As always, I will start off by sharing the video TR link of this flight:
Its a very short video, and you will see why. Comments, replies and suggestions always welcome! :)
Over the course of the day of departure, I decided to randomly check the flight status for 9W384, the flight that’d take me to BOM. On doing this, I learnt that 9W384 would in fact be delayed by an hour. Not a problem for us, but we’d have to run a bit. I call up the call center just to confirm the delay, hoping that 9W’s site wasn’t lying to me. And indeed, for a while, the site did lie to me. 9W384 was now delayed by a whole two hours! With just 50 minutes in hand, it would be impossible for us to make it from T1B to T2. So, I am asked to get my flights changed, to which I agree. The whole change process took a very long time…Jet's call centers are known to be quite inefficient.
We leave for the airport as a taxi comes in well on time. The traffic is massive, but its rolling and we’re not held up as much. The sunlight rapidly disappears as a thin line of fog sets in. We reach Gate 1 at 1808 hours, used for Jet Airways, JetKonnect, SpiceJet and of course, Vistara.
There was quite a bit of drama in the terminal itself. To start off, there were very long lines. As we joined in the long snaking line, I hear a foreign lady scream on the top of her voice, screaming a lot. Unfortunately, I did not understand a thing she said. But one loud '*very bad F word*' is what, and all I heard. As the line inched forwards, another man got super pissed. It was 1815 now. We had moved up only by about 4 or 5 meters. The man in question started yelling at Jet, telling them at this slow rate of check in, people on the 7 o clock flight would miss the flight, to which the people at the desk told him the flight was delayed anyways. Adding fuel to the fire, he got further annoyed, proper annoyed, calling them 'characters' and 'useless idiots.' It was at this point where I saw one of the check in ground staff put his hand on his head in frustration. It sure was a bad day. And now, with many more uninformed delays coming up, it was going to get much worse.
A person behind was let through, everyone was nice to him as he had a flight at 1855, he needed to check in. Another lady tried to pull off the same card. She was in the middle of the line. This got another person super pissed, as he told her she should've come to the airport earlier and checked in. We probably reached a stage where everyone at the line was angry with each other. Check in for 9W356 to Mumbai was closing, causing more outrage for people already in the line and not moving. I did notice a team from South Africa who were checking in to the BOM flight. Hmm, heading to JNB via BOM then?
We finally reached the counter at 1850. We're welcomed by a man who can barely put up a smile. Our bags are tagged all the way to Mumbai. To my complete horror, we're asked if we'd like to sit together or two middle seats separately would be okay. I instantly start asking what's going on because the person on the phone told me seats 21A and 20D are blocked. He informs me that these seats were online checked in for the Mumbai-Colombo flight. Further getting me agitated, he tells us that seat 20D was now taken, and that the only emergency exit would be 19B, a non-reclining middle seat. I question him further: how was this possible when I did a web check in, and yet 20D disappears? He told me that the seats got reset when the flight change was done. I told him: the guy on the phone told me 20D and 21A were selected! With a voice of despair and hopelessness, he simply said, 'I'm sorry, I don't know sir…' while he printed out seat 21B for Dad. I quickly spotted this and asked him to change it to 19B for Dad, adding to his misery. Meanwhile, still VERY puzzled with the mysterious disappearance of my apparent window seat on 9W354! I was just very close to yelling at the check in man, a proper one. But that's when Dad told me: you've got to accept what's going…we probably wouldn't have even made it to Colombo on time….
Dad was right. And I realized this later in the flight (read further). But for now, a super annoyed me was doomed to be seated in a middle seat when it was an easy window seat, JUST GONE. There was another minute wasted as he to get an international transfer tag. He (check in guy) lets us know that boarding will start 1900 hours, and it already was 1903 hours. Yeah, bad day in the office for sure. Also, he switched from speaking in English to Hindi and back to English over the 13 minutes in the whole check in mess.
Security had a short line (people) yet a very long one (for the bags itself). But once this done, a dejected me accepted my fate of a middle seat and headed to Gate 37A. I saw quite a few Vistara boarding passes around me. That's when I knew…Vistara is starting to make a mark for sure!
Boarding had commenced in gate 37B…for 9W356. I take a peek at the aircraft: it has no winglets, it is slightly longer than the bog-standard 737-800. There we had, a Boeing 737-900 flight in front of us. I just hoped it'd be VT-JGC, the other 737-900 in the Jet Airways, as well as VT-JGD, a plane I've already flown on. Passengers were still getting of the plane. A delay was imminent.
Boarding started at 1923 hours, 22 minutes before departure. People in rows 28-33 were invited to board first (confirming it was indeed a Boeing 737-900). People quickly boarded the plane. 9W354 was codesharing with Etihad Airways and South African Airways. The South African team a massive trophy..almost 3/4th the size of the man carrying it himself, hugging it of course! The agent congratulated the team on their success which was a nice touch on Jet's behalf.
I headed for the aircraft, hoping Jet’d have a better service onboard..AND VT-JGC to operate the flight. I entered the aerobridge area and began the long walk towards the aircraft at gate 37A. As I walked closer and closer towards the plane, my fear was getting confirmed. As VT-JGY, a B73W pushed back for its flight to BOM as 9W356, I saw something which meant internally, I fell down 40 odd storeys: VT-JGD. JG freaking D. Doomed. Damned. Discontent. My run of recording a new registration consecutively ended at 19. What might’ve been! Things really weren’t falling into my hands at that moment.
A long line had formed just outside JGD. None of the passengers were going in. Almost 3 minutes, we were waiting at the aerobridge. JGY had pushed back and was now heading towards the runway (29, I think) for departure.
As I finally board the plane, the lead FA is talking to someone over the intercom, and greets the person JUST after me. JGD has old seats in J. And these were getting filled in rather quickly. Including some Jet Airways staff. This was going to be a packed flight.
I see Economy class - JGD has been refurbished with the 2009-2013 JetKonnect seats, in prime condition. It was also heartening to see a sell out on this flight, but I'm sure most people must've been on different flights (like us), with onward connections. Xavier, the only male FA sees my boarding pass and offers me to keep my hand luggage in the overhead bins. I did do a reshuffle of things since I'd be sitting in a middle seat anyways, I ask him to take my camera bag while I get my laptop out and put my normal bag up in the bin. Dejected, I sit in 26E. And instantly I know, I will be having some armrest battles throughout the flight. A tough one was on the cards. I notice a Jet Airways pilot finding a seat in the plane.
(Notice the trophy?)
JGD had advertisements in plastic shells on the seatbacks, but it wasn't third party advertising, its simply Jet Airways or JetPrivilege advertising. Doors close at 2000 hours and pushback begins at 2001 hours. Lead FA Poonam introduces herself along with the all Vinay cockpit crew: Captain Vinay Sharma and F/O Vinay Singh would take us to Mumbai in 1hr40min minutes. All Etihad Airways partner members were also welcomed, along with codeshare partners South African Airways. Both engines were brought into life as a quick safety demo was followed by no pre-departure checks: it really was a rush to get going!
We lined up with runway 29 and a very very long take off followed. It was now when I realized how long the Boeing 737-900 is: in the bog standard B738, I'm almost at the end of the aircraft, but there still was 7 or 8 rows behind me! This flight was filled up to the brim. And we took quite a lot of runway to finally be airborne. Pretty impressive, while the 'sluggishness' was also shown as we took quite a lot of time to get through to 36k feet.
Seatbelt signs were on for quite some time, but that didn't stop most of the passengers from getting up and visiting the washroom. At 2022 hours, seatbelt signs were turned off, and service starts immediately. At 2023, a trolley is rolled up right up to the front, at 2026 one is rolled up to the center, and at 2027, a third trolley is rolled up up to my row, 27. My second flight on the 737-900, and the second time I see three trolleys being used. Speeds up the process for this rather short route with a full load of passengers! The crew well, they set about doing their work really, a smile thrown in here or there. Nothing much. However, to their credit, all of them bent to the level of the passengers, making eye contact and serving them, with the simple 'vegetarian or non-vegetarian' question. Mixed views, really.
I am asked for my food preference, and I request for a non-vegetarian meal as usual. Looks like they had plenty of non vegetarian food on offer for this flight! I get another rather massive tray but a comparatively lesser proportion of 'things' on the tray: there was the main course, steel cutlery and tissue paper in a pouch, the amazing tamarind mint, dessert, fresh cold yoghurt, bottle of water, and the SkyMart brochure. That was all.
This meal was one I was really looking forward to: 9W255 and 9W256 were international flights, and 9W307 was not a lunch flight. As I unwrapped the foils, there were 2 halves of parathas, which lacked any kind of salt but it was not rock hard and generally very soft. The rice base was a pulau, with some green peas and saunf thrown in, mixed in some light oil. The dal was absolutely fantastic - its that sort of dal which you’d expect at the Sunday afternoon gathering you’ve been invited for. It was truly awesome! The same though, cannot be said about the chicken. While the gravy was absolutely tasteless and free of any sort of ‘divine’ feel, just two solitary pieces of chicken were present, which again were tasteless and lacked any creativity. There also were some small shreds of chicken pieces here or there, but the two pieces (only) really gave it away. The dessert though, which was kheer (milk and rice based), was once again a Jet masterpiece as the light sweetness meant an awesome end to the meal. Dahi (curd) was nice and cold. Lets not forget the awesome as ever tamarind mint!
At 2042 hours, I was done with my meal, just about when the crew were clearing up. I also saw that the paneer had a very different preparation, with a clear brown-orange color.
It was at this point, and before the hot beverage service, that I found some time to reflect on what happened during the day. Yes, certainly it was a big mess which really was partly Jet's fault. And I will explain why. But before that, I thought. Had I not made the change, I probably wouldn't have gotten on 9W256 and reached on the 19th morning. Missing that, I'd have to wait in Mumbai for 15 more hours, as that's when 9W252 would depart. A day gone. A day I had set aside for studying for the mock exams. I was lucky to have gotten 2 seats for Dad and I, the flight was full to the brim. Given the circumstances, I was lucky to be in a middle seat of a previously flown bird. And its because of this, I felt that I perhaps was brewing up something unnecessary in front of the check in agent. Not his fault passengers didn't know about the delays. Not his fault the fog had returned. Not his fault that the Jet Airways IT systems are flawed, getting rid of my pre-selected seats. Not his fault that he misprinted one of the boarding passes given the circumstances. It was a rough day for him and I did feel bad for partly contributing to it. However, something or someone is clearly at fault for creating the mess in the first place. Why didn't the Jet Airways computerized systems send text messages or emails to their passengers regarding the delays? Why did the passenger waste their time in providing telephone numbers and email IDs and emergency contacts? The avgeek in me kept a check on what's going on, if I didn't do so, I probably would've been very angry and cussing Jet big time. If this was sorted, maybe most of the passengers would've sorted things out on their own, making alternate arrangements. Secondly, perhaps the main factor really affecting me - why didn't the guy on the phone tell me what the seats were not in fact selected? He clearly said to me he selected 20D and 21A, so I assumed it was for 9W354. He didn't tell me a thing. And I learnt at check in, not only are those seats for flight 9W256, they weren't even selected in the first place, contrary to what he said to me!
Jet clearly has a long way to go in terms of technology. They are still stuck in the previous century. With these thoughts in mind, I appreciated the fact that I was on 9W354, rather than the delayed 9W312 or the heavily delayed and to-be flight 9W384! As this happened, the tea/coffee service began. I went for a coffee this time…it was quite strong and surprisingly good for airline coffee!
I pulled out my laptop and started working on editing some photographs. This interested my copassenger a lot, and he asked me a lot of interesting questions. Yes, he was a photographer too! We talked about our different travel experiences, and places we've been to, and experiences we've had. He was a good person, and certainly one of the better co-passengers I've ever had, for sure! One of the two pilot Vinays came over the PA system and announced descent at 2122 hours. He advised us of a bang on time arrival of 2155 hours. Slowly, the nose of JGD dipped as the 737-900 got closer to the ground over the night skies around Mumbai. Thankfully, the photography interests in the co-passenger was woken up, so he got his phone out and started clicking some pictures. I salvaged something out of this, and he didn't mind me stretching over him to take a few photos at times
While my run of consecutive new registrations did come to an end with this flight, what didn't come to an end was the run of feather like touchdowns as both Vinay pilots glided down VT-JGD slowly and made a smooth touch down. New boy Vistara had narrowly beaten us, arriving just before us, VT-TTC as UK984 from DEL. A slightly long taxi followed for us as we taxied towards one of the more remote of remote parking bays, right beside VT-PPT, another one of India's long narrow bodies. Interestingly, she never went back to DEL after operating part of the AI658/657 rotation! VT-JGD was given a night parking spot, she'd later be woken up at 0700 in the morning to operate 9W301 back to Delhi.
It took some time for the bus to arrive to pick us up, while the bags were being removed from the overhead bins, I see a SriLankan Airlines tag. Hmm, someone else boarding 9W256 with us? Or UL142? The bus takes its time arrive, while I too take my own time and be seated. I finally get up and head for the bus, thanking the crew for the flight.
The bus takes us to the Terminal 1B arrivals sections, what perhaps is my last ever arrival into T1B. It was mixed feelings for me. We joined an ever growing line for the inter-terminal transfer bus, just when some one asks a few of us to turn back, and follow her…….
In the next part: Mumbai's Terminal 2 and my flight back to Colombo, on Jet Airways! Again, comments and suggestions are most welcome!
New Delhi - DEL
Mumbai - BOM
Not a very enjoyable flight with Jet Airways, but then again, I have seen much worse. Food and service was alright, but the service on ground was quite a disaster at Delhi. The aircraft was OK.
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