DISCLAIMER: Apologies in advance for any typos in this one. The cold in Grand Forks has got me to shiver like there's no tomorrow, LOL!
ONLINE CHECK IN
Found a decent signal in the wilderness…. OLCI was pretty straightforward, as is always is with Jet Airways. Seats at the back of the ATR are premium seats since you board last and disembark first from these.
INTRODUCTION, SPOTTING, CHECK IN, SECURITY…
Welcome to the final trip report of 2016, just in time for 2017 to end! We pick up from the Kaziranga National Park. What a story this has been so far - right from the agonizingly long flight delays to the new airports and airlines in Doha and Qatar Airways. A success is what I’d call my return to Kaziranga, and my girlfriend’s first. Just 4 shy of 50 single horned Asian Rhinoceros sightings, in the midst of a wild herd of elephants, many birds, and deep in the wilderness, it was an amazing couple of days. We left Kaziranga way too early for the 4 hour drive back to Guwahati. We got to a very very bustling Guwahati Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport. It was an extremely long line to get inside the terminal. It was 1420 hours, a good five hours before departure.
In line, I worked out that VT-JCT would take us back to Kolkata. This was to be some of the last weeks of ATR service between Kolkata and Guwahati. There were the two ATRs going back and forth between Kolkata and Guwahati at the time. The rotation for VT-JCT is as follows: Kolkata - Guwahati 9W2486 0735 - 0905 Guwahati - Silchar 9W2877 0930 - 1025 Silchar - Kolkata 9W2876 1050 - 1230 Kolkata - Guwahati 9W2769 1300 - 1420 Guwahati - Kolkata 9W2672 1450 - 1630 Kolkata - Guwahati 9W2471 1655 - 1835 Guwahati - Kolkata 9W2472 1900 - 2050
BUSY BUSY GUWAHATI!
Negotiating the x-ray line was rather tricky as well, since people would be jumping the line. Not like it mattered to us, we had all the time to kill.
Following this, we headed upstairs to the restaurant for lunch. It was at this point I found out what a zoo Guwahati airport was! Security lines looked like they were an hour long. Not ideal - there was no elevator! This meant the young guns had to haul the stuff all the way up. Zoo-hati?!
The restaurant was decent - food was quite nice, and the staff were pretty friendly. I had a bit of a view of the tarmac. Expansion construction meant that the view was slightly disrupted. Of course, being busy curbside and in the terminal itself, it of course meant that there were quite a few planes around. This included VT-JLE, but it came in from New Delhi. Decent restaurant
Spotting, of sorts:
VT-JCL, the 'other' ATR heading back to Kolkata
Following lunch we headed down for check in. It was 1609 hours. The crowd had cleared up for the most part. In all it took a grand total of three minutes! Boarding passes printed, baggage tags printed, etc. Good stuff from the ground staff.
We waited around in the departure hall for some time. The three around me pulled out their books and started reading. I just people watched, because why not.
LONG SECURITY, HORRIBLE GATE AREAS!
Headed for security at 1706 hours, where a lovely golden retriever security dog graced us with its presence - just a night till I got to reunite with my dog!
Security however took quite some time, but they were being comprehensive about them so I guess that can be appreciated. Of course, I joined the line which took the longest, so I was in the departure gates area by 1743 hours.
Gate 2A for 9W2472 to Kolkata, a bus boarding for the ATR, unsurprisingly. Full of passengers, not an extra seat available, it was a congested and suffocating scene. This was not helped by the very loud announcements and calls for the passengers missing at the boarding area. Add to that, it was warm. Very warm.
THE JOYS OF TRAVELING?!
On a lighter note, a curious young boy and his mother came and stood by my girlfriend for a while, before the little boy asked if he could take a picture with her. Of course, she was the only American in the airport! All of us were taken a little aback, and enjoyed the lovely moment! I kept an eye on FR24 - VT-JCT was going to make a before time arrival in to Guwahati.
Really didn't want to be there…
This AC has seen better days, LOL!
Boarding pass, after all the fun stamps at security.
Boarding was called at 1824 hours, bang on time, from gate 2. It looked like a full flight that evening. All passengers were squeezed in to the one bus heading to the aircraft. Parked far(ish) away in the remote bay, I made sure I was one of the last ones to board the plane, since it gave me the opportunity to take some pictures.
Not the best conditions, since it was pretty dark out.
I was onboard at 1836 hours through the rear door. None of the two crew members were there to welcome us, since they were preoccupied with their own things.
I selected seats 3A/B and 4A/B for us. I told my girlfriend that she finally got an aisle seat. No she wasn’t falling for this - the ATRs are indeed configured in a 2-2 abreast format, and there was no middle seat for her to sit in!
The inflight music was quite loud. While these were all Christmas carols to celebrate, the loud music did not make for a good ambience. Upon my Dad’s request, the crew did turn down the boarding music.
The annoumcents were made almost instantaneously. Captain Khanna was in command while Roshan and Laviana were the cabin crew members on the flight. A 1hr25min jaunt across Bangladesh, this flight was to be 30 minutes longer than the B737 flight on the inbound.
The Pratt & Whitney PW127M turbofans were brought in to their ‘hotel’ mode at 1845 hours - a whole 15 minutes before time. We taxied to runway 20 for departure - all the way down and backtracking is not the most efficient. A quick take off roll, we were in the air at 1854 hours, 6 minutes before scheduled departure time. It was a rather sedate climb to 17000 feet.
Cabin of the ATR
Fleet and JetScreen
These airlines have something so much bigger now…
So long, first class….
The short lived BLR-CMB flight
Service started pretty soon - I got my snack box at 1910 hours. It was the usual two - chicken or vegetarian sandwich, however the crew handed out non vegetarian boxes unless requested by the passengers. This part of the country does have some of the highest meat eating populations! The box had a chicken sandwich with a reasonable amount of filling in there which made for a decent sandwich to eat. Bottle of water and KitKat to go with it, made for a very similar meal to the inbound. Of course, not having ovens in the galley of the ATR meant that the entree was cold. Guess what? Still better than cookies, peanuts or pretzels! :)
Some interior shots
A funny incident - some child really wanted another KitKat, so she run up the aisle, but Laviana took a step back with the cart which made for a rather unfortunate accident as the child rammed in to the flight attendant’s butt. Uh oh! Pretty uneventful flight otherwise, I flipped through the magazine. Lights were turned off after service (which barely lasted 25 minutes) for the passengers’ comfort.
Engine view :P
DESCENT AND ARRIVAL
Descent started at 1956 hours, looking good for a way before time arrival in to Kolkata. The city lights grew larger and larger as we drew closer to the city. Cabin was secured, lights were dimmed, music back on, a gentle approach was made to runway 19L. The uneventful flight came to an end with a very very smooth touchdown at 2019 hours, a whole 31 minutes before time. Taxied to a remote bay and parked by VT-JCL, the second Jet Airways ATR that scooted across the skies in the north east. Docked at 2025 hours, 25 minutes before time.
Disembarkation took some time as the people sitting at the back (and ironically, the last two rows were the premium paid seats!) got to get off first. I was the last passenger to disembark, following me were the cockpit crew and cabin crew. Everyone wanted to head home early! JCL parked beside - it had a shorter day.
The downer of this flight was in fact in the coach - some passenger asked to me to stop taking pictures citing security reasons. He, like many others, have the misconception that photography in Indian civil aerodromes are a complete no no, which is not true. However, it was quite the coincidence that I started 2016 with someone asking me not to photograph, and ending it on the same note. It was a fun long drive back, which included Etihad and Emirates birds. Too bad I got none of it on camera.
Picked up our suitcase, we were out of the terminal at 2050 hours, the scheduled time of arrival! The first third of the trip had come to an end. There was still a lot to go!
Following a fantastic new year's eve party, we set across to the Sundarbans delta, where we'd spend a night on the boat, and then in a resort on land. And my oh my was this full of surprises! Amazing river-fresh food, traditional Bengali cooking, and just the very serene scenes of going through over the river, and nothing much to worry about at all. I loved it. Let the pictures to the talking….
Bonus : Click here displayhide
The boarding dock, and a fishnet cast away…
Some of the traffic around, carrying fly ash
Our crew members were Ishwar, Nikhil and Shriram - all three of us took such great care of us!
Our boat - the MB Sundari
SO many of these tiny crabs were around
The evening scenes -
Food onboard - amazing!
The next morning - some monkey business!
More crabs -
Some HUGE crocodiles! How the guide saw it from miles away, I do not know!
Low tide, high tide effects
Just your every day activities
And some more food!
In the next part - the third of the three middle eastern airlines - Etihad Airways!
Guwahati - GAU
Kolkata - CCU
Well, a rather uneventful last Jet Airways ATR flight for me. With Jet thinking about phasing these aircraft out (making them an actual Jet Airways :P ) and Kolkata no longer being an ATR base, my chance with these planes remain slim. Quick check in, very quick turnaround and flight, decent crew members and a reasonable meal, it was another normal flight with Jet Airways. Guwahati was a mess in itself, but I expect this to be eradicated with the extension of the terminal.
At this point, one isn't sure of what Jet's going to do with their ATRs. While these planes are no longer based out of Kolkata, IndiGo's shock announcement of procuring ATRs have pretty led to a U-turn in Jet's decision of the ATR. Time will tell what happens next....
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