For this one it is pretty simple explaining why I went for Air India again: with a highly competitive price, there was the opportunity to log in a flight on the Boeing 787-8 Dream)liner domestically, in addition to free food, 25kgs of luggage and Star Alliance miles. All of this for less than $80. Round trip. It would be my trusted AI401, departing Delhi at 0650 in the morning and reaching Kolkata at 0900. A decent layover in the between British Airways & this one.
I did find it rather intriguing that Air India changed to a vegetarian only scheme for domestic flights. Being one of three airlines to be serving meals in Indian skies (and perhaps the best of the three, Jet & Vistara being the others) they made a decision in mid-2017 that domestic passengers would only receive vegetarian. While this was met with uproar, full props to Air India for sticking by their guns and help fizzle out what never really was a big issue in my eyes. Knowing this fact I pre-ordered myself a Muslim meal - non vegetarian food prepared as per Halal regulations.
THE LAYOVER @ DELHI
Well on to the flight itself. I did not bother doing an online check in seeing as I had my preferred seats in order, and I knew I’d be well in time for check in: and so I was. Departures level of Delhi T3 at 0339 hours.
Arrivals level, heading up:
Departures: people waiting long hours before their respective flights, making this their temporary home
Delhi T3 was bustling despite most departures being more than 2 hours away. Everything seemed to be on schedule, barring a few 25 or 30 minute delays here and there. Not too bad. FIDs: BA departed back on time!
While the check in line wasn’t long, there was this really annoying guy who just wouldn’t stick to normal procedures. Shoving people with his cart, getting frustrated when other’s wouldn’t move an inch, and top of it he was getting mad at the staff for no apparent reason. I have seen stranger things (the popular Netflix TV show & other strange incidents), but this was certainly up there.
With 2hr45min to spare, it was off to security - props to the CISF guys for once again being efficient & proactive in dealing with some really crappy passengers at that time of day. This took me just 12 minutes and it was off to airside at 0437 hours. Christmas decorations were aplenty at Delhi’s T3.
On to spotting - I was quite surprised to see an Air India Boeing 777-300ER: VT-ALL would operate AI439 to Chennai, with a 30min delay. Awesome to see wide bodies fly across India!
Overnighting planes in the distance included most of Vistara’s fleet of A320ceos and neos, Jet Airways 737s, AirAsia India’s (2) A320s, and Air India planes. This was the clam before a long day’s of work across India for these narrow bodies.
On the international side of things, there was A6-EYF, the Etihad A330-200 to Abu Dhabi as EY211. The picture was so horrible I cannot put it here. However, some footage over here, the video trip report :)
Quite proud of India's new terminals. A long way from the mess those were the old terminals!
Headed up to the food court for a quick snack & drink - KFC it would be because I wasn’t quite ready for the spices to attack my tummy, not just yet at least.
At gate 30 was the only Dream)liner around: and this would be the bird taking me to Kolkata! VT-ANX came in from Dubai as AI996, on time & all well. A pretty new 0.9 year old plane, I was hoping the interiors on this one would be decent. ANX is indeed an Everett built B787 which have proven to have to be (relatively) better built on the interior at least, compared to the Charleston ones. I guess time would tell. In the foreground, VT-SCL came in from Bahrain as AI940, and would head to Leh as AI445.
Headed to gate 30 exactly an hour before departure. It would be 20 minutes till boarding started…or so I thought. It was barely five minutes that I sat around in the gate - and there came the announcements of boarding. 55 minutes before departure! Wow these guys were certainly in a hurry! Following the fancy pre-recorded announcements was the yelling of ground staff - they *really* wanted to get this flight underway.
And so, I took this as a cue to go ahead. Well, it’s whatever - not much to see from DEL’s T3 anyway. The crew were generally quite warm in welcoming passengers, and I took my seat 14A in the second row of economy. All well and good.
Thankfully the cabin was kept in a decent shape - nothing broken, no specs of grime around. I have unfortunately found Air India’s Dream)liners to be quite unkept over several flights - but this one was just fine. No complaints, especially given that one does expect this on a pretty new airplane anyway.
A pillow & headset was already placed on the seat suggesting that in flight entertainment would be available on this flight.
Full IFE for this short flight - not bad
Cabin from row 14
Boarding continued & the cabin filled up pretty well - once again justifying Air India’s year after year decision of keeping the Dream)liner on this route & at time of day. Given the slot constraints at Mumbai who knows when they’ll move this 787 to BOM but for now I was happy where I was at. Preflight checks happened as the pilots did their walk around, while refueling also happened.
Captain Sanjay Bharadwaj came around on the PA system about 15 minutes before departure time: and his announcement was one that was quite comprehensive. 16C being reported at CCU but it would increase significantly to around 25C, while we’d climb up to 39000 and then 41000 feet (insane for such a short flight). And while there would not be any weather phenomena, he recommended us to keep our seatbelts on. And for sure he was quite proud to be flying for AI - never have I heard any Air India front office crew refer to this as ‘The National Carrier of India’ before concluding with a jay hind at the very end.
And I wasn’t lying when I said these guys were in a hurry - we pushed back a whole 9 minutes before time while the safety video was playing - and oh boy was I excited for the start up of the GEnx-1B engines - I seem to be liking this almost as much as the monster GE90s!
Taxiing by a majority of domestic T3 were the domestic aircraft that I mentioned earlier in addition to another 787 that would later head to Amritsar. AI neo
AI B787 to ATQ - Vistara A320 parked far away from its usual parking spot at T3…
Jet Airways end of things…
Taxied on to runway 29 - with the windsock pointing the other way but with barely any wind - we started a reasonably long take off roll at 0657 hours and were airborne not too later. A quick bank towards the East followed, course set for Kolkata.
See you soon, New Delhi!
Climbing further away from the city’s atmosphere if got quite clear and a lovely orange hue set on the wing’s leading edge - a new day for many, and just another continuation of December 17th for me…. we were flying up pretty quickly.
Like many airlines in the world nowadays, Air India has also opted for prerecorded announcements once in the air: I did appreciate Air India’s participation & awareness of the Swach Bharat (Clean India) campaign requesting passengers to clean up after themselves while discarding trash to the crew, and wiping the sink in the restroom. Unfortunately more often than not the latter goes down the drain, pun unintended.
The inflight entertainment was being very tricky to use. It was barely responsive to any touch commands and if it even did - it would think for a little bit before making any movement, if at all. I feel Air India lacks significantly here - especially given that this same bird flies down to Australia - a solid 12 or 13 hour flight. Compounded by the fact that the remote was dead…even a bag of stones would’ve been more useful.
But who needed IFE anyway….after years of looking & chasing I finally had sight of the Great Himalayas just 10 minutes after take off - a sight to see even if I wasn’t quite on a Nepali turboprop!!
Once the mountains were behind us breakfast was promptly served to all passengers. No questions asked just the tray being served - vegetarian for all. I suppose this also saved plenty of time for the crew, eliminating the veg or non veg question on AI…
Upma (cooked as a thick savory porridge from dry roasted semolina or coarse rice flour), with sambhar vada (think donut dipped in curry for a very embarrassing explanation of the food) - breakfast was very well made onboard this flight. I loved it. For fruit there was just papaya and muskmelon. No complaints here whatsoever. I had some tea to go with this.
Tamarind candy, always a favorite!
Within 40 minutes of take off we were up 41000 feet. As it was so calm and smooth, with the cabin crew also having it pretty relaxed and easy it was time for a quick slumber - at least till when we were on approach. Cabin was made for a sun-rise mood with the lighting systems of the Boeing Sky Interior. Lovely. Sunrise moodlighting
Tea - loved it
Seat pocket contents:
USA! USA!! USA!!!
I’m not sure what the technical details are behind this but if sure doesn’t feel like we’re coming down when the 787 is descending - no obvious reduction of power, no obvious pitch down - taken a little aback when the altitude read 25600 feet about 1hr21min in to the flight. This had gone by pretty quickly.
Some Hollywood collection, I guess?
No way it's 0830 in the morning! :P
DESCENT & ARRIVAL
Captain came around briefing us with more information - we would be arriving 10 minutes ahead of schedule, no significant changes in weather and he thanked us again and again for choosing Air India. People: it’s what makes or breaks an airline. A job well done indeed to the crew indeed.
Aircraft type? Confirmed.
Nothing too dramatic on descent & arrival - pretty straightforward all the way through. Runway 01R for us. Very very soft landing executed at 0858 hours in what was a hazy city of Kolkata, we taxied towards our gate, gate 14, one I like to call ‘The Hybrid’ - can be used for both international & domestic flights, almost exclusively used for AI’s 2 Dream)liner services.
IFR conditions? Oh you bet.
Docking at gate 14 - beside us was the Emirates B777-300ER morning service to Dubai as EK571 and VT-SLD a SpiceJet B737-900ER that had come in from Bangkok, but was heavily delayed before heading to Bengaluru. I have discussed SpiceJet’s B737-900ER ops in Kolkata back in 2016 and 2017, and both times they were delayed. A trend?
SpiceJet B737-900ER: I haven't had the best of experiences with these unfortunately :(
Doors disarmed, all well and as well it could be. I headed out of the plane and down to the baggage claim. Thank you for a wonderful flight, ANX! She'd head back to New Delhi as AI21 an 'international' flight, before heading to Singapore as AI382.
As has always been in Kolkata (and disappointingly so) baggage took forever to arrive. More than 30 minutes since we arrived at the gate and even the priority stuff was taking time. I wonder why this happens.
Waiting waiting waiting…
And that was it! It was vacation time! A long journey with a shaky start thanks to the snow @ GFK - ended up being on time in Kolkata, and so much happened in between! Until then, ciao!
Hello Dobby boy! I've missed you!
New Delhi - DEL
Kolkata - CCU
The third time I have taken AI401 - and this was by far the best flight of the 3. Clean cabin, efficient crew, decent food - but while the IFE does not matter on such a short flight it is quite worrisome on the long hauls. I was looking forward to the return on another Air India Dream)liner….or so I thought? Delhi Airport was just fine, however Kolkata’s contents delay in getting baggage out is quite frustrating - it has always happened and I just do not seem to understand why.
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