- Check-in: Clipper Lounge, Terminal 2, Mumbai
- Airborne: Flight 9W228 (BOM-BRU), Jet Airways, Premiere (A332)
- Hotel Manhattan, Rotterdam
- Hotel Sheraton Brussels Airport, Brussels
- Check-in: Jet Airways Lounge, Brussels
- Airborne: Flight 9W227 (BRU-BOM), Jet Airways, Premiere (A333)
As I arrived at my gate, the familiar long boarding queues were visible. Airlines from India, in any part of the world, do not follow a systematic boarding procedure and this means everyone is crowding out the gate to get on the flight first.
Once I could find my way through the crowd on the plane, I turned left and took my first steps onto the new business class cabin of Jet Airways to head towards seat 1K.
Like I’ve mentioned earlier, Jet Airways has started to induct new Airbus 330-300 series planes since December 2012 and already has 4 out of its 5 planes delivered by March 2013. They have 10 A330-200s in the fleet, which have the herringbone configuration in business class. These planes now have the staggered seating, much like Austrian and Brussels Airlines. This allows them to squeeze in 4 more seats into business, and 69 more seats into Economy in about similar space as the A332s (the A333s are slightly bigger).
Brussels(BRU) – Mumbai(BOM)
Saturday, March 16 2013
Distance flown: 4,271 miles
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Seat: 1K (Premiere Business)
Meal Service: Lunch, Snack
While I could appreciate the reason to squeeze in more out of less, I did not like the new cabins almost immediately. Here is why, on the earlier configuration, my 22” rollerboard could easily glide down the aisle and fit into the overhead baggage compartment. The new aisles were so small that they can’t even accommodate this standard size baggage in themselves. Seeing how I was getting a crowd behind me, I had to pick up the bags and walk over to my seat.
Here are some pictures of the cabin:
Now, like you can see on the far right of the last image, the seats to the right of the first aisle are in a 1-2-1-2… configuration, or as it is called, the throne seats and the couple seats. The middle column is all 2-2-2… configuration good for families and the leftmost column are 1-1-1… ideal for the single traveller. The staff at check-in clearly is still not trained on these aspects, since when I asked them at check-in for 1A, they told me 1A was empty but 1K was better since 1A would have another seat next to it. In reality, 1A just had this huge space on both sides, and bulkhead ahead, making it perhaps the best seat in the whole cabin in terms of space.
See, the trouble with the staggered layout for me, is that no two seats are made equal. Each seat could have a totally different orientation in terms of direction, windows, legspace and a co-passenger or not. So you need to be really well-versed with the cabin to know which is your preferred seat. Here is how the seat at 1K looked for me.
Now, good seat, but I had to be bending out to take a peep at the apron all the time, and later the skies.
What immediately struck me as a personal loss, was the monitor, which went down in size from a 15” personal screen to a 12” monitor, and even that in black, not going with the colours of the cabin at all. Maybe I am just used to the fancy Jet Airways business class, but we are living in a new world, and here an airline got to squeeze every penny out of their costs. But guess what, flying the old business class and new, cost almost the same.
The bulkhead cubby for the footrest was maybe at a slight advantage over the rest of the seats, but I could not be sure since I could not see the other seats behind me for legspace.
Right after I arrived, I asked my jacket to be hung in the closet. The cabin crew must have been busy, because they asked me to do it myself. That was a real first, because its no big deal to hang a coat in a closet, but it is a big deal for me to be told by the crew that I should do it myself.
The jacket out of the way, I was seated and I was brought a pre-departure beverage, where I had apple juice and water to choose from. I went with the apple juice.
Menus were distributed shortly after and the crew took down the meal preferences before take off. Most airlines would serve you a salad and a soup, and though it was listed in that order in the menu, the flight attendant was shocked and clarified when I said I’d like the soup, then the salad and then the entree in that order. She was basically trying to tell me that I could have the soup or the salad, but that was not how it came across on the menu. The conversation ended with, “I’ll check about the salad and get it to you if we have an extra”
Jet Airways has had a European menu created by Michelin 2-star chef Yves Mattagne for since 2010. I usually end up having the Indian menu all the time, since I am down to cravings for Indian food by the time I’m done with Europe. However, this time I wanted to try out the Western Menu, so I went with the Cannelloni.
I looked outside the window, and as if on cue for St. Patricks Day, we had an Air Lingus Airbus A320 plane parked at the gate next to us, along with an assortment of tails behind it.
Back to the seat, there was a small storage compartment, which had the headphones placed inside, and a socket. I saw that as the best place to load up some of my papers and my passport so that I don’t have to look for it through the rest of the flight.
I requested for a sleeper suit, and I was given the standard explanation of how this was a day flight and hence sleeper suits were not offered. However, the cabin crew member looked up the leftover from the incoming flight and brought me an M size, which I returned with thanks since that size does not fit me.
I’d be happy with the no-sleeper suit stance if the airlines wouldn’t shut out the lights in the cabin after the meal service and almost get everyone to go to sleep. This is where I find service inconsistent between night and day flights. No amenity kits, no sleeper suits on the day flights, while the length is almost the same both ends.
We pushed back about 10 minutes later than scheduled time, due to some congestion at the airport, however, there was about no wait at all after the short delay. On my way out, I spotted the gleaming new A333 from the next gate, which was getting ready to go to Toronto for its next flight. It was a beauty!
On our climb out, you could see all the light snow I was stuck with for most of the week gone by.
Once we were at the 10,000 feet level, the seatbelt signs went off, and the crew started to set up the cabin for the first service. The winelist was the same as on the earlier flight, and I went with the Billecart-Salmon champagne yet again, although I must admit I miss the days when Dom Perignon of 2002 vintage was the norm on Jet Airways business class.
Unlike my incoming flight, however, the difference was the crew wanted to keep the glass topped off and hence I ended up having about 3 glasses instead of the one I wanted to have.
After the first round of drinks, at about an hour and fifteen minutes into the flight, the meal tables were being set up and the next big drawback of the new cabin came into play. There is just not enough space in the new tray tables to accommodate a full business class meal service. It was about the same size as the seatback tray tables in economy. So much so, that the flight attendants actually had to use the space on the armrest to put up a plate.
First, the Pistou soup was brought out. It was delicious.
It was nail-biting anxiety to see if the next portion was going to be a salad or an entree. However, the crew seemed to have given a genuine benefit of doubt to me and helped me with a salad next, followed by the Cannelloni, which was mind blowing. Trouble here was, that someone missed packing in a knife into this silverware, and I had to ask literally 6 times before someone plucked a knife out from the galley and handed it over to me. I killed the waiting time chewing on my garlic bread from the bread basket which was brought out earlier.
It took me a while to complete this, however, since I was full from my breakfast earlier, and I had to wash it down at the end with a cola.
Desserts were rolled out in the end in a cart, and had the cheese, Ras Malai, Mille-feuille and assorted fruits. I went with the Mille-feuille which was served with berries and was good.
After the meals, I felt like I had a little too much of champagne (I’ve done more, but I can’t tell you here) and decided to get some sleep. So, I pulled out the mattress padding from the overhead lockers, and made my own bed since the crew was still busy wrapping up the meal service.
The amount of leg space in the cubby was good enough for me to toss and turn while asleep, however I couldn’t be sure about how it was in another seat. The good part was, the seats still felt like the earlier seats on the herringbones, except that the space was compromised and this cabin is much more cramped than the earlier one. We were just about entering African airspace at that point of time.
I got a solid couple of hours of sleep, and I woke up again when were flying in the Arabian Gulf / Persian Gulf.
At this time, I realised it was twilight, and we were flying by the city of Doha. I could take shot (or a few!) from the plane.
I hardly knew this was just the beginning since I kept looking out of the window for a while, and the next thing I knew was we were flying over Dubai. The interesting part was I could spot the famous Palm residences there, and that was how I could place the city.
Roughly one hours and thirty minutes before landing, hot towels were given out to everyone and followed by a juice service. Right after, we were served our snack. I went with the Dahi Kachori, which arrived with a plate of fruits along. There was one more option, however, I do not remember that one. This Kachori was exceptionally good and filling.
By the time we had completed the meal, our flight had already begin descent into Mumbai and we arrived with a ten minute delay into Mumbai. It was time to drag my own bags and get out of the plane again.
The crew on the flight was very formal, and efficient once the flight went off the ground. However, that did not give them the excuse to ask me to hang my own jacket or reduce the meal.
I found the seat to be no comparison to the earlier configuration that Jet Airways offered, and I think I’ve mentioned that enough times to get the message across. That being said, they’ve managed to retain the comfortable seats however in a cramped setup.
What do you think you like better? The herringbones or these new seats. Let me know via the comments.
- Airborne: Flight 9W228 BOM-BRU on Jet Airways Premiere (A332)
- Airborne: Flight 9W228 (BOM-BRU), Jet Airways, Economy (B77W)