A couple of days back, I was supposed to take a Mumbai – Delhi flight, to come back to family for the holidays. Since I kind of like wide body planes and the new GVK Lounge at Terminal 2, I booked myself on AI 101 which does BOM-DEL-JFK, but is a late night flight arriving into Delhi about midnight.
However, last minute, I realised Air India was also operating a BOM-DEL flight in the afternoon on their 777s. I guess this is a plan for them to be able to clear the winter rush, as well as accommodate all the people who may get displaced from other flights due to fog. So, I looked at the price, and it was about similar to 30 days out fares on AI, and it became a no-brainer to get on this flight instead of the night flight where I would have only arriving home later than 1 am. For cancelling the old flight, as an Air India Gold Tier member, I only get charged INR 200.
I arrived at the domestic terminal (Terminal 1A), where Air India is the dominant carrier, and there were hordes of people lined up there checking in, and a massive queue at the supervisor’s desk as well for people who were on a cancelled flight. I managed to get over to a counter for business class, however, the lady on the desk was just trying to get passengers out of her face by pointing them to other queues till I reminded her that I could check-in on this queue as a higher tier member of AI. Looking at the crowd, I wanted to upgrade to business class with a voucher, but I took the bet on getting a free upgrade when the agent mentioned the flight was oversold.
I then went to the Air India Lounge to check in and get some pictures. It wasn’t the best of lounges, so I decided to head to the gate after a while, since the other lounges (Carnations, American Express or Altitude Lounge) were pretty far from the bus gates assigned to this flight.
Since none of the gates at Terminal 1 are really big enough for widebody traffic, the Air India plan was to bus the passengers to the apron of Terminal 2, after completing the boarding here. The incoming aircraft arrived at 11 AM, however it took Air India a while to get its act together. Hence, while boarding for the 12 noon flight was supposed to start at 11:15 AM, as is the usual with Air India, they postponed the flight by 30 minutes after having everyone at the gate. Boarding was moved to 11:45 as well.
Mumbai(BOM) – Delhi(DEL)
Sunday, December 21 2014
Distance flown: 708 miles
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200LR
Seat: 9A (Business)
Meal Service: Lunch
When the time to board came, the AI agents decided not to offer priority boarding, and everyone jumped on them together. I wonder why do they have a priority-boarding process if they don’t intend to offer it.
During boarding, when the boarding pass was scanned the light went red and the computer told the agent to assign me my new seat in business class. Win!
All of us on the bus, we made the 20 minute ride to Terminal 2, where I saw my plane parked and getting ready to take us over to Delhi.
However, the plane was not ready for another 20-25 minutes and we were left to wait in the bus. The last I checked, the 12:30 PM flight was still not ready to board at 12:25 PM as well. After that, the airline did not get permission to open the front door and hence, they boarded all the passengers through a ladder attached to the last gate on the plane.
I walked over to Business Class, which is called Executive Class on Air India. The boarding from the back gave me an opportunity to click a couple of pictures of the Economy class as well.
I was assigned seat 14K, in the rear section of business class. Air India’s business class in the 777-200LR is configured in a 7 across configuration, with 3 rows in the rear section and 2 rows in the front section.
Turns out there were only 6 passengers in the whole business class, so then I moved to 9A in the front section. There was ample leg space to stretch out.
While still on the ground, I was offered a choice of juice and water, and a choice of hot and cold towels. I find it pretty amusing that while most airlines manage to keep their towel service moist at best, Air India’s flight crew must be tossing a whole cup or two of water before putting the towels in the oven, because they always come out dripping in my hands (once also dripped on my clothes!)
The IFE on 9A and 9B was not working, so I requested the flight attendant to reset the IFE, but it did take them about 30 minutes to get it working. Even then, I could not load the movie collection, so I just went with some episodes of Comedy Nights with Kapil.
We finally moved from our parking bay at about 1 pm, about an hour later than the original scheduled time of the flight. Immediately after take off, the crew started to lay out the meal service.
For the first time on an Air India flight, I saw a printed menu for the flight. I could not take a picture of the full length menu however.
My options for this lunch flight were pretty nice and elaborate, however, they did make spelling mistakes on the menu card.
In a while, they brought out the whole meal on a tray, and they had quite a substantial platter on offer, with the Goan Fish Curry, Dal, Veggies and breads and rice, along with chocolates and a pastry and some crackers with cheese.
That was a substantial meal, and I had to request for a soda to go through the whole thing.
We arrived at about 3 PM into Delhi, and my bags took another 30 minutes to come on the belt, in spite of the fact that they were tagged Priority by the airline.
Overall, I do like the flights on Air India’s widebody fleet, and I hope they could have done something to run an efficient operation rather than being unapologetic about delays all the time.