Saturday, September 6, 2014

New airline & new aircraft type on a domestic leg in Mexico!

It was time to go to our destination in Mexico, a place called Monterrey which is located in the northern part of the country closer to Texas. The breakfast was a challenge with me describing the omlette we got as Omlette cheese burst. The cheese burst out similar to how it does from a Dominoes Cheese burst, and this was so because the chef did not have chicken and I said no to any other meat. The morning was good, no jet lag and seeing the Interjet Sukhoi Super Jet push back, taxi and take off in front my me was like a good omen at the beginning of this trip in Mexico.

 The hotel staff informed us that we need to be at the airport a minimum 1hour&30mins prior to our flight, which meant at 1130 local time and we decided to leave hotel at 1030 for a 15-20 minute shuttle ride to Terminal 2.  Mexico City airport has two terminals, T1 which is used by all others except AeroMexico, Delta & LAN which use T2. Both of them are on opposite side of the runways.

I had done a web-check in but could not take printouts of the same at the hotel. There were ample self check-in kiosks at the entry of Terminal 2 and the process was hassle free. AeroMexico staff was all around and many of the counters were manned so baggage drop was quick as well. There were boards which clearly mentioned that we needed to be at the boarding gate 45 mins prior to departure. No wonder the hotel asked us to report early. As we made our way to hall M security, I noticed a lot of stalls in this terminal unlike in T1.
Security was slow, even when there weren't many people around. The process goes like this, put your belongings on a tray and let it pass through the scanner, if all is OK, then you pass through the metal detector and clear it, else, the whole line waits and you come out and go in a different direction. 

Interesting find - A shop named Gandhi
No issues for me and I was on the other side quickly, however the security staff was shouting something in Spanish, I am not sure if it was at me or somebody else. I said – “English English” to the security staff and suddenly his face changed and said “Welcome” to let me collect my belongings and proceed.

On the other side, I walked end to end to explore the terminal, its multiple shops and see the flights. The gate to our flight wasn't announced yet. Went to one end of the terminal and kept checking the FIDS and spotting. As we walked towards a different area, FIDS was updated with Gate 71 for our flight today and we settled near the gate around 1140. The incoming aircraft had already reached, though it was not visible due to the terminal structure. The crew from that flight came out at 1155, which indicated a long turn around for this E-190.

Boarding started at 1235 and the FIDS showed this flight at 1255 instead of 1300 as was on the ticket. The ticket also mentioned that we would have alcoholic beverages on the flight and refreshments.

Boarding was quick with occupancy very low. Just 3 of 11 seats were occupied in J and 20 of 88 in Y. Even an E145 could have operated this route but I am not complaining! The aircraft was XA-GAG, next to us was XA-GAE and the one pushed back was XA-GAF. 

The crew requested in Spanish and English to take our seats at the earliest and doors closed at 1255hours followed by a quick safety demo and push back at 1305 hours.

This was my first time on an Embraer, while India has had its share of Embraer planes in skies; I have never had a chance to be on any of them. Neither on the now defunct Paramount nor on  the newer entrant Air Costa. With boarding from aero-bridge, I hardly got to see the aircraft from close quarters but it was nice from the inside.
Larger windows, good leg space, the seats being way more comfortable as compared to the new plastic ones around. A lot of this credit also has to go to AeroMexico for having it configured this way.

The take off was smooth from runway 05R and we climbed straight up for a long time before banking left and setting course for Monterrey. Mexico City airport is full of different types of planes, from Iberia A340, Interjet SSJ, Aeromar ATRs there was a lot to see around. 

As we stabilized at FL360, service started. The magazine said it was a drinks service between 1100 and 0459 and I looked forward to having a Corona Beer. Nothing better than having the world famous Corona in the land of its birth, at 36000 feet in a Brazilian Jet !

The cart was rolled and kept between J & Y sections and the crew would walk around and ask for choice to the passenger, go back to the cart and bring whatever is requested. I found this unique! None the less, our turn came and we were handed over two packets each of peanuts and request for Corona was promptly obliged.

The passengers around opted for Coke and almost all of them kept it in their bag as soon as it was handed over to them. The cart had a large bucket full of ice, but nothing to pick up those ice cubes and the FA, thankfully did not do so by hand, but used two glasses to effectively pick up ice cubes. 

As the beer was being finished, descend started at 1350 hours and trash was collected soon. The refreshments mentioned in the tickets either never came or were peanuts – literally !

We flew parallel to Monterrey airport, banked right and landed on runway 11 smoothly. Thumbs up to AeroMexico and E-190, a new airline and a new aircraft type added to my list. AeroMexico use Terminal B and we docked to an aero-bridge and made a long walk back to the baggage claim area. The terminal, though small is roomy, well lit and has all the facilities. We booked a cab to our hotel and settled in for the day. 

As we ventured out to eat in the evening, we say heavy armed police presence on the roads and went to a Seven-Eleven nearby to not find a single veg. or chicken food. A few blocks walk on each side resulted in finding nothing and settled for the restaurant attached to the hotel, which specialized in Sandwiches, Burgers, Wings & Ribs. Unfortunately, it was more of the later and without an English menu card. 
Managed to order salad, corn cob and french fries with help from the phone translation app. The french fries were horribly hot and spicy and it was salad which saved the day for us. I intend to have a note of my experiences in Mexico posted on the blog, after I leave Mexico next weekend. 

Flight Summary
Aircraft: XA-GAG
MSN: 19000188
Embraer E-190 with Aeromexico Connect
Delivered to US Airways in 2008 and transferred to Republic Airlines in 2009. This aircraft is with AeroMexico Connect since March'14.

STD/ATD: 1300/1300
STA/ATA: 1445/1425

On-Time: 5/5
Website &Check-in: 5/5
Check-in & airport experience: 5/5 
Aircraft Cleanliness: 4/5
In-flight experience: 3/5 
Food: 2/5
Alighting & Arrival experience: 4/5 

Later, while I was discussing about this flight with the locals, I was told AeroMexico is a respected airline with good food and service and locally they hate Volaris and Interjet since they are low cost. There is considerable difference in fares between AeroMexico and the others. 

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