And as always, one of my better video flight report (or at least, I feel so!)
Like I said in the previous part, convincing the folks was a bit tricky, but it went off well. I even did consider getting to Hyderabad on the B747, but it was getting tricky. I settled for SG421 as my flight of choice into Hyderabad, I waited for a monsoon fare sale from Air India's side, hoping for some cheap fares. That came AFTER I booked my AI20 & AI966 multi-city tickets on Air India's website. I lost a bit of cash, but not a very significant amount.
I used a rather unique way to check in - Air India's own mobile check in site! It was very very outdated, but job done without too much of a hiccup. Pre-booking of seats is not possible on the domestic leg for some reason, so I had to wait for the online check in open, 48 hours prior. 73A I selected, in the rear section of the oldie lady. Enter details, confirm flight, select seat, check in! Curiously, Dad got a message on his phone saying that AI966's boarding would start at 0830 hours - WAY too early! I called the call center up, and while the agent used some broken English to get the point across, he did get the job done quickly - because this was going to be a very full flight, boarding would start 20 minutes after its arrival time into Hyderabad. Strange.
At the time of writing (and flying), Air India had four Boeing 747s in its fleet, registered as VT-EVA, VT-EVB, VT-ESO and VT-ESP. I desperately wanted VT-EVA for a variety of reasons. EVA (as in Eve-ah) is the heroine in one of my favorite movies, WALL-E. EVA Air gave me my first Boeing 747 flight, and had my 2014 India plan didn't hit the road block, VT-EVA itself would've flown me. VT-EVA brought Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his visit to Colombo in Sri Lanka a few months prior to this trip. And of course, Sebastian Vettel has named his 2015 F1 car, the beautiful Ferrari SF-15T Eva, a proven race winner! However, the weeks counting to departure, I saw VT-EVA being pulled towards the hangars on FlightRadar24, and it never flew since then……
FAST FORWARD - 21ST JULY 2015 Outside Hyderabad Airport in the arrivals section, there was a lot happening: people, shops, cars, planes…a tall escalator headed up towards the departures section, which was a big relief for me. Towards the international departure gates, there were quite a few passengers for the Emirates flight to Dubai and the Saudia flight to Jeddah. The crew of the British Airways B787 flight to London Heathrow had arrived, and entered the terminal with us. Mandatory ID inspection done, it was time to check in….
Check in really was a case of getting a boarding pass for myself. I tried a kiosk check in - and it didn't work because AI966 wasn't listed on it! I was getting more and more worried if the flight would actually operate, I wasn't in peace until I saw the plane arrive. I headed for the regular check in, where I was directed to yet another set of counters that actually were for passengers with carry on only - me. The processing took a while, making me more worried! But that was sorted, and boy was I glad to see seat 73A printed on the boarding pass! I received a customs declaration form, because this was indeed a domestic leg of an international flight. I asked for a pen from the AI check in staff, and I had to ask only three people, and third lady was a bit apprehensive in giving me the pen - I had to reassure her I will give it back! I wouldn't blame the staff though for having that kind of mindset, but it really was just a pen!
One stamp at the AI declaration, another stamp at the immigration official, and one more at security, the boarding pass I had was a stampede of stamps. And yet there was one stamp missing! Security was quick, despite disrupting the officials' chai (tea) break. I saw a lovely Oman Air Boeing 737-800 all set for departure.
The snaking Hyderabad duty free was next up. AI966 would be departing from gate 32, I walked towards one end of the main terminal, where there was a pretty awesome view of the tarmac. The British Airways Boeing 787-8 was at gate 31, boarding had commenced for that flight. There was a lot of activity, including some domestic activity (I saw VT-JGJ AGAIN, this time heading to BOM), VT-JBG operating flight 9W2627 from Delhi, the Vistara flight from Delhi, many Jet Airways and SpiceJet ATR72s and Q400s respectively, many IndiGo A320s, Air Costa's beautiful Embraers …pretty much everything in the Indian skies was in and around Hyderabad. Except AirAsia India, of course.
The plane that got me in from Mumbai, SpiceJet's VT-SGX continuing its flight SG421 (Mumbai - Hyderabad - Vishakhapatnam)
I checked Google for the flight status - this flight is rarely updated, which means information can be pretty inaccurate, the Air India website too, doesn't keep track of this flight many a times, which is very strange. 0740 was the time given for the arrival of AI966 from Jeddah, operated by VT-EVB. I had to excuse myself from talking to a friend of mine thrice due to the misinformation given. The first time, it was a company A320, second was a Jet ATR, third time lucky - 0754 in the morning, EVB made its majestic arrival into Hyderabad from Jeddah, a few minutes before time. She parked at Bay 55, where gate 32 was located. And my was it majestic - I could hear the beautiful sounds of the four PW PW4056 engines from beyond the glass.
Engines cut, it was all too quiet - even the pushback of the British Airways Boeing 787 and the start of its Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines, was all to quiet. Other interesting activity the arrival of a beautiful A330-300 of Saudia Arabian Airlines, followed by the arrival of Emirates' Boeing 777-200ER from Dubai.
Okay, lets keep boarding aside for a bit - it wasn't until 0825 when disembarkation of Hyderabad bound passengers got over! And that just says a lot about this flight - no one knows for sure what's going on! It was quite some time for boarding to start - I knew the 0830am boarding time sounded outrageous. 0911 hours, boarding was called. First, it was through an automated system, and then all that was said - Air India to Mumbai: no flight number. Of course, there was just the one domestic flight from the international terminal at the time anyways. Unsurprisingly, a long queue formed. I took my time, of course. That said, the line formed in front of Gate 32B was moving pretty fast - props to the person manning the desk! Inside the terminal
Pass full of stamps!
Boarding the big Boeing!
Mandatory check of hand baggage tags (only one bag again, I don't get this!), I headed towards the beautiful Boeing. Of course, I did receive a earful from A6-EMH close by, but I was oh so excited to fly our own Maharajah, a year too late perhaps. I got my camera out in the jet bridge, and the CISF person there said nothing! I happily took some pictures before joining in the line to board EVB. I saw the Maharajah mascot himself on the door just before entering EVB.
The flight attendant saw my boarding pass after wishing me a good morning, he guided my way to the back of the plane. I saw the engines from the front few windows on my right, and the stairs heading to the upper deck on the left. I was onboard only my second Boeing 747 at 0924 hours. Unlike EVA Air's B747, Air India's B747 did not have bulkhead dividers along the economy section. Just the first class and economy class had dividers, the former being in the nose section anyway. A full view of the cabin, yes! I noticed that about six or seven senior crew members were all bunched up in the galley and emergency exit area of door L4, not really helping the passengers. I found my seat 73A. It looked an absolute throne! However, it did not have a head rest cover thing. I took my seat and instantly felt very comfortable. I was certain that spending a few hours on this plane would be no trouble at all! Very nice padding of the seat.
That seat, my seat was in already reclined position, which I thought I would not be able to adjust. The seat pockets were torn, magazines, safety cards and all nearly falling out. The crew members really just stood there and smiled at everyone who went by…not really helping any of the passengers with bags and the like. Seats did not have any pillows, but seat pockets had headphones which were presumably not collected after the Jeddah - Hyderabad flight. The 747 filled up pretty quickly. The two seats beside me were taken, too.
The old queen’s age was surely showing even in the sound systems - I could hear none of the announcements. Even the safety video (which by the way, was pretty much the same video as the 787, expect that it was for a 747) just got stuck in between, every four or five seconds. So much for a safety video…
The Captain announced for the doors to be armed at 0954 hours, and that's when each of the cabin crew members waiting around door L4 rather hurriedly went back (and forward) to a door they were assigned. This was quite strange in my opinion! Pushback was at 0957, and four of the PW4056 engines came in to life. It was quite slow as you'd expect with this old lady!
Seeing the reflection of EVB on to the terminal got me a smile on my face as we slowly taxied through what seemed to be very narrow taxiways for the B747! We lined up with runway 27L, and a reasonably loud take off followed as EVB vibrated throughout the take off and towards the cruise altitude of 32000 feet.
To feed this Boeing 747 full of passengers, trolleys came out of different galleys at 1016 hours, like there was no tomorrow. Seven trolleys is what I counted from the nearest galley to where I was seated, and surely there were more around! When I got the meal, I was disappointed to find out that catering was out of Hyderabad rather than out of Jeddah. But that isn't a surprise, as I did see the Gate Gourmet trucks at Hyderabad, attached to EVB. I guess this was a blessing in disguise - the Jeddah catering is usually a sandwich, but here I was with two pretty amazing cheese croissants, accompanied by freshly cut fruits (pineapples and papaya), and a lovely brownie. Short flight, standard meal for all, but Air India delivered yet again.
It was a pretty uneventful cruise stage of the flight. Tea and coffee service followed, in some pretty horrendous cups (they’d bend with the weight!). I made myself some of my own drama by dropping the small camera on the floor…which meant the co passenger had to get up.. But he didn’t mind. The auto recline throne was comfortable to sit in for the duration of this rather short flight. The Captain made his announcements, which were very tricky to hear. I did however, hear that there would be some delay landing into Mumbai, and that there would be some bad turbulence while on approach. Did I mention the in flight entertainment was turned off for this short flight?
At 1046 hours, the nose of EVB dropped a little bit. We had started our descent, a bit too soon I thought, seeing that we took off at 1009 hours. The cabin crew cleared up all the trays and all, and pretty much disappeared afterwards. We started circling, and after completing a round, we headed towards what seemed like Mumbai.
EVB had descended into some really thick clouds. For the next twenty five or thirty minutes, we just cruised through these thick clouds. I got a feel the huge amounts of turbulence sat in the Boeing 747. I wonder how this would’ve felt on a bog-standard A320 or B737! We just went on and on through the thick gray clouds. I kept telling myself that we’d land pretty soon. But for that, we had descend more and more. None of that was happening. I was getting more and more anxious. This was getting a bit too long.
It was quite some time before we continued our descent, which included another very bumpy circle in the skies. The crew members secured the cabin and took their stations. We continued our descent through some very angry looking clouds before circling again. This was a very bumpy ride, bumpier than just about ten minutes prior! Things finally got serious when the flaps were being extended, however, this did include yet another circle in the skies - never have I been on a plane that has circled around over Mumbai more than thrice! I thought - this was working in my hands because my six and a half hour wait before my 9W252 back home would get shorter, giving me just enough time to go and pick up bags from South Mumbai.
It was pretty impossible to see out the window due to the clouds. I could see just a few meters beyond the winglet. I was relieved to see the Thane Creek and the flyover for both cars and trains, that meant that we weren’t very far from Mumbai! Relieve soon turned into fear and worry as I saw the situation on the eastern part of Mumbai - I saw the train tracks and two local trains had come to a standstill. Water logging on the tracks, right there. Cars had come to a complete standstill on the Eastern Express highway and roads close by. I had to go to a long way. The situation looked bleak.
A feather like landing was made at 1153 hours, about twenty minutes behind schedule. Touchdown was very close to the cross point with runway 14-32. EVB literally blew any standing rainwater off the surface of Mumbai’s runway 27. It looked absolutely beautiful, coupled up with the Boeing 747’s anyway wonderful wing. The condensation effects created were simply unbelievable! A snail pace taxi towards the international Terminal, T2, followed. But that was okay since I could listen to the epic hum of the PW4056 engines! The rain got heavier as I could barely see out of the window. The slow taxi brought us right beside a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-200ER, which pushed back as soon as we docked.
We had parked very close to the middle point of T2…basically a long walk lay ahead, that’s all. The four engines had cut out at 1205 hours. My second Boeing 747 adventure had come to an end. Of course, it was quite a while before I could get going. I now had to go all the way to the southern tip of the city to pick up my luggage. I had a challenge on my hands. If I failed to make the check in time for 9W252 back to Colombo, I knew I was in huge trouble. Knowing my time constrains, I stepped out of EVB and took many many pictures of her. This isn’t a usual Jet Airways Boeing 737, this was a pretty Air India Boeing 747, the queen of our Indian skies, the Maharajah. And I wasn’t the only one doing this, there were many others doing likewise. With selfie sticks.
I began the long walk and pretty much raced everyone to the finish line, the pseudo-immigration. Here, we'd receive another stamp saying that we are indeed domestic passengers. Hmm, I wonder how they sent the passengers from Jeddah to the normal immigration! It was quite a long line. Flew through duty free, didn't look at baggage claim, waived through customs, I headed downstairs to pre-book a cab. Of course, another lady was in a hurry so she wonderfully jumped the line without even acknowledging my existence. Oh well…… While she jumped the line, I called up my friend who condemned me to the horrible Mumbai Monsoon. Rant number three of the day over, I paid a fairly reasonable Rs. 350 to get from the airport to Peddar Road. Drama would not finish till we realized two print outs of the same receipt were handed to me and a young couple. I had the correct receipt, and I asked the driver how bad are the jams on the road. Quite bad he said, and he estimated around two hours to get to Peddar road alone, and another two to return back to the airport. An interesting adventure lay ahead…..
Hyderabad - HYD
Mumbai - BOM
Another flight on Air India, another wide body flight on Air India, another domestic wide body flight on Air India! I didn't have any intention on rating this flight, but I guess my only gripe was not having enough information online for this particular flight, the crew just being around, and the dead in flight entertainment (which perhaps would've not worked well anyway). The cabin had pillows and blankets just lying around, and headphones hanging around, not a pleasing sight on boarding.
As always the new airport and terminal in Hyderabad and Mumbai respectively were great! A refreshed experience.
1 LIKESLIKE TO THANK THE AUTHORTHANKS ! FLIGHT-REPORT LIKED
Flight-Report is a free website hosting more than 500 000 pictures and 17 000 reviews, without ads, this website can't exist. We understand that ads can be annoying, this is why we only display a maximum of 2 non-invasive ads per page.
To continue using Flight-Report, we invite you to add Flight-Report to your blocker's "white list".
Unfortunately, a recurring theme on Air India flights is their shoddy aircraft maintenance.
I saw duct tapes around the cabin as well, which wasn't nice
The B747s are on their way out anyway, but I guess there is a standard that is supposed to be maintained, considering that other Indian airlines maintain their planes very well!
The weather seemed to be great in Hyderabad that day! Absolutely fantastic spotting shots from HYD! A lot of different variety.
This 747 has definitely seen better days, I guess they only have 2 left that are doing scheduled passenger runs?
It must've been a great feeling to fly with this lovely bird though, a good olf 747 on a short domestic hop! It looks like the AI966 flight has been operated by 77Ws for the last week.
The meal looks very filling for a flight of this length.
Thank you once again for sharing this unique FR with us!
Have a good one, see you!
This was quite an experience. A joy ride, basically so I wasn't expecting anything.
The B747s days are numbered, sadly.
Trust Air India to give you decent food!
Thanks for your reply! :D
Login to post a comment.