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DEL-PNQ on IC849, PNQ-DEL on IC850

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Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2011 10:02 pm    Post subject: DEL-PNQ on IC849, PNQ-DEL on IC850 Reply with quote

DEL-PNQ on IC849, PNQ-DEL on IC850

...and this was to be a 2.5 day trip to the cultural capital of
Maharashtra, Pune. And I was to go through the domestic part of
T3 again!
This report is at the following URL:

My itinerary was as follows:

Set out 23 Dec (Thu) for Pune from New Delhi
IC 849: Air India (A320) [Seat: 15F; PNR: RHS4CG]
New Delhi (DEL) - Pune (PNQ)
[04:00 pm - 06:00 pm]

This time, I was running late, and I had to rush
through most parts. Hence, the excursions of discovery were
limited. There was a huge rush, as usual. Here is a view of the
Air India (IC) counters.

I had done a web check-in. The routine affair happened: the agent
at the check-in counter tore the piece of paper, and issued the
beautiful Air India cardboard boarding pass. I wonder why they
simply do not endorse the printed boarding pass. I have found
this done only twice in the last three years - once at BLR (IT),
and once at DEL (IC). Is this for the sake of uniformity alone,
in the security procedure? For the return trip, I resolved to
perform a web check-in, but not take a printout. After all, there
were no extra points on a web check-in on Air India - something
that Jet (9W) and Kingfisher (IT) have (which I must say, is
quite nice for the two, more so, the latter!).

Here is the board at the counter for my flight.

A snazzy Mercedes Benz on display, just behind the security check

An F1 car, in the Kingfisher open lounge. Or is this a scale replica?

Here is a picture of action on one side of the IC section, just
beside the Kingfisher open lounge, and the food court escalator.

A view of some of the shops at the domestic shopping area.

After the shopping area, comes the ramp, leading to a bifurcation
of the path into two - the IA/IC one, and the 9W/IT one

Our bird for the Pune flight was to be VT-ESG, with Captain
Anish Singhvi in command. From this angle, the nose front of the 320
looks a bit like a Tu-154! This is an old 320, in a hybrid colour
scheme. The reds on the fuselage have not yet appeared, nor the
orange on the tail. The engines and wing-tip fences are the old

Two ATRs of 9W, and one of IT parked on the ramp, beside the new

The toilets of T3 - irrespective of them being in the Domestic
part, or the International part, have the same nice themes to

Another long travellator!

While I was watching, two CRJ-700s (`masked bandits') of Air
India Regional (the former Alliance Air) came in almost
simultaneously, and parked beside each other.
After boarding, here is a wing view:

We were welcomed on board by a very senior stewardess, with a
very warm Namaste. The cabin crew included two young gentlemen
(who were warm and friendly), and two very senior ladies. All
were in good shape (Yours Truly has quite a belly, and always is
jealous of people who are in good physical shape.) The new Ritu
Beri sarees do not look as elegant as the old IC orange and blue
sarees, in my opinion - simple, yet classy. The plane itself
looked in good shape on the inside - a trend which is quite
striking to the eye. While the metal seat parts do show their
age, and wear-and-tear, the plastic parts were very clean, and
the fabric followed suit. This had the new Air India
red-and-ochre alternating seat covers, on top of the very old
SICMA aero seats. Air India must be taking their image seriously
now - that is a heartening sign, more so in these days of so many
exposes of neglect, and bad press. It is nice to see some
Government people taking their task seriously, and doing a good
job of it.

The loads were again quite good - Air India must be doing
something quite right now-a-days. I mostly take inter-metro
flights out of Delhi, and most of them are the convenient
business hour flights. I have seen excellent loads on most
flights that I have taken, of late. In Y (economy), I counted
only 6 empty seats. The J (business class) was a pleasant
surprise - for once, I saw 7 seats occupied. No, the occupants
did not look like non-rev'ing captains - they did look like the
propah business crowd. In the last 2 years, I have not seen the J
section patronised much, so this was a pleasant surprise. Ah, was
this the LTC-80 crowd, with people rushing to complete their
2006-2009 block year's one-year grace period, which was coming to
an end shortly? That may not be the case, as austerity measures
are still in place in many Government and semi-Government
organisations, which still have people fly Economy class alone.

The refreshment service started without much ado. There was a
small bottle of refreshing sweet lemon water (ah - this was prior
to take-off). The main course had a non-veg box, and a nice
cake. The non-veg box had a rumali roti wrap - yes, sinful white
flour (maida), used to prepare an ultra-thin wrap. The filling
had soft and well-marinated shredded chicken and capsicum, cooked
with shredded onion, and some slightly larger slices of spring
onions. Air India (IC, AI) has always had some great finesse in
the meals served on board - and this was fantastic. The
post-recession period has seen a slight reduction in the relative
quantity of food, but it is nice to see the high standards of
quality being generally maintained. The main dish was served with
a tomato sauce sachet, and a small container with a mix of
coriander, light mayonnaise, and a hint of vinegar, to give it a
lovely twang and twist.
The cake tasted fresh, was not overtly sweet, and had been sliced
into two round the middle lengthwise, with a touch of strawberry
jam applied to the join on both sides. This was very tasty! Yes,
back to the pre-recession era. The glutton in me has always
over-eaten on IC/AI flights. The quantity now is quite adequate,
so I do not have any complaints against that. I remember a time
when a cost-cutting exercise had led to the removal of the
pickle from snacks and meals, to make a whopping saving. This had
such a negative response from customers, that a few months later,
I was happy to see the little pickle container back with the
meals. Of course, there was the usual nice little bottle of cold
water, and a tea/coffee run. Travelling on an old aircraft has
its nice visual delights - the tea and coffee jugs were the old
stainless steel ones - very nicely contoured, and classy in
design. I somehow do not like the more current simplistic basic
rounded designs. The tea jugs had Tata tea bag labels sticking
out, and the coffee was a slightly different instant coffee - I
wonder which one. I remember an advertisement on IC, when the new
321s had come in - which had urged customers to partake of their
freshly-brewed coffee. This implies that there must be at least
some new aircraft with coffee brewing machines. I remember
tasting some nice coffee aboard IC403 DEL-BLR in 2007.

At around 05:24pm, I was working on my laptop when it suddenly
sensed a `Free Public WiFi' network. Wow - this is interesting!
Of course, I did not connect to it. I wonder - was this a ground
signal, or is Air India trying dry runs of WiFi on board their
planes? And that too, on an old plane? Or was it a fellow
passenger, who had created an ad-hoc network on board?
The signal strength was excellent. Does someone have any
inside information?

Captain Singvi made a very smooth touchdown at Pune's Lohegaon
airport. More often than not, I have experienced some extremely
smooth touchdowns on IC - even in some very bad weather.
It is always a very pleasant sight to see the Su-30 MKIs on the
air force side of the airport. They look wonderfully nice and
serene - more so, in the very early mornings when the first
pinkish hue appears on the horizon followed by the first rays of
the sun coming in. We landed with the Su-30s to our right. A Mil
Mi-8/17 was revving its rotors, and an An-32 was preparing to
take off into the sunset, towards the west. We had landed on
runway 28-10 (wow, another airport with the same runway
orientation!). Near the parking area, there were two Kingfisher
320s - no other civilian general aviation aircraft.
On landing, there was a very clear announcement that the Lohegaon
airport was an air force base, and photography and videography
was not permitted on the tarmac, or from inside the aircraft. On
my last Chennai trip via VTZ, again this was made crystal clear,
instead of the earlier vague announcements (if at all) about
photography and videography being prohibited at some airports (as
on Kingfisher, for instance). Air India seems to be examining
these little aspects well, something one must give them credit

The Lohegaon airport looks rather nice after the addition of two
new wings on either side. Gone are the days of the earlier old
tiny terminal. Now, the entire place looks nice and modern. I
have entered the airport from the airside in three different ways
in my last three visits. The first time (June 2009), I had
entered the old terminal building on the ground floor (the new
wing on this side was not yet ready). The second time
(September 2009), I had entered through the new terminal building
on the ground floor. This time, I entered through an aerobridge
on the first floor! The baggage came in relatively quickly, and I
was landside soon. It was a usual nice winter Pune evening!

The IC Pune flight is made by the same aircraft, which spends
about 40 minutes on the ground at Pune's Lohegaon airport. My
itinerary on the way back was as follows:

Set out 25 Dec (Sat) for New Delhi from Pune
IC 850: Air India (A320) [Seat: ; PNR: RLHMWI]
Pune (PNQ) - New Delhi (DEL)
[06:40 pm - 08:35 pm]

The flight was delayed due to late arrival of the incoming
aircraft. First, the ETD (Expected Time of Departure) was
mentioned as 07:10 pm, this was then revised to 07:30 pm, as the
aircraft had taken off from DEL only at 05:00 pm. Air India (IC)
were very prompt with their SMS information to this effect. The
first floor waiting room was not any different from what I saw on
my two previous 2009 trips, except for the fact that the lounges
were operational (I guess I had seen them operational in September
2009 itself). As I waited, a Jet Airways aircraft VT-JNL (with
Konnect titles) operating 9W102 (a mainline Jet flight) for BOM
and CCU pushed back. An IT 320 VT-DKV arrived from MAA, en route
to MAA again. The operational runway again was 28-10, with planes
taking off into the sunset. Another Kingfisher plane came in,
among some bizjets, and a small chopper. At around 06:50 pm, the
IT flight to Chennai took off on runway 10-28. At first I thought
that this was possibly due to a change in the wind
direction, but landings were taking place on 28-10, but 10-28 was
being used for take-offs.
A while later, a little cat appeared in the departure zone,
beyond the waiting area. A black-and-white cat, not a black cat.
There was some cute mewing, and some smiles from passengers
seated nearby.

Interestingly, our plane landed again on 28-10, on the dot 07:00
pm. This was an old bird in the new colours. And we got an
aerobridge! We boarded from gate 4B, which led to an aerobridge.
There is a lot of new construction over the old terminal area -
so the PNQ terminal should get better with time. VT-EPI was to be
the bird for our flight, with Captain Amit Kumar in command.
VT-EPI has the old black glare-reducer beyond the cockpit, with
the letters `PI' written there - this looked ancient. The rest of
the colours looked quite fresh. I was on seat 10F, which had some
nice legroom. This is just ahead of the first
over-wing emergency exits. A Kingfisher 321 landed just as we had
started taxiing, and a bizjet (a Reliance Industries Challenger?)
was waiting to take off. We pre-empted the latter, and had a
powerful take-off on 10-28 into the Pune night sky.
In-flight, I was to be able to open my
15inch laptop quite fully, and work, thanks to the nice legroom.
These seats are non-reclining owing to the emergency exits
behind, and thankfully the kid on the seat ahead was not
interested in reclining her seat 09F behind. When the person in
front of you reclines his/her seat, to work on a laptop in
Economy, one also has to follow suit. But thankfully, this was
not the case, and I worked for most of the time.

The loads on the flight? There were 6 out of the total 16 J
(Business) class seats occupied. In Y (Economy), I counted 9
empty seats. So the loads on this flight were quite good! The
plane was also relatively clean, but the plane on the earlier leg
was absolutely spic and span, and better. The seats covers were
the new Air India red-and-ochre, and the fabric was quite clean.

There were 6 cabin crew - a warm and friendly young lady, a
friendly senior lady, three efficient but matter-of-fact senior
ladies, and a senior and soft-spoken gentleman, who had three
stripes on his shirt. Yes, three stripes. I wonder why. The
first person mentioned above chatted cheerfully with passengers
around. The service was nice and prompt. This was a dinner
flight, and I was looking forward to it. What was on the menu?
Nicely shaped pieces of green salad (though I missed a slice of
lemon), and a choice of veg and non-veg boxes. The non-veg box
had some long and fine-grained Basmati rice, flanked by a spicy
sweet corn-and-mixed vegetable curry to the left, and a rich
malai (cream) chicken, to the right. While extremely satisfying
on the taste buds, the chicken preparation was a bit on the oily
side - perhaps understandable, given the nature of the dish I
just described. And the gravy also had cashew in it - very
sinful! The dessert was not a piece of cake (literally, not
figuratively!), but took the cake. Two slices of
Imarti/Amriti/Amruti - depending on what you call it, based on
what region of India you owe your allegiance to. They were
embellished with finely chopped pista (pistachio). Again, very
tasty, albeit very sinful! The coffee was an insipid instant
coffee - Nescafe, I guess, albeit relatively strong. The coffee
jug again was an old-styled one! The trays were cleared very
promptly by the cabin crew, possibly to allow all of us
(including the cabin crew) to get some rest, if one opted for it.
One of the senior ladies then picked up a cheerful cute young
girl in her lap, and took her all around the cabin. The little
one was hardly intent on getting some sleep - what with the cabin
lights dimmed. Both seemed to enjoy the excursion, and were seen
excitedly trying to communicate with each other. This led to lots
of smiles on both sides of the aisle.

On a very smooth landing, while taxing past the now disused T2,
suddenly dense fog enveloped us. Nothing was visible around. Here
is a pic:

The captain announced this, and we waited for a follow-me jeep to
come over, and guide us in the white carpet to the parking slot.
T3 will never cease to amaze me. Here are some nice indoor
plants, with the nice patterned carpet in the arrival part.

The mudras hall is quite iconic, and almost all passengers make a
beeline for this part, to take a few click in front of this
beautiful piece of art. Here are three shots, from various stages
of time during the escalator trip down:

More indoor plants, near the baggage claim area!

What amazed me was these short banana plants, looking nice and
healthy indoors. Bongs refer to these as the `Singapori Banana
plant' - I do not know why. Anyone with any history behind this
term, or the plants themselves?

This concluded a nice trip...

Links to my previous TRs, in reverse chronological order:

3. DEL-MAA on IC429 (A321), MAA-DEL on IC7602 (CRJ7)


1. IGI T3, AI 314 DEL-HKG and AI 311 HKG-DEL
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Location: Indian Ocean

PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2011 12:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another great IC TR Sumantra!

Regarding the wi-fi, may I know which operating system you were running, and what the logo looked like, besides the network on your Wi-fi control panel?
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Posts: 4482
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2011 7:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your kind words, Varun! I use Ubuntu 10.10 Linux on a Dell Vostro 1500 (I am severely windows-challenged, and completely ill-at-ease with it, and all applications that run on it). I did not try to connect to the network, but from the looks of it, it looked like a simple, unsecured one - none of the WAP/WPA1/WPA2 types. I did not check this out, though I wanted to! Had a fellow passenger created an ad-hoc Wireless network on the flight, why would he name it `Free Public WiFi' - that left me quite amazed. But then, if Air India were giving trial runs to a free WiFi service on board, why would they not do it on their new planes, or perhaps on frequent routes such as DEL-BOM? Why would they not advertise this, as this would be really something that the competition just does not have, and possibly, does not intend to have, either. I remember that when the 777s came in, Air India had a press release that they would try out a WiFi network on their planes - just on the lines of Etihad (if I remember correctly), who had just conducted a trial run for the same.
The mystery remains!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2011 9:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice TR there Sumantra. Crisp, clear and to d point!!.

Would be nice if AI does introduce a free wi-fi system. Did you check with the steward regarding this??

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2011 1:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

shivendrashukla wrote:
Nice TR there Sumantra. Crisp, clear and to d point!!.

Oops, Shivendra - I really do not think I deserve the accolades you have just described! My TRs have the click-click-click before take-off, and after landing, I salivate on the food usually, spending the same huge amount of time I do enjoying each morsel, and in the middle, just do dreaming about. If you are not convinced, do check out the next TR I will post - this is to Ooty, via MAA. More rubbish than aviation.

shivendrashukla wrote:

Would be nice if AI does introduce a free wi-fi system. Did you check with the steward regarding this??

Yes, I should really have done this. Or even asked the Captain. More so, when I usually lurk around the front for a few seconds more, just in case the cockpit door opens, and I get to thank the captain for a smooth landing, when such gems come about. Some cabin crew are quite knowledgeable and experienced. I guess I was far too excited just to see the Free WiFi, and take a ride in an old bird in hybrid colours - that I forgot to ask. VT-EPI on the way back did not have this, neither have I experienced this anytime else - even on International Air India flights, forget the domestic IC ones, since I usually am working on my laptop, getting some last-moment stuff done. I usually happen to glance at the WiFi button, and here was a real pleasant surprise! Shivendra, can you use some of your contacts to find out more about this?
Thanks and regards,
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