As background to this report my wife and I recently moved from Toronto Canada to Chennai India as a result of a job transfer. The company I work for paid for one way economy seats, which are generally booked in a higher fare class, hence we decided to pay the difference and treat ourselves to a business class flight. Given the stress of the move it was well worth the difference in fare and we felt that treating ourselves would certainly help ease our transition.
Prior to booking this trip I tried to do some research here on FT but there was not a lot known or written up about Jet Airways long haul J class service. I had a number of questions about service (ground and in-flight), seating, lounge access, etc none of which I could find an answer to..….this included calls to Jet Airways customer service. Though always courteous and wanting to please they lacked the information! However given the fact that Jet were hands down the quickest one stop option with the introduction of their new YYZ-MA flight we decided to opt for them anyway.
I will try and provide some details which I hope will benefit future Jet Airways passengers, given that Jet are expanding their route network and the fact that the N America – Sub-continent routes are getting to be more of the norm than a one off event with business travelers. Apologies for the lack of pictures but I could not bring myself to whip out the camera, no matter how many drinks I had.
Also note that though I am not a frequent traveler in the business cabin I have flown J often enough with SQ, CX, AI, QF, AC, AA etc to make some of the comparisons below.
- Handled rather competently by Air Canada , with priority tags attached without having to ask and lounge invite provided for the International Maple Leaf Lounge.
- My main gripe which I will elaborate upon further was one of our 6 bags was not loaded in YYZ and took a while to be delivered at the other end (more on that later…..though this was not Jet’s fault, the post arrival handling of this event was not good)
- The lounge as most YYZ travelers know is adequate with soup, salad, chips, etc and the usual assortment of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. No hot food like the Asian lounges.
- Not sure if priority boarding was enforced as we got to the gate rather late but overall enough Jet Airways agents were on hand for crowd control (which is usually needed on flights to the sub-continent).
On-board (Pre take-off at YYZ)
- Only one door used for boarding.
- Very surprised by the faux wood floor in the galley area in Premiere (Jet airways business class). Easy on the eye but not sure how long it will last given the amount of abuse it will no doubt be subject to during the boarding process.
- Seats were 1-1-1 herringbone format with the front business cabin having seats A and D facing each other while the second business cabin has seats D and K facing each other. Given that this was one of my questions to Customer service prior to the flight and the fact that the wife and I both wanted window seats without having to look at anyone opposite us, I was not very happy with our assignment of 1A and 2A. Also since the second business cabin was completely empty we were chock-a-block in the first business cabin…….privacy was certainly an issue. If privacy is important to you I would suggest the K seats if seated in row 1-5 and A seats for row 6-10. Note that Jet Airways uses A330 aircraft on the YYZ route…..the seat config is different on the 777’s which in addition to Premiere, also have a first class cabin.
- Pre-departure beverage was a choice of several tropical juices (sweet lime, guava, etc) which were very well presented. No Champagne offered and I didn’t bother to ask.
- Newspapers, magazines, etc offered from a trolley and PJ’s and amenity kits were also offered individually when we were seated. (My wife happened to be out of her seat when they came with the PJ’s and unfortunately in the rush to get the cabin ready for take-off they were not delivered later…..our fault as well since we did not pursue it.)
- Menus were also handed out at this point.
On board (In-flight YYZ - BRU)
- Upon take off flight attendants came by to take our dinner order and offer us pre dinner beverages.
- Champagne was DP 99 which I chose. It was not adequately chilled and was served with nuts (no warm nuts like AA). And the Champagne glasses are tiny.
- This is where I feel Jet needs some improvement. They have all the bells and whistles of a rather good business class product but their cabin crew’s level of service maturity is not up there yet with the established airlines. In all fairness they have only been flying internationally for a year or two at the most so they have some catching up to do and when they do I can assure you they will be a big threat to the established airlines such as EK, SQ and CX. However on my flight apart from the purser (who was excellent) most of the cabin crew looked like they had just graduated from training and needed some prodding from the passengers on how best to conduct service. For example, given my comment about the champagne being warm I was expecting some sort of effort on their part to at least indicate that they would chill it and bring it out later. No such luck! 2 glasses later I gave up and switched to wine.
- Given the timing of the flight (about 7:30 pm) a salad would have been welcome and a larger main as well. Apart from that the dinner was excellent both in terms of presentation and taste. Dinner included a soup course which I believe was a tomato soup (Indian themed soup - brilliant), 3 choices offered for mains – a western lamb chop, an Indian chicken curry and an Indian vegetarian option, a cheese course (3 so-so choices along with some grapes and figs) and dessert (which was a choice of Indian –once again delicious or gelato). Also the bread basket was brought out repeatedly and contained a good selection of warm western and Indian bread options. Dessert and cheese was brought round on a trolley for passengers to make their choice but all other courses were brought out from the galley individually.
- I was offered a 20 year old port with the cheese and the wine selection was not half bad (sorry can’t remember what they were but there were 2 reds and 2 whites). Again the down side was the level of service maturity on Jet. When offered wine I asked them to bring me two glasses so that I could sample both and make a choice. The crew member serving me could not understand why I wanted 2 glasses…..it took us a couple of minutes along with some guidance from the purser for her to figure out what I wanted. Job got done eventually but it felt like I was doing some of Jet’s training for them en-route. The purser dropped by later for a chat and apologized once again while indicating that the international crew (on the north American routes) were still just learning the ropes and was glad the passengers were being so patient. Once they got going on the wine however, there were frequent (and generous) top ups.
- Washrooms were spotless throughout the flight and a member of the cabin crew was very quick to pop in after each passenger visit to ensure that they stayed that way. On a flight that was only half full the 2 wash-rooms on board were just about adequate though this would certainly be an issue on full flights. The 3rd washroom on the A330’s has been replaced by a standing-bar area which seems a waste of space given that the bar is not very well stocked in-flight and that the cabin crew are more than happy to bring you a drink of your choice (from a much larger selection in the galley) to your seat.
- The seat itself was very comfortable for me (given that I’m 5’8) and I was not un-duly claustrophobic. Both length and width were more than adequate and I found several comfortable positions to lounge in and the full flat feature with great lumbar support was very comfortable to sleep. No sliding off these seats. When we were ready to turn in for the night the cabin crew were more than happy to make the bed i.e. a duvet was arranged to cover the seat and a thick blanket and nice fluffy pillow were also provided.
- The screen at each seat was a decent size 16 inches I think (sorry not sure exactly how big but more than adequate to catch a few movies). No noise cancelling head-sets but the quality was much better than some of the sets I have seen on other airlines.
- On waking up I was pleased to see that a bottle of water had been placed at my seat and a member of the crew was fairly quick to ask if I wanted any breakfast. Also while I was asleep someone had come by my seat to turn off the screen (these small touches were a hit with me after having flown primarily North American carriers for the past 5 years.)
- An hour and a half prior to arrival in Brussels a continental breakfast was served which included a yogurt based fruit smoothie, a plate of fresh fruit and a selection of pastries. Not a lot of food but given we had eaten only 4 hours prior to this, it was adequate. Only passengers who had requested breakfast (we were asked during dinner) were woken up.
- Upon landing we were notified that due to the late departure of the previous flight that was at our gate we would have to wait on the tarmac. ……for an hour! The most positive aspect of this delay was the way the captain kept us informed every 5 minutes about the progress of his discussions/or lack thereof with Brussels ground control and Jet’s handling agents, both of whom were being a royal pain in the backside.
On the ground in Brussels
- After bidding out cabin crew good-bye we were met at the gate by the Jet Airways Brussels ground staff.
- All business class passengers were escorted through security to the lounge.
- I must confess that though the front of the lounge looked really nice we did not spend much time there. Upon requesting a shower at the desk we were told that shower facilities in the Jet Lounge were reserved for first class passengers for now and business class passengers were being sent to the Diamond lounge. Jet’s lounge in Brussels is fairly new given that it is being used as a hub for flights originating in the sub-continent and terminating at various points in North America. For now however the new lounge does not have adequate shower facilities for all passengers though I was told that this will change soon as upgrades are planned.
- The Diamond lounge was no-where near as nice as Jets and the shower facilities were very basic. However after 10 or so hours in the same clothes we could not have cared less….shower done we had a quick look around the Diamond lounge and headed back.
- At The Jet Airways lounge once again we were told we had a choice of sitting around for 10 minutes at which point boarding would be called or we could go straight to the gate and wait for the flight to start boarding. We decided to do the latter which was the smarter option in my opinion (though as a result I have no idea of the food or drink offerings in the lounge). One of the ground crew was asked to escort us to the gate.
- At the gate boarding had just commenced and our very able escort was able to shoot us to the front of a very long line and bypass the mass of humanity there. A minute later and we were being greeted by the new purser and flight crew for our onward flight.
On board (Pre take-off Brussels)
- Escorted to our seats and amenity kits, newspapers, magazines etc were distributed. Since we were among the first few to board the cabin crew was still trying to get their act together in the galley.
- 5 minutes later we were offered pre take-off bevvies. These consisted of a rather tame selection of orange or apple juice. Rather odd in my opinion given that we had the tropical fruits on the previous flight originating in Toronto but still rather welcome. Once again no champagne but frankly it was too early for me.
- Also once more I noticed how young and wide-eyed the crew looked with the one exception being the rather competent and experienced looking purser.
- Menus handed out pre take-off.
On board (In-flight BRU-MAA)
- DP 99 was offered again and this time was actually chilled. 4 tiny glasses later we were served lunch.
- Again no salad but the portions seemed to be more generous for lunch. Lunch, like dinner the night before was excellent in terms of presentation and taste. We were offered a pumpkin soup, 3 choices for mains – a western turkey, an Indian shrimp and an Indian vegetarian option, cheese(frankly better choice than on the Toronto flight) and dessert (which was again a choice of Indian or Ice cream – Ben & Jerry). The breads were also seemingly better than the previous night.
- This time they actually understood what I meant when I asked for 2 glasses for the wine tasting and as on the previous flight the choice was limited to 2 reds and 2 whites.
- Washrooms if anything were even better maintained on this second leg of the flight.
- I spent most of the flight watching the wide selection of movies. I was able to explore the IFE options to a greater extent on this flight given the fact it was a day flight and Jet seems to have a good mix of Hollywood and Bollywood movies in addition to western and Indian short features.
- After lunch most passengers elected to sleep till the pre-arrival service. Being wide awake however I started to get peckish halfway through the flight. I was shocked to learn that there were no mid-flight snack options. A rather apologetic purser offered me a plate of cheese (left-over from lunch) followed by some packets of cookies. This was in addition to the mimosas that she insisted I drink given I was the only one drinking any champagne on board.
- An hour and a half prior to arrival in Chennai we were served a light snack which consisted of a plate of Indian hors’douvres (mini samoosas, potato croquets, etc) along with fruit. All offerings for this meal were vegetarian. Given the fact that this was a 10 hour flight and there were no mid-flight snacks) this meal was a real let down after the excellent offering sto this point. And highly disappointing (soggy and not quite hot).
- Landed slightly after the scheduled arrival time.
On the ground in Chennai
- Anyone who has travelled to India will know the chaos that one is faced with upon entering the baggage claim area. Signs indicating what belt your bags will arrive on are badly displayed, if at all.
- And we were not to be disappointed. All priority tagged bags came out after about a third of the other bags.
- As mentioned earlier the biggest problem for us on this flight occurred after arrival when we discovered one of our six bags was missing. Imagine my surprise when I complained to a Jet Airways ground handling agent and was led to a queue of at least 20 people. From the looks of things an entire container of baggage seemed to have been left behind in YYZ. Though this was no fault of Jet Airways, their handling of the post arrival was really bad.
- We were made to wait for an hour while the agents filled out forms indicating the description of our lost baggage. Explanations were not forthcoming about what had happened and everyone was just milling around and yelling until the staff on duty attended to one person at a time. Thankfully given our business class boarding passes we were processed among the first few though even this as I mentioned took an hour. At the end of this I was handed a missing bag claim report and told to call their number the next day.
- 2 days later and I was still being given the run-around by the baggage handling staff who either refused to pick up the phone and when they did told me they had no idea where my bag was. Fortunately, knowing people in the right place in India is very useful. A highly placed friend in the airline put me in touch with the manager of baggage services for Chennai who called me within half an hour of hearing about my predicament and called back again a further half hour after that with news of my bag. It was delivered 3 hours later!
- Un-acceptable as far as I am concerned though having never lost a bag in the past I have no idea how good/bad Jet was in this regard compared to other airlines. I have heard horror stories from friends who’ve lost bags to BA and AC and what I had to deal with seemed much less onerous in comparison.
I would not hesitate to use Jets business class service to North America again. Though I noted a number of areas where they were lacking or were still learning, they are miles ahead of their North American competition as well as airlines such as BA, LH. Given a few more years I’m sure SQ and their Asian counterparts will also be feeling the heat from Jet Airways.