My first winter back home in India was coming to an end......
It was time to leave for the United States.
DL4695 FAR-MSP 19DEC15 1319hrs 1427hrs CRJ200 N426SW
DL1717 MSP-ORD 19DEC15 1510hrs 1637hrs MD90 N912DN
KL612 ORD-AMS 20DEC15 1630hrs 0715+1hrs B74E PH-BFE
KL871 AMS-DEL 21DEC15 1245hrs 0100hrs+1 B744 PH-BFL
AI401 DEL-CCU 22DEC15 0700hrs 0905hrs B788 (VT-ANQ)
MJ332 CCCU-CMB 25DEC15 1040hrs 1340hrs A320
MJ331 CMB-CCU 28DEC15 0635hrs 0930hrs A320
AI676 CCU-BOM 07JAN16 0600hrs 0850hrs A319 (VT-SCF)
9W495 08JAN16 2140hrs 2315hrs B73H (this one!)
AF191 BLR-CDG 09JAN16 0245hrs 0845hrs B77E
AF3602 (DL123) CDG-ORD 09JAN16 1230hrs 1518hrs B76W
DL2223 ORD-MSP 10JAN16 1505hrs 1638hrs B752
DL1956 MSP-FAR 10JAN16 2027hrs 2133hrs A320
There will be no video trip report for this flight, and I'm sure you will find out why!
MORE ABOUT THIS FLIGHT...
There never was a plan to fly Jet Airways, my favorite domestic airline, on this trip. But that was until Air France came up with a gem of an itinerary. The two KLM B747s, followed by a quick Jet hop to Bengaluru, followed by an Air France 777 to Paris. On first glimpse, I thought it was Mumbai - Delhi - Paris, and not Mumbai - Bengaluru - Paris! The cheap fare meant I had to fly an extra flight. That was fine by me!
WEB CHECK IN
The one PNR worked for the KL/AF/DL flights, while a separate PNR was sent for the 9W flight. I could not make seat bookings with the given 9W PNR. However, I could use this for web check in, and I got a seat of my choice. Strangely however, I could check in for my Air France flight too, but not the Delta Air Lines flight. I selected a random seat for my Air France flight, but this was never recognized. That’s okay, since I had my preferred over-wing seat on the B777 anyway!
The web check in that never was.....
With Air India messing up day quite significantly (which was unfortunate, but that’s okay), I decided to rest it out anyway. I had to deal with Dobby Jr, a stray cat. Not a cat fan, but this one was pretty cool.
Went for a quick train ride in the afternoon before the flight(s).
MORE DELAYS! THE STRESS KICKS IN...
I left nice and early for the 2135 hours departure. However, on the way, I got a message saying that my flight had been delayed by about 1 hour. A rescheduled departure time of 2230 hours, reaching at 2349 hours, giving me just under three hours to hop over to the international concourse. Not ideal, but not impossible either. 9W495 had a history of being late significantly, and on this day, I was condemned to a day of delay. On the approach to the airport, I saw what my options were, but also believed that I won’t spend money at all for any change. 9W477 was the next departure. I would make it, because this too was delayed by quite a bit.
There wasn’t a long line at the booking counter, however people in front of me were served quite slowly. They too were held up by Jet’s delays. When it was time for me to be served, it took agonizingly long to figure out what was going on, and it took equally long for GDS to show options. The very colourful ad promoting Jet’s new Amsterdam hub was put up on the wall. I asked the agent what was going on. He informed me that the direct Mumbai - Paris Air France (A330) flight was overbooked, the same for the MEB3 all the way to Chicago. He put me on waitlist for 9W477 (departure at 2020 hours, delayed departure at 2235 hours), and assured me of a seat on the flight. If not, he mentioned of an available seat on the Jet Airways B777 to London Heathrow, followed by a United Airlines B777 to Chicago. This did not sound too good to me, because of a likely middle seat on two very long flights. And spoiler alert - while in Kolkata, I already had a United Airlines B777 flight booked. However, he once again assured me of a seat on 9W477 itself. It was hard to remain optimistic, and yet, I believed in what the person said. He handed me a document, and requested me to head over to check in counter 87/88, which is for Staff/ACM/waitlist passengers.
THE NERVOUS COUNTDOWN...
1952 hours. I joined the line of many passengers who had their flights changed, and of course, deadheading crew and pilots with flight briefings. A couple of passengers in front of me had their flights changed to an Air India flight. Staff were deadheading to various places around India. Two ladies were managing the counters, and both had their work cut out. Just before serving me, one of them said ‘I’m going to go on break after serving this customer’ (me), however, when she found out I was actually going all the way to Chicago, she gave up and handed me over to the other lady. Wow!!! She assisted me. She mentioned that I have a greater chance of making 9W477, while maintaining that further delays were possible for both 9W477 and 9W495. She also mentioned that because of the change of flight, my checked in luggage would only be tagged until Bengaluru, and not all the way to Chicago, but tagging them as priority. She asked me to return to the counter at around 2145 hours to pick up the boarding pass. An anxious 1.5 hours wait commenced. It was a stressful time.
Many messages were sent and received over the anxious time. Many of it were with my brother, when he concluded by saying - this is what happens when you buy a cheap ticket! Well, KLM, Jet Airways, Air France and Delta are pretty reputed airlines around the world, and delays happen. On closer inspection of the paper document I received, the delays were caused due to fog in Delhi, and this had impacts on operations all over India. All Jet Airways flights out of Mumbai were delayed, a couple of JetKonnect flights cancelled, and I also noticed that quite a few Go Air and SpiceJet flights were delayed, too. Thankfully, Mumbai’s wifi is free for a long long time, and so I had something to do.
Waiting waiting waiting....
CHECK IN SUCCES...OR SOMETHING
2145 hours. I walked towards the counter. There was no longer a crowd in the check in area as most flights had their passengers in the boarding gate area. The lady told me she’ll call me over when she gets confirmation. I was getting more and anxious. At this point, I really hoped I’d be on 9W477 rather than 9W495 (the latter being my original flight). 2200 hours, after what felt like a million hours of waiting, the lady called me over to the check in counter, giving me the news that I would in fact make it on to 9W477! She once again confirmed the fact that I will have to pick up my luggage at Bengaluru which would come in as priority, hop over to international and then check it in at Bengaluru for Paris and Chicago. My seat number would be 24E. A middle seat, I was expecting that anyway, but I just wanted to be on the earlier flight and make it to Bengaluru. She guided me to gate A2 too, towards terminal 1C.
SECURITY AND BOARDING
While walking towards security, I realized I forgot to pick up cabin baggage tags. Usually there is a basket full of them just before the X-ray machines. None this time. I went through security anyway. It was quick, no lines. Luckily, the person in charge of stamping had a couple of IndiGo baggage tags, which he tied to both my bags and stamped them. Lovely. Never would I have thought that they’d be so nice about it.
Terminal 1C was really packed. Chockablock. Not a place to sit, other than the granite floor, or beside the plants. It was about 2215 hours. Twenty minutes to departure. Despite the huge delay, everyone was pretty calm and in a reasonable mood. I however, was quiet and worried. The flight would not leave at 2235 hours, I said to myself. A long line formed closer to departure time, and sure enough, barding started at around 2240 hours. I was not sure of the registration of the plane, and at that point, I wasn’t bothered about it at all. However, sources suggested that it might be VT-JFL, a 2.4 years old Boeing 737-800W with Sky Interior.
The line did grow quite long and boarding was quite messy, however, that did mean all passengers were in line and eager to get to Bengaluru soon enough. This was going to be a full flight, as I had predicted at check in. At least one passenger was offloaded, which is why I made it to 9W477 in the first place!
I saw the registration plate on the door - VT-JFL it was indeed. As is always is with Jet, a lovely warm welcome onboard. Thanks to the very messy new seat numbering on the 737s, I find out that seat 25E is actually just 2 rows behind the Emergency Exit.
The person in 25F fell asleep…come on, help a brother, why take the window seat and fall asleep? However, the person who later came on board and took 25D asked me if I was working for Boeing, because of my Boeing shirt. Well.. I was heading to Boeing's home anyway, so
The crew assisted passengers with putting up the cabin luggage while also distributing glasses of water to all passengers. Our captain, announced a slight delay in departure because of traffic congestion in Mumbai. Oh, like we weren’t delayed already
The cabin crew members explained the emergency exit procedures to the people seated in those rows. Pushback was at 2259 hours. Both CFM56 engines were brought to life, a 15 minute taxi to Runway 27 commenced. Couple of stops along the way because of traffic was followed by a very powerful take off at 2314 hours. For once I could truly appreciate Boeing 737 power because most times I’m distracted by taking videos of the action…but stuck in a middle seat, I felt the power of this take off as my entire being was pushed back to the the back of seat. JFL banked towards the South-South East as we headed for a cruise of 37000 feet.
Meal service started at 2324 hours, just ten minutes after the take off roll commenced. Pre-reserved and special meals were served. This was quite popular it seemed, because most passengers opted for a meal of their choice online. While this was happening, the lead purser made a few announcements regarding Jets recent initiatives - their public funding for the Chennai floods, and of course a bit of Amsterdam bragging - daily flights to Amsterdam from Toronto, Mumbai and New Delhi. Two trolleys were pulled up for the meal service. SO, unlike Air India, the cabin crew members requested all passengers to put their seatback upright for dinner. And all of this was done with a ‘sorry to disturb you’ and a ‘please’. And a smile. No doubt, the crew were doing a pretty good job. No explanations of what was in the meal itself, just the standard ‘veg’ or ’non veg’. As always, I opted for the non vegetarian option. The meal itself was quite a pleasant surprise. For once, the meal felt like it was comparable to, if not better, than an Air India meal. Crew members also handed out some chocolate bars saying ‘Compliments of the season!’ A nice touch from Jet Airways! A hot beverage service followed.
Amsterdam - Jet's new destination!
See what's wrong here? (Hint - Jet only uses Boeing narrow bodies )
Also do you see the irony here? I was onboard a flight delayed due to weather LOL
The lovely lady captain came back on the PA to give us details of our arrival into Bengaluru. We were 37000 feet or 11km up in the air, outside temperature of -45C. Bengaluru was reporting a lovely 26C and 6km of visibility. We’d reach at 0030 hours. Descent started at 0004 hours. Banked and lined up the airport/runway, seeing Bengaluru at this hour (or what I could…) was pretty cool. We came down pretty fast and made quite a rough landing at 0027 hours. I saw a Lufthansa MD-11F parked, and a Blue Dart B757 I think. Other planes included an Air Pegasus ATR, Alliance Air (Air India Regional) and Jet Airways ATRs. There was also a Thai Airways wide body at the international terminal. Parked at gate 1, doors disarmed, I waited for all passengers to get moving as soon as possible. The crew announced belt 4 for the bags to be delivered at. It was quite a long walk, but I had to run for the most part. My suitcase was the last of the priority luggage that came around on the carousel. I had to make my way to the departures section, but thankfully without much of a walk. The security personnel checked my tickets and allowed me to enter the check in area. And so, I found the lines for the Air France check in. Business end of flights was here.....
Full props to Jet Airways here. They handled the situation as best as they could, and they got me to Bengaluru (albeit an hour later than I had hoped). Not tagging the bags all the way to Chicago was not ideal, but hey tagging it as priority was the least they could do. In flight, very nice announcements from the cockpit and cabins crew, while the food was fabulous. Absolutely fantastic. Mumbai's free wifi really helped, while Bengaluru was alright.