FLIGHT AI20
CLASS OF SERVICE Economy
SEAT NUMBER 12J
AIRCRAFT Boeing 787-8
TAKEOFF 15-07-13 2:20 p.m.
VIEWS 1327
LANDING AT 4:30 p.m.
jish.b
The 13th April 2016

Photo review of Air India flight from New Delhi to Kolkata in Economy

Hey all and welcome to the third part of my Summer 2015 trip to India!
You can catch some of the older TRs (and also get a sneak preview of what to expect next!) here:
Jet Airways 9W255 on July 12th 2015 Colombo to Mumbai (Boeing 737-800 VT-JBF)
Vistara UK944 on July 12th 2015 Mumbai to New Delhi (Airbus A320-200, VT-TTC)
Air India AI20 on July 13th 2015 New Delhi to Kolkata (Boeing 787-8 Dream)liner) (this report!)
Jet Airways 9W626 July 17th 2015 Kolkata to Mumbai (Boeing 737-900ER)
SpiceJet SG421 July 21st 2015 Mumbai to Hyderabad (Boeing 737-800)
Air India AI966 July 21st 2015 Hyderabad to Mumbai (Boeing 747-400)
Jet Airways 9W252 July 21st 2015 Mumbai to Colombo (Boeing 737-800)

As always, I have the video TR attached for this flight right here:


A bit of an introduction to the flight. Every time I think 'Delhi to Kolkata' (or vice versa), I always have one thing popping up in my mind: the Air India Boeing 787 flight between the two cities. This route was one of the first for Air India's Dream)liners when they were delivered in 2012 (along with Delhi-Chennai/Bengaluru). It was an easy toss between Go Air and Air India: oh yeah the Dream)liner over the A320 anyday!

Web check in was very easy. I had pre selected seat 14A, close to the engines. But on web check in, seat 12J got released and I selected this one. This was going to be my second flight on the Dream)liner, and I was as excited as the first one!

I had planned to wake up at around 0700 hours to do some morning spotting of planes departing from runway 29. Breakfast at the fantastic Taj Vivanta Dwarka would be from 0700 hours to 1000 hours. The spotting part was down the drain because I woke up at 0845 hours…I slept in after a long day! I was awake for thirty hours the previous day, twenty four of which included 12th July 2015, in its entirety. My brother and I had a hearty breakfast, my plate was an absolute mess because I wanted to try a bit of everything!
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The window wasn't very clean in the hotel, I had a hard time taking pictures. Here are a few:
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I was told that the morning Air India Delhi-Kolkata-Delhi wide body service was on a Boeing 777-200LR VT-ALG. Usually its this plane that heads back to Kolkata as AI20. I was calm. Boeing 787 or Boeing 777, it’d all be fine for me, as long as its a Boeing, a big Boeing. But of course, I wanted the Boeing 787 more……

Some spotting and packing happened, when my brother and I checked out, and 1100 hours. Check out was quick, where a chauffeur was arranged for us, to head to the Dwarka Sector 21 Airport Express station. This was complimentary, a wonderful stay with Vivanta had come to an end. The airport express, as always, was very convenient and we reached T3 at around 1130 hours. I bid adieu to my brother, I won’t be seeing him till December 2015 at least. I entered the impressive Terminal 3 building and headed straight for the Air India check in areas.
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There were some reasonably long check in lines, but most of them were for domestic flights (or international connectors). I joined in one of the lines that was dedicated for baggage drop. There were two ladies in front of me, who had plenty of bags to take to Mumbai, easily more than 30kgs combined. Anyway, their process was a bit slow. As always in Delhi, there was some drama happening as usual. A middle aged lady was yelling at the Air India check in staff because they weren’t allowing her to take her overweight bags, her justification being - she hasn’t seen her daughter in many days. Anyway, she was sent back as she talked to herself cussing the AI staff. Oh well.
My turn came, and the person manning the desk asked me to wait for a bit (in hindi), before he disappeared off. He returned after a while and tagged my bags, printed my boarding pass. I asked him if it was a Boeing 787, to which I got no reply. Ah well. Newspapers were available on the check in desks, which is always a nice touch!
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Heading towards the international departures and immigration, I realized there were no customs declaration form that would usually be filled on these international connector flights. I went straight through to security which happened quickly. However, the person stopped me because my boarding pass wasn’t stamped.The nice CISF man (and lady, at the baggage screening) told me to go back to the immigration area, in the left corner there will be a person stamping all boarding passes for domestic Air India flights. She asked me to return to counter number 8. I ran back and got the necessary stamping done, security check done, the CISF man wished me a pleasant flight. Good stuff.

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And there I was, entering the Delhi Duty Free area. What a spread there was! There was also a new Absolut Vodka India Edition which looked lovely in the way it was kept! I went through the duty free area, and arrived airside, there were so many people going to different parts of the world…and here I was heading for Kolkata!
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I saw some of the planes that were parked, close to the food court area -VT-ANJ was just pulling in, operating a rather late AI114 from Birmingham, and later heading to Amritsar. VT-ANP had arrived from Paris Charles D’Gaulle as AI142 was preparing to head to Amritsar as AI462. VT-ALM, a lovely Boeing 777-300ER was taking a long rest after flying in from London Heathrow, and would then operate the domestic leg of the AI127 Chicago-Delhi-Hyderabad route. Another Boeing 787, VT-ANN was just there…having operated AI404 from Bengaluru the previous night.
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I headed for the gates and all. There were not too many exotic stuff around at the time, just a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 to London Heathrow, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800 to Kuala Lumpur and a Pakistan International Airlines A320 to Karachi. Other Indian stuff included two more Air India Boeing 787-8s (VT-ANE to Shanghai heavily delayed and VT-ANR to Birmingham), and a VT-JFL operating the flight to Kathmandu.
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Parked in the remote bays close to what was Terminal 2, was an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767-300 ET-AMF, and Air India’s then newest Boeing 787-8, VT-ANV.
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It was around 1250 hours when I finished going around the entire terminal and sat down at a restaurant, called Cafeccino. Behind me was a Jet Airways Boeing 777-300ER, VT-JEQ was flying to London Heathrow. I ordered a chicken tikka roll with a bottle of refreshing Nimbuzz, a lovely lemon drink.
The Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 pushed back and slowly taxied for departure. Preceding this was VT-ANE’s delayed departure to Shanghai, succeeding it was VT-ANR’s departure to Birmingham. There was too much of B787 happening, I was overjoyed to see the B777 to London Heathrow push back and depart. My God the GE90 engines on the 777 sounded fantastic!
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A gate change announcement was made for my flight: we were initially assigned Gate 11 where VT-ANG was parked. However, it was changed to Gate 1, where VT-ANT was parked. VT-ANT, on the day of flying was 0.6 years old, the 250th Boeing 787 ever built.

I headed for Gate 1 by 1352 hours. I was shocked to see that the flight was delayed by half an hour. Boarding time was 1325, nothing was happening. I reached the desk and asked if there was a delay, to which the person said - no delays, the flight is on time. What even. A full B787 cannot be loaded in 20 minutes! Plus, even the FIDs say that the flight is delayed. Sigh.
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At 1405 hours, ten minutes before our scheduled departure time, a delay of 20-25 minutes was announced owing to shortage of crew. However, this was also the boarding announcement, and this was started as row-wise boarding for us humble Y folk, while the Executive class and *A top tier members were requested to board whenever they wished. It started off with rows 30-39. Me being in row 12, I had time. Meanwhile, some passengers for the upcoming Emirates flight at the same gate also started to arrive, creating some confusion….
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I made my way towards ANT, as I saw VT-JEQ finally take off, about 40 minutes late! A traditional namaskar warm welcome onboard, I took my seat 12J, facing the pretty huge GEnx engines. Blue mood lighting was on for boarding, while all window shades were in its darkest shade. Boarding was slowly completing, however, the middle seat in part remained empty which was awesome. A middle aged lady took the aisle seat.
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Various videos were played: the Boeing 787-8 safety video (Hindi followed by English), the features of the Boeing 787-8 (Hindi only), a Star Alliance video (you’re one of 18000 departures daily…something like that), etc.
A word on the crew - a very experienced set of crew were on our flight. Right from the greeting, to serving requests on the ground, whoever I saw, had a smile on their face. This felt like it came straight from their hearts, a personalized touch, something I was expecting on Vistara. That said, some water had spilled on the galley floor, which was cleaned only by keeping some tissues on it which looked quite messy..

Captain asked for the doors to be armed at 1449 hours, pushback was at 1455, a full forty minutes after departure time. Both GEnx engines were brought into life. While they are quiet in cruise, they are pretty damn sweet on start up!
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I would suggest watching this video (from about the 45 seconds mark)


The pilots made a pretty quick taxi towards runway 29, the GEnx engines spooling up at times, it sounded beautiful!
We lined up with runway 29, and silently blasted off the Earth to make course towards the east, Kolkata.


Announcements were made for the upcoming lunch service, I was looking forward to this. We reached our cruising altitude of 41000 feet pretty quickly. The window shades were automatically dimmed to the lowest setting for the rest of the flight. My IFE remote control was not working, meaning that my light and flight attendant call wasn’t working. This didn’t make any difference to me since the touch screen was working perfectly and I was flying to Kolkata, not Sydney!
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1529 hours, some lovely smells filled the cabin and this was even better since I was right next to the galley! The mood lighting was set to a lovely sunset red color (which wasn’t required, it was bright and sunny outside hahaha)
One meal trolley was rolled from the front galley. The lady beside me went for the non-vegetarian option, just like me. However, some how, some of the contents spilled out of the meal containers which created a messy tray and a messy cup for her. The flight attendant apologized for this, and instantly got some tissue papers to take matters into her hands. Mind you, all of this was with a wonderful smile.
I got my meal tray. I was super excited for this. To the left was some rather nice looking dessert, in the middle was freshly cut veggies, and to the right a cup with a fresh bread on top of it. The main course simply was just what I wanted: my favorite Indian meal! Butter chicken, with some tender flavorful pieces, and a rich gravy to along with it, jeera rice that was cooked in some oil but not too overly oily, and black dal which was just simply awesome! Now, on to the dessert, which is quite possibly the best I've had since 2005 (on Kingfisher Airlines). The yellow stuff was some custard, with some cottage cheese based dessert hiding underneath it, and below that, some fruits which truly was AMAZING. No other word for it! And once again, I was left very impressed with an Air India meal.

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The flight went on without much ado, just got up once to get my stuff from above because I couldn't do much with the IFE anyways. I listened to some music from my laptop, photography was out of the question since the windows had the strange tint to it, sigh. The Captain came over the PA as we flew over Lucknow, he gave some nice information and the flight. He estimated an arrival time of 1655 hours, a whole 35 minutes late. I had nothing to worry about since I didn't have another flight to follow……
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Descent started at around 1627 hours, as we rapidly got closer to Kolkata and Earth. The Star Alliance video was once again played while the window shades were brought back to its brightest shade - no tint. Once again, the huge windows on the B787 are truly fantastic!
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ANT lined up with runway 19L, and she was kinda 'thrown' onto the runway - it wasn't the best of landings. We arrived at 1649 hours, nineteen minutes late. Owning to very tight block times for this flight, they delay could not have been covered up as easily..

An announcement was made - we'd like to thank you to choose Air India as the airline of your choice (or something like that..). Ummm, I'm sorry, but the Boeing 787 was the aircraft of my choice, and that's why I was onboard :P

We taxied to the international terminal, and parked at one of the gates at the curve of the integrated terminal, used as an international or domestic gate, depending on requirements.
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Doors disarmed, it was time to get off and head for the arrivals.
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At immigration, all of us had to show our boarding passes no less than three times to prove that we aren't on the flight from Kathmandu, but in fact from Delhi on AI20. Both flights had come in around the same time (my AI20 late and the KTM AI248 early), so both of our flights were assigned the same baggage claim belt: number 16. A fully loaded 787 and a fully loaded small Airbus meant that there were easily more than 300 people waiting to get their bags. Not ideal.
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And with that, I reunited with Mum (who had flown CMB-BOM-CCU a few days prior to my interesting route :P ), and it was time to just chill out for the next 4 days, no flights to worry about!

This is the end of part 3. In the next part - join me on my first flight on the long 737 - the 737-900ER!

Verdict

Air India 

Cabin 10.0
Cabin crew 9.0
Entertainment 9.0
meal/catering 10.0
TOTAL 9.5/10

New Delhi - DEL 

Efficiency 10.0
Access 8.5
Services 9.5
Cleanliness 10.0
TOTAL 9.5/10

Kolkata - CCU 

Efficiency 7.5
Access 7.5
Services 7.5
Cleanliness 7.5
TOTAL 7.5/10

Conclusion

Air India is known for all wrong reasons, everyone only finds out about the bad aspects of Air India through the media. And yet, after this flight (and many more prior to this), I am convinced that Air India have the best product in the Indian skies. Great meal, great aircraft, great crew! only downside was the delay, due to crew shortage. Air India is definitely now a top-choice airline for me in India. Compared with Vistara, Air India were definitely so much better.
Delhi Airport was pretty good, but Kolkata, despite having the new terminal, proved to be quite slow. But I guess that's how it is. Overall, a pretty fun experience!

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