Monday, May 26, 2014

The Dream Liner to Singapore !

The Dreamliner experience !

After landing late from Pune and docking at the domestic pier of Delhi T3 at 2200hrs, I had exactly 2:05 to transit at Delhi. A time, which is considered sufficient at Delhi. However, I was not sure how the whole thing would go and I tried making my way out as quickly as possible so that I can rush to the transfers.

To my pleasant surprise, an Air India staff was already waiting for me to help with the transfer. All other passengers in bound from Pune had Delhi as their final destination. The staff was surprised to know that I do not have the Delhi – Singapore boarding pass with me.

None the less, we followed the signage which had International Transfer written on them and reached up to the transfer desk of Air India. Just besides that was a desk set up to welcome the newly elected MPs to Delhi.

The Air India staff at the counter was very efficient and helpful, compared to their counterparts in Pune and quickly issued me a boarding card after seeing my passport and confirming that my seat is 18A.

Next Stop – Immigration, which was even quicker! There is a separate immigration area for transfer passengers, and since there was nobody else, the only officer glanced through my passport and did the needful.

This transfer area takes you further to a Security check area, which again is small but sufficient to handle the transfer volume. Quickly done with that too, I was directly into the duty free area of the international pier.

Unbelievable – how I managed a domestic to international transfer in 15-17 mins at Delhi. It indeed is shaping up as a world class airport and is showing the benefits of an integrated terminal. Also, kudos to team Air India for moving to Delhi, because this kind of transfer would not be possible in Mumbai for quite a while! T3 at New Delhi does stand out among all the airports in India and three Cheers for Team GMR for this.

The Delhi Duty Free & Food court

I have never bought anything in any Duty free across my limited travels so far, and this obviously was no exception. None the less, I looked around the stuff available, the people and their interest and also which shops are popular, just for the heck of it.
                                                              Some snaps of DEL T3

I was a little hungry and thus decided to go to level 1 and explore the food court. At this hour, which was supposedly the busy hour at Delhi, few shops were completely empty and few completely full and people queuing up. I chucked the idea of eating and headed out to see some aircraft on the tarmac.


I had made a big note of aircraft I am likely to spot at Delhi, based on my arrival and departure times.

The long list had 9W/CX/SQ/AF/HY/OD/LH/KQ/ET/OS/LX with birds ranging from the B767/A330/B777/B787/B739. Eventually, I saw very few of them. UA nonstop to EWR was at gate 1 and it was a Star Alliance Livery. ET was parked at remote bay since it was to depart much later. A couple of birds of 6E and SG were on the remote bays too.

Boarding & Flight Experience

It was gate 21 for my flight to Singapore and unfortunately this is the last gate after which there is a secondary security of AI – since it operates the non stop US flights from the gates 23-26.

This meant, I had limited view of the bird and figuring out the registration was a task. Eventually I managed to see, VT-ANM getting ready for the journey to Singapore. A quick check online reveled that it had come from HKG few hours ago.

On gate 20, opposite to our gate, flight to KIX via HKG had just closed and was ready for departure.

The boarding time mentioned on the boarding card was 2305 and the crowd was building up, without any sign of the boarding. Interestingly, the Air India staff, came around telling passengers that Delhi is a silent airport and there would not be an announcement for boarding. His genuine way of informing people, wasn't much helpful because people started asking him when boarding would start. Poor Fellow.

Soon, the crew of the flight arrived, it was already 2315. I now know why this flight departs with a small delay of 10-15 minutes every day.

Boarding began at 2335 and it was an absolutely full flight in economy. As I entered the aircraft, my first in the Dreamliner, the first impression was of a roomy & airy interiors with lot of light. But the seats are cramped, giving me a feeling that probably even the domestic A320 seats were better.

The 3 – 3 – 3 seating configuration is always disliked by me and hence I have always tried to have longer journeys on A330 or A340 irrespective of the airline preference for the comfort in the 2 – 4 – 2 configuration. Having never flown Emirates, I can only imagine, how the 3 – 4 – 3 configurations would be.

The tray table is a double folded one, which is ok, not very good. The IFE screen is wide, with USB port to its side and charger under the seat. The selection of movies, songs is impressive. Finally, Air India has a world class IFE with AVOD, something which I had seen on Singapore Airlines, way back in 2004! However, you still cannot connect your own USB and see what you have got along with you.

The aircraft was not very clean and the fancy Dreamliner windows were locked to a predetermined setting by the crew. Infact, that was the first thing that I wanted to try after settling in my seat. The blankets, pillow and head sets were already present on the seat as I boarded and the headsets were way better than the ones on domestic.

Aircraft Details
Serial No. 36284
All up weight 227930
Seating Capacity 256 + 11 Crew
Registration date 13th June 2013

Our neighbor was VT-JWP, which had arrived from HKG and would operate back to HKG. Interestingly Flightradar24 records show that it had operated as a ferry or charter back from AUH a day ago.

The distance between aerobridge and the giant engines of B787 was too close for comfort. Exactly at 0005hrs we pushed back and I saw AF, LX, LH around me. 

We taxied out to the end of runway 29 and made a powerful but silent take off westwards, with the METAR at the time reading as below

VIDP 171730Z 12003KT 3000HZ FEW040 SCT100 30/18 Q1008 NOSIG=

The route map kept showing time to destination as some absurd number and the time at destination as 11:59PM, making me think if I would make news tomorrow for flying into a wrong flight. Well, that was not the case to be, we banked left, climbed and made our way towards Singapore.

Few days ago, I had pulled out some flight data for the return flight on flightradar24 and it showed the route which we would take today.

The aircraft is silent, but I think it makes a little more noise than the A380s.

Service started much late at 0130hrs when the drinks cart rolled in. A lot of people, including my neighbor asked for Scotch. I asked for Vodka – which the crew had to search, but they did not have Sprite or 7Up, just soda or Coke, tells how much they expect the Dilliwallahs to have Scotch.

My neighbor initially said no, but when his wife went to the washroom, he called the crew and asked for one! I settled for a cup of water and decided to try Vodka on the return journey. The other option was Tiger beer. Salted peanuts came along with the drinks service.

At 0215, the food trolley rolled out and I was hungry by then but sleepy too. None the less, I could not resist myself when the crew asked Sir, Veg or Non Veg? Pat came the answer – Non Veg, and within no time, I had in front of me, a meal comprising Chicken Malai Tikka, 2 small samosa’s and 2 Veg tikki’s along with a bun and butter. The veg option had similar things except that the chicken was replaced by Paneer Malai Tikka.

The window was still centrally controlled as soon as the food trays were cleared I slept off peacefully, only to be woken up by the crew to give the immigration card, at 0430 hours in my watch, which meant we were an hour away from arrival in Singapore Changi.

We glided down for a smooth touch down on runway two zero R, and exited the active for a long taxi towards our gate. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of VT-IWB, which would have operated the BOM-MAA-SIN flight and departs at 0825hours, but could not see it around. We had docked exactly on time at 0755hours.

Quickly exited through the gate, for a long walk to immigration – which surprisingly took a lot of time. The bag was already on the belt, by the time I reached. The customs officers were around to scan each and every bag, and that process done, I was outside the terminal. I was generally surprised to see Changi Immigration taking so long, contrary to the perception and past experience.

Quickly converted my cash, bought a local number and off I went to the Changi station of MRT situation two levels below. Singapore – indeed has one of the best public transport systems, in which it continues to invest and grow the network as per need.

The stay in Singapore was fantastic, including a visit to the Boeing & Airbus Simulators - which I will cover in the next blog and visiting the bar atop Marina Bay Sands on one of the days.

The return trip – will be a single Trip Report – SIN-DEL-PNQ. But I may find time to key in one more article before that – comparing the B737 and the A320 by flying them. Yes, I went and flew the A320 Simulator and the official Boeing B737 simulator, here in Singapore and what an unbelievable experience it was !


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  2. Very realistic a true picture of the services. The photos are most appropriate. For me it was an exciting experience aboard the fact my first flight was so delightful that I was reluctant to get off the aircraft after it had landed!