Friday, May 30, 2014

Time to Go Back Home! Singapore to Pune via Delhi on the Dreamliner

Visiting the flight simulators, being atop Marina Bay Sands, making some new friends and doing a lot of work and enjoying it too; the Singapore trip was coming to an end and it was time to head home – always a happy feeling when it’s back from a business trip.
Marina Circuit Pitlane
View from the top of Marina Bay Sands
 Just to be on the safe side. .

A day prior to my departure, I had re-confirmed my seat blocking and done a web check-in. The Air India website informed that that it can only give a confirmation of the same and not give me a boarding card. It also mentioned that I need to be at the airport 2hr30mins before the departure time.

Luckily, the previously selected seats – 12A on Singapore – Delhi sector and 13A on Delhi – Pune sector had not changed.

The Long Journey Home

The day began early at 0500hrs, and I proceeded by cab for the airport, reaching the airport around 0615hours for a 0915hrs departure. On the way I checked the status of my flight. I had been tracking it for the entire week, and it showed how the flight was more or less on time, with an average delay of 24 minutes 

It indeed is a pleasant surprise to get inside the airport without anybody asking you for the ticket and your photo identity. The airports in India have become so inefficient and the entry points have become such a big bottleneck. Some like Pune, infact have two people doing the same thing within a distance of few feet. Complete waste of manpower and it’s the same team which keeps saying that they are short of manpower. 

Check-in to Boarding

Air India flight 381 to Delhi was being checked in at island 7 and that to Chennai & Mumbai at island 8. Our check-in counters were yet to open and hence I took that time to look at the FIDS (Flight Information Display System) to check if I can see some exotic aircraft around. Not much at this time of day, so I waited for the counters to open and they did at 0635hours.

Check-in took a lot of time. This time though, my baggage was tagged all the way to Pune – obviously after collecting it at Delhi and re-depositing it, and two boarding cards issued.

I proceeded towards immigration and was stunned to see that there were about 6 lines and all of them had over 20 people in them. To keep the lines under control, the staff were directing people to get their hand baggage scanned and then come and stand in the line. 

I looked for the METAR while I awaited my turn at immigration.

WSSS 240030Z VRB02KT 8000 FEW020 BKN300 28/26 Q1011

Indicated variable winds of 2 Knots with a very good 8000 MTR visibility

The process was super slow, unlike all the previous experiences at Changi and against the reputation of Changi. The stamping on the passport was done quickly for me, and there I was in one of the top ranked airports in the world, awaiting departure. I had close to 2 hours to board.

Changi airport T2 is showing its age – its time the terminal is upgraded. The signage and boards show the multiple shops on the floor, however, there are numbers on the shop and those mapped below. Its all over the place. I compare that to Delhi T3 – which has maps similar to those in Changi with the names on the shops, color codes, done neatly.

After having a quick breakfast on the upper level, I headed back for some spotting. There were a few arrivals and a lot of departures happening around and a lot of rush all over, owing to the fact that Changi has both arrival and departures at the same level. 

  The gate for the day was E26, and I positioned myself at a such a point that I would observe the incoming aircraft docking to the gate when it would arrive at 0755hours with the operating aircraft for the day being VT-ANB.

The incoming bird landed right on time and docked at gate E26 next to a Silk Air bird. 

The gate for the day was E26, and I positioned myself at a such a point that I would observe the incoming aircraft docking to the gate when it would arrive at 0755hours with the operating aircraft for the day being VT-ANB.The incoming bird landed right on time and docked at gate E26 next to a Silk Air bird. 

 Passengers queued up near the gate, for the security which was pretty smooth. The boarding time – which was mentioned at 0815hours on the boarding card, was never followed but we started boarding at 0840hours.

The boarding was done by 0905hours and the crew had secured the cabin and closed the doors, all done pretty quickly and efficiently. Capt. J S Wasil came on PA asking the crew to arm all doors and prepare for departure. 

Experienced this quickly since the windows were not yet locked - the 5 shades of DreamLiner

Flight to Delhi and the In flight service

We pushed back at 0910hours, 05 mins ahead of schedule and did a long taxi till the end of Runway Zero Two C. The time was utilized by the crew to give a manual safety demo – which was surprising considering that generally the airlines who have inflight screens have a pre recorded demo.

We joined the active from taxiway Echo 11 and the board read – 4000 MTR of runway length available. I am very happy when the pilot utilizes the entire runway for take-off. We made a powerful but silent take-off towards the North-East and then banked left and soon entered Malaysian Airspace, going over KL, overhead the Malacca Strait, then  over the Bay of Bengal, before coming into the Indian airspace near Bhubaneshwar.

I checked if I can play songs or movies from my own USB connecting it to the port besides the screen. However, that did not work. I also tried plugging in my laptop to the port, but the electric port was not the standard one and my adaptor was in check-in baggage. I set out exploring the IFE, watching some movies and listening to songs, alternating with the map and flight position.

I was hungry, I had not had much for breakfast and was looking forward for the breakfast in flight. However, neither was there an announcement for meal nor was there a drinks service. People kept on asking for water and food, and the crew kept telling them that they would serve shortly.

After two and half hours of flying, the meal cart came out from the galley and fell! We were over Bay of Bengal, there was minor turbulence but I guess the cart brakes were not fastened properly. Luckily there was nothing on it, so except the loud noise there was nothing else that happened in flight.

Finally, the service started. I asked the crew why there was a delay in service – the ovens were not working came a prompt reply. Ideally they should have announced that and apologized, but then this is Air India. 

Sir, Veg or Non Veg? “What do you have in Non-Veg?” , Omlette. “Thanks, I will have non-veg” and the meal was placed before me. Looks like catering is done in Singapore, going by the brands which were on the meal tray, which I wasn’t expecting.

Meal service was followed by one single run of Juice and Cold Drink. I wonder why there was no drinks service for this flight. People kept asking about alcohol and the crew said nothing except offering juice or Pepsi. 

The rest of the flight was pretty much uneventful. The crew prepared the cabin for an on time arrival and we aligned for landing on Runway One One at Delhi, after some left and right turns landing smoothly at 1210hours, taking another 10 mins to taxi in and dock at the gate.

The crew tried opening the door and it did not budge, another crew joined in and after 5 attempts, the door opened. That’s the new Dreamliner for all of us!

Dilli Again!

I rushed out and headed to the immigration. The Air India staff was waiting outside to check for connecting passengers with minimal connecting time, I was not considered as one of them. Most of the immigration counters were open at this time of the day, and a steady stream of passengers were around yet there was no line. Stamping done in a minute, I headed out to baggage belt area and the baggage was to come along with the Bangkok flight which had landed one minute after us. Baggage took another 5 minutes to start rolling and I had my bags with me to head through the Green channel at Customs, where the custom officers were randomly asking passengers to screen their baggage. Me not being part of the random selection, I headed out and then to the transfers desk.

The staff at the transfer desk quickly checked if the bag is already tagged, gave out the gate number and asked me to proceed to upper level by the lift.

I proceeded to security immediately – which was quick, despite the number of flights departing on the domestic side. A quick check at my clock and the entire De-plane, Immigration – Baggage – Customs – Transfer Drop – Security was done in 22 minutes. Three Cheers for the team at Delhi T3 along with Customs and Immigration for this kind of transfer.
The rest of the time was spent in eating at the food court and then at CCD, spotting and predicting the aircraft. The rotation for the flight, as tracked was BOM-DEL-BOM-DEL-PNQ-DEL and a quick look at FlightRadar24 said that it would be VT-PPO for the day.

The gate had already changed and I made my way to gate 34A, after some spotting to see a decent load, which is a regular feature for this flight to Pune.

Delhi was reporting good weather at this time, with 5000 MTR visibility and 40 degrees temperature.
VIDP 241000Z 22004KT 5000 HZ NSC 40/11 Q1004 NOSIG=

What was also notable was how the Air India HUB at Delhi works 


Noticed that VT-ANB which flew me in this morning, was taken back to the gate. Looks like the bird got grounded after our flight.

Boarding & Flight

As the staff scanned my boarding pass, the machine beeped. I anticipated trouble, but Air India pleasantly surprised me this time over when the staff said that I am upgraded to Business Class and revised seat number is 5F. Imagine, what is the first thought – It’s a window, but on the sunny side L !

None the less, I proceeded inside the aircraft for what was a full flight in J and Y and occupied my seat. Boarding was complete by 1545 and doors closed at 1552 with a push back at 1555, 05 minutes ahead of schedule.

Capt.Gujral welcomes us on board before the crew went ahead with the manual safety demonstration as we taxied to the end of Runway Two Nine and made a powerful take off towards the west to bank left, and avoid some clouds before we joined the path back.

My initial apprehension of this being a economy service in business class, was over ruled as the crew went along with the juice service. The aircraft took a long time to stabilize and thus the service started late, which comprised of an wholesome meal followed by sweets or fruits. 

We were cruising at 38000 feet for most of the duration of our flight, and very close to the coast near Surat, before we turned left and flew in for a direct routing to Pune, landing on runway two eight at 1755hours and docking to aerobridge 02 at 1800 hours.

While we came out quickly from the aircraft, it took another 20 minutes for the baggage to come on the belt – which is such a peculiar problem at Pune for Air India.

The trip was done successfully. I would rate Air India to be a decent carrier which needs a lot of improvement on the service front and on my next trip might not take the detour and try something direct.

The aircraft I flew on this day and their details

B787-8 DreamLiner
MSN 36279
Delivered: 31st Jan 2014
Config: J18Y238

Delivered: 28th August 2009
Config: J20Y152

Thanks for reading through all the 4 parts of this Trip Report

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