In the month of June I had to make a trip to CLE
for a presentation and as luck would have it my passport was stuck at the Chinese Embassy and would be released only the day before my presentation in CLE
!! I had to collect my passport from DEL
and fly out from there and reach CLE
before 2 PM
The only workable option that was coming through was the DEL
non stop on AI
connecting on to AA
which also flies on the same sector did not have a flight on the said day.
My initial idea was to get a nice nap on the 16+ hr flight from DEL
and be fresh for the meeting. But the outward flight was a nightmare!! I had not planned on a TR
, but the essence of the horrendous journey can be found here - http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/....php?t=11216&mforum=airlinersindia
My return leg was from JFK
102 - titled "THE NON STOP" to mark the launch of non-stop AI
flights from India to the US. AI
had initially launched BOM
as separate flights, but with the consolidation of their hub at DEL
, these flights are now clubbed an AI
102 does JFK
routing. In the meantime AI
has launched non stop flights from DEL
, replacing their earlier flights via Europe.
flight would be departing from T4
and I reached well in advance of the flight time. There was a significant line in front of the AI
counters and when I headed to the tail of what i thought was the line, a JFK
security personnel directed me to the end of what was the reminder of the line, which was lined up against the terminal window. This arrangement prevented (somewhat) the AI
crowd from blocking the passage complete. The neighbouring counters were checking pax for the VV
flight to KBP
View from the second half of the line..the security staff with the fluorscent orange jacket guiding pax to the proper line.
crew walking towards security.. the line behind them is to deposit checked in bags at TSA
I had checked in online, which was a nightmare on the "new" AI
site, the seat map just wouldnt show up and when it did, the site would timeout!!
After waiting for abt 45 mins, I finally managed to get my BP
and headed to join the line to drop my baggage. The line had by now become a mess, with VV
pax also joining the party. The JFK
staff had a tough time keeping order
Thankfully the security was quick and I was soon airside.
My ride for the looooong hop to India - B77W VT
-ALT Nagaland (named after the north eastern state of India)
Neighbouring Traffic EI
330 and MS
747 after her long journey via FRA
330, with a company ship at distance in a threesome with two LAN babes
380 that landed in from DXB
Boarding was announced slightly delayed
Lets talk Jumbo to Whale!!
The flight was around 80% full in Y. The passenger profile was almost 100% of Indian origin. However unlike the flight to ORD
, this one had families with little children and youngster possibly headed to India for their vacation.
The mandatory knee shot
A nice feature on AI
's longhual birds.. a holder for a full sized water bottle that is already at your seat when you board. Given the duration of the flight, this is a good thought and save the F/As a lot of time serving water in small cups
However the drawback is tht they provided only 2 per set of 3 seats on the 77W. So that meant....
... bottles balanced at a weird angle
The IFE screen.. AVOD.. abt the selection.. well coming soon!!
Additional storage space in the seat back
Slots to grab small items that may have fallen into the seatback space
branded headseats in Y class
The security video was played over the IFE and a flight time of a lil under 14 hours was announced.
A view of the cabin, while boarding is in progress
Like the earthy colors on the new AI
The cleaning at JFK
was probably not thorough enough, found this lil fella under the seat in front of me..
Now coming to the IFE.. sticks out like a sore thumb. What you see in the pic below is the whole of the English movie section!! Hindi is slightly better.. abt 15 odd movies!! For airlines that launched IFE in the 90s this was probably wow!! but in 2011.. extremely disappointing
The headseat at my seat was missing an earpad.. took abt 45 mins (after take off) to get a new one (after numerous F/A calls.. the calls would get reset from the galley!!)
Post take off, drinks service was commenced with some Indian nuts
Abt 2 hours into the flight meal service began.. there were 3 options, Indian chicken curry, Indian Vegetarian and Grilled Fish.
I chose the grilled fish.. big disappointment.. the only saving grace on that entire tray was the bun, which was warm n soft.
Our flight path today, taking us on a near polar route, with constant light outsde
Made a visit to the loo aftet the meal and was kinda shocked to find that , all they had in was soap and tissues.. not even cups!! I have seen domestic flights with more stuff that this!!
The crew had set up a snack bar in the Galley towards the midsection of the Y class, with vegetarian sandwiches and drinks
The Galley Shot
Flight meal plan
Trolley with an "intermediate" AI
Veg S/W on offer
Midway through the flight, I was awakened by what I thought was an hijack attempt, but turned out to be our "friendly neighbourhood AI
aunty" shouting at sleeping pax to pull open their tray tables so that she had something to aim the trays at!! I can understand such an hurried service on a sub 1 hr domestic flight.. but on a ULH flight this was completely uncalled for!! Maybe Aunty-ji had to get back quick to catch up on her beauty sleep or gossip!!
The cold snacks for which were were rudely awakened!! Yet another awful meal from AI
Pax trying to catch some sleep after being rudely woken up.. notice the number of IFE screens that are off.. after 5-6 hours, there's not much left to do with that
Abt 10 hrs into the flight, another visit to the loo.. this time even the tissue paper was missing!! The F/A call button elicited no response.. had to walk all the way to the rear of the a/c to get the crew's attention...
On the plus side, the toilets were in a better condition than the outward flight.
Abt 2 hours prior to land another meal was served (dinner/breakfast/lunch depending on which timezone your body was in!!)
There were two choices - Indian Veg and Egg Omlet and sausages.. went fot the Indian one this time
On offer - Puri, Stuffed Dosa, Upma and Chana...of all the meals that I had with AI
long haul this was probably the best (not that the bar was set high in the first place!!)
Final trip to the loo before seat belts are on..
Mood Lighting setting in before landing
Landing into DEL
was smooth and for me it was kinda odd landing into India from the West with the sun blazing outside!! :P
Pax with luggage before deplaning
Landing into DEL T3
always gives me an eerie feeling.. the corridors and walkways are long and usually lonely..
transfer desk.... well just the desks!!
The transfer part was bit of a joke. Since this flight goes on to BOM
, there was pax who would continue on the same a/c and would clear immigration and customs at BOM
instead of DEL
. There were also pax transferring to other international connectors to HYD
.. who would clear immigration at their respective destinations. However with no body to guide the passengers a lot of them landed at the immigration desk (which is wht would happen if you follow signs for "Domestic Transfers"!!) .. luckily the immigration officials caught such pax and directed them to the "International Transfer" area. Soon coupla AI
staff came around calling for pax travelling to BOM
. They should've been present at the gate while people were disembarking.
Since my flight to BLR
was departing from the domestic section of T3
, I cleared immigration and customs and headed to the transfer desk in the arrival lounge.
On my way there I came across some folks from the JFK
flight with a perplexed look.. when asked they said they were unable to locate the AI
domestic transfer desks. When we headed to the transfer area, there were two counters marked for 9W
, but rest sported the DIAL logo. When i checked with one of the staff sitting at the unmarked counter, she told me I could check in for AI
The unmarked AI
Of the two counters open, only one was able to print boarding passes (strangely, they tore up the boarding passes issued at JFK
stock and printed a fresh one with the same set allocation, again on AI
The transfer area.. the counters on the extreme right are for 9W
, checking in pax who have landed on the AA
flight from ORD
Overall the trip was a disaster. I had very low expectations from AI
and this was the first time I was travelling international on AI
, but AI
beat my expectations and dived to newer depths!! If this is the condition on what the airline touts as its flagship route, I shudder to think of the situation in other routes.
Apart from new a/c, there is nothing much working for AI
- clueless ground staff, indifferent onboard crew, low grade IFE and bad catering!! Plus to top it all, the miles did not get credited in my LH
account (even though my LH
number was quoted on all BPs) and I had to send my boarding pass to LH
to get the miles credited (which took 10 weeks in total).. so much for the so called "Star Alliance Integration"!! Pretty glad that *A decided to boot them out. As an Indian, it is pretty sad that AI
continues to be our flag carrier, while we have better airlines like 9W
in the private sector.
[Edited 2011-09-01 12:45:36]
Flown IC , 9W , SQ , SV , GF , S2 , LX , IT , LH , OS , DN , AC , MH , 6E , MI , AA , TG , EK , QR , SG , TK , KW, UA ,