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directorguy
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How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Thu May 03, 2018 5:14 pm

I'm really curious-before Indian economic liberalization, and the establishment of so many other airlines, what was traveling to, from and within India like during the good old days, when Air India/Indian Airlines ran the whole show, and the country was very BOM-centric? Outside of the main trunk routes (BOM-DEL-CCU etc.) what was air connectivity like? Was flying something only VIPs/businessmen did, or would relatively affluent families use airlines for VFR, holidays etc.
Given that most foreign airlines only flew to BOM, and most of AI's international flying was from that city, was the airport optimized for domestic-international transfers?

I just came back from India (2nd trip in less than a year!) and did two domestic sectors, on Vistara (DEL-VNS) and IndiGo (LKO-CCU). Vistara was a great experience, really hope they last and maintain their quality of service. IndiGo was a much more spartan operation, efficient and to the point. Indian airports were pretty good too-DEL was my favorite in terms of amenities and efficiency. It dawned on me that were it not for UK and 6E (both relatively recent), and the amazing network the ME3 have into India, it would have been more difficult to plan a trip.
Would love to read what the India experts have to say, as there isn't much online that specifically addresses my question.
 
kickazzz2000
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Thu May 03, 2018 5:39 pm

Anecdote:

I remember traveling to India as a Child in 1984 and 1988. Both times, we would arrive BOM in the middle of the night (which I believe is generally still the case) at the Sahar Terminal. Our connecting flight on Indian Airlines wouldn't depart until mid afternoon, around 2pm, from the Santa Cruz terminal. There was only one flight a day to Rajkot at that time.

Luckily for us, my parents had good friends in BOM whom we would stay with or that would have been brutal.
 
CHI787ORD
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Thu May 03, 2018 5:48 pm

It's really night and day.

AI was setup as the govt international airline, and IC was the govt domestic airline. Neither code shared or aligned their schedules for a long time, and in Delhi the two airlines were at separate terminals that were not connected and had separate access roads. Transferring was a real pain in ass. You'd often have to wait overnight or long hours for an expensive connection as outside of DEL and BOM there were usually only 1 or 2 flights a day total connecting to regional cities.

It was honestly easier and more time effective to take a taxi to the train station and get a comfortable first class train ticket for your onward journey. Even if you were middle or upper middle class you didn't really fly.

Airports were usually pretty poor quality. DEL's main international terminal in the 90s and 2000s was small, dirty, and inadequate. Secondary airports in regional cities were even worse. ATQ was more of a bus station until the new terminal opened about 10 years ago.

One thing that hasn't changed is the high amount of security and checks you have to go through. That's been a constant since atleast the late 80s.
Last edited by CHI787ORD on Thu May 03, 2018 6:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
dmstorm22
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Thu May 03, 2018 6:09 pm

Been traveling to India basically every other year since 1991 - can remember my trips since 1996. The difference is staggering.

First, BOM was not optimized at all, to the point that there were two airports that, I'm pretty sure, had no air-side connection.
And despite sharing an air-field, it was a much-longer-than-needed auto or cab ride from Sahar (now CSIA) to Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz still exists - renamed, but is much nicer than the small solo-building it used to be, and air-side connection does exist. Biggest change though is having domestic flights out of the same terminal now if you're flying AI or Jet or a few others.

Connectivity is the other huge change, not only that ME3 and even some European airlines have expanded beyond just BOM/DEL (I go mostly to BLR, so this has been a huge plus, but now with ME3 many other secondary cities have direct access), but the frequency of flights out of BOM/DEL are much more as well. I distinctly remember having to first wait 5-6 hours to get a BOM-BLR flight, and then being happy when Jet Airways introduced a 3:00am flight BOM-BLR on a dash jet or ATR or some prop-plane.

Airport quality (my experience is limited to BOM/DEL/BLR/GOI mainly) has improved dramatically. In many cases there are literal new airports (old BLR used to be a joke), but even the amenities inside improved steadily. Every time I went to BOM prior to the opening of the new terminal I noticed improvements to the old Sahar terminal.

Domestic travel has changed from competition as it should and as India so sorely needed. I question the long-term strategy of the IndiGo's of the world if they try to play long-haul, but having them on domestic has been a huge factor to the growth of choice from when it used to be just Air India / Indian Airlines and then Jet starting with a few other small players. The amount of flights and connectivity is such a huge increase from the 90's, which was so important given the issues with the alternate form of travel in India of trains which would increase travel time by truly significant amounts.
 
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sturmovik
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Thu May 03, 2018 6:14 pm

CHI787ORD wrote:
It's really night and day.

One thing that hasn't changed is the high amount of security and checks you have to go through. That's been a constant since atleast the late 80s.


This is so true. A lot of infrastructure has been upgraded, but the underlying processes are still remnants of the pre-liberalization era, especially when it comes to security, customs, immigration etc. Things have begun to change in the last few years, but the dissonance of having these old processes in shiny new airports really stands out to me every time I travel.

The real remaining need for big change is airside, in the actual infrastructure required to aviate. Airspace needs modernization, navaids and such need upgrades, and the DGCA needs to be disbanded and rebuilt from the ground up, hopefully with a structure that can attract capable people. Pilot training (especially ab initio) still needs to catch up, and so does the safety culture (without denying that we have made some strides in both already). All of the aforementioned things get progressively worse as you go to smaller and smaller airports - I speak from experience piloting aircraft around the heartland.

Overall, though, I'm happy with the progress made, especially from a passenger perspective. For a long time, my father and grandfather were the only ones in our family who had flown on airplanes, and only because their work required it and paid for it. I took my first commercial flight when I was 15 years old - I now have nieces and nephews who have flown before they were 15 months old. For the middle class, flight is becoming ubiquitous.
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directorguy
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Thu May 03, 2018 6:21 pm

Loving the replies so far.

Interesting how trains were a viable alternative to planes. I have used trains in India, but finding seats in AC1 or AC2 can be difficult unless you plan well in advance. In an age before you could book online, I guess you either lucked out or had someone in India book your tickets for you? Even today setting up an account with Indian Railways isn't that easy (mandatory if you want to reserve online).

When I was at Varanasi, the terminal we used was clearly new, having been built within the last 10 years, even if it just has 2 jetways. I saw what I presume is the old terminal which looked minuscule. Was probably adequate back when their only business was Indian Airlines 3x weekly to DEL. Now all the domestic Indian airlines have several flights a day, plus a bit on the international side (daily Air India Express to DXB, plus seasonal TG to BKK, presumably due to VNS's proximity to Sarnath).
The worst had to be CCU-they have a gigantic futuristic terminal but retained poor queue management, few things to do once airside etc.
 
CHI787ORD
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Thu May 03, 2018 6:21 pm

What's really interesting too is how quickly these transformations took place within the last 12-13 years. India liberalized in the early 90s but until around 2004-2005 the aviation sector hadn't changed much and was still stuck in the 80s and 90s. Then all of a sudden it was like a rocket ship taking off and new airlines were launched (and also famously went bust) and huge amounts of money was poured into developing the airport infrastructure.

When Delhi landed the 2010 Commonwealth Games, it was the perfect opportunity to rebuild DEL, and then it also made sense to rebuild BOM. And the growth of the ME3 into secondary cities really created a need and demand to rebuild all those crappy airports. The Indian diaspora was key here. Many of them are wealthier, used to flying often, and visit India at least once a year or every two years. It was only a matter of time before the infrastructure issue was brought to the forefront by them.
 
CHI787ORD
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Thu May 03, 2018 6:26 pm

directorguy wrote:
Loving the replies so far.
Interesting how trains were a viable alternative to planes. I have used trains in India, but finding seats in AC1 or AC2 can be difficult unless you plan well in advance. In an age before you could book online, I guess you either lucked out or had someone in India book your tickets for you? .


Yes you'd usually have a family friend or relative in Delhi or Bombay go to the train station for you and reserve the ticket in person weeks before your arrival
 
manny
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Thu May 03, 2018 6:58 pm

Both Mumbai and Delhi used to view with each other to take the honors of which was the bigger dump. It was horrible to say the least. I remember immigration counters even in late 90s being ordinary work tables in Mumbai. Somewhere around 2005 things started to change even at the old terminal. They kept making improvements to the old international terminal. Than one year we went to Mumbai and it was the brand new terminal.

The new terminal in Mumbai was breathtaking. Still is and it makes T5 in LHR look like an outdated building. Its one of the most beautiful airport terminals i have traveled through. I dunno about Delhi but even they too have had an upgraded terminal which is viewed favorably by the traveling public.

I think now India has some of the more decent facilities in the world. But given the rate at which the market is growing they have to keep making more infrastructure investments in the aviation sector.
 
dmstorm22
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Thu May 03, 2018 7:16 pm

manny wrote:
Both Mumbai and Delhi used to view with each other to take the honors of which was the bigger dump. It was horrible to say the least. I remember immigration counters even in late 90s being ordinary work tables in Mumbai. Somewhere around 2005 things started to change even at the old terminal. They kept making improvements to the old international terminal. Than one year we went to Mumbai and it was the brand new terminal.

The new terminal in Mumbai was breathtaking. Still is and it makes T5 in LHR look like an outdated building. Its one of the most beautiful airport terminals i have traveled through. I dunno about Delhi but even they too have had an upgraded terminal which is viewed favorably by the traveling public.

I think now India has some of the more decent facilities in the world. But given the rate at which the market is growing they have to keep making more infrastructure investments in the aviation sector.


Funny you mention the International Arrivals at the old Sahar/CSIA terminal - it truly was deplorable. They actually made significant improvements to the departures first but left international arrival facilities fairly poor well into the 2000s.

You are absolutely correct the new terminal is a staggering change. It would be nice though if they use even half of the hundreds of check-in counters that they publicize having so much.
 
dtw2hyd
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Thu May 03, 2018 7:20 pm

directorguy wrote:
...
Given that most foreign airlines only flew to BOM, and most of AI's international flying was from that city, was the airport optimized for domestic-international transfers?...


It was a delight, at midnight you voluntarily surrender yourself and belongings to a black/yellow taxi driver, who randomly picks up couple of his friends to go along.
All posts are just opinions.
 
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sturmovik
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Thu May 03, 2018 8:04 pm

I also remember the old BLR airport - that was hell if you were an int'l pax. I once returned on the LH flight from FRA, must've landed sometime past midnight, and reached my home four kilometers away at 5am. Only one carousel was functioning, and there were widebodies from LH, AF, BA, TG and others which had arrived within a few hours of each other. I'll never forget that night. But the new BLR airport, while an improvement in terms of the terminal and facilities, is a pain in the butt to get to. Leaving south Bangalore four hours before your flight is legit risky, might not make it in time depending on traffic. Maybe a metro link will happen by the time I have grandkids.

The old BLR airport was an enthusiast's dream though. Accessible spotting locations within the city, interesting mix of types all the time.. a favourite pastime was to go grab a few beers from Green Park bar near the airport wall and go sit on the mounds of earth near the wall, sipping beer and watching planes go by until the cops came and chased you off. I miss that place.
'What's it doing now?'
 
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stl07
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Thu May 03, 2018 9:15 pm

This answer starts and ends with the new BOM airport. From a slum to the Taj Palace. No more mobs, fights, 5 (yes, 5!!) hour transit times in between terminals, ticket machines that don't work so you can't go through security when changing terminals. Now just relaxation, marvelous architecture, and flying. The lounge is one of the best Iv been to.

Oh yea, and US carriers apart from UA no longer fly to India because they assume people would rather stop in ORD and Doha/DXB than take a direct flight instead of acknowledging the fact that the downturn was from the recession a decade ago
Instead of typing in "mods", consider using the report function.
Love how every "travel blogger" says they will never fly AA/Ethihad again and then says it again and again on subsequent flights.
 
DSFTEBMNZ
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Thu May 03, 2018 9:57 pm

Since we are walking down memory lane, let me take you back to developments from my first flight in the early sixties as a kid.

Mid-sixties: Indian Airlines flight DEL-NAG-HYD-BLR on a Vickers Viscount. My childhood heart thrilled to the start-up of four Rolls Royce Dart turbines which I didn't hear again till the late 90s on a USAir Fokker F27 Friendship flight from DCA to SWF. The Viscount had a 50ish seat capacity and I remember that 5 or 10 people strolling on and off at each stop. Delhi Palam had no jetways and no buses. You walked on the tarmac to the plane and climbed up a glorified stepladder. I remember being quite concerned about my mother's ability to climb ladders in a sari! Baggage retrieval in BLR Hindustan was from a hand-pulled baggage cart which was rolled up to the terminal exit doorway after we had all alighted.

Early Seventies: Indian Airlines flight DEL-HYD-BLR on a Sud Aviation Caravelle with awesome triangular windows. There were buses at Delhi Palam!! And air stairs that were more accessible. NAG had been dropped. On-board meals were a mix of Indian and Western offerings and dessert was a canned fruit cocktail swimming in a sugar solution. Manna to a pre-teen. I spurned my mother's unsweetened fresh fruit salad after that.

All flights were booked at least two weeks in advance, and if you had a last minute or emergency need to travel, you had to go through your phone directory looking up the name of any high government official you knew since there was always a government quota on each flight, largely unused.

The Bangalore Deccan Herald newspaper published the daily flight schedule from BLR every morning. It was a short paragraph. BOM and MAA had two flights a day. CCU was connected via BOM. A few other airports had one flight a day.

Today: 40 flights a day between BLR Kemepegowda and Delhi IGI with Load Factors in the 90s.

Many other memories over the years, but I'll leave you with these for the moment. I can always add more if there's interest.
 
directorguy
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Fri May 04, 2018 4:22 pm

Fantastiic responses. The traveling public has certainly changed. I myself observed that many of my co-passengers seemed to be ordinary middle-class Indians. Their general demeanor indicated that the majority were used to taking flights, knew how to queue etc. None of the apprehension exhibited by first-time/occasional flyers.
Interesting times ahead. Although certain routes are now very well served by multiple airlines, many city-pairs are not yet connected. Some airports have no civilian traffic or no airport at all. My question is-could we see the establishment of US-style hubs where different traffic flows (east-west, north-south etc.) can be accommodated, or will we see most of the expansion on point-to-point traffic?
 
vtnyc
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Fri May 04, 2018 5:00 pm

used to get replies like "Sir, you're wait listed at #67 for the flight to Bombay" when inquiring about your booking in the early 90's. The immigration and custom at BOM used to have line reaching easily in to the hundreds with baggage strewn all over. You were ready to part with a souvenir if you wanted to pass through customs hassle free.

It was special feeling to disembark on to the tarmac at COK in the 80's and be greeted by the tropical blast welcoming you home.
First Flight, PA001 DEL-FRA-LHR-JFK; Dream- JFK-COK on a B6 787
 
peterinlisbon
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Fri May 04, 2018 5:10 pm

The first time I went to India in 2000 I needed a visa which took a long time to get and when I arrived at the airport in Bombay I remember seeing cracks in the walls and a lot of old worn-out equipment. This last time (last year) I was at Cochin and Ahmedabad and both were modern airports with the same facilities you find in most parts of the world and Cochin seemed to have a lot of traffic. Plus, I no longer needed a visa!

I think the first time I was there I never even considered taking domestic flights as they were very expensive and I went everywhere by train. Getting tickets was a major hassle involving a lot of queing and advance planning. This last time, I saw some very cheap flights a few weeks before I arrived in India but it seems that they do fill up and it gets very expensive to fly anywhere at less than 2 weeks notice. My advice is to plan your trip in advance because the trains fill up and planes are expensive at short notice.
 
dtw2hyd
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Fri May 04, 2018 5:21 pm

directorguy wrote:
... My question is-could we see the establishment of US-style hubs where different traffic flows (east-west, north-south etc.) can be accommodated, or will we see most of the expansion on point-to-point traffic?


Our hub policy is a blot on aviation and against humanity. Hub is the wrong term, herding is the right term. No country should replicate this model.
All posts are just opinions.
 
MIAFLLPBIFlyer
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Fri May 04, 2018 10:42 pm

kickazzz2000 wrote:
Anecdote:

I remember traveling to India as a Child in 1984 and 1988. Both times, we would arrive BOM in the middle of the night (which I believe is generally still the case) at the Sahar Terminal. Our connecting flight on Indian Airlines wouldn't depart until mid afternoon, around 2pm, from the Santa Cruz terminal. There was only one flight a day to Rajkot at that time.

Luckily for us, my parents had good friends in BOM whom we would stay with or that would have been brutal.


Arriving as a child in 1983 and 1987 at DEL on PA (MIA-LHR-FRA-DEL in 83' MIA-CDG-FRA-DEL in 87') it was like being a time warp. The immigration lines were LONG and the hall was full. Then after clearing immigration had to somehow make our way to the domestic terminal for the flight to MAA on IC (the only domestic carrier at the time). 1983 must have been worse than 1987 since Palam T2 was opened in 1986.

I remember 1990 more vividly. Transiting to the domestic terminal after MIA-LHR-FRA-DEL on PA. Finding chairs to sleep on waiting for the first IC flight to MAA which unbelievably in those days of no competition and no need to cater to business stopped in HYD.

Beginning after that BA and LH began MAA service and we'd fly them. But MAA airport was slow and inefficient. Any travel within India was torturous. Then in 2003 I traveled while in India to COK on 9W and couldn't believe the experience. Kochi had just opened its new airport and it felt like the states. It made me realize India could figure this thing out and boy have they since. The airports are now fantastic.

I have heard the stories about BOM and the reason we never went through Sahar in those days was those horror stories. Probably embellished but stories circulated among south Indian's here in the US in the 1980's of bandits jumping taxis between Sahar and Santa Cruz in the middle of the night and that you'd best stay in a hotel etc. DEL was horrible also, but we just felt it was safer.
 
MIAFLLPBIFlyer
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Fri May 04, 2018 10:46 pm

vtnyc wrote:
used to get replies like "Sir, you're wait listed at #67 for the flight to Bombay" when inquiring about your booking in the early 90's. The immigration and custom at BOM used to have line reaching easily in to the hundreds with baggage strewn all over. You were ready to part with a souvenir if you wanted to pass through customs hassle free.

It was special feeling to disembark on to the tarmac at COK in the 80's and be greeted by the tropical blast welcoming you home.


Ah the old Wildingon (sp?) Island Airport!
 
MIAFLLPBIFlyer
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Fri May 04, 2018 10:49 pm

CHI787ORD wrote:
What's really interesting too is how quickly these transformations took place within the last 12-13 years. India liberalized in the early 90s but until around 2004-2005 the aviation sector hadn't changed much and was still stuck in the 80s and 90s. Then all of a sudden it was like a rocket ship taking off and new airlines were launched (and also famously went bust) and huge amounts of money was poured into developing the airport infrastructure.

When Delhi landed the 2010 Commonwealth Games, it was the perfect opportunity to rebuild DEL, and then it also made sense to rebuild BOM. And the growth of the ME3 into secondary cities really created a need and demand to rebuild all those crappy airports. The Indian diaspora was key here. Many of them are wealthier, used to flying often, and visit India at least once a year or every two years. It was only a matter of time before the infrastructure issue was brought to the forefront by them.


Traveling to India remained the same torture even after liberalization. As I said in another reply the first sign of progress I noticed was when I went to Kerala on my visit from the US in 2003. I was shocked when I disembarked in COK from MAA that the airport there seemed a proper, functional place. It was brand new and private. COK still is fantastic - a real trend setter for India.

Chennai Airport didn't really improve until recently. But being a Tamilian it always felt more comfortable to land there than in Mumbai or Delhi even if those airports had become by the mid to late 2000s vastly superior.
 
MIAFLLPBIFlyer
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Fri May 04, 2018 10:53 pm

DSFTEBMNZ wrote:
Since we are walking down memory lane, let me take you back to developments from my first flight in the early sixties as a kid.

Mid-sixties: Indian Airlines flight DEL-NAG-HYD-BLR on a Vickers Viscount. My childhood heart thrilled to the start-up of four Rolls Royce Dart turbines which I didn't hear again till the late 90s on a USAir Fokker F27 Friendship flight from DCA to SWF. The Viscount had a 50ish seat capacity and I remember that 5 or 10 people strolling on and off at each stop. Delhi Palam had no jetways and no buses. You walked on the tarmac to the plane and climbed up a glorified stepladder. I remember being quite concerned about my mother's ability to climb ladders in a sari! Baggage retrieval in BLR Hindustan was from a hand-pulled baggage cart which was rolled up to the terminal exit doorway after we had all alighted.

Early Seventies: Indian Airlines flight DEL-HYD-BLR on a Sud Aviation Caravelle with awesome triangular windows. There were buses at Delhi Palam!! And air stairs that were more accessible. NAG had been dropped. On-board meals were a mix of Indian and Western offerings and dessert was a canned fruit cocktail swimming in a sugar solution. Manna to a pre-teen. I spurned my mother's unsweetened fresh fruit salad after that.

All flights were booked at least two weeks in advance, and if you had a last minute or emergency need to travel, you had to go through your phone directory looking up the name of any high government official you knew since there was always a government quota on each flight, largely unused.

The Bangalore Deccan Herald newspaper published the daily flight schedule from BLR every morning. It was a short paragraph. BOM and MAA had two flights a day. CCU was connected via BOM. A few other airports had one flight a day.

Today: 40 flights a day between BLR Kemepegowda and Delhi IGI with Load Factors in the 90s.

Many other memories over the years, but I'll leave you with these for the moment. I can always add more if there's interest.



Yes, I remember the days when the entire airport's timetable for MAA was published in the Hindu or the Indian Express. In the 1980's.

At Palam prior to 1986 you did walk on the runway. Being a young, highly-sanitized Indian-American kid I did find this sort of cool. No such experience in the states. Still find the buses on runways sort of cool in India though I must admit when I land at Heathrow T5 I expect a gate and time and again get a bus. That's not so cool...
 
CaliguyNYC
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Fri May 04, 2018 11:34 pm

Back in the late 70’s and 80’s we always took Pan AM and flew into BOM. We always left the US in late June and returned early September. The Pan Am flights were always packed (mostly with US based NRIs going to India for US summer holidays). BOM airport was not modern but it didn’t really bother us as it was small. The biggest nightmare, and surprised no one mentioned it, was Indian customs. There were three of us and we brought 9 bags (huge ones that weighed 70 pounds each). Packed with gifts for my parents friends and family (speciality goods that they asked us to buy like designer dresses and scientific calculators etc). Boy customs took like 3 hours to haggle on the price of duty. Our family would be waiting upstairs in the viewing room which had windows that looked into customs. And then we would leave customs and be outside in 1 min. And then boom the monsoons with no real cover to load all those bags into tiny fiiat cars and one or two ambi’s. How times have changed...Btw we were booked on the Pan Am flight that got high jacked. It was a flight back right when school started. My mom used last min influence at Pan Am to get a free change for a flight a week latter (she always liked to extend our india trips). Thank god and those were the days were who you know, “influence”, got you on sold out flights. Also you could buy Clipper Class (business class) tickets routed Lagos-JFK-FRA-BOM-FRA-JFK-Lagos really cheap and just tear out the unwanted Lagos coupons.
 
directorguy
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Sat May 05, 2018 3:36 am

Are there any Gulf NRIs who lived in Saudi/Bahrain/UAE etc in the 80s and 90s?
India of course would have been a 3-4 hour trip from DHA/BAH/DXB though I imagine only very well-off families would have traveled more than once a year. For laborers, I think the average was once every 3-4 years.
Growing up in DHA, I remember a small and crowded terminal where customs also took ages-not looking for goods to levy duty on but pornographic material and contraband. They would search videotapes (literally fast forward through them) and black out arms and legs of women in magazines. The worst that could happen was to land behind an Air India flight as you would then spend hours. In those days AI flew 747s and A310s on milk runs into the Gulf. If you could manage to use BAH then you were better off.
 
atal17
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Sat May 05, 2018 5:26 am

directorguy wrote:
Are there any Gulf NRIs who lived in Saudi/Bahrain/UAE etc in the 80s and 90s?
India of course would have been a 3-4 hour trip from DHA/BAH/DXB though I imagine only very well-off families would have traveled more than once a year. For laborers, I think the average was once every 3-4 years.
Growing up in DHA, I remember a small and crowded terminal where customs also took ages-not looking for goods to levy duty on but pornographic material and contraband. They would search videotapes (literally fast forward through them) and black out arms and legs of women in magazines. The worst that could happen was to land behind an Air India flight as you would then spend hours. In those days AI flew 747s and A310s on milk runs into the Gulf. If you could manage to use BAH then you were better off.


Lived in the Gulf since I was born back in the late ‘90s. Our family flights back to Mangalore (IXE) in South India would usually consist of taking one of Air India’s famous A310 milk runs (AI873/874, AI877/878) which would either leave Doha at around 5pm or 8pm (the latter departure only taking place if the flight was to stop in Bahrain), arrive at Sahar in the wee hours of 1am, take a cab to Santa Cruz to catch a Jet Airways 737-700 or an Alliance Air 737-200 to Mangalore which would depart either at 11am or 1pm.

These trips used to be mentally and physically exhausting, as you would have to drag your luggage around byzantine paths in the old Sahar terminal, wait for agonizing hours for security to let you into check in for the domestic flight. And because these tickets used to be extraordinarily expensive - my dad would have to sit out these trips to save money. So my mother would have to endure all of that on her own, as well as take care of 2 year old infant me, and my 11 year old sister.

Times have changed since then, and it was all noticeable post 2007, with IX commencing their nonstop services between Doha and Mangalore, cutting down time and effort, and increasing the number of trips we could afford in a year. It became even more visible in 2009, when the Indian Govt relinquished AI’s rights to fly to and from the Middle East, allowing 9W to launch flights. In terms of airport experiences, this was around the same time that modernization commenced in rapid speed, making flying much more effortless and less time-consuming. New terminals began sprouting up and about in Bengaluru, Delhi.

Bottlenecks still remain and persist in Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Guwahati - but those horrible days of flying back in the 1990s have long vanished for good...
 
BestWestern
Posts: 8349
Joined: Fri Sep 08, 2000 8:46 pm

Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Sat May 05, 2018 5:54 am

Flying to and in India is a pleasure. I still rank Kingfisher as the best economy class product ever.

Today, service and price has equalised, so airlines can make a return.

The airports are so much better too. Liberalisation has changed Indian aviation for the better.

The state has lagged behind though. My recent visa on arrival experience in Bangalore showed how much more the government services have to catch up - the paper based system of ledgers is a sight to behold.
Greetings from Hong Kong.... a subsidiary of China Inc.
 
Seb1989
Posts: 2
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Sat May 05, 2018 8:16 am

This thread will definitely take any Indian or Indian Expat down memory lane.

Early 1990s
When I was a kid, my family would take our annual vacation back home from DHA to Cochin. That time Cochin didn’t have an international airport, just a domestic one. So it meant taking Air India or Gulf Air to TRV that required a brutal 5 to 6 hour drive or connecting in Mumbai to a domestic flight to Cochin. The drive to TRV meant even of our flight was at 1pm, we would be leaving the house at 4 am the latest. I loved whenever my Dad booked us through Mumbai, it usually would be Saudia on there daily 747 and than the domestic leg on Indian Airlines. The SV flight usually would get into Mumbai around midnight, than we would have to transfer by bus to the domestic airport that was again a dump and wait the waiting hall till around 5 am when the check-in counters would open for the domestic flights. I remember my parents were used to it since it was probably way better from what my Dad had to experience when he grew up and took two days of train travel to get to Delhi from Cochin. My sister hated it from the mosquito bites to the only place that served food was a small tea stall that you got tea..frooti…Egg puff or somsosa that my sis got food poisoning from once. I loved it bcoz we were at the airport and I was gonna get to fly India Airlines. That time flying was definitely for only the well off, people used to dress well for the flight. My dad would always wear a blazer or suit back than.

I remember once when we were returning from Cochin to DHA thru Mumbai our domestic connection on Indian Airlines got cancelled. That time Cochin only had two flights a day to Mumbai and one to Chennai I think. The other flight that was going to Mumbai was a new airline, Modiluft. Everyone in the hall wanted a seat on that plane, and my dad had me on his shoulders I still remember the departure hall packed with people all upset when the Modiluft agent said there were no seats available.

Late 1990s
Nothing had changed. Mumbai airport was still a dump and Cochin had a shed they called a terminal for there daily three flights. Only thing new was Jet Airways, and I like everyone that flied in India loved them. New planes to lemon juice welcome drink (Indian Airline always have a Frooti). I only got to fly then twice domestic back than, but they definitely overtook the domestic skies like Indigo is doing now. That time they had an image of upscale modern India attached to them. I know family in India would go out of there way to book 9W if the choice was between IC or 9W.

Early 2000s
Cochin got a new airport with twice weekly flights to DHA. So no more long drives to TRV. Also got more domestic connectivity, all of a sudden 9W alone was flying 4 flights a day. But most international flights were still two or thrice weekly. Air India was mostly flying the A310 which were showing their age. Once my family got upgraded to business and we didn’t even realize we were sitting in Business till the end of the flight. The middle East flights from India back than especially Cochin was mostly blue collar with some white collar families scattered in.
Flew thru Mumbai once and it was slowly getting refurbished at check in areas and BOM was still being served by those famous milk runs like the daily CX to Dubai from BOM.

Once we were going from Bangalore to Cochin in 2004, my Dad went to confirm the train ticket back home suddenly came back to the hotel room telling my mom to pack quickly bcoz we have to get to the airport fast. Air Deccan had just started flying BLR to Cochin and when he went to the travel agents office he saw their timetable and couldn’t resist getting tickets. I think they cost around 6,000rs per person for the one way trip. Parents wanted to just get home as soon as possible and that’s what Indian airlines final started doing, providing connectivity outside of the major metros. I remember my reaching home and my Aunt who is well travelled and on a plane herself every three months out of the country so surprised there were direct flights between BLR and Cochin. First and only time I flew thru the old BLR airport and it was bursting than with spicejet flights and 9W flights headed to BOM and DEL. Remember seeing all these European business men trying to weave thru the chaos at the gate area because the food and tea stalls were just right next to the doors. It definitely wasn’t a good impression of a city that being touted as the place to start and do business in India.

And probably after 2012 everything changed
Bangalore got a new airport that was nice but still too small for a city of its size. But than couple of years later the expanded it and it was beautiful. Two years ago we transited thru the airport and mom said how that was the cleanest airport bathroom she has ever seen, compared to couple of years ago when using the toilet at an Indian airport was a big no no, and I would rather hold it.

Cochin airport expanded, airlines kept adding flights, they built a nice new international terminal. Good bye to all those middle flights that where twice or thrice weekly. You have airlines with daily or twice daily flights. The Indian travellers changed..less blue collar and mostly white collar or professionals. Far cry from Air India A310 that they stopped once 9W started doing direct flights from COK to DMM, my Mom couldn’t even get a business class ticket from DMM to COK on 9W or connection options thru EK GF or EY during the holidays. Big change from 15 years ago when business cabin of most flights out of Cochin went out empty.

Cochin airport I think is a good example about the Indian aviation scene, there airport was designed mainly to cater to international flights to the gulf. Than Cochin like rest of India started developing at a fast pace, now domsetic traffic is the bulk of the movement. From 2004 when there was just an Air Deccan flying between COK and BLR, today we have some 14 to 16 shuttles all on A320 a day by various airlines..and I heard Vistara is gonna start new flights too. Flying is not a luxury anymore, most people middle class and above see flying as a necessity. People finish up work on Friday night in Bangalore and catch an evening flight to COK so they came be home for the weekend pretty much as routine as people would commute between SFO and LAX. Flying is pretty routine now.

I was surprised when I saw this thread bcoz I just flew into Mumbai for Cochin the day before, and reminiscing back in day when that Modiluft flight didn’t have any seats to take us to BOM but when I was in the departure hall there where five flights to Mumbai in the span of two hours.

When my Dad booked that flight to Mumbai twenty years back he did that for the annual vacation, tickets booked three or four month thru a travel agent to make sure we get seats. Never had an option to pick which timings he wanted to suit his needs because there where no options.

Now in 2018, I can fly to Mumbai just to meet friends for the weekend as easy as going to the mall. Booked my tickets the day before on my phone, get to the airport just an hour before the flight and be in Mumbai just in time to make it in time for dinner and have a fun Friday night. If my flight gets cancelled or I miss it, it’s okay there’s Indigo flight three hours later or tons of other flights throughout the day.
Growth in the domestic aviation has made India smaller for my generation. I call Cochin home but I also call Bangalore and Chennai home because I have the access to commute between all three cities easily with frequent flights and low fares. One of my friends was moving to Hyderabad and was upset she was gonna miss everyone, I told her why your overacting. HYD is only a 40 min flight from Chennai, we could fly out after work at 5 and be meeting in a restaurant in Jubilee Hills by 8, sometimes travelling to meet friends by flying between metros in the South is much faster than if you were gonna meet them in the same city with the horrible traffic in BLR and MAA.
 
algeorge2015
Posts: 22
Joined: Thu Oct 01, 2015 10:12 pm

Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Sat May 05, 2018 2:06 pm

Does anyone remembers the old COK Willingdon airport observatory floor where we use to buy tickets and did plane spotting. It was a space open to public. Also in many terms COK was the real game changer in Indian Aviation, and the model is now used/reffered in many business case studies. Usually in all conversations COK & TRV (sometimes the entire Kerala) is forgotten.
 
sqlblr
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Sat May 05, 2018 2:23 pm

India Early 90s / Late 80s

Nothing says welcome to India than the Sahar International Airport. We used to live in EBB and frequently fly either EBB-ADD-DXB-BOM-BLR or EBB-ADD-BOM-BLR. For some reason, you always arrived in BOM between 12 am and 5 am and had to content the with the smell, mosquitos and Indian customs. I am told on one of those trips with my mum, I managed to stick my hand into the only functioning baggage belt and the whole operation had to stopped to get a 4 year old's hand out.

My memories of those trips are Corrupt uncles who had more forex than the SBI branch, Yellow Mumbai fiat taxis coupled with the random friend uncle who your Dad knew, rickety rides to the Santa Cruz Terminal (later replaced by an Indian airlines coach) and chugging gold spot at the domestic terminal to beat the heat. IC strutted their A300s or even worse the A320s (post IC Bangalore crash).

Mid 90s

I remember flying EK in BOM on their 727 and taking the connecting 9W flight or Modiluft flight and what a change. It seemed that airlines were in a rush to improve their soft service. In those days, there were a host of these 3 craft players ( 9W, Modiluft, East West, Damania, Sahara). Options were many but the airports were a s***hole. Arriving in the old BLR was an achievement and kids kemp reminded you off your effort by presenting you a welcome rose.
 
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Spiderguy252
Posts: 1166
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Sat May 05, 2018 2:30 pm

peterinlisbon wrote:
The first time I went to India in 2000 I needed a visa which took a long time to get and when I arrived at the airport in Bombay I remember seeing cracks in the walls and a lot of old worn-out equipment. This last time (last year) I was at Cochin and Ahmedabad and both were modern airports with the same facilities you find in most parts of the world and Cochin seemed to have a lot of traffic. Plus, I no longer needed a visa!


Can you elaborate on this? I was under the impression that every nationality (bar Nepal and Bhutan) need a visa to visit any part of India. Where are you from?

Of course, certain nationalities qualify for visa on arrival, etc. if that's what you mean.
Vahroone
 
MIAFLLPBIFlyer
Posts: 470
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Sat May 05, 2018 2:38 pm

algeorge2015 wrote:
Does anyone remembers the old COK Willingdon airport observatory floor where we use to buy tickets and did plane spotting. It was a space open to public. Also in many terms COK was the real game changer in Indian Aviation, and the model is now used/reffered in many business case studies. Usually in all conversations COK & TRV (sometimes the entire Kerala) is forgotten.


Yes remember that landing strip with a shed. Was a Naval Air Station, still is. I agree completely. To me the Indian aviation scene as I noted above shifted in my eyes when the new COK airport opened. Landing from Chennai in 2003 I was stunned. This was what India was capable of! I was proud...
 
directorguy
Topic Author
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Sat May 05, 2018 3:22 pm

Spiderguy252 wrote:
peterinlisbon wrote:
The first time I went to India in 2000 I needed a visa which took a long time to get and when I arrived at the airport in Bombay I remember seeing cracks in the walls and a lot of old worn-out equipment. This last time (last year) I was at Cochin and Ahmedabad and both were modern airports with the same facilities you find in most parts of the world and Cochin seemed to have a lot of traffic. Plus, I no longer needed a visa!


Can you elaborate on this? I was under the impression that every nationality (bar Nepal and Bhutan) need a visa to visit any part of India. Where are you from?

Of course, certain nationalities qualify for visa on arrival, etc. if that's what you mean.


A few years ago India launched the eVisa scheme. Certain nationalities (most of Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia-around 150 nationalities) can apply for an eVisa a few days before they arrive online by uploading a photo, filling a form and of course paying a fee. Once issued, the eVisa can be printed and shown at most border points (only major entry points-BOM, DEL, CCU etc.). No visit to an Indian consulate or embassy is needed. Of course, it's technically still a visa. Only a handful of countries, mainly surrounding India, can just show up and gain entry.

Interestingly, my Dad was telling me that in the late 70s and 80s he did not need a pre-arrival visa, and just got stamped in. This changed sometime in the 1980s, when he landed at BOM and found the rules had changed. He slid a bit of money into his passport for immigration and got in =) Subsequent trips he would always need a pre-arrival visa though.
Seb1989 wrote:
This thread will definitely take any Indian or Indian Expat down memory lane.



Great reminisces. Do you by any chance recall how much tickets cost?
Growing up in Saudi Arabia and later the UAE tickets to Egypt always seemed to be in excess of 2,000 riyals or dirhams (roughly same as QAR). Sadly I never kept any of our old tickets but from say 2005 onwards I managed to save e-tickets. Around 2009/2010 I think ticket prices began to fall suddenly, and prices have been roughly 1200 UAE dirhams (around $330 USD). I remember finding tickets for 700 dirhams on QR once or twice!
atal17 wrote:


Also-do you recall the old DHA airport? I do-it was much more convenient if you lived in Al Khobar/Dhahran area. Much smaller too, with absolutely nothing to do. Saudi security used to put a sticker on hand luggage which would then be marked with a black pen after you were checked.
When DMM opened, the place seemed massive, although the duty free/canteen style food outlet were repulsive. The place was usually empty. Well into the 2000s, most airlines served DMM sub-daily. Even mighty EK wasn't flying daily for a very long time. Three days a week the flights were during the day, and another 3 days the flights were middle of the night (or something like that). it was only in 2010 that 9W launched DMM (from TRV),
 
peterinlisbon
Posts: 1773
Joined: Wed Feb 01, 2006 3:37 am

Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Sat May 05, 2018 4:56 pm

Spiderguy252 wrote:
peterinlisbon wrote:
The first time I went to India in 2000 I needed a visa which took a long time to get and when I arrived at the airport in Bombay I remember seeing cracks in the walls and a lot of old worn-out equipment. This last time (last year) I was at Cochin and Ahmedabad and both were modern airports with the same facilities you find in most parts of the world and Cochin seemed to have a lot of traffic. Plus, I no longer needed a visa!


Can you elaborate on this? I was under the impression that every nationality (bar Nepal and Bhutan) need a visa to visit any part of India. Where are you from?

Of course, certain nationalities qualify for visa on arrival, etc. if that's what you mean.


I'm from the UK. I had to go through some kind of visa on arrival procedure at Cochin Airport when I arrived, but it only took about 10 minutes.
 
User avatar
Spiderguy252
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Joined: Mon Feb 02, 2009 10:58 am

Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Sat May 26, 2018 11:08 am

directorguy wrote:
When DMM opened, the place seemed massive, although the duty free/canteen style food outlet were repulsive. The place was usually empty. Well into the 2000s, most airlines served DMM sub-daily. Even mighty EK wasn't flying daily for a very long time. Three days a week the flights were during the day, and another 3 days the flights were middle of the night (or something like that). it was only in 2010 that 9W launched DMM (from TRV),


DMM is now a bit of a fortress for 9W - with flights to DEL, BOM, HYD, TRV, COK and CCJ.
Vahroone
 
AI
Posts: 292
Joined: Sat Dec 24, 2005 7:13 pm

Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Sat May 26, 2018 1:24 pm

I am surprised no one has mentioned Vayudoot.
I have very fond memories of flying Bombay to Porbandar or Rajkot on Vayudoot which had a fleet of F27s & Avros. My 1st ever flight was in early 1980s BOM-PBD & I have been fascinated ever since. It used to be a triangular flight Mumbai-Porbandar-Bhuj-Mumbai & we used to be allowed to disembark at Bhuj onto the tarmac. That used to be the highlight for me on our return leg.
I know that things are much better now but somehow I miss the kind of treatment we used to get on IC with lovely orange saree clad "airhostesses" or maybe I am just looking at things with rose tinted glasses.
 
directorguy
Topic Author
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Sun May 27, 2018 9:52 am

AI wrote:
I am surprised no one has mentioned Vayudoot.
I have very fond memories of flying Bombay to Porbandar or Rajkot on Vayudoot which had a fleet of F27s & Avros. My 1st ever flight was in early 1980s BOM-PBD & I have been fascinated ever since. It used to be a triangular flight Mumbai-Porbandar-Bhuj-Mumbai & we used to be allowed to disembark at Bhuj onto the tarmac. That used to be the highlight for me on our return leg.
I know that things are much better now but somehow I miss the kind of treatment we used to get on IC with lovely orange saree clad "airhostesses" or maybe I am just looking at things with rose tinted glasses.


Interesting. I guess Alliance Air is the modern replacement for Vayudoot though they seem to have fewer milk runs.
 
sibibom
Posts: 465
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Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Sun May 27, 2018 3:40 pm

Living in Bombay (as it was known then), I vividly remember 80-90s as when relatives/friends/acquaintances) came in the middle of the night on the way to COK. At one point it was bi-weekly if not more runs to the airport to pick and drop people. Thankfully COK developed and people could skip BOM.

Also getting tickets last minute meant you need to know someone influential to pull strings.

Suddenly the boring and drab, but ever so dependable Indigo flights don't seem to bad :)
 
vadodara
Posts: 1149
Joined: Mon Feb 20, 2017 7:45 pm

Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Mon May 28, 2018 3:32 pm

Aviation in India started out as a hobby for JRD Tata followed by every regional kingdom of significance investing in their own airstrip as well as airline.

In 60’s this gradually evolved into Air India International and sundry private airlines operating several routes. Eventually AI got nationalized while all the remaining airlines got shutdown/merged to form India. airlines operating out of Safdurjung airport.

Others have mentioned quiet a bit about the era of ‘ nationalization’.

One recent change has been visa liberalization that has opened doors for relatively hassles free travel to I did. Needless to say, traffic has grown at rates >20%.
 
9w748capt
Posts: 1753
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 10:27 am

Re: How Has Indian Aviation Evolved in Recent Decades?

Mon May 28, 2018 7:52 pm

It's night and day. The difference is most noticeable at 2nd tier stations IMO. Places like BOM and DEL were always busy (relatively speaking back then), but I remember flying to NAG in the 90s and even early 2000s - there were probably 2-3 flights per day on IC to BOM and DEL, not much more. You'd get to the airport to check in and odds were there was only one flight departing at a time. The demographic of the passengers also felt different - everyone flying was wealthy, connected, or an ex-pat.

Now you get to NAG in the middle of the day and there are flights to all corners of India throughout the day - not just BOM/DEL but CCU, BLR, PNQ, etc, and the airport is packed. Hard to believe a route like NAG-PNQ wasn't connected by air that I know of. Of course the economic growth helps in that now ordinary people can afford to fly between cities and not rely on the train.

There were a few times we took the sleeper train from Mumbai to Nagpur just for the experience - pretty sure we had my mom's cousin who lives in Mumbai book us AC Sleeper tickets in advance. No way we would do that now so I'm glad we did back in the day.

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