx):
SO: How many cameras there?
SO: What make?
Airx: One Canon and one Sony
SO: What model?
Airx: the Canon is a 400D and the Sony is DSC-S75
Airx: No, digital
SO: Memory stick?
Airx: Yes they both have memory sticks
SO: Ok, go ahead
He then stamped my immigration form and I proceeded outside. The inside of the airport was deserted at this point as it was only about 4:20am.
Upon walking outside, I was in culture shock. The built environment was poorly maintained, there were thick trees surrounding the car park and the only cars I saw were Hindustan Ambassadors (a design dating from the late 50’s). There were people everywhere. It was all very tropical and I was happy to be there. In retrospect, the picture that I have of this in my mind now is one which is quintessentially India.
My hotel had sent a coach to take me to the hotel and I found their representative waiting for me. The car they had sent was a Tempo Traveller minibus. I sat in front and we left the airport. My first impression of Bombay was that it was a jungle crossed with a city. The streets were empty, but there were still people roaming the streets, including many just lying flat on the pavement sleeping. Leaving the airport, there were slums everywhere I looked. The driving was a mess – we shared the roads with black auto rickshaws, rickshaws, animals, bicyclists and pedestrians, many of which were going the wrong way on the road!!
My hotel was about 20 clicks away from the airport and we reached it by about 5:00am. I checked in and effectively went straight to sleep. It wasn’t until 10am that I woke up to the sound of construction work going outside my window. I called my friend in Delhi and headed for the airport at around 11:15am. I was told that it could well take over 1 hour to reach the airport during rush hour times. I got back into the Tempo Traveller and off we went. Bombay during the day was significantly more crowded that than it had been at 5am.
We followed signs to the airport and soon found ourselves in traffic. On a number of occasions, little children came up to my window and said “1 rupee please sir.” Whenever this would happen, the driver would rudely tell them to get lost, but they would keep persisting and would run after the coach even after we started moving. The driver told me that there are agencies who go out to rural India, gather up children in the street, pay something small to their parents and then take them to the big cities to beg from foreigners and wealthier Indians. Of course, whatever the children procure from begging goes straight to the agency, and as a result people are strongly encouraged not to give these children any money. If that is true, then I’m appalled.
In the meantime here are a couple of photos from our trip to the airport:
Eventually we reached Bombay’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport:
And the Tempo Traveller:
As we arrived, I saw an Air India 747 and an Iran 747 coming in for a landing. I walked inside the terminal and got my bag screened before proceeding to the Air India check-in counter. I was very warmly greeted by the check in lady and was just about to have my seat assigned when police came through the airport and told everyone to go outside because there was a bomb scare.
The checkin area was evacuated at a very leisurely rate and we all just waited outside the door, not even 20 metres from the Air India counters, either waiting for the explosion or to be let back in. I walked away from the Air India half of the building and tried to go inside the area for Alitalia and other international areas but they weren’t accepted non passengers. After about ½ an hour, they finally let us back in.
I went back to the Air India desks and was warmly greeted by a gentleman checkin representative. He asked me if I would like a window or an aisle, and I requested a window seat. I ended up with seat 58A, an upper deck business class seat on the Boeing 747 that would be operating the flight to Delhi. He also gave me a lounge pass, but interestingly enough never asked me for any identification.
27 October 2006
Departure time: 2:30pm (scheduled), 3:00pm (actual)
Arrival time: 4:20pm (scheduled), 4:45pm (actual)
Aircraft: Boeing 747-337C
Registration: VT-EPW (Appropriate named Shivaji)
Photo © Jenny Coffey
Photo © Sascha Kamrau
After checkin, I had to fill in a domestic customs declaration form, which asked me if how many wrist watches, cameras, gold, silver, jewelry, and other items I was carrying. I was expecting to have a photo taken of me (as this was my understanding from the non aviation forum) that didn’t happen. I then went to Air India Maharaja lounge, which is located just beside the domestic customs area.
My first impression of the lounge was that it didn’t have the modern features of for example the BA terraces, but it had an old-world charm and was very comfortable. I took a newspaper and sat down near the window, where I was treated to a view of an Air India 777 and A310. It must have been about 1pm by now, and there was no one else in the lounge.
Here is a view of the 777:
Here are a couple of lounge photos:
I had hardly sat down when one of the lounge staff members came over to where I was sitting and gave me a menu to order a snack. The options that I can remember include sheekh kebab, chicken tandoori and a couple of other things. I asked for a sheekh kebab and a Pepsi. He brought me the sheekh kebab with a fork and some ketchup. At this point, I was not in a position to judge sheekh kebab from a Indian culinary perspective, but all that mattered to me at the time was that it tasted good, and that it did. I finished it quickly and without even asking, the same gentleman brought me another plate of sheekh kebab and another Pepsi, at the same time asking if I would like to try anything else from the menu – that’s called service!
Here is the sheekh kebab:
The lounge soon started to fill up. I finished reading the paper and actually cut away two articles from it that I wanted to reread later. I am quite amazed at the extent to which politics pervade Indian media! Almost as much as the UK, which I suppose isn’t too surprising. Before they called the flight at 2:15pm, I checked my email and then walked towards the gate. The only negative comment I have about the lounge is that there was no space to put luggage. Overall, I quite liked it and found the staff members to be exceptionally courteous and polite. If it had a better view of the tarmac I could have stayed all day.
On the way to the gate, I noticed that there weren’t any shops. Can anyone confirm that that is the case, or was I just not in the right area? Today’s flight was being operated from gate 19 which was located right beneath the lounge. On the way over there, I stopped by the toilets and noticed that Bombay still has Arabic-style toilets which basically means a hole in the floor and no seat! Fortunately the urinals were OK!
A quick photo:
The plane was parked remotely in front of the British Airways and Lufthansa maintenance offices on the ramp and we had to take an Air India bus to get there. I saw Iran Air 747-200 EP-IAG, a couple of Air India A310s, an Air India 777 and an Etihad Airways 767-300 on the way to our aircraft, which ended up being VT-EPW. It was parked next to Virgin Atlantic A340-300 G-VELD.
I shot a couple of photos from the bus, but did not dare to take any when I got off because there were a number of constipated looking security officers guarding the plane. Here are some of them:
Nonetheless, there were some BREATHTAKING opportunities to get close up pictures of VT-EPW, G-VELD and others. Grrr…this was a perfect opportunity and I was missing out on it. I decided to gingerly ask the security officer if I could take a quick photo. He immediately declined my request, so I just gave up and savoured the eye candy. We boarded via door 2L using air stairs and again, I was warmly greeted and told that my seat would be upstairs.
My first impressions of the aircraft were that the decorations and kit were uniquely Indian, from the wallpaper to the logos to the uniform of the cabin crew. I was glad to be on board. There was no one upstairs when I arrived, so I walked to the front of the cabin and plopped down in 58A. I noticed that there was a row missing towards the rear, meaning that one of the rows had three times the legroom of the others!
A couple of cabin photos:
I found the hangar to be a nice touch:
And of course the vomit bag was very nicely decorated:
The green executive class seats were plush and comfortable, though not brand new nor state of the art. I had hardly sat down when one of the F/As came by and offered me watermelon juice or water. I took some watermelon juice and it just hit the spot:
I relaxed in the seat and waited for the other passengers to board, in the meantime taking some photos out of the window and reading the Air India inflight magazine. The head purser came by to introduce himself to me and we started talking. I told him that I had come from Dubai and was now going to New Delhi. He told me that it would be lovely if I would continue on to Bangkok and Tokyo as well. I smiled and said that I would love to next time, but wanted to see India on this trip! By this point I had finished my watermelon juice and he brought me another one.
Passengers slowly started to board, but the cabin only ever became about 30% full. In the meantime, the crew pulled down a screen in front of the cockpit door and projected the safety video on to it and kept replaying them in Hindi, English and Japanese. Interestingly, there was no safety demonstration made. I thought that these videos were a little bit too detailed and found the following slightly obnoxious:
We eventually pushed back and taxied out to the runway, all the time while I was clicking photos. Eventually one of the flight attendants came up to me and very politely discouraged me from taking photos of the airport, saying that even though Bombay is an old airport, photography is not allowed. I turned off the camera and said that I understood. He reassured me that there would be no problem taking pictures in flight and I thanked him. Even though I would have liked to have taken a couple more photos, I can’t think of a more polite way that he could have asked me to stop it.
We taxied out to the runway, and, following a Jet Airways 737, lined up on 24L. With a roar, the four General Electric CF6-80C2B2s powered up and we started accelerating down the runway. I noticed that the power delivery of the CF6 seemed to be different than that of the Rolls-Royce RB211s that I was used to. With the General Electric engine, the initial power seemed to be much greater, but the takeoff was much more leisurely. In contrast, I would not usually feel pushed back into my seat when the RB211s were spooled up, but at lift off there seemed to be a lot more power. Does that have something to do with marginal thrust at high EPR?
We were soon flying over the north of Bombay and turned right inland in order to face the Indian capital. I reclined my seat and browsed through the menu. The F/A came through and asked me if I would like vege or non-vege. I said non-vege and she offered me a chicken biryani or a lamb curry – these were not the same options which were printed in the menu and I entertained the possibility that the menu I was given was for Bangkok and Tokyo instead. I didn’t know what to choose, as I fancied having chicken but prefer my biryanis with lamb. I asked her what she preferred, and she said that she was actually vegetarian! I apologised and said that I would have the chicken. She laughed and said that it was no problem, but would have suggested the chicken anyway because it was a bit lighter. Here is the menu:
When I saw that the meal service was starting, I pulled out my tray table in preparation and when the F/A came to my row, thanked me profusely for having already pulled it out.
Not quite sure why, but in either case, she set the table cloth and brought me the meal. About five minutes later, the F/A who told me to stop taking photos came round and asked me I was enjoying the meal. I replied that it was very good.
Here are some photos:
When I finished the meal, the head purser came by to collect the tray, offer me a piece of fruit and again asked me how it was. I said that it was excellent, and he replied that he was glad to see that I had done justice to the food. He then asked me if I would care for another meal! I politely declined and said that one was plenty for now! Here’s a photo of the pear I ate:
At this point, I was having a great time. Here I was, my first time onboard an Air India Boeing 747-337C, in business class, on the upper deck, with two seats to myself, having just enjoyed a very tasty Indian meal, drinking coffee, stretched out on the plush chair, watching views of India from the window, enjoying the hospitality of a cabin crew who obviously loved what they were doing and I would soon land in Delhi, meet my friend Rahul and enjoy India for a few days, with nary a thought of having to come back to work! I started reading a bit of the inflight magazine as well, and found this interesting:
Air India has such a haphazard collection of aircraft that are all configured differently! How are the passengers supposed to know the tail number?
Anyway, I soon saw one of the pilots come out of the cockpit and asked him a little bit about the aircraft. He told me that he absolutely adored flying this aircraft, and that EPW and EPX were the only two in the fleet. He commented that these aircraft were built in 1986 or 1987, but despite their size they handled beautifully and the entire pilot crew liked flying them. I told him that I certainly liked flying on them too and that I was really enjoying Air India.
Not much else happened before landing, as the flight time was only about 1h35. We started our approach for Delhi but unfortunately I couldn’t see much out of the window because of all the fog! We came in for a landing on runway X and were welcomed to New Delhi by one of the flight attendants on the PA system. On the way out, I thanked the three F/As that I had dealt with and they said that they hoped to see me again soon. I told them that I would travelling on Air India on Monday night, but that it would be an A310 unfortunately! (Little did I know at this point that I would not be on that flight)
We had arrived at the international terminal in Delhi but since it was a domestic flight we didn’t have to go through security. I simply had to have my bag scanned and my boarding pass stamped, before I reached the arrivals area and found my friend Rahul waiting for me.
The next few days were absolutely great. We had a great night out on the Friday and went into Noida to visit a mutual friend from Oxford who was living there with her husband. We had dinner in central Delhi and then went for drinks at a place called Shalom. On the Saturday, we explored New Delhi. We went to the Rajghat, the Lotus temple, Humayoun’s tomb, the Red Fort, India Gate, Jama Masjed, ate at Karim’s restaurant, experienced the hustle and bustle of the Friday afternoon traffic in a rickshaw, went shopping at some market whose name I have now forgotten, and then went to a birthday party of a friend. The only thing I didn’t like about sightseeing in Delhi is that you have to take your shoes off everywhere you go, which is a bit of an inconvenience, though I understand it to be a cultural thing.
Here a couple of photos from New Delhi:
Rajghat (Mahatma Gandhi memorial):
Me on a rickshaw:
And here a couple more from Jama Masjed and Karim’s (including getting there on a rickshaw):
Keep distance…yeah right!
And at Karim’s:
Yummy tandoori chicken and sheekh kebab:
Naan (was a bit unorthodox, I think):
That night in Delhi we were driving by and I saw this AA ad so I thought I’d get a quick photo of it, sorry for the blurriness but I had to snap it quickly and didn’t have the right settings on my camera:
The next day, we drove to Agra and got to experience rural India along the way. We stopped a couple of dhabas on the road to have lunch. Upon arriving in Agra, we seemed to find ourselves in the middle of some political demonstration. I didn’t recognise the flag of the political party, but perhaps one of you will. Here it is:
A well loaded auto:
We parked at the Taj Mahal car park and had the option of going up to the Taj Mahal by camel, donkey or rickshaw. Here’s an Indian camel:
All along the way, little children were trying to sell me something and others offered their services as a tour guide. My ticket cost 750 rupees because I was a foreigner, but Indians only have to pay 20! Still a great price and I probably would have gone in for 7,500 rupees as well. The one thing I didn’t like about the experience is that many locals didn’t seem to know the concept of a queue, and always kept trying to cut in line. I got into an argument with a number of them, but there is only so much one can do about this if it happens far upstream from you. I find it quite frustrating nonetheless.
The Taj Mahal was simply breathtaking. I didn’t know too much about it beforehand, so I’ll simply explain a couple of things about it for the benefit of those who were also in my position. Basically it is a mausoleum for Mumtaz Mahal, the most beloved wife of Shah Jahan who was the Mughal ruler of India in the mid 17th century. The Taj Mahal is built out of marble and is completely symmetrical with one notable exception. The tomb of Mumtaz Mahal is planted right at the centre of the building, but when Shah Jahan died, his sons decided to bury him there as well. They placed his tomb to the west of hers (facing Mecca) and that is the only asymmetrical aspect of the whole building.
Here’s one quick TM photo:
On the way out, the 3 of us stopped by the bathroom and I as a foreigner got to go in for free, but Indians had to pay 2 rupees to use the facilities! I thought it was a bit odd and casually asked one of the staff members about it, and was told that it was included in the price of my ticket and that otherwise I’d have had to pay 748 rupees. Hmm…dunno about that.
Coming back from Agra, we stopped at another dhaba to have some daal and were treated to a monkey show by one of the local children:
Which one is the monkey? Right or left ?
We reached Delhi by about 9pm, just in time to find out that India had lost to Australia in Chandigger by 6 wickets!
The next day was spent in Delhi as well, where we did some shopping at Connaught place, Palika bazaar and a couple of other places. Highlights of the day include enjoying the best somosa I’ve ever had in my life, eating alu chat masala from a street vendor and just in general enjoying the old world elegance of central Delhi.
I was originally scheduled to fly back to Dubai at 8:30pm on Air India flight 747, and as such, my friend dropped me at the airport at about 6:15pm. I took my bag through screening, and got in line at the Air India counter. When I was the next person to be served, one guy tried to cut right in front of me by saying “Excuse me please I was just here a minute ago” which obviously was not true, because I had been there about 10 minutes already. He tried to get through anyway but I yelled at him and told him to get in the queue. He started getting angry and told me what kind of way is this to talk to people etc and stood next to me instead of getting behind. When the checkin counter opened and it was my turn to go up there, he tried to get there before me and we both ended up at the desk at the same time, but I handed over my documents to the checkin lady first. The rudeness of this guy was incredible and very irritating. Let him come and try to do that somewhere more civilised and he’ll get thrown to the back of the queue.
As it happened, I was informed by the checkin lady that since I hadn’t reconfirmed my seat, they had cancelled my seat. No one had told me to reconfirm my seat, not even the travel agent, and it wasn’t written on my terms of carriage, so I was a little bit irritated by this, but there was nothing I could do other than come back at 7:30pm in the hope that a seat will have opened up. The checkin lady told me that the chance of this happening was effectively nil, but that I should go speak with the supervisor in charge anyway. I did just that and he told me the same story, and was quite rude to boot. He told me that there were about 35 people that were trying to get on this flight.
With nothing to do and precious few shops to browse through, I decided to see if I could on a different flight to Dubai as I needed to get back that same night. I went over to the Indian Airlines office and was told that they had seats available on their IC 895 flight which was leaving at 10pm. I could get a seat for only 8,500 rupees, less than $200. On top of this, they told me that I could use my Air India ticket as long as I could get it endorsed over to Indian Airlines by the Air India office. I went back to the supervisor and asked him to do this so that I could have a chance of making their flight, but he rudely told me off and asked how on earth could I expect him to endorse the ticket if I didn’t have a confirmed seat. I told him that I didn’t know anything about this process and was just repeating what they had asked me to do. He told me that there was a flight to Bombay that had just been cancelled and he had to deal with other passengers, and would I just come back at 7:30. I went inside the Air India office and spoke to the supervisor there, who basically told me the same thing.
I quickly came to the conclusion that I would not reach Dubai tonight if I was going to rely on Air India, so I told the supervisors on duty that I would not be travelling and I went over to the Indian Airlines office, paid the 8,500 rupees and got my ticket.
By this time it was already about 7:30pm and I was in a bit of a rush. I checked in with Indian Airlines and was given seat 8C in the first row of economy. Whilst checking in, I accidentally left a business plan that I was reading on the desk, but fortunately one of their staff members came up and found me waiting in the immigration queue and gave it back to me! Thanks, Indian Airlines!
I went through immigration and proceeded to the gate area, however was turned down at security because I didn’t have a stamped Indian Airlines hand baggage tag. I went all the way back to get this, came all the way back and put my bag through the machine. Indian Airlines was just about ready for boarding. I couldn’t make out the tail number, but noticed that this A320 did have the four wheel bogies, so I assumed it must have been one of the older ones.
Here is the departure area:
30 October 2006
Departure time: 8:00pm (scheduled), 8:30pm (actual)
Arrival time: 9:50pm (scheduled), 10:10pm (actual)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-231
Photo © Calixius Casper Koh
Photo © Raj Changela
Upon boarding the aircraft, I saw that the plane was already almost completely full. It had come in from Jaipur to Delhi and would then continue to Dubai. There was already a gentleman sitting in 8A, but no one in 8C. Here is what the seats look like:
I was secretly hoping that no one would come and sit in 8B. After about 5 minutes, the F/A closed the curtain between business and economy and happily thought that we’d have the seat free. Then a couple of minutes later, the curtain is violently pushed away and a large Indian woman comes through with a baby in her hands, and plops down in seat 8B.
I was trying to read, but her son kept on shouting, touching the business plan, kicking the seat, trying to untie my shoe laces and the like. She was more amused by this than anything else and did precious little to stop him. I asked her if she could stop him from doing this, and for a little while she did.
We soon got underway and taxied out to the runway. All this time, the woman in 8B put her duffle bag just on the ground next to the wall (remember this was a bulkhead row) and didn’t fasten her own seatbelt and didn’t even fasten the infant’s seatbelt – and the crew did absolutely NOTHING to correct this, despite having come through the cabin several times. Nor did they do a safety briefing, for that matter…
We took off and climbed out into the dark night, banking slightly to the right. In the meantime, the crew came round the cabin with some sweets, which I thought was a nice touch. All this time though the baby was really getting on my nerves and neither him nor the mother was paying any attention to me so I just frankly asked her to keep herself and her son within the confines of 8C because her son was rendering me unable to read. She got pissed off and didn’t say anything, but about 10 minutes later got up and took a seat in the back of the plane. Good riddance!!
There was a quick drink service where I ordered a whiskey:
Following that the meal was served. Again, I was asked for vege or non-vege to which I replied non-veg. The meal was again some sort of a chicken masala. Not quite sure what, but it was quite enjoyable. Airlines of India seem to have good catering in general.
And proper cutlery:
As soon as I finished it I looked down the aisle and saw that they had finished serving, so I used the opportunity to get up and go to the bathroom.
At the back of the plane, there were two lavs. I opened the door to one and found that there was puke EVERYWHERE – the sink, the floor, the walls, the toilet, etc. So I waited for the other one to become vacant as it was currently occupied! In the meantime, other people came and used the one which had been vomited in!! I was shocked!
Eventually after 10 minutes the other one was still occupied and so one of the F/As opened it and found that there was no one inside. It smelled awful, so I went in and took the fastest piss of my life. I took a cabin photo on the way back:
For the rest of the flight, I didn’t much of anything except for sleep. When we landed in Dubai, people started walking to the front before we had even arrived at the gate. Of course, nothing was done to stop them. I got out of that plane, stepped back onto UAE territory and was so happy to be back in civilisation!
I used my E-gate card to expedite my way through immigration, collected my bags and took a taxi home. I had had a great time in India and would have liked to have stayed longer but the return journey wasn’t that great. I would have liked to try out Air India properly. Even though I wasn’t exactly happy about how things turned out with the flight back, responsibility for the issue is a bit grey and I’d certainly them again.
The thing which I liked most about India and the thing which I hated the most about India are one and the same – the people. On the one hand, Indians can be so charming and polite, but on the other hand they can be so obnoxious and rude that you want to stay as far away from India as possible. Perhaps I didn’t stay long enough to get a really good impression of this, but that is what I noticed during my short stay there.
The other thing which struck me about India is the poverty and the massive gap in wealth. The poverty is really disheartening and made me appreciate at least some of what I otherwise take for granted. In speaking with people I met there, I was told that the corruption across all levels of government and the strength of the bureaucracy is what is stopping the situation from getting better. In particular, aid for basic needs such as food, water and medicine gets embezzled by politicians at each level of the bureaucracy. If anyone has comments on this, I’d like to hear them as I have a very limited understanding of the situation. In addition, I was also surprised by the extent to which the ‘haves’ are desensitized to the plight of the ‘have nots’ and the societal bridge which results.
Overall I found India to be a charming country with great people that I would like to explore more fully
With respect to Indian airports, I have a couple of questions that perhaps some of you can answer:
1. Why is there security before exiting the airport?
2. Why do they stamp your boarding card before leaving?
3. Why do they spray the cabin before landing in India (at least from the UAE)?
4. I liked the fact that non-passengers cannot access the check-in area, is this just to control the crowds?
5. What should I have done about this reconfirmation business with Air India? Should I have just assumed that I had to do that beforehand or do they or my travel agent have a responsibility to inform me of that? (I am in the process of getting a refund for that portion, by the way).
6. Why does each item of hand luggage need a stamped tag by the airline?
7. How serious is it that the IC F/As didn’t tell the woman in 8B to put her bag in the overhead locker since we were at a bulkhead row and to fasten her and her child’s seatbelt?
8. Can one not expect someone to take care of cleaning the lavs after a passenger has puked all over it? (Such as the passenger…or the F/A?)
1. Good catering across Air India and Indian Airlines
2. Lots of security
3. My Air India flight reminded me of the old days when flying was a great pleasure
I hope everyone enjoyed the report and I look forward to hearing commentary.