I joined A.net last year solely because of my interest in writing trip reports. But due to my sheer laziness I haven’t been able to write one until now. So ladies and gentleman, here is my first ever trip report! I want to thank you for taking the time to read the TR and will appreciate any comments/feedback from you.
I had an opportunity to go to India this summer. This trip report basically deals with my return trip from Bangalore, India to San Antonio, TX.
On my way to India, I took AA from SAT to ORD (AA 3757), ORD to LHR (AA 98) and then took BA 118 from LHR to BLR. This trip will not be discussed simply because BA had too many misses.
AA 3757 operated by MQ with a CR7 was a pretty good experience. I had the exit row seat. The exit row seats have generous leg room and made the flight very comfortable. The FAs on the flight were very friendly and the service was very good. AA 98 into LHR was decent. This flight has recently been evaluated very well in a trip report by a fellow A.net member. Now onto the BA flight…
Here is a quick rundown of the BA misses:
1) BA 118 did not have a meal choice in Y that day. We just had the vegetarian option and it wasn’t that good
2) The FAs were recklessly hitting my shoulders as they went by the aisle
3) The IFE had some glitches. One of them was on the moving map where ‘Distance to Destination’ was showing the ‘Distance from destination’
4) This one is not funny. When I was using the rest room, the captain decided to turn on the fasten seat belt sign. The FA banged on the door to alert me. I was forced out of the restroom!
I am therefore not going to eulogize this flight by writing a trip report. So that brings us to the return trip from India.
|Kingfisher||IT 206||Bangalore, BLR||June 21, 2010 05:20 PM||Delhi, DEL||June 21, 2010 08:10 PM||Economy|
|American||AA 293||Delhi, DEL||June 22, 2010 12:15 AM||Chicago, ORD||June 22, 2010 05:00 AM||Business|
|American||AA 755||Chicago, ORD||June 22, 2010 10:00 AM||San Antonio, SAT||June 22, 2010 12:40 PM||First|
Scheduled Departure: 05:20p
Actual Departure: On time
Scheduled Arrival: 08:10p
Actual Arrival: On time
I was at the Bangalore airport about two hours prior to the departure. I was greeted by my first name at the check in counter by a very smiling IT rep. She checked my bags all the way to San Antonio. However, she did tell me that I had to collect the bags in Delhi and recheck them with American Airlines. The check in was quick and I headed upstairs to the Security.
Here are some shots of the BLR airport:
The Kingfisher check in counters in Bangalore
A view of the BLR airport from the Security check area
The Security staff in Indian airports expects you to have tagged all your handbags. These tags are then stamped upon after you clear the security. Also, every passenger is expected to go through a pat down search. I personally don’t like a pat down search and would much rather walk through a full body scanner. Anyways, the Security check was fairly quick and I was at the Gate.
At the Gate, I was in for a shock. The departure terminal was packed with passengers. The new airport inaugurated a few years already feels like its reached saturation levels. I am sure very soon it will resemble the old airport.
View of the packed Gate 7
The boarding announcements from Kingfisher were not very clear but thankfully it has a lot of ground staff that practically walk through the entire boarding area looking for passengers flying on Kingfisher. One such staff member bumped into me and told me that my flight was boarding. He personally escorted me to the line from where we were going to be bussed into the aircraft. Great service IT!
Here are some shots taken from the bus on my way to the aircraft:
An Air India bird in BLR
A mountain near BLR
Spice Jet flight taking off from BLR
A variety of birds at BLR
More birds at BLR
IT was boarding the aircraft from both the front and the rear of the aircraft. This resulted in fairly smooth boarding. I took my seat and made myself comfortable. It was now time enjoy the good times! Ooh la la la Oh le Oh..
The seat itself was ok. The pitch (31.0”) and width (17.8”) are fairly standard. Here is the highly popular leg room shot:
Leg room in Y
The flight departed the gate on time. As we taxied, the FAs did a very detailed demonstration of the safety features. They did the demo twice: one in English and once in Hindi. The take off was very smooth. The video can be seen here:
Pretty soon we were on cruising altitude. The FAs started the on board service by distributing hot towels, headsets and lemon juice.
The good times begin!
This flight had PTVs for In-flight entertainment. The IFE channels for this flight were as follows:
Channel 3: NDTV Good Times
Channel 4: American sitcom ‘Friends’
Channel 5: Air Premier - Bollywood movie ‘Hum Tum’
Channel 6: Movie – Law Abiding Citizen
Channel 7: Flintstones
Channel 8: Moving Map (my favorite channel)
In flight entertainment - PTV
As I was checking out the IFE the FAs were starting the snack service. A Chinese looking FA greeted me by first name and told me the two snack choices I had for the evening. One was a Veg choice (Paneer Bhurji, if I remember correctly) and the other was a Non Veg choice (chicken). I went with the Veg choice.
The Bhurji itself was a tad bit spicy. But the mousse was really tasty. The snack tray also came with a recipe booklet. The snack service was followed by a round of coffee/tea service. The FAs, most of whom were Chinese/North Eastern Indian looking were always smiling and very attentive to the passengers. They almost always reminded the passengers to watch for their shoulders and legs as they passed by the aisle with their service.
One complain that I have about the IT service is that they don’t do a trash pickup right after the snack service. The FAs wait until after the tea/coffee service before starting the trash pickup. This results in the passengers holding on to trash on their tray tables and is very inconvenient for folks that need to use the restroom. Also, the pre-arrival trash pickup that I am so accustomed to in the US is not usually done by the Indian carriers. This results in people stuffing all kinds of trash in the seat back pockets. Yuck!
But for this, Kingfisher’s on board service without question is top notch. The FAs distributed comment cards that I gladly filled out and handed it back to them.
feedback card, water, face wipes and a recipe booklet
We cruised along pretty well. Here are some more pics:
Moving Map on the PTV
The Indian skies
The skies just before landing in Delhi
The FAs were doing beverage service continually. If I remember correctly, hot towels were distributed prior to landing. The landing was smooth and we were in Delhi. As I was deplaning I found myself singing Ooh la la la Oh le Oh. The IT theme song is very catchy! But the circus was about to start…..
I know some of you will remind me about T3 but I need to share the experiences of this trip. Besides, certain aspects of this experience I am sure will continue to exist in T3 as well.
When we landed at DEL it was 41 degrees Celsius. The aircraft parked at a remote bay from where we were going to be bussed to the terminal. This bus did not have air conditioning. As a result the people were sweating profusely and the whole drive to the terminal was tortuous.
Once inside the terminal (Domestic arrival) in Delhi, I had to wait at the baggage claim in order to wait for my bags. It took a tab bit longer for the bags to show up after all even they need to be bussed from a pretty remote bay. The folks got pretty restless. Some of them made trips to the IT service desk. Some of them started peeking inside the opening from where the service agents were about to dump the bags onto the carousal. And once the bags made it, there was a bit of chaos with everybody trying to grab their bags.
One another observation here is that IT has a lot of staff wearing red uniforms at the arrival terminal. I wasn't sure what they were doing but there just were too many people wearing IT uniforms doing a whole lot of nothing.
Anyways, I picked up my bags and went to the IT service rep on the right hand side when you arrive inside the terminal. A well groomed agent told me to go back to a counter on the corner right next to the baggage carousal. I went to counter and stood in line for a while. At the counter there was a guy. I am not sure who he worked for since he didn’t wear any uniform or a badge. All this guy did was check my itinerary and check off the flight from Delhi to Chicago. He then handed me an Emigration form and pointed me to go to another line from where a shuttle bus would take me to the International terminal.
I stood in line for the bus. The wait was probably about 10-15 minutes. In the meantime I filled out the Emigration card. I also looked towards the monitors displaying the status of departing flights. It was mentioned ‘Security Check’ next to the AA 293 flight. I freaked out for a second before realizing that there was still three hours to go before the flight leaves.
When it was my turn to board my printed itinerary was verified by two cops (one cop was standing before the exit door and the other was standing right after the door). Upon their verification, I went near the bus where the itinerary was verified by another guy. He was wearing a GMR uniform. So I am assuming that he works for GMR. Upon verification, this guy took my bags and literally tossed them into the backside of the bus. I took a seat in the bus while this guy continue to toss several other bags in a very disorderly fashion with utter disregard to people’s belongings inside the bag. So with the huge pile of bags built up at the rear end of the bus, we were now ready to depart to the international terminal.
As the bus started moving the pile of bags was always shaking. Thankfully, there was another guy in GMR uniform trying to hold all the bags together. Funny! I was wondering just in case all the bags came down tumbling…Not funny..
After a fairly good drive I was at the International terminal. I collected my bags from the bus and put them on to a trolley. This is one of the best things about the airports in India. The trolleys are available almost everywhere. I was then told by a very friendly cop standing next to the bus to take the elevators to the Departure terminal. The terminal is at about a 3 min walk once you exit the elevators. At the entrance of the International terminal I was greeted by (you guessed it right!) another cop. He verified by itinerary and I was finally inside the International terminal. Once inside, I did not see any display boards to show where the American Airlines check in counters were located. After a quick look around I did find the AA check in counters. At the very entrance of the AA counters, I was greeted by a very beautiful girl who asked me where I was flying to and what class. I told her and she then led me to the Business Class check in line. I was greeted by an AA agent (while still in the line) who started asking me about some security related questions. As I was answering this guy, the girl walked in with my passenger receipt. Once the guy was finished with his questions he stamped a security cleared seal on my receipt and then led to me to the AA Biz Class counters. The check in was really smooth and quick if you discount the two extra layers! The lady at the check in desk game me a coupon to use the ‘Green Lounge’ at the airport.
The emigration was also pretty quick and I headed to the Green Lounge. All this while I was very paranoid about taking pictures at DEL simply because I had read about what had happened to some spotters in DEL. Besides, in the IT flight from BLR, announcements were specially made in this regard stating that in some airports cameras are not to be used. Before heading to the lounge I looked at a friendly looking cop and asked him if I could take some pictures inside the airport. The cop gave me a go ahead and then I started taking some pictures.
The Green Lounge at DEL, from what I gathered is used by American, Continental, Thai, Singapore, Cathay and a host of other airlines. As you can expect this lounge was packed to the brim with standing room only. However as a couple of flights left there were some vacant seats. There was a computer with Internet facilities. The food and drink choices at the lounge were very adequate.
The Green Lounge at Delhi airport
Food options in the Lounge
View of the lounge
Another shot of the lounge
The reps from various airlines were making frequent rounds to inform the status of their flights and letting the passengers know when to head for security. They were inaudible sometimes but for the most part they did a good job of covering every nook and corner of the lounge. I washed my face and felt a bit fresh after all the running around at the airport. Then I helped myself for some snacks and Kingfisher! I chatted for a while with a Telecom executive from New Zealand headed to Singapore. After an hour or so, the AA reps walked in and told me that it was time to proceed to security. All in all, the Green lounge was fairly okay.
The security check was very similar to Bangalore. It was very quick and I found myself in the Gate area. I just walked around the terminal a bit and didn’t really venture out too far from the gate. Here are some pics from the gate area.
Display monitor near the gate
AA 293 headed to Chicago
It was time to board the aircraft. Just prior to entering the jet-bridge the beautiful girl that greeted me at the AA counter walked up to me and asked some more security questions. After answering those I proceeded to the jet bridge where there is another round of x-ray and security check done by AA. Finally, after this entire circus I found myself in the seat heading to Chicago. Yay!
Scheduled Departure: 12:15a
Actual Departure: On time
Scheduled Arrival: 05:00a
Actual Arrival: On time
The FAs were already distributing menus when I took my seat. I will discuss the detailed menu in just a bit. As I was glancing through the menu, the FA came in with hot towels. After the second round of security checks I was feeling really tired and the hot towel came as a much needed relief. The FA then made a quick turn around and wanted to know if I wanted something to drink. I opted for Mango Juice. By then, I had taken off my shoes and adjusted the seat to a fairly relaxed position. That felt really good. The seat, needless to say was very comfortable with a seat pitch of about 60.0” and a width of 20.0”
Biz class seats (sorry for poor quality)
Video about Biz Class seats
I looked at the moving map on the PTV screen. Chicago was 7477 miles away! That’s really far. Another interesting thing I noticed was that the outside temperature in Delhi around midnight was 35 degrees Celsius. Wow!
Chicago is far far far away
Menu Inside – 02
About this time, the captain announced that we were all set to start taxiing. So as the FAs started their safety demos I brought my seat forward and got my camera handy to shoot the take off video. The flying time was going to be about 15 hours. The takeoff was smooth and powerful. The take off video can be seen here:
Pretty soon the FAs started the service. Warm mixed nuts were served with my choice of beer - Amstel Light. The warm nuts are a standard product in the premium class in almost every AA flight. Bose headsets were distributed. I chose Paneer Makhani as my dinner option along with Amstel Light.
The passenger sitting next to me was headed to San Jose, CA, after hiking in the Himalayas. He was a very interesting man with a wealth of knowledge on geography, hiking and world cultures. I had a nice engrossing conversation with him.
The food was very tasty!
The meal was very tasty. The Paneer Makhani was spiced perfectly and the German Chocolate was pretty good as well. The Nan could have been a bit softer though. The other bread choices seemed better. AA’s wine selection was very good. Overall, the dinner was very satisfying.
Post dinner, I decided to stretch my legs out a bit and start playing with the IFE. A full disclosure here that I personally am not a big fan of AVOD. I usually carry some handheld entertainment system that keeps me busy. Anyways, I started exploring AAs IFE. On a quick cursory check, I found that the movie/audio selections in AA were not as good and not as much as the BA flight. So it is natural for passengers that love IFE to jump all over AA.
One good way to not get jet-lagged is to sleep during the later half of the 15 hour flight and so I started playing my favorite game ‘Sudoku’ on the IFE. That kept me engrossed for a while. I kept enjoying the wine selection during this time.
One note about the AA biz class seats though. These do not recline to a full 180 degrees as some of you already know. But these angled lie flat seats are very comfortable and provide you with a variety of positions to make yourself ‘comfier’.
Seat Adjustment Panel
Leg room in Biz Class
Lie flat position
We cruised along nicely. Here are some pictures of the flight path:
Somewhere near the half way mark of our flight, the FAs served us the mid-flight snack. It was a veggie sandwich with chips and a muffin. After having the snack, I cleared up tray table and decided to use the restroom before going to sleep.
Mid flight snack
Inside the Amenity Kit
The amenities inside the rest room are too few. AA might want to consider adding some more cosmetics inside.
Anyways, I got back to the seat and went to sleep for several hours. I was awakened by the breakfast service. I chose the Spanish frittata with coffee. The frittata was very tasty. Here are some more pictures of the breakfast and our flight cruising over Greenland.
Somewhere over the Norwegian Sea
Closing in onto North America
Here is a small quiz for you based on the picture above:
What is common among cities like Vancouver, St. George, Mexico City, San Juan, Panama, Caracas, Lima, Bogota and Fortaleza?
You will find the answer at the end of the trip report.
Anyways, after enjoying a sumptuous breakfast, I decided to use the rest room again and freshen up. I got back to my seat and requested the pre-arrival drink. Our descent into Chicago-O’Hare was smooth. In fact, we did not encounter any significant chops throughout the flight. Here are some pictures of our descent and landing.
Sunrise as we approach Chicago
Engines at work!
Over downtown Chicago
The landing video can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UprsDQnZ98w
The landing was on time. Upon landing, Immigration / Customs clearances were breezy. I don’t think there were any other international flights landing at ORD around that time. I rechecked my bags to SAT after clearing the customs and then took the train to the AA terminal T3. I cleared the security and was at the terminal by 6 AM. Since I had more than three hours of waiting, I decided to occupy a quite corner in T3 and started downloading pictures.
Around 9:15 I started walking to gate K-10 from where the flight to SAT was to depart. But there was virtually no sign of that flight at the gate. So I checked a nearby display monitor. My flight was delayed by 90 minutes and was now leaving at 11:30 from a different gate.
So I started slowly meandering to my new gate occasionally clicking some pictures. Also, this was the first time in a really long time that I had such a long layover at ORD. In recent times there were threads on A.net about AA AAbandoning ORD. Observing the amount of passengers in the AA terminal and looking at the flights, I can say with certainty that these thoughts are unfounded.
Here are some pictures of Chicago:
AA concourse at ORD
More AA birds
Spotted a JAL bird
Scheduled Departure: 10:00a
Actual Departure: 11:50a
Scheduled Arrival: 12:40p
Actual Arrival: 02:26p
Since the flight was already delayed the agents and the FAs made an effort to hasten the boarding process. The boarding process was smooth and we finally took off to San Antonio. The flying time was estimated to be about two and a half hours. Since we were delayed I got the impression that we were given priority during take-off. The take off video can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FAJMDak8c4
Pretty soon the FAs started the service. The FA in the First class cabin was very friendly and smiling. She did take some pictures for me. The F seats are very comfortable and have a pitch of 39.0" and 19.5" wide
Starters were the usual Warm mixed nuts. I requested a Bloody Mary to drink. I really like those early morning bloody marys!
Bloody Mary and Warm Mixed Nuts
The starters were followed by a meal service. The meal consisted of a hot chicken sandwich with salad and chips. This chicken sandwich was simply amazing. I then had a baked on board cookie for dessert.
Baked on board Cookie
After the meal service was done I did what I always like to do during flight. Look outside the window! It was a beautiful day outside with crystal clear skies. We cruised along pretty well. Here are some photos of the cities that we went past: Tulsa, DFW metroplex, Hillsboro, TX and Waco, TX.
Flying over Tulsa, Oklahoma
This must be the Red River
The DFW area