As always, please do check out the video trip report for the flight:
Mirroring what I had done in December 2015, it was time to head up to the departures level for my flight AI401 to Kolkata. I always end up choosing Air India on this route. Granted, it departs an hour later than the earliest viable departure (a Go Air flight..), but Air India gives me, most importantly, a decent luggage allowance of 25kgs (the international flights usually give 23kgs/50lbs), same terminal departure (Terminal 3, as opposed to a change in terminal to terminal 1D for Go Air), a free meal, Star Alliance frequent flyer miles, and from an avgeek point of view: a Boeing 787-8 Dream)liner!
Ground floor (or first floor, depending on which part of the world you're from :D) outside arrivals
THE LONG TRANSIT
I headed for the departures elevator at around 0119 hours…didn’t help that the Lufthansa flight landed so early.. And it all felt like that flight was too good to be true. Delhi was very warm, even at that time of the day. There was a ticket/identity check just before the elevator. I had to get my ticket out, but then there was this huge group who in a familiarly typical manner cut in front of me. Their tickets were all scattered, so when an individual’s name was called, he or she would be at the very back of the line and had to walk all the way to the front. It made for a very time consuming and loud process, but I had just about five and half hours to kill.
Up the stuffy elevator, there was another long queue thanks to the same group in front of me, while also because of another useless and pretty pointless check of documents (ticket and ID). I asked the guys why have another check when there was one just below? Being the time of the day (night/morning), they were pissed off and made a big deal out of it and asked me to write to the higher authority, etc etc. Wow. I was truly home, sadly.
Before heading for check in, I decided to go online for a bit to catch up on whatever I had missed during the Lufthansa A380. After that dream of a flight, it felt like I came back down to earth (and quite literally so, too :P ) in New Delhi. The very warm weather, the overly cramped terminal and finally, the very rude security guys. And then there was the Tata Docomo internet, that didn't bother to work. I gave up after an hour of trying (and nearly crying :P ).
Stuffy, warm, congested…stories of Delhi T3 at * in the morning…
CHECK IN AND SECURITY
Check-in was next. I still had about 4-odd hours before my flight to Kolkata. The queue wasn't too long, but it moved very, very slowly. I probably would've seen a fresh coat of paint dry by the time I made it to check in. And even there, it wasn't the most top notch of customer service because the person checking me in was more busy talking to others than acknowledging my existence. But that's how it is, I guess.
Oh, and the leader of the group who was ahead of me decided to stand right next to me at the counter. I’m not sure what difference this makes, but he was rightfully shooed away by the staff attending to me.
Security was (thankfully) a very quick affair.
It was unbelievably warm. And add to that, some form of renovation was going on with the very loud drills doing its job in not only digging through cement, but also ensuring that passengers were given a very mediocre experience at New Delhi Airport. I sat around in the main atrium, but nope, no wifi working there at all.
I went towards the far end of the Air India concourse of the terminal (Gate 34) that also happened to be the same gate I departed from on my previous AI401 encounter in December. Speaking of this being Air India's part of the terminal, there actually was a JetKonnect 737-700 (VT-SJA) that was parked at gate 34.
My Lufthansa Airbus A380 was taxiing! I saw the huge tail and the massive fuselage. For some reason it felt like the A380's size was magnified in New Delhi. Speaking of magnifying, all I could think of was what would happen if I had a magnifying glass at T3, because the end of the concourse had NO air conditioning whatsoever, and the last thing I would expect was to melt at 3.30 in the morning, but that's basically what was happening. Rude people, overly crowded, terrible wifi, loud renovations and switched off air conditioners. All of this was around as Delhi Airport had signs every where thanking the passengers to vote them as the best airport in the 25-40 million category. Crazy stuff. This was the same Delhi T3 I wanted to visit so desperately in 2011. I was not having it with New Delhi anymore.
The food court was barely open, but I settled for whatever it is that they had…and it happened to be paratha. It was pretty alright, I was quite hungry and its very hot content pretty much burnt my finger tips.
If KFC is Finger Lickin' Good, this probably is Finger Burnin' Mediocre…
I walked around a bit more. One Dream)liner had been pulled and parked at one of the contact gates, which happened to be VT-ANS. I was expecting a gate change for my flight, since gate 29 A&B had flights departing (one of them to Amritsar, the other to Pune). The other end of the concourse had all the Vistara flights departing, most (if not all) of them before 7am, and a few Jet departures, too. I went back to Gate 29, the sun started rising rapidly.
Parked myself at Gate 29…finally! (0522 hours IST)
And so, has it happened, in its typical salamander way, a Boeing 787-8 was pulled in by a tug, and it was approaching Gate 29. VT-ANV, at 0.9 years of age, was Air India’s newest Boeing 787-8 Dream)liner, on the day of flying. It was 0541 hours when ANV docked at the gate and was being prepared for its first mission of the day. VT-ANV did the Kolkata flights the previous day as well (AI401/AI21 DEL-CCU-DEL and AI20/AI701 DEL-CCU-DEL).
Delhi T3 is not very spotter friendly :(
Pre-boarding calls were made at 0613 hours, giving clear instructions on who boards when, but no one gave any importance to that and just went ahead and boarded the plane. I waited, however. Not ideal to keep waiting around in airports (MSP, ORD, FRA, DEL) but better than being stuck in giant metal…er…plastic tube ;)
Its always a long and sometimes confusing walk down towards the aircraft at Delhi T3. And as it happened, on this occasion, it was a walk through complete darkness for a while.
I was onboard at 0627 hours. Two crew members were welcoming passengers, a young lady and a senior gentleman. None of them with a smile, however. Just the namaskar gesture, and that was about it. I took my seat 14A, with a great view of the massive GEnx engine.
0633 hours IST on 18th May 2016 vs 22nd December 2015….winter solstice vs summer solstice! :D
The plane slowly filled up, but it wasn’t a very full flight. Windows were set to the darkest setting, but that could be changed. The cabin was also really very hot, almost felt like the air conditioning wasn't on. It probably wasn't.
ANV, despite being Air India's newest Dream)liner at the time, was in a mess. Footrest - gone. Recline button - broken. Walls/air vents - dirty.
I also noticed that the cabin crew really didn't want to be on the flight and serving passengers. No smiles, just many frustrated faces. Of course, I only observed the two who were serving my part of the cabin (that also happened to be same ones at the door..) However, the IFE screen itself was nice and smooth to use, a huge difference from those I had experienced on Lufthansa not too long ago.
In flight entertainment…
0658 hours and two minutes before time, pushback commenced. The middle seat (14B) was empty. As were a few other seats on this aircraft.
'Crew arm all doors cross check and report…'
The GEnx engines were slowly fired up. These always bring a smile on my face, because of how loud they are (not forgetting the GE90s, as well!). As I said, there were more Vistara flights departing at this time in the morning than any other airline, I felt, as another one of the A320s taxied by. Slowly, ANV taxied towards Runway 29.
As we drew closer towards Runway 29, lining up for departure, the welcome onboard announcements were finally being done - well, about time! :D at the same time, the younger lady flight attendant explained the operation of the exit door to the folk seated in row 11 - now who were they supposed to listen to? This was quite a messy affair.
A Jet Airways Boeing 737-800 pulled up alongside us, however we were cleared for take off. Lined up with runway 29 at 0709 hours and blasted down for what was a reasonably short take off roll. Soon an eastward bound route was set - this was it! My final flight before I reached home…..(….until the SpiceJet flight the following day!).
Some more images of take off:
Mood lighting was set to replicate the sun rise that had happened nearly an hour ago, while the windows were dimmed down to the lowest setting, however leaving it in control of us passengers (luckily). The one thing that wasn't right was the temperature control onboard - it was a very very warm flight throughout, and I kinda got the impression that the air conditioning was not switched on for a good chunk of the flight. This felt very uncomfortable. Having already discovered a movie I knew I wouldn't get bored of despite watching it a countless number of times, I settled in to a revised and censored version of…..Deadpool!
Breakfast started pretty early on at 0737, about half an hour after take off. It was the exact same as was onboard this very flight back in December. A fluffy omelet, potato wedges and boiled vegetables as the mains, and cut fruit to go along with it. A very basic meal, but truth be told, quite inedible. Very unlike Air India/Taj SATS to screw up a meal but that's exactly what was in front of me. I was left quite disappointed, to be honest.
Surprisingly, a la Jet Airways, there was a tamarind candy with the meal! I quite like this sweet and tangy candy after the meal, but I was surprised to see it onboard Air India.
The only saving grace (barely) was the cup of tea.
Despite the seat beside me being empty, I was quite uncomfortable. Maybe it was the heat: I was in the middle of summer flying between two of the hottest regions (or metros) Delhi and Kolkata, where 40C or higher weather (104F….) is pretty frequent. However, so high up in the air, I was surprised placing my head over the window (I usually do this because it is pretty chill) resulted in an unbelievable feel of burn. I was pretty sure now, the air conditioning was not working at its full capacity sadly.
While the window dim helps for a cool looking environment, my God was it warm!
No mood lighting for us humble Y folk…
Other differences included a IFE guide onboard..a leaflet that reflected the month’s offering. A pretty good addition, I felt. Was I surprised to see a crumpled and twisted safety card? Nope. An empty seat is always nice because I use this PTV to turn it to the flight information screen. We were cruising at an impressive altitude of 41000 feet.
I checked the middle IFE screen again - wow, we had descended down to 33000 feet! And I felt none of this onboard, such is the smoothness of the Boeing 787 Dream)liner. The cabin was soon prepared as we came closer to the ground, I was so close!
Did I mention the footrest was gone?
A gentle landing was made at 0850 hours, a whole fifty minutes before time. This was awesome. We docked at the usual gate 21, a gate that can be used as both a domestic and international gate, that only ever handles the two Air India Dream)liner services from Delhi during the day. The heat was not very nice on the ground either, I was just anxious to get back in to the terminal where I was convinced it would be much cooler. As always, there was an Emirates B777-300ER preparing for EK571 back to Dubai, and a DrukAir A319 with sharklets! She was preparing for a flight to Singapore.
Once again the crew were not around to say good bye to us, basically hitting the final nail in the coffin…my last two flights on Air India were very sub-par. The jet bridge was very warm and stuffy, due to the raging humidity of Kolkata airport. I walked towards the baggage claim, picked up my suitcase pretty quickly!
FINALLY THERE! I was home to a tropical thundershower - just what I needed after going through my first winter in North Dakota, and the very warm times at Delhi and onboard the flight:
I got a pack of cards from Lufthansa's lovely crew onboard LH760, adding to Mum's collection -
Jet Airways also started flights to Amsterdam, moving away from Brussels over the course of Spring 2016 -
And there I was! Starting out with N307PQ, a Delta CRJ two days prior to finally touching down in Kolkata on an Air India Dream)liner….two pretty unique long haul flights happened as I finally made it home to Kolkata.
New Delhi - DEL
Kolkata - CCU
Not impressed with Air India this time. Disinterested crew, very warm and unkept cabin, sub par food. Positives being on time (before time), and decent in flight entertainment.
Delhi was an absolute mess. Again, very hot inside, and a forgettable experience overall.
Cannot complain much about Kolkata, I was home!
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