As always, the video flight report for this flight:
Following a stressful hour and a half in the taxi, the roads and cleared up, and so had the traffic. At around 1405 hours, I reached the impressive Terminal 2, in some increasing rains. I already felt like I was home, and I still had over seven hours till I’d actually get on my bed and sleep! I thanked the cabbie driver profusely for his super driving skills and getting me to the airport well in time!
I took some time before I entered the impressive T2. The calm down mode had activated and I still had four hours till my flight departure! The Jet Airways check in counters were closed, well most of them were. I asked the agent at the Customer Service if they'd open check in soon. He said that check in for a flight opens three hours before scheduled time, so that's okay! A word on him - there was an elderly lady and her helper flying to Dubai. He explained to her that check in would open in an hour, and he came out of the counter to help her with her trolley and assign her a seat at the other end of the check in island, a good long walk. It honestly felt awesome to see a Jet Airways worker go out of their way to help the elderly! I hadn't seen that in a while..
Anyway, I also had to sit down for a bit. I had to wait for the Dubai check in to open. I reviewed some of the pictures form my previous two flights of the day, while also calming down after what was a very hectic day! I soon saw a person man the online check in baggage drop counter. I caught the agent with surprise as I asked him if check in for the Colombo flight opened. He replied in the affirmative as he put his Bounty Chocolate Bar away. Check in was fairly smooth, until I asked for a fragile tag. That's when he called a baggage handler for fragile stickers to which he said something along the lines of requiring more money and also a Hindi slang that related to…mothers. Yeah. That’s when the check in agent said - 'passenger hai!’ (there’s a passenger) in surprise. Well..that wasn’t nice especially since I know what it meant..had it been a non-Indian passenger, that would’ve been okay….or not. Not that I cared about it, I just wanted to get on the Boeing 737 back home.
Security and immigration were both very quick, thanks to many counters being open to service the passengers. It was a fairly lean time at the terminal, since most international departures didn't start till until the early evening (6pm). This felt good! I walked through the duty free once again into the impressive Mumbai Terminal 2 gate area.
Duty free area:
I took note of the departure screens: the Iran Air flight to Tehran was heavily delayed, while I also saw a certain Air India departure to Hyderabad and then Jeddah. That only meant one thing: seeing VT-EVB again!!!
VT-JBB Operating flight 9W538 to Dubai
It was quite a long walk towards EVB: of course, when I arrived a few hours ago, it was an equally long walk for me! Final calls were being made for the departure of this flight, and the Emirates EK507 B773 (A6-EMU) service to Dubai. VT-ALS, an Air India Boeing 777-300ER was undergoing some pretty intense maintenance, and it had come in from Riyadh as AI922. I headed for main activity I was interested in: VT-EVB. The last passengers who hadn’t shown up yet really got some of the ground staff agitated as AI965 was facing a delay. The same with EK507, the latter had one woman supervisor who kinda got angry!
I overheard the gate agent's conversations about the departure of AI965 to Hyderabad and Jeddah. AI965 was pushed back at 1537 hours, 12 minutes late. Some were happy, some were unhappy. Some were happy that it was only a 12 minute delay, some were quite unhappy that it was yet another late departure for Air India. And that’s when I struck up a conversation with of the more experienced people there. I asked him - wasn’t there a fifteen minute grace period? He replied in the negative, and said that there is no grace period these days. I found this to be interesting because the DGCA does give a fifteen minute grace period (meaning that, if AI965’s departure time in 1525 hours, it won’t count as a delay even if it departs at 1540 hours). So in their eyes, it was another delay, but in the DGCA’s books, this was an on time departure, much needed for AI’s tattered image in this regard!
I asked him about AI102’s arrival into Mumbai from Delhi and New York and JFK, fully expecting to hear an arrival time before my 9W252’s 1805 departure. When he said - more or less on time, 1915 hours, I was puzzled. I then asked him if it was rescheduled. I confused him and myself because I actually meant AI144, the Newark - Mumbai flight (that would later head to Ahmedabad), which too was on schedule, and was to arrive in just over an hour. While this all happened, like I had experienced not too long ago, the beautiful Boeing 747-400 took its time to have its engines up and running! I saw her taxi past and waited for this beauty to depart….
While I waited, I bid adieu to the Air India personnel, as he rushed towards the AI144 gate. Interesting stuff I spotted - the other B73J of Jet, VT-JLJ, had touched down from Dhaka. An Oman Air Boeing 737-800, A40-BE was taxiing for its departure to Muscat, which was followed by A6-EMU.
I decided to roll up my sleeves…and have a snack. I ordered some Fiery Chicken Wings (or something like that!) from KFC…and it just looked quite sad. I The food court has (rather inconveniently) covered off the glass, so no views of the tarmac. However, trust the Indian crowd to vandalize, through the torn vinyl, I saw a Jet Airways A330 parked.
Meanwhile, my gate had changed from 65 to 86A. The same was announced. I was unhappy because I knew that would be a bus-boarding departure.
Jet Airways has managed to use their Boeing 737s very efficiently off recent, especially the B73Hs and B73Js. The B73J from Dhaka had its aerobridge removed and boarding stairs attached. For a good while I thought this was the plane operating 9W572 to Kuwait (departing ten minutes before 9W252 to Colombo), and so, a very stupid thing to do, and even more so with the heavy rain shower that just went by! Similarly, VT-JGR came up to one of the aerobridge gates, but instead had stairs attached. With my brain malfunctioning due to the long day, I couldn’t process the thought that these planes were actually going through the much talked about international-domestic turnarounds that Jet have managed to pull off recently! I nearly headed for the lifts that take passengers downstairs to the bus boarding, when I saw that gate 86A was actually neatly tucked away in one corner of terminal 2! Nice, not a very long walk for the passengers!
A friend told me that VT-JGR had operated 9W432 from his hometown in Mangalore, to Mumbai, and parked at the international terminal so the domestic passengers would be bussed all the way to domestic, while JGR would undergo its turnaround for an international flight: 9W252 to Colombo. My flight. I hadn't really bothered about what plane would operate this flight, since at times it was a B73H with IFE, and others with BSI. Come what may, all I wanted was a new registration. Target achieved with JGR! However, all I wanted was to get on a flight back to Colombo. Soon. Previous rotations also suggested that the plane flying Ahmedabad - Abu Dhabi (9W520) is followed by the Abu Dhabi - Mangalore flight (9W501), which then comes back to base at Mumbai as 9W432, and then more often than not, to Colombo as 9W252. Sistership VT-JGQ also had the stairs attached initially, which was followed by the aerobridge. She’d head to Dubai as 9W544.
My plane, VT-JGR
At 1713 hours, the boarding announcement was made. A torrential downpour had arrived. VT-JLJ departed for its flight 9W357 to Delhi, as VT-TTB silently waited before its flight to Bengaluru.
A very civilized row-wise boarding was imposed for 9W252. It started off with the Premiere guests, followed by the Jet Privilege elites, passengers requiring assistance and then, finally, row wise boarding, starting off with rows 25-36, and then 10-36. Having selected row 14, I had to wait. When the line cleared up, I made my way towards VT-JGR. The passing shower had shown no mercy, but I was confident of an on time departure…. But I didn’t want a delay… I wanted to embrace whatever time I had back in Colombo. Despite the organized boarding (I don't remember if it was strictly enforced), there was quite a line that had grown.
Not the warmest of welcomes but at least I was acknowledged, I stepped inside VT-JGR at 1731 hours. Some nice in flight music played. JGR was very well maintained on the inside. The nice man sitting in 14D got up for me and offered me to stow my bag in the overhead locker, which is always nice! I quickly had a look at the JetScreen touchscreen..unfortunately, unlike on VT-JBF, VT-JGR’s screen was pretty close to what I refer to as a hammer screen. The IFE was set to a Mumbai - Colombo route, of course. I looked outside the window: a beautiful Gulf Air A321 from Bahrain pulled in, and so did the AI144 Boeing 777-300ER from Newark. VT-JFZ pulled in after its flight from Kathmandu, and later headed for Bahrain.
A6-EBJ (Emirates Boeing 777-300ER) pulled in after its flight EK502 from Dubai, and would later head back to Dubai as EK503. Now this was quite a coincidence: when I flew into Mumbai from Colombo on 9W255 nine days prior to this trip, I saw A6-EGD, which operated my first ever B77W flight. A6-EBJ operated by second B77W flight!
We meet again, Bravo Juliet!
The Captain came over the PA system and asked for the doors to be armed at 1752 hours. Three minutes later at 1755, pushback started: ten minutes before time departure is always awesome! A flying time of two hours and five minutes was announced: back home in Colombo early is always awesome! Like the VIstara flight, even JGR’s push back at the new Mumbai T2 was quite unique: pushed back, a turn to the left (backwards), before being pulled all the way to the front..well, some of it… Both CFM56-B27 engines were fired up as JGR began its taxi towards the runway. Runway 27, of course. The rain had calmed down a little a bit, well, it went away completely, pretty much. A video showing Jet’s position as an Etihad feeder was played, which was neat, but it shows Jet’s position today…
An IndiGo A320 with sharklets had stopped on the main taxiway…and so did we. It was 1804 hours, one minute before departure time. For the minute or so, I was entertained by a mini-tornado whirpool that had formed because of the physics/chemistry/biology/etc stuff occurring because of the engine operating at idle on a surface that had specks of rain water on it. In fact, dry patches had started to form on the taxiway, while there was not too much of water being sprayed due to the jet blast of the jet engines. The Captain found this to be time to make his announcement. He announced we were number 7 (lucky?) for departure. He also gave details of the cruise, arrival times, etc. Pretty good! The usual domestic stuff departed and arrived, but the interesting stuff around was an Iran Air Boeing 747-200 (heavily delayed), and a United Airlines/Star Alliance Boeing 777-200ER, both arriving from their respective home bases.
Anyway, this wait was getting a bit boring. We chipped in front of the waiting IndiGo A320, which was nice. It was a good half an hour wait. We held short of runway 27. I saw a SpiceJet Boeing 737-800 arrive, which turned out to be VT-SZA from New Delhi, the same plane which was parked right beside my VT-SGX the same morning. However, due to Mumbai’s weather, SZA was delayed (and so was SGX!) We taxied on to the active runway 27. If VT-ANT’s start was the most beautiful, VT-JGR’s take off roar was the most beautiful! 1832 hours, the very loud CFM56 engines came were applied full power as a wide wide smile grew on my face - I was back on this seat for the first time since 2012 (on sister-ship VT-JGS!), and I was enjoying what I heard! Oh, screw the B787 and A380 for their quietness, the Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s have THE best take off sounds in the whole world!
The domestic bay relatively empty, where I also saw: VT-JLH! The pilots maneuvered JGR through the thick clouds as she loudly reached her cruising altitude. We made course towards the south. Sri Lanka, I’m coming back, one last time! Announcements of the new website were made as soon as the seatbelt signs came off.
A lovely sunset awaited as we pierced through the many clouds over Mumbai. I knew something was wrong with the IFE system when I used it on the ground first - it was way too unresponsive! A full IFE reset was done, and then it worked a bit better, but no where close to the smoothness I had seen on VT-JBF. More minus points to Jet because the nice man in 14D could not see anything since his screen was Frozen. I saw Frozen with a capital F because it was a white screen. That’s all he saw. I put the airshow channel on seat 14E, since no one was there.
Beverage service started at 1843 hours, and unfortunately, it was limited only to Orange and Apple juice. A few minutes later, the beer followed. I was expecting some more choices, in the nonalcoholic department, at least. I saw something new - the flight attendants were offering a small packet of snack along with the beer. I knew this was there on international flights, I just never expected it to be on the Colombo bound flight!
A spectacular show was put up by Mother Nature as the sun set through the monsoon clouds. Dinner service started at exactly 1900 hours. The flight attendants would pull the tray (with dessert, curd, cutlery, cup and for the first time since 2012: A STARTER!) before they'd explain the content of the vegetarian and non vegetarian meals! Truly amazing, not just the usual 'veg' or 'non-veg' question! The rather hot container would then be handed out.
The meal started off with a nice preparation of grams and sev, garnished with coriander leaves and a tomato slice. The main course contained two layers of wrapping, which meant that a paratha (Indian bread) was neatly tucked in between the two layers. The main course consisted of a reasonable cauliflower curry, white rice and chicken. The latter was cooked really well, but I have had better pieces of chicken before on a plane. There was a cup of curd and another pretty awesome JetDessert! All in all, a fairly reasonable meal, a sign that Jet Airways are coming back.
Looking out of the window was no longer a choice as the sun had set… I once again watched the 2015 Australian Grand Prix Highlights. I'm just saying, had they put the 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix on instead, I'd be the happiest person on the plane! Tea and coffee was served, I drifted in an out of sleep. The trays were collected back, lights dimmed, we were into the final stages of the flight.
I was sad this flight was coming to an end. I couldn't believe I had managed to pull off such a trip: one new airline and aircraft type, wide bodies around India, seven new registrations, the challenge presented by the weather…it had all come to an end way too soon, it was time for my last and final arrival into Sri Lanka, as a resident. Lights came on, cabin secured, JGR began its dash towards Colombo and Earth, beginning a very steep (but fun!) descent. The infant in the bulkhead row was crying because of this, and rightfully so! It was a pretty bad ear popping experience, but I enjoyed it.
My camera was not helping, it stopped recording at times! That sorted, we had made a smooth touchdown on runway 22 at 2039 hours, four minutes late. We taxied on to the aprons, I was immediately reminded of my first flight into Sri Lanka: onboard a Jet Airways Konnect plane, very empty flight, annoyingly in the early red-eye morning. Four years on, a lot has changed: a pretty full flight, nicely timed in the evening, allowing us to go back home and sleep, and of course, on an international plane IFE equipped plane!
While of this happened, the crew made a terrible terrible mistake on the PA system: after welcoming us to Colombo, she said: 'To all international guests welcome to India, and to fellow Indians, a warm welcome home…' No no no no!!!! You don't say that! Sri Lanka and India - two very different countries (well, the cricket teams at least, we're better, LOL). But in a way, this did apply to me - I was home, one last time.
There were long queues, but I was okay with that. I was embracing every second that I passed by. Walking back on the travelators towards immigration…SL, I will miss you! I soaked in every moment I had. While the queues were long, they were moving very very quickly. Vastly different from what I have experienced before. The immigration officer did his thing, no questioned asked. The stamp said - 'RV', meaning residence visa. That's the last time I'd be getting that. I walked past the pretty extensive duty free, and the people trying to lure us away - be it 5am in the morning in June 2011, or 9pm in the evening in July 2015, somethings never changed….
At the baggage claim, there was an agent who was there helping out with the identification of the bags. Like every other Sri Lankan I've generally known, he had a smile on his face, a very accommodating attitude. I got my bags out and he came running towards me asking if I had the correct bags, I told him I already did the luggage tag thing. He wished me an enjoyable day ahead, I thanked him.
Heading for customs, I was stopped by the officials. Pretty much a custom with me now, I've always been stopped hahaha But they cleared me through. I entered the arrivals hall one last time, and it was bustling with people, exactly the same as I had saw in the wee hours of the morning on the 26th of June 2011. I was at our family's pre-designated parking spot. I was too tired to drive home. It felt great to be in humid tropical weather. Sri Lanka, you are beautiful.
When I usually wake up after a flight on my bed, the first thing that happens is that I used to get annoyed by was the sounds of crows and squirrels, the sounds of a Sinhala song playing, the sound of the ice cream fan going, the smell of Sri Lankan food, the tropical sunlight - it gave me a reminder that the vacation had come to an end. However, on the morning of July 22nd, I just lay down on the bed, for half an hour, embracing the sights and sounds and smells. There was exactly a week for me in Sri Lanka. The atmosphere was no longer the same. Something had changed, and that too, drastically. Sri Lanka, you will be missed.
Mumbai - BOM
Colombo - CMB
An absolutely fantastic flight with Jet Airways. After the two less than mediocre flights in the trip previously, I knew there was a something special coming up, and Jet delivered, for sure. Food was great, cabin was nicely kept, the IFE was alright, and the crew went out their way to ensure a young couple and their child were relaxed through the flight. On time, and great ground staff both in Mumbai and Colombo. Top stuff from Jet Airways!
Mumbai's T2, once again, was a fabulous experience, while I tried to soak in the most of Sri Lanka, as much as I could since it would be my last arrival, the next one being very uncertain!
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