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All roads lead to Chrome-pet. Chennai, Jun'14

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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 4380
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 4:34 pm    Post subject: All roads lead to Chrome-pet. Chennai, Jun'14 Reply with quote

All roads lead to Chrome-pet. Chennai, Jun'14

Once again, this trip report may be mobile-friendly, but the pictures,
may invite mo'...bile.

95.1 Introduction: a surprise Chennai trip. Plans. And Planes.

I was expecting a Chennai trip for some time, and had mentally
worked out the options I would like to take, but a very short
deadline took me aback. My work would be on a Thursday, 26 June, 2014,
in the fore-noon session. I saw my detailed planning all go hay-wire.
I had planned to make hay while the sun shone.
Make hay? And what had gone hay-wire, and gone to the wire?

Air India had a wide-body operation from Delhi as the first
flight of the day to Chennai, only on Mondays. I did not like this, one bit.
AI 439 had started off being one of the popular
Dream)liner domestic routes (the first, in fact).
I had planned for my work coming up on a Monday, so that I could have yet
another domestic wide-body experience, and perhaps, also try to
encash my upgrade voucher. Yes, I was in the Silver Edge club
again, for the second time ever. My last upgrade coupon had been
encashed on the same flight, on board a Dream)liner,
for my first-ever Dream)liner experience.
49. Silver (Edge) Lining to Dream, Meaning Business, Dec'12

I frantically asked my friend from Bhopal, Mr. J. R. R. Talking,
as to what might be my best bets. I had been disappointed to note
that the 16 June (a Monday), had seen the morning AI 439 operated by an A321.
On that day, Chennai has gone completely A321 (4 flights),
except for the Paris flight connector, AI 142. That was an A320.
Oh, it would be an old A320, I guessed, since on 04 Apr 2014 (Fri),
I had observed this flight being operated by an old double-bogeyed A320,
as I was waiting to board AI 143 to Paris.
Mr. J. R. R. Talking told me that I could not have been more mistaken.
The Monday morning AI 439/430 schedules still showed an A332.
About a fortnight before, the lovely A332 stationed at Delhi
(WA, the `Wide Aircraft' VT-IWA) had suffered a freakish damage
in a sudden storm, when a step ladder had flown into it, damaged
the port-side engine cowl, and a part of the wing, where it had got lodged in.
So, it would not be an A332 on a regular Monday run.
It would be swapped, with the run being done by a B77L,
which was the closest in terms of the capacity on Monday mornings,
for the airline. Air India had stationed two
wide-bodies at Delhi to account for the domestic Dream)liner runs,
in case a bird of the latter type went tech, an A332, and a B77L.
``Win-win for you, in both cases,'' said Mr. J. R. R. Talking,
knowing my love for the Air India A332s with their unique
lower-deck lavatory complex, and of course, my usual fervent
desire to catch a domestic wide-body flight. If it was a B77L, I
could try and use my upgrade coupon, to experience perhaps Air
India's best J class product, on the B777s.

I was also mistaken about the AI 142 Paris flight connector to Chennai.
Mr. J. R. R. Talking told me that this was always on one
of the 4 new A320's (which were the newest planes in the
narrow-body fleet, at the time of my trip, June 2014),
which then went onto TRV and then, the Gulf. 
I was a bit surprised initially, that the Bengaluru morning
flight gets the Dream)liner, while the Chennai morning flight
gets an A321 for 6 days of the week. Of course, it also dawned on
me that Air India put in more frequency into the Delhi-Chennai route,
as opposed to the Bengaluru one, circa 2014.

I tried to plan for what would be the best option for me,
given that I would be stuck with two narrow-body journeys. I had once
taken a morning flight, that got delayed in Delhi itself (though
it was the fog period then), and ended up losing face by reaching late.
Though this was mid-summer, I decided to take a Mid-Summer Night's Dream
in Chennai by coming in to Chennai in the evening,
complete my work in the morning session, and set out by an afternoon flight.

There were a few hitches in the above plan. Air India's late
evening flight would be a dinner flight, but this would get me
into Chennai quite late, which I wanted to avoid. The only flight
before that was the 05:15 pm one. For my return, I could not risk
a mid-day flight, and my next best bet was the 05:30 pm domestic
flight from Chennai.

And what hardware could I expect? It would be a dual class A319
on the outbound, and an A321 on the return. What could I look forward to?
I would have an international departure from Delhi, and an
international arrival in Chennai, a first for me, in to the then new terminal.
I was in the dark about this, but would get to see it only in the dark.

On both legs, they advertise these flights as having a snack.
On the return, before the cost-cutting, I have always had my
sappADu (hearty spread, feast), though `snack' used to
be written at the relevant place, on the booking engine.
I hoped things hadn't changed, and that I would get dinner on both legs,
to make me stand up better, on my two legs.
Was I asking for two/too much?

Mr. J. R. R. Talking pointed out that I would most probably get only a snack,
since the general rule of the thumb at that time, was that anything that
departed before 7 pm got only a snack. Dinner started post 7 pm.
I was disappointed, but still, hoped against hope.

My itinerary was for the onward trip was as follows:

Set out 25 Jun (Wed) for Chennai from New Delhi
AI 042: Air India (A319) [Seat: 6F; PNR: JLXND]
IGIA T3, New Delhi - Anna (International) Terminal, Chennai
New Delhi (DEL) - Chennai (MAA)
[05:15 pm - 08:00 pm]

95.2 Forum Round-up

As is my wont, I do a little round-up of current matters in and
around the forum: this web forum, and the WhatsApp group as well.
It had been quite a busy time, with two prominent members changing base,
at different rungs of the ladder. One had joined
Indigo at Gurgaon, and on wondering as to what his timings were.
I had hoped that their personnel utilisation would be less than
Indigo's utilisation of their planes. Another was in Kuala Lumpur, also
on a gastronomic spree. He announced to us, that he was going to try some duck.
Puns flew by my mind, related to cricket, and food.
``You didn't explain the duck experience. Why then need...too
many bouncers, trying to get people out?''
Knowing that the person in question had been in Mumbai for some time,
member TKMCE joined in, ``Did the duck have a fishy taste?''
I replied that that would be Ajit Agarkar, the cricketer who had been
christened ``Bombay Duck''. There had been a bit of a history
behind that term, since it referred to a fish preparation.
The late 1800s train from Bombay to Thane with the fresh catch, was
termed, `Bombay Daak', with the latter term meaning `mail'
(It was a mail train, which also carried mail on it). Agarkar had
got the nickname for nicking too many behind the stumps, or in
the slips, without bothering the scorers with his batting prowess.
Digressing about cricket, there was some news of impropriety by Sri
Lankan batsman Dilshan, on a Zimbabwe tour.
I wondered aloud, whether that news item gave rise to the term, `Dilscoop'?

Aviation shifted to British Airways and Bags.
The Indian cricket team was in the West Indies some time back.
Anil Kumble had been appointed the coach of the Indian team.
British Airways had misplaced his bags, and he entered St. Kitts
with his hand baggage alone. Puns flew high and low.
Bags `not out' at St. Kitts.
Bowl him over, with customer service
Putting a spin on the situation, can't send a saintly kit to St. Kitts.

On 19 Jun'16, member AM wrote on the WhatsApp forum,
``It is drizzling here in BOM.''
``It is sizzling here in DEL,'' was my answer.
A First Officer on another forum sent a picture of a nice Corendon
B73W leased by SpiceJet. As people complemented him on a nice picture,
member Shukla-ji added, `I caught her taking off'.
Never an epitome of decency, I replied,
`Shukla-ji, you caught her taking off what?''

The day before, The Wife announced late in the evening,
something that lazy husbands like Yours Truly fear, that there was little
in the house, for dinner. Now, it is perfectly fine if dutiful
husbands share the cooking duties, and I am often game to this.
The Wife would strictly disagree, pointing out that I am more of
a Pressure-cooker: I cook only under pressure.
My biggest crib is, when it comes too late in the day, and no one
is in a mood to go out for dinner, not even Yours Truly.
I have to serve as the magician (pun intended), or rather, the
same word, with an extra `g' giving company to the solitary one.
Maggi-cian, that is. Or rather, since we had ditched this
multinational brand in favour of the Patanjali ATTA noodles,
that is what it would be for us, with vegetables done in
the microwave oven, being added to the boiling broth.

The same day, we had a meet, with Shukla-ji
organising a lovely dinner, having micro-planned everything one
could possibly imagine, also taking into account everyone's
wishes and preferences. I was afraid that if I had tried it, I would
have ended up being the proverbial osteocytic impediment in the kabAb,
as it is said, in the chaste vernacular of the region.
We had a surprise visitor to Delhi, passing by...Ameya!
Jishnu was also close-by, so we all met.
Our pet motive pUjA, in the chaste vernacular,
transliterated as the worship of the tummy.
In the planning part, the auto-correct on our phones played truant.
Ameya typed in `HUDA City Centre', but what came out, was
`Budapest City Centre'. It was certainly a pest, as we were Hung(a)ry.
As Shukla-ji waited to pick Ameya and Jishnu, we reached the
venue, and started the ordering business, to speed things up.
``Seq \# 001, 002, 003,''I texted in.
The Shuklas were also waiting for the two, ``kahAn paunche?
(where have you reached?)
``The `paunch' is right here, getting out of reach, and advancing Madhya Pradesh,'' I butted in (pun un-intended).

Jishnu happened to post a picture of the meet on the WhatsApp forum,
with my huge figure occupying quite a bit of the frame.
What years of over-indulgence had caused, was pretty (not so
pretty, rather), apparent. I had sympathies pouring in. I replied,
``aap sab ke nahIn, mere mooh/pet mein ghee-shakkar'',
the ghee (clarified butter) and sugar had caused this to
my tummy, punning on a saying in the chaste vernacular, one which
states that may the utterer of the words have the wonderful
tasting combination of the above in his/her mouth, as he/she had
said nice words about the individual concerned.

There was a discussion on holding patterns, in which inadvertently,
one of us mentioned taking left turns instead of
the `right choice' (pun intended). I joined in, remarking that I
wanted to add fuel to the fire (pun intended, again), by saying
that some of us married folk may have termed the seven
perambulations as a holding pattern before the eventuality.
A picture of the old Doha airport had evoked an emotional
reaction from a member, `Miss Old Doha'.
I guess she remained single, after all.

95.3 The day of the journey

It would be a hectic day. I had a long meeting in the morning,
after which I would have to drop Junior at my parents' place, and
make a beeline for the airport, to catch the flight.
The highlight of the meeting was an argument between two
colleagues, where the initials of their names added to the fun.
``How can you ever summarise anything? Your initials are S.A.''
``You are allergic to hard work. Your initials say so. L.R.G.''
``How can I complete some joint work when you hardly pick up the phone?''
``How does it matter? You can picking on me all the time.''
``You want marks for class participation in courses. What about
the related Class conflict? This is the basic philosophy of Marx/marks!''
``You are as undecided on it, as you are on your little kid's name.
In Computer Science terms, his name is `*': it matches everything.''
``Yes, he is the star now. The trouble is, you aren't''

This time, I booked a Meru cab to drop me at the airport.
It came on the dot.
The check-in happened like a breeze.
This was an International connector, so I was in the
International section of the IGI Airport.

On display was a BMW car, with the message, `This car could be yours'.
Hmm... for me, not in this birth, at least.

There was a good-looking Volvo S60 close-by, as well.

As I explored the international part of the terminal, I did not
find any exciting action on the tarmac. Neither were there any exotic visitors.

A smart SpiceJet B73H moved by. VT-SGJ.

Here is another picture of the bird, as it moved ahead, for take-off.

There was an AI Dream)liner at the AI Engineering works, at the
Western end of the airport.

IGIA T2 had parked beside it, a white UN B762, a Canadair Challenger 600,
with the cargo traffic visible behind.
Here is the beautiful Challenger 600.

The Air Force Technical area had some interesting planes on view.
An Air India B744 was there, possibly getting prepared for a VVIP
trip abroad. There were two C-17s parked in the distance, as well.

We boarded from Gate 20A. The plane came in a bit late.
PA, the `loud' plane VT-PPA, Air India's first A321, was there
for quite some time. We were joined by CO, the `Company' plane
VT-SCO (an A319), and soon, in came our ride, SCN the `tasty'
plane, VT-SCN. 04:39 pm. We would obviously, be delayed.
The doors closed and push-back commenced at 05:30 pm.

There was a nice wingletted Jet B73H behind us, as dusk set in.

The seat-belt sign went off at 06:00 pm, when the relevant announcement
added to my disappointment. Snacks would be served.

The plane itself was moderately clean. The fabric looked tired,
and the cracks and patch-up on the plastic surfaces did not
create a good impression in my mind.
The IFE was not switched on during the flight.
How did I guess this? When I had entered the plane, I had
noticed that the PTV screens in the Business class section were
switched on, but did not have any content. The ones in the
Economy class were just not switched on. The Business class ones
were also switched off, very soon.
While I was disappointed, I did not quite expect the IFE to be
turned on, given the cost-cutting with regard to the programmes.
This trip was circa June, 2014.

Captain K. S. Dutt was in command, and Ms. Kusum was in charge of the cabin.
Captain Dutt took off from the new runway 29, and we
soon turned left after gaining a bit of altitude, over the
threshold of Dwarka. It had been a full flight in Economy, with
at least 4 out of 8 seats in the Business class being occupied,
which I observed as I was boarding the plane (I had boarded quite late).

95.4 The snack

I was on seat 06F. By the time the cart reached my seat, the
front cart had run out of the non-veg option. I guess all up
front were hard-core carnivores, since my sharp ears caught
repeated requests for `non-veg' as the cabin crew came down the aisle. felt almost like ages since I had set foot on a
domestic narrow-body plane (as opposed to regional jets/props),
specifically, a full-service carrier.
I sincerely apologise for the (lack of) quality of this image, in
case it is indeed visible. The file got corrupted on my infamous hard disk.

I was famished, and even though it was a snack, I attacked it with gusto.
Of course, I wanted to take a picture of the food, hence I opened
the main course, and the dessert, since I could well see what
the rest of the spread was. As soon as I opened the Aluminum cover,
the aroma completely enveloped my senses. No, I could not
bring it up on myself to close the lid, and proceed, in a way
decent people would. I just had to have the main course, first.
It was hot, and incredibly fresh and tasty.
The left of the box had three pieces of some incredibly soft
paneer (cottage cheese) cubes, which had been marinated
beautifully in a light combination of spices, and then grilled lightly as well.
It also came with a covering of green coriander
chuTney, which had seeped inside the three cubes.
Could things be any better?
If the paneer tikkA was divine, it had strong competition
from the veg puffs. I had to sniff it closely, to enjoy the aroma
of an incredibly fresh bake. I was aghast at the thought of my
having a sandwich on SpiceJet two days back, exactly the date
printed on the `consume by' label on it. I brushed aside all negative thoughts, and simply dug into the fresh bake with the
plastic cutlery, trying to maintain some level of decency in the
way I was trying to partake of the food. As the knife went in, a
little puff of vapour emanated from the puff. Inside were, much to my delight,
pieces of green pumpkin, cooked with tomatoes, and
a hint of potatoes as well. I doused the tray with the tomato
sauce/ketchup, which actually enhanced the flavour of the puff even more.
In what seemed like an eternity,
I took my time to finish the four pieces I had cut,
and enjoyed each morsel, each bite, and each chew.

By this time, the beverage service had started, and as usual,
I decided to wait for the coffee. Much to my delight, the coffee
came in the tall old-style contoured Indian Airlines flask.
As the senior Ms. Kusum served it to me, I knew that it would not be
the usual disappointing fare. The vapour told me that it was piping hot,
the colour told me that it was strong, and the aroma
(as usual, I poke my nose into everything: though thankfully, not into the cup),
was pleasing. Yes, it was an instant coffee, but it was quite a delight to have.
By now, I turned my attention to the rest of the items on the tray.
My curiosity got the better of me, and I opened the small
circular container, and as the reader may expect, smelt it.
Fresh coriander chuTney in curd/yogurt! I could smell and
taste (yes, I tried it as such, I just could not wait to have it
the way it is supposed to be, as an accompaniment) the freshness,
and the twang of the curd, and the light flavour of green chillies.
Before I came to my senses, I noticed that I had already finished
half of it. I opened the sandwich pack by now, and sniffed the
bread. The filling had cottage cheese and sweet corn, but the
bread gave no competition to the vegetable puff bake, in the main course.
Yes, it was not stale, but it wasn't oven-fresh, either.
I took the chuTney with the bread (yes, literally so, not
the other way 'round), and then turned my attention to the sweet.

It was orange in colour, and the aroma told me something that I did not expect.
An orange colour generally comes from a
mango- or carrot-based preparation, but here was an Air India
firnI, with an orange hue. What was the world coming to?
Had Air India tried a fusion of their divine firnI with
the gooey gravy of a gajar-kA-halwA (a carrot-based
rice-and-desiccated milk preparation)? I could not tell.
I was hungry, but frankly, I did not like Air India catering's
experiment with one of their best-kept secrets, the recipe of
their firnI, which is perhaps the best I have ever had, on
the earth, or up to some 34,000 feet above it. While I appreciate
fusion desserts (the regular reader would have noted my deep
appreciation for many masterpieces of the sweet kind, churned out
by the Air India catering department),
no, firnI is best left the way it is.

95.5 Landing at the Anna International Terminal, Chennai

It was time for us to land in Chennai. As I turned to look out of
the window, a sight unfolded before my eyes. I clicked it: the engine at night.

When Captain Dutt announced our imminent landing, one look out of
the window told me that we would make a land-side approach onto
the main runway (runway 07), over the hills (and far away!),
landing with the terminal building to our right. Captain Dutt
made a very smooth landing, and when we reduced our speed, we
made it towards the International terminal, past the only plane
in the Air Asia India fleet (circa June 2014), past an Air India
Express B738, and parked beside a SriLankan A320. Soon, an
Emirates B773/W also came in to the International terminal.

As we disembarked, I felt a bit dis-oriented, since the part from
where we had entered looked like a revamped version of the old
International terminal, which had been done up. Some parts looked
a bit new, some looked much as they always had. I guess only the
extreme end of the terminal houses the new building and the new gates,
the rest has been integrated with the old International terminal,
and done up a bit. The temperature outside was 39
degrees Celsius, and it was...humid. My gracious hosts picked me up
in an AC car, and after a hearty dinner at Adyar Ananda Bhavan on
the Southern Grand Trunk Road, dropped me at where they had
arranged accommodation for me, Rao's Residency, almost opposite
the Karaikudi Chettinadu restaurant/Adyar Ananda Bhavan/
Buhari's restaurant. Mr. All-Stare MacLean had advised me that
Hotel Gokulam Park in Ashok Nagar was a nice hotel, with some awesome food.

I had fond memories of my last trip to this part of Chennai.
I had come in on 27 Jul 2013 (Sat), and was put up at
Mahalaxmi Residency, some way down the same road, and on the same
side of the road as A2B, where I was able to meet two prominent
members of the forum, Varun Ravichandran, and Rishul Saraf.
65. Challenging Chennai Chromepet Caper, Jul'13

This time's dinner was quite exotic. iddi-appams (thin rice
cakes made with fine noodle-like rice strings) with
curry and sweetened coconut milk, and aDai dosa(i)
(a special lightly fried rice crepe pancake: dosa(i), where the
batter specifically also has powdered chick-peas/Bengal gram,
also called besan in North India), served with
avial, a delicious preparation of all seasonal vegetables,
cooked in coconut milk. It was all washed down with some nice
rasamalAI, a flattened cottage cheese ball, in a thick
sweetened milk gravy. It was a great dinner, all in all.
When I got back to Rao's Residency, I crashed on the bed.

95.6 The next morning

The next morning, I woke up to the usual confusion of being in an
unfamiliar location. It took a while for things to register in my
sleepy mind, before I resolved to get ready soon, for my work in Chennai.
I had to get ready in time, for breakfast.
My hosts took me to the Adyar Ananda Bhavan outlet again, much to my delight.
One of them is quite a foodie, and did the honours.
There was a plate of upamA khichDI. What was this, I
wondered, and how was it different from the original uppu mADu,
the traditional upamA? This he explained, was more
fluid, and had lots of seasonal vegetables as a part of the preparation.
This came with the usual coconut chuTney, and sAmbhar.
No, he was not done. Even I, with my fathomless tummy, was feeling a bit full,
but he ordered an additional pongal for the three of us.
This is rice and pulses (moong, typically) (over)cooked together,
and lightly seasoned with spices. Yes, this too went with the coconut
chuTney and sAmbhar. Would I like a beverage?
I come to Chennai, and I do not partake of the traditional Madras
filter coffee? No way. Yes, thank you.
I downed an excellent filter coffee in minutes.
Some like it hot. I am among them.

At my hosts' place, I gorged on an excellent fig burfI,
a sinful concoction of a milk and dry-fruit-based sweet, with lots
of figs inside. And filter coffee, of course, though this time,
the preparation was too sweet even for my extra-sweet tooth.
I stayed awake through the entire period.
There is nothing like a job well done.
The official lunch was excellent, but...official.
This was organised at a up-market hotel, and much to my disappointment,
had North Indian food items, as well.
It started with a mushroom soup.
I decided to go vegetarian for the meal,
expecting a grand vegetarian spread.
I enjoyed the fruits, the thayir sAdam (curd-rice), a
sweet corn-based curry, my otherwise favourite North Indian
malAI paneer (cottage cheese cooked in a cream-based gravy.
Even my host was shocked when I started off with thayir sAdam.
People usually conclude their meal with such curd-rice, which had
a generous topping of pomegranate seeds. Shame-faced, I told the
senior lady, that I usually could not hold myself, and considered
it my honourable duty, to finish off as much as I could.
A thing of duty, for this boy, forever.
The dessert had more fruits, a beetroot kheer,
bread pudding, mango souffle, an orange preserve and...four types
of ice cream, which I just had to fill my plate with, much to the
embarrassment of my hosts.
No, the embarrassment did not just stop here.
The bread pudding looked extremely enticing to me, and I advanced
towards it with the spoon kept beside it. As I picked up a
more-than-decent-sized helping, the contents of the spoon danced
about a bit, and there was the sight of Sumantra with his huge belly,
trying to balance the contents on the spoon desperately
(with his huge belly trying to act as a sort of a counter-weight).
I lost my battle with the piece, as it slithered
onto the floor with a `slop' sound. If that was not embarrassing
enough, I also paid attention to the path it had taken, as it
evaded my balancing forces, and gave in to gravity.
I realised the gravity of the situation when I noticed some white
cream marks on my dark trousers.
One should not cry over spilt milk (products), so I let it be.

95.7 Ready for the trip back

At 03:00 pm, the vehicle to drop me at the airport, was due to arrive.
I was ready in time, and we reached the
Domestic terminal (the Kamraj terminal) of the Chennai
International airport. I entered the imposing glass-and-steel structure,
got my check-in bag X-rayed, and headed over to the
Air India check-in counter. I got my preferred seat 06F.
Jubilant, I headed off to the security check, which also went
off without any ado. I was air-side in no time. I wandered the
length and breadth of the terminal, in the hope of catching some
interesting action on the tarmac. I wandered all around, from the
two ground floor gate on the right (H1 and H2), the two on the
left (H3 and H4), and scanned the terminal all the way from gate 1
on the right, to the common entrance to gates 7-10, which led
to a corridor on the older terminal building.

There was a SpiceJet Q4 VT-SUB moving around:

I have found the renovated new terminal quite nice, though many
of my friends hold a view to the contrary.

Chennai is a city of the arts. Here is a classy wire design on the walls:

A Jet Airways B738, as seen from close to a bus gate, on the ground floor:

There was a call for passengers on Air India flight AI 766 to
Calcutta, which was boarding from gate H2 on the ground floor.

We were to board from gate 4. While the terminal building looked
quite well-maintained, the air conditioning was not enough.
It made its presence felt only close to the large vents.
There was some of construction going on towards the two ends.
The new terminal has quite a few power-ports along the wall.

Another wall had some similar wire art:

An air-side view of the terminal, again:

An Air India Express B73H, always a delight to behold,
with the asymmetric tail sides.

A SpiceJet Q4 came in to land on the main runway, from the land-side end:

I had spied PPM, the `concentration' (parts-per-million)
plane VT-PPM at gate 4 for quite some time.
It had been waiting there for some time.
The check-in agent had smiled and told me quite confidently, that our flight
would be on time. We boarded a bit before time (04:55pm).
This was a re-organised A321, with only three Business class rows,
which were about half-full. Economy was near-full: I could
hardly see four or five empty seats around. A small digression.

When I got to my assigned seat, one which I had coveted, for this trip,
a sight awaited me. A sight that every aviation enthusiast hates to behold.
I saw this from a distance, as I went in past the Business class seats.
I spied a man sitting on my coveted seat on the plane.
I politely requested him to shift to his assigned seat, 05D.
He told me that 05D was a window seat. I disagreed, and as he
grudgingly got up, I showed him the signage under the hat-racks
(the cabin crew used this term instead of the usual `overhead bins').
A member of the cabin crew came in, asking if we needed any help,
since entering passengers were otherwise, held up.
This man said out aloud that it was since I wanted a change of seats.
I lost it, then.
``Sir, I did not request for a change of seats, I want to get to
my assigned seat,'' I said angrily.
The man stung back, wondering why I was getting worked up.
``You made a wrong accusation, I simply pointed that out.''
So much so for my constant quest for a window seat.

The itinerary for my return flight was as follows:

Set out 26 Jun (Thu) for New Delhi from Chennai
AI 539: Air India (A321) [Seat: 05F; PNR: JLXND]
Kamraj (Domestic) Terminal, Chennai - IGIA T3, New Delhi
Chennai (MAA) - New Delhi (DEL)
[05:30 pm - 08:05 pm]

95.8 No sappADu, but a grand snack!

Captain Pramod John was in command, with First Officer P Singh.
The senior Ms Rajita was in charge of the cabin.
We got runway 07 once again. We turned left after a while, just a
few miles from the Marina beach, and continued, keeping some
distance from the coast, for some time.
The announcement after the seat belt sign went off, said
`refreshments'. I had expected it, though I had hoped against hope.
The IFE units had not been switched on.
At the time of writing this trip report (Dec'16), Air India's
narrow-body fleet had done away with the IFE, altogether.

The gentleman sitting to my left (05E) asked a member of the
cabin crew about the state of the unit, and on being asked if
there was a chance for it to be switched on during the flight,
he hesitated a bit, and said with a smile that it was something technical.
While there was a remote chance that this was due to
the seating re-organisation, I got the distinct impression that
it was not techical, but a case of cost-cutting, since the
content and its licenses cost money.

The appetising smells around the cabin gave it away.
It was the distinct smell of chicken tikkA, skewered chicken.
My hopes had been very high the moment I had spied a Taj Madras
catering truck moving towards the plane.
Captain John gave details of the flight. We were flying at 34,000
feet above sea level, the outside temperature was -36 degrees Celcius,
and the cabin had been maintained at 24 degrees Celcius
for our comfort. He excitedly gave us the news that Air India
would be formally inducted into the world's largest airline
alliance, Star Alliance, in July. The announcement had come in a few days back.
Captain John announced the benefits a passenger could get,
from Air India joining the Alliance with 26 other member airlines.

And here, came a very pleasant surprise. The cabin crew
came around, asking if some people around had made special
choices for the food. The lady had assumed that even if people
had changed their seats, they would hopefully, not be very far
from their assigned seat numbers. The gentleman beside me had
requested for a DBML, a Diabetic meal. A quick glance at it
revealed a nice fruit bowl (with fruits suitable for diabetics),
and a brown bread coleslaw sandwich. The main course had two
green vegetable chops (harA-bharA kabAb), and as I turned
my inquisitive eyes towards the rest, the gentleman looked at me quizzically.
I quickly turned my prying eyes away.
Someone close-by had also ordered a fruit platter.
As the lady made her way up front, I salivated as I saw a tray
full of freshly-cut fruit, wrapped in cellophane packing.
Mmm....I had half a mind to ask for it myself, but desisted from doing so,
as the lady who had ordered it pointed it out to the
cabin crew member. Is this clearly the effect of the Star
Alliance membership? Earlier, most of these options were
available on the Air India booking page, but I was not able to
get through with the choices I had made - I had tried out quite a few, here.
The only way to get a special meal on Air India had
been through the travel agent, who put in the request on the booking.
It was not available, online. This was very nice, indeed!
My meal tray came in.

Non-veg of course, as usual.
I was pleased to see silver-ware being offered, instead of the
then then usual plastic cutlery.
As I opened the lid of the main course container, once again, I
could not resist myself. I had to start from the main course, itself.
It had two balls of a vegetable chop: mashed boiled vegetables in a nice
potato base, which had been delightfully dusted with some poppy seeds,
and lightly fried. There was no hint of any other spice,
and only a slight hint of salt. It was simply wonderful!
There were four large pieces of skewered chicken (the chicken tikkA),
which had been carefully marinated in a yogurt,
herb and spice gravy, braised with spices, and skewered to perfection.
It was neither over-done, nor under-cooked: it was just right.
The succulent pieces simply melted in my mouth.
Giving company to the tikkA was an interesting simple
thick coconut chuTney, in place of the usual coriander one,
in a creamy curd/yogurt base. There was a sachet of
tomato sauce/ketchup as well, both of which went very well with
the skewered chicken.
No, I did not leave even a bit of either for the coleslaw sandwich.
The coleslaw sandwich had finely shredded lettuce and carrots in
a Mayonnaise-based white coleslaw sauce. The bread (white, not
brown, though) clearly showed its Taj heritage. The aroma gave it away,
it was fresh as fresh could be! This is how breads should
be served, fresh, and almost straight from the oven. A fresh
bread makes a simple coleslaw sandwich taste out of the world.
I now attacked the dessert with gusto.
There was nothing experimental about it, it was the standard
imartI/amriti, a chick-pea flour-based fried spiral.
It was as traditional as it could get, with finely
chopped pistachios all around, in a sinful gooey sugar syrup.
It was delicious!
By now, the beverage service had also commenced, and I wondered,
if I would get lucky for the second time in two days. It was the
same route after all, and I clung on to hope.
The instant coffee again, was quite good!
I sat quite content, with the tray in front of me, which was
cleared quickly. I sat down to work.

95.9 Landing at Delhi, and usual texting session

At 07:40pm, Captain John came on the PA system again, announcing
that we were 80km away from Delhi. The temperature was 37 degrees
Celcius at Delhi. We came in on the new runway 29, and Captain
John made an incredibly smooth landing. I got up rather quickly,
and headed towards the exit in the hope of expressing my
admiration to Captain Pramod John, but that was not to be: he was
delayed in the front office with his paper-work. Transfers to
Amritsar and New York city, were announced. I noticed quite a few
passengers avail of these transfers, much to my pleasant surprise.

I have often taken a seat on the left (port) side of the
aircraft, in the vain hope of catching sight of the Qutub Minar,
but have never succeeded to date. I have never sighted the
monument from the air, a monumental mistake, you may say.

I texted details of my flight to my friends around.
I had wrongly identified our plane was VT-PPW, in place of VT-PPM.
Pat came the reply, from Mr. J. R. R. Talking, from Bhopal.
PPW was doing the DEL-COK flight as I was texting him!
I need to improve my concentration (PPM), I said, sadly.
``How many Parts-Per-Million have you consumed?'' he enquired,
knowing my fondness for volatile spirits of the evil kind.
``sAmbhar se bhI chaDhtI hai, kyA?,'' I asked him.
I had used the chaste vernacular of the region, asking him if
sAmbhar could cause one to get a high.
Yes, if you stuff yourself constantly right up to your gut, the
gas build-up will get to rather high limits, he said.
I reluctantly agreed with Mr. J. R. R. Talking, saying that he was
actually correct, since most of what I had been doing since the
previous day, had been just hogging on, and on.
rasam = gas-um, I replied, in disappointment.

Forum moderator Varun asked about the IFE, was it like Jet,
where the screen displayed the airline logo, and nothing else?
Personally, I would have been happy even had the moving map been shown.
Air India had clearly not switched on the IFE.
Star Alliance, or no Star Alliance.

Our plane VT-PPM was spotlessly clean from the inside, for a change.
I have often lamented that it was the very senior birds,
who got this treatment, especially at Delhi. At Delhi, there
seem to be people who care for these elderly birds, and ensure
that the plastic surfaces do not have even a single grime mark,
and the fabric looks and feels fresh, and clean. I have
consistently seen this on the old double-bogey A320s, and the
A332s, when they have been positioned at Delhi.
On the other hand, the four (then) new A320s, the A321s and the A319s
almost always had soiled fabric, and grime-laced plastic edges.
To see PPM in such a pristine state was a pleasant surprise.
She had stood at the terminal, at an aero-bridge since at least
03:30pm, when I had first spotted her standing there, if not from
an earlier time epoch. Mr. J. R. R. Talking immediately got back
to me, saying that this plane had come in to Chennai from Delhi
at around 12:30pm, and stayed at Chennai till around 05:30pm,
which was the time of my return flight to Delhi. The Air India
planning had this plane as a backup at Chennai for a quick hop,
in case some other aircraft went tech at Chennai, during this period.
However, why was it parked at an aero-bridge for that long?
Does Air India not have to pay for aero-bridge time?
About the aero-bridge, he said that there were hardly any
arrivals at Chennai around that time, which would warrant the
use of all aero-bridges. Plus, he reasoned, Chennai was an AAI
(Airports Authority of India) airport, not a private one under
GMR/GVK, which would have appropriate charges.

My next trip report will be on two trips, to Nagpur and Gwalior.
`Till then!
Links to my 95 trip reports:
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2016 11:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sumantra it seems you were in MAA recently. Have you noticed any activity on the newly built angled runway?
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2016 12:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sabya99 wrote:
Sumantra it seems you were in MAA recently. Have you noticed any activity on the newly built angled runway?
No Sir, this was Jun'14. June, 2014. Two-and-a-half years back. My backlog is that long. That was my last visit to Chennai.
Second, there is no `newly built angled runway' at Chennai. There have always been two (prominent) runways since quite a while. I have had the joy of taking off from the secondary runway way back in 2008. The runway has been extended over the Adyar river: the northern end. That is all.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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Location: Pune,Maharashtra

PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice to be back on the forum and read TRs

Wonderful report but the usual grudge - its too hold

Hope you find time to lap up all the TRs till your recent visit to the great city of Surat

Very nice pictures HB-IVJ has an interesting livery

super descriptions as always of the food (Orange firni halwa, can we name it ?) - both inflight and at destination

The chicken tikka meal looks very nice, but not filling. Will need two such meals !

Thank you again for the TR - It was nice reading and seeing the pics
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 7:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ameya Sir: thank you. Yes indeed, I will try to get rid of my huge backlog, of close to 60 other trips. The notes are all there, I need to get the pictures organised, and up. Thank you for your constant encouragement, and cheer!
The TikkA offering was part of a snack, and hence, the reduced quantity, as compared to the same, in a meal. However, circa 2014, this was still quite substantial, as compared to the competition!
Thanks once again, Sir. The next one will follow in the next few days.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2016 3:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sumantra, I always look forward to read your very-detailed TRs simply because they always highlight a city of India where I have never been. This time it's Madras (airport). This may be the only time someone shared interior pictures of MAA in this forum after it went thru AAI-funded renovation. As compared to MAA, people say AAI did a better job in CCU.

I was on seat 06F. By the time the cart reached my seat, the
front cart had run out of the non-veg option. I guess all up
front were hard-core carnivores, since my sharp ears caught
repeated requests for `non-veg' as the cabin crew came down the aisle.

Hilarious! But you are not the only one, trust me Very Happy

I saw this from a distance, as I went in past the Business class seats.
I spied a man sitting on my coveted seat on the plane.

This fight/argument is getting more and more ugly. People don't understand that one pays extra $ to get a coveted seat. I am seeing this happening more and more.

Food on the return leg looks yummy! Looking forward to my AI 23 in Feb'17 (part of YWG-YYZ-ZRH-DEL-CCU-DEL-FRA-YYZ-YWG).

Thanks Sumantra!
Tally Sheet:
34 Countries ||39 Aircraft types ||54 Airlines ||66 Airports
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2016 7:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Samir-da: thank you once again for the kind words. It makes it all worth it.
PAL@YWG wrote:
As compared to MAA, people say AAI did a better job in CCU.
Most of us on this forum have not failed to notice the similarities between the old MAA and CCU terminals, and the new ones as well. The CCU one was done in a classier design (Tagore's handwriting, done with missing bars in the false ceiling; and the water bodies amidst the greenery, and the slightly odd greenish glass). The only difference otherwise has been the V-shaped building at CCU, and the neat car park.

PAL@YWG wrote:
Hilarious! But you are not the only one, trust me Very Happy
AI often do a good job in pre-estimating the number of passengers with respective dietary preferences, on different flights. AI 851 DEL-PNQ, 5am-7am for instance, sees near-complete requests for vegetarian food. The complete opposite is seen on the DEL-CCU legs. Intriguingly, I Was able to get an `Oriental Vegetarian' offering on a DEL-HKG-ICN flight: Amazing!

PAL@YWG wrote:
Food on the return leg looks yummy! Looking forward to my AI 23 in Feb'17 (part of YWG-YYZ-ZRH-DEL-CCU-DEL-FRA-YYZ-YWG).
Now, THAT is a Samir-da-esque routing! Anything with a smaller number of stops at non-exotic places would not have made the cut! Do tell us more about the routing, and further, whether you will be able to spend some time in DEL.
Thank you once again, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 1:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Now, THAT is a Samir-da-esque routing! Anything with a smaller number of stops at non-exotic places would not have made the cut! Do tell us more about the routing, and further, whether you will be able to spend some time in DEL.
Thank you once again, Sumantra.

From YWG to CCU, I need at least 3 flights and that's bare minimum when there is a good fare offered by EK, QR or EY. Otherwise it's 4 or even 5 flights each way. In March'16 whole family was travelling, so I found YWG- YYZ- LHR- HEL- DEL-CCU on WS/BA/AY combo Very Happy . Upcoming trip is one flight less.

Reaching DEL from ZRH at 0045 hrs on Feb 11 and taking UK 747 at 7.20am same day. Coming back, reaching DEL by AI 23 at 2240 on 2/26 and connecting to LH761 (A388 ride Very Happy ) at 3.30am.

Thanks for asking, Sumantra!
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

PAL@YWG wrote:
From YWG to CCU, I need at least 3 flights and that's bare minimum when there is a good fare offered by EK, QR or EY. Otherwise it's 4 or even 5 flights each way. In March'16 whole family was travelling, so I found YWG- YYZ- LHR- HEL- DEL-CCU on WS/BA/AY combo Very Happy . Upcoming trip is one flight less.

Reaching DEL from ZRH at 0045 hrs on Feb 11 and taking UK 747 at 7.20am same day. Coming back, reaching DEL by AI 23 at 2240 on 2/26 and connecting to LH761 (A388 ride Very Happy ) at 3.30am.
Sir, that preculdes any hope I had of meeting you on this trip Sad
However as usual, I'll request you to put in a trip report. I always look forward to reading what you write, and click.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awesome TR sumantraji .. just love your puns ....

non veg options running out is a bigger problem than demonetization in domestic airlines!

thanks for sharing.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks a lot for your kind words, Sir! I appreciate you reading trip reports, and also posting your own, in spite of a busy schedule
avbuff wrote:
non veg options running out is a bigger problem than demonetization in domestic airlines!
Ha ha!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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