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Keep Climbing, with Delta Air Lines

 
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jasepl
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 6:15 pm    Post subject: Keep Climbing, with Delta Air Lines Reply with quote

Keep Climbing: Delta Air Lines


Yet another trip to Nantes. Yet another desire to not fly Air France.

Whilst AF are a perfectly good airline, I decided we still needed some more time apart; the shortish separation wasn't long enough. I still needed "to see other people" as they say, get my swerve on with others for a while.

And AF have started deploying the vile 777s to Bombay again, so that's reason enough to look elsewhere.

Given that this one was going to be a typical trip of four days in Nantes, with no stopovers and little distractions or deviations, it seemed unlikely I was going to get my wish. No way was I going to subject myself to changing airports or dealing with a two-stop journey just to get a change

But then I realised I could go on Delta instead, and the trip would be just as easy: BOM-AMS-NTE, with the European leg on AF (no getting away from AF totally, but an hour-long flight on a lovely little Embraer won't kill me). There's no harm in going back for a quickie every now and then while you're still out playing the field, is there?

It had been a while since I flew Delta last. What also helped was that they were back to using the 767s on the Bombay route, which means I was safe from the totally avoidable Northwest 330s. Nothing wrong with the planes, of course, but I was never a fan of the NW seats, which Delta haven't yet replaced.

Turns out, the whole JV thing results in a lot of options. So even if you stay with the exact same flights and routing, there is a world of possibilities resulting in a number of code and fare combinations to choose from.

What I ended up picking is something pretty remarkable, that doesn't get much attention, at least not in these parts.
  • The whole trip was ticketed on KLM stock with a KLM ticket number.
  • But the flights were operated by (in sequence) DL, AF, AF and DL.
  • And the codes were KL, DL, DL and KL.

And when I went to Delta's website and entered the PNR, the reservation was displayed correctly, but to make any changes, including seat and meal requests, there was a message stating "This reservation is managed by our partners at KLM, please click here to go to klm.com in order to manage your booking."

If you really think about it, it's more than just these three airlines that have integrated their systems so well. Brit Air, Cityhopper, CityJet, Comair, Compass Mesaba, Regional, VLM and all of the franchisee operations. Plus, to an extent, the other airlines they codeshare with. A significant achievement, by any means of measure. The SkyTeam joint venture at its finest so far. I think this is what the future of an alliance should be.

And here we have NACIL, which took forever just to get a common code between two relatively tiny airlines. And the third one – Express – is still effectively out of the loop.

Playing around with the KLM website, I found I could choose and change seats as often as I liked, starting from the time of making the reservation, right until the time the flight was closed. None of the "pay-to-choose" silliness of BA, or the "can't-choose-until-check-in" silliness of some other airlines. All of the other usual changes were possible too, even though this was a KLM website, and none of the flights in my itinerary were KLM flights.

Such integration is great in many respects, but it means I couldn't credit the miles to Jet. Even though AF, DL and KL are all Jet partners (isn't everybody?), Jet said they wouldn't give me mileage credit for codeshare flights.

I know it's the rule, but it's dumb. It's dumber than dumb.

It's dumberer, like Jet's crew members.

So I ended up having to credit Flying Blue instead. Choosing the codes that matched the operating carrier was raising the fare considerably, so I decided it wasn't worth the added expense just to get miles on Jet only to be unable to use them what I want.

Everything was booked and ticketed and 24 hours before departure, Delta sent us emails: It's time to check-in.



It was time indeed.

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Nimish
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 6:50 pm    Post subject: Re: Keep Climbing, with Delta Air Lines Reply with quote

Looking forward to the rest of the TR, I'm still a 767 novice, and look forward to more flights on that type!

jasepl wrote:
What I ended up picking is something pretty remarkable, that doesn't get much attention, at least not in these parts.
  • The whole trip was ticketed on KLM stock with a KLM ticket number.
  • But the flights were operated by (in sequence) DL, AF, AF and DL.
  • And the codes were KL, DL, DL and KL.
[/size]


This is becoming increasingly common these days, I had a similar situation some time ago as documented here: http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/viewtopic.php?p=91319#91319

On any ticket BLR-USA on *A today, i can choose to issue the ticket on LH, UA or CO stock, no major differences there, and all "behave" well with each other. Of course each has it's own PNR, and it's own view of the booking, but typically I can do things like enter the APIS data once, and it will update on all 3. What I can't do is select seats for LH on UA/ CO's website or vice versa.
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jasepl
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 6:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bombay – Amsterdam

We reached Sahar at about 22h40, in plenty of time for a 1h15 departure, to find a disgracefully enormous queue to get into the terminal. We were met with the typical Sahar combination of infrastructure constraints, disinterested guards, people sprawled out asleep on their bags in the entry walkway, clueless passengers and the airlines' (misguided, in my opinion) obsession with nasty o'clock departures.

Add to that the resolute desi penchant of stopping in our tracks for goodbyes and hugs and photos and phone conversations and rummaging through your bags, no matter where you're standing and with no consideration of anyone who might be behind you. Actually, that's not totally fair. It's not only being inconsiderate. It is also a result of the fact at we seem to be totally oblivious of the world around us. But that's material for another discussion.

Anyway, Delna managed to find some girlie who took us to the front of the queue, easily saving us a good 20 minutes. I don't know if said girlie worked at Delta or who she was, but I am grateful for her (and to Delna for spotting her)!

The Delta check-in area was nearly deserted, even though it was 2h15 before departure. I suppose everyone was still in the bloody queue outside! Delta had three premium and four economy desks open. We had only one mostly empty bag between us, and we were done in 30 seconds flat. There were a couple of other people around, including a Meenaben and Champakbhai type who were barely visible amidst their mountain of luggage. It seemed pretty certain to me at that point that it was going to be an empty flight.

The immigration queue, on the other hand, was also was massive and took ages. And just when I dared to exhale, security turned out to be an absolute zoo, with both queues snaking past the security area into the immigration hall. That took even bloody longer. Of course, the air conditioning wasn't on and things were taking even longer than they should, because of the usual smattering of clueless passengers who shouldn't be clueless because clearly they've travelled plenty.

The Delta crew walked through while we were still in the security queue, and they were followed by a couple of chokras carrying white plastic bags (like the kind you see in hotel rooms for the laundry), on which someone had written: “North West Crew”. Interesting that someone – whether it's the crew or the hotelwallahs - still refers to NWA after all this time.

When I looked up at the monitors, I saw Delta had already called boarding, even though it was only 23h45 and the departure was for 1h15. That's a bit excessive, especially when it's only a 767 which I suspected was going to be half empty anyway. Bawa was already whining about being hungry, but by the time we were done with security, it was nearly 12.45 (yes, it took that long!), so we went right to the gate where she whined some more.

Delta have a separate and clearly marked boarding lane for premium and elite passengers. This SkyPriority lane was empty and we walked right up.


Stamp check #37 completed and we were about to cross over from the terminal onto the bridge, when they stopped us because a jumbo jet of BA passengers had started arriving. So we had to wait. How perfectly ridiculous. A few minutes later, when the BA crowd slowed to a trickle, some of their stragglers were made to wait instead so that the Delta passengers could finally cross over the passage to the gate. There we were met with more Delta people asking questions, followed by a pat down and bag check. Then I realised why they call boarding so early: American paranoia's not gone anywhere.

We finally got onto the bloody plane. And just in time too, because I was about to pass out or die or something by then. I seriously felt like I had just run a full marathon through quicksand. Delna was right behind me as we were entering the plane and I heard her muttering something to herself. I didn't bother asking her what was wrong, because, knowing her, she was probably annoyed because the fluorescent of the securitywallahs jackets hurt her eye or because someone's shoes didn't match their belt or some such.

Delta's cabin was generally spotless and pleasant, if a little dull, with a definite air of slightly fading glory. Actually, glory isn't quite the accurate noun to use; I don't think there was ever anything glorious about Delta's cabins. I got to my seats and found a full sized pillow and blanket, as well as the headphones, an amenity kit and a water bottle in the seat back pockets.




The seat is much more comfortable than it looks. It is so plush that that it isn't lie-flat isn't as much of an issue as one would think. And for those like me who like to curl up when sleeping or have the legs folded when sitting this seat is better than the total lie-flats. The lie-flat seats (that Delta also have on their 77Ls and 764s) are lie-flat, of course. That also means they're a bit hard. These cradle seats, on the other hand, are so plush, you just sink into them and don't really feel the kinks and breaks.


Delta serve drinks on the ground. Alcoholic drinkies. I clearly remember BA don't do that, citing regulations or something. And I don't recall other airlines doing so either. But the Delta FAs were going around with trays of champagne, beer and orange juice and also taking orders for any other beverage one might want while still on the ground.

That's one thing about the 767s: because of the design and, consequently, the boarding door they use, all of the traffic passes through the front cabin. Which is fine, but it makes moving around and distributing the drinks / menus / newspapers a bit of a challenge at first.

Anyway, the beverages are served in real stemware, made of glass, of course. But a little while later, as we were getting ready for, I saw an FA go up to someone who hadn't finished his wine and pour it into a plastic glass instead, because the glassware had to be stowed and the cabin secured for takeoff. At the same time, why deprive a man of his drink? Good job Delta FA!

While on the ground, they also handed out menus and took dinner orders for those who wanted to eat. Said menus were in English, Hindi and Dutch. See – doesn't matter that there likely aren't very many Dutch folks flying this route. Or that those who do fly it, probably speak better English than most Americans. It is this localisation that shows that much more effort is being made and such little touches go a long way.

They also asked if you wanted to be awoken for breakfast. Most airlines have moved to a minimal option for the late night departures from India. Whilst that is perfectly good, and their alleged rationale is maximising sleep time, it doesn't work out that way in all cases. Jet, for example, have done the quick snack thing, but they've always taken for bloody ever getting the service started and even bloodier forever clearing up, all in full cabin lighting. It totally defeats the supposed purpose.

Anyway, the quickie is what I was expecting from Delta as well. Instead, they had a full dinner menu (the whole course-by-course deal), in addition to an express option (everything on a tray at once). I asked for the quick option, and no mains – only the appetiser. Since I don't like seafood, I asked for the two veggie things.



Code:
Appetisers
~ Eggplant Zaalouk
  ---  with tomato and feta cheese
~ Aloo Tuk
  ---  with tomato, cucumber and cilantro salad
~ Grilled Shrimp
  ---  with daikon slaw

Fresh Seasonal Salad
  ---  with choice of dressing

Mains
~ Indian Vegetarian Selection
  ---  with mint tikki, batata wada and paneer tikka
~ Seafood Skewer
  ---  with chicken fingers, tomato and cheese quicke
~ Indian Non-Vegetarian Selection
  ---  with shammi kebab, chicken kathi roll and taneer tikka

A selection of bread and rolls

Fruit, Dessert and Cheese
~ Carrot halwa
~ Cheese board
~ Chocolate pastry
~ Fresh fruit
~ Kesar kaju katli
~ Tart tatin

~ Delta's signature ice-cream sundae

Chai, pani, thanda, juice, daru etc


Since there are no overhead monitors in the J cabin and Delta don't deploy the IFE screens for the safety video like BA do, the safety thing was done manually by the FAs. We were deprived of the chance of seeing Deltalina wag her finger at us.

I fell asleep promptly. And was woken by a painful kick from Miss Piggy shortly after the seat belt signs were switched off: "The food's coming!"

Turns out it was time for drinkies again!

They have a decent selection of beverages, including beer, spirits, coke/fanta/etc, juice, tea and coffee. There's a full cocktail service, and they can make you most cocktails, ranging from a simple Cuba Libre, to something more elaborate such as a Pina Colada, or a Mojito or a Cosmopolitan. And the wine list isn't bad either: two reds, two whites, two dessert wines and one champagne.

I don't know what it is about flights, but I never seem to be able to demonstrate the same sort of restraint that I would ordinarily display at home. Maybe it's because I tend to leave a big part of my brain at home. So I ordered a vodka and soda (no lime no straw). Which came with mixed nuts, warm and in a porcelain ramekin. They way they should be served, not in a foil package.


I don't care about my nuts being warm. But I do like my nuts to be free of restraint!

Delta do not serve drinks from a trolley. In fact, it turned out the trolley did not make an appearance at all during the flight. The FA comes and asks you what you would like, goes and makes it and brings it back individually, on a tray.

In the middle of the drinks service, the pilot (or co-pilot; I can't distinguish) came out, settled into one of the BE seats, pulled the curtains around him and didn't emerge until after breakfast was done in the morning. Must be nice!

Then they started serving dinner. Whether you went for the full monty, or just wanted a quickie, there were no trolleys in sight; everything was brought out from the galley individually and served by hand. Even the wines were brought out in a caddy.

I got my two appetisers, and the mithai (even though I didn't want it). The butter was in a ramekin! Yes! And there was no after mint, so there was no nasty stink. Thank God.

Delna ate a lot of different things, plus my mithai. And I was too awestruck to remember to take any pictures of her meal. It is amazing she still has the ability to shock me with her appetite after all these years.


What I did definitely save room for dessert. I had to give piggy some competition, so I asked for some fruit, the tart (which was brilliant, by the way; the apples were cooked just right), and the Sunday with raspberry compote and a giant dollop of Chantilly. Yum!


As I said earlier, all self restraint gone down the toilet! My doctor's going to be extremely upset, but he doesn't need to know!

All this was accomplished quickly, and in under an hour they had basically cleared up most peoples' dishes and the lights were dimmed. Some people were still working on their dessert or beverages, but the crew managed to still do a full service, in silence, in near darkness. A perfect job.


Delta's IFE screen is rather small, compared to what much of the competition have today. On the other hand, their choice of programming is brilliant, possibly the best I have encountered on the airlines I have flown. And the responsiveness of the hardware – both the controller and the touch-screen are nearly as good as Jet's. In fact, one needn't use the controller at all, really; just do it all by touch.

At first, the map was set to English and Spanish for some reason (must be a mistake), but when I looked at it before arrival, it was in English, Hindi and Dutch.




The loo just looked weird. It was absolutely barren and the only thing in there was soap and tissue paper. That's it. And that faux wood flooring just has to go. It's perfectly ghastly.


Also, contrary to what I had expected earlier, when I peeked into the Economy cabin, I found it to be jam packed. And the Business cabin was full too, save for the two seats that the pilot had occupied. But apparently those are crew rest seats anyway, so one could say J load factor was 100%.

According to the menu, the "SkyBreak Basket, featuring a variety of sweet and savoury snacks" is available in the galleys in between meals if one gets peckish. I didn't get around to taking a look, however. I suspect it's the usual offering that one gets on many airlines these days.

I messed about with the IFE for a couple of minutes and being totally drained from the calamitous experience of the bloody awful Sahar airport, I passed right out.

One thing I most appreciate about Delta's pre-arrival breakfast service is the fact that they can manage to do the entire meal service in the dark and not wake those who don't want to be awakened (remember they asked us before departure if we wanted to be awakened). When flying many other carriers (including Air France, BA, Jet etc), this is one of their most annoying habits for me. It is inexplicable why they feel the need to blast the cabin with full lighting 90 minutes to two hours before landing to serve me an apology of a breakfast. I also think it's great that Delta have several full breakfast options on their overnight flights, unlike many others. True, many of these airlines have an arrivals lounge at their hubs, with elaborate food choices (not Jet, of course), but one doesn't always have the time or inclination to loiter after arrival.

Anyway, for breakfast too they went around individually to ask what you wanted and then they would bring it to you individually.

Code:
Breakfast
~ Choice of cereal with milk
~ Fresh fruit
~ Hot breakfast rolls
~ Yogurt

~ Smoked Gouda Cheese Omlette
  ---  with caramelised onions, potato roesti and chicken sausages
~ Torta Espagnola
  ---  with roasted tomato wedges
~ Upma
  ---  with medu wada, maigapodi uttapam, spinach masala, sambar and coconut chutney

Chai, pani, thanda, juice, daru etc


It got quite turbulent during the breakfast service, so when it was my turn, the FA asked if it was okay if she served the stew (sambar) in the foil container instead of pouring it out into the porcelain bowl. It was very hot and the plane very shaky so I could take it as it is, or wait and see if the weather improved before she could bring it out as she's supposed to. I didn't care, so foil it was.


It was an all female crew of four in the BusinessElite cabin, and they were great, the ladies. The CSD was clearly in charge and made everyone do her bidding. She even handled an obnoxious passenger rather well- to the point that a couple of people basically told her "good job with the ass". A couple of FAs from the back did come by to help out from time to time.

We landed in a dull and gloomy and rainy and depressing Amsterdam, about an hour and a quarter earlier than scheduled. Looking at the flight information screens, we saw that the Nantes flight was delayed by an hour because of the weather.


With that much more time, we decided to go through arrivals and wander about a bit. In any event, the concourses aren't really considered secure zones at Schiphol, so we would have to do security again anyway.

We did pop into the lounge quickly for a quick shower before heading landside. Of course, this is possible because they don't separate arriving and departing passengers at AMS. I also had some coffee (that tasted like dishwater) and a croissant since I hadn't eaten on the plane. The Crown Lounge we went to was massive. And had all of the typical food options and amenities.


We went through Dutch immigration, and the official actually asked Delna a couple of questions. All completely mundane and innocuous, but questions nonetheless. Unlike the bored gendarmes at French airports and borders, who barely look at your face or passport and at time don't even bother stamping your passport, remaining silent most of the time.

Turns out we were in Amsterdam just after Pride weekend, and came across this huge sign. I'm glad to see the support from officialdom!


The airport landside is pretty entertaining by itself. There are a huge number of restaurants and shops and other distractions to keep one entertained for a long time.


By the way, Amsterdam is now totally Anglicised. I mean everything is written in English, or a combination of Dutch and English. Everything. They use Dutch a lot, of course, but everything I saw was Dutch and English or English-only.

We headed back through immigration and to our gate. It was still raining, but definitely clearer than before. And thankfully, there was no further delay.

I am not a fan of the gate security, by the way. I prefer the common security procedure that most airports follow.

I didn't bother writing about the AMS-NTE flight; it was a bog standard short flight on one of Regional's Embraers.

In just over an hour we landed in the midst of a glorious Breton summer. Of the three cities we were in on that day, Bombay was wet and nasty. Amsterdam was wet and nasty and dull. But the weather in Nantes was perfect!

After arrival, the first point of order of the day, keeping in mind the Bhes was with me was to a boulangerie to stock up on pains au chocolat.

No one should be surprised.

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Jaysit
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

American carriers do two things very well - a fast meal service on late night flights, and warmed nuts in ramekins. None of the better European or even Asian carriers do that. The Gulf carriers are completely useless when it comes to abbreviated, late night services in part because their crew tend to be relatively young, too eager to please, and terrified that they have to do everything according to the book.
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jasepl
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:29 pm    Post subject: Re: Keep Climbing, with Delta Air Lines Reply with quote

Nimish wrote:
Looking forward to the rest of the TR, I'm still a 767 novice, and look forward to more flights on that type!

I think it's a great aircraft, in terms of the config that airlines end up choosing for the interior. And it's not too big, which means you don't have to spend an hour getting on or off.

Many people don't like certain planes only because they "old" - without realising that it's how the airlines kit them out and maintain the interiors that matter, not the age of the aircraft. You can have older 744s of a Cathay or Qantas that are usually immaculate and have the latest hardware, or year-old Air India 777s that are falling apart.


Nimish wrote:
This is becoming increasingly common these days...

Good to hear. When the Star carriers get their JVs going, things should get even better integrated.

Jaysit wrote:
American carriers do two things very well - a fast meal service on late night flights, and warmed nuts in ramekins. None of the better European or even Asian carriers do that. The Gulf carriers are completely useless when it comes to abbreviated, late night services in part because their crew tend to be relatively young, too eager to please, and terrified that they have to do everything according to the book.

I haven't flown the other American carriers, but DL were really fantastic in terms of the late night service. They managed to do a full service, course-by-course, very quickly and cleared up the remnants in the dark. And the cabin was silent after that, no loud giggling from the galleys.

As for the ramekins, it's not just about the nuts. Almost nothing was presented in it's original packaging. Everything was transferred to Delta's own crockery/glassware and then brought out. Doesn't matter if it was the nuts, salad dressing, beverages or the butter. I haven't seen that on any other airline that I have flown.

I'm sure there are folks who would prefer to see the original packaging, but I think eliminating other brands speaks more than quickly plonking something on your tray.

And the no trolley concept was great too.

Oh and the youngsters aren't the exclusive domain of the middle eastern airlines. Have you flown Jet recently? Ditzy, giggling schoolgirls like headless chickens. And that's when they could be bothered to remember to do their jobs.
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GuyFromBOM
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 10:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Keep Climbing, with Delta Air Lines Reply with quote

Your style of presentation and writing is commendable. As always, a very nice TR..! Very Happy

jasepl wrote:
Nimish wrote:
Looking forward to the rest of the TR, I'm still a 767 novice, and look forward to more flights on that type!

I think it's a great aircraft, in terms of the config that airlines end up choosing for the interior. And it's not too big, which means you don't have to spend an hour getting on or off.

Many people don't like certain planes only because they "old" - without realising that it's how the airlines kit them out and maintain the interiors that matter, not the age of the aircraft. You can have older 744s of a Cathay or Qantas that are usually immaculate and have the latest hardware, or year-old Air India 777s that are falling apart.


I have extensively travelled on the B767's operated by GF's subsidiary Gulf Traveller. I am yet to experience a cabin as spacious & comfortable as its 2-3-2 seating in all Y layout.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 11:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yet another classic, Jason. It is nice to read about a good experience on an American carrier - at least, in Business class. Even if one were to take one's attention away from the immaculate Queen's language and your inimitable brand of humour (which is quite a difficult job, given that I simply sit glued to the monitor reading, and re-reading your trip reports), this report has a very large number of photographs of just the right size, and perfectly acceptable quality. Classic parts of your report include the CSIA T2 entry experience (the way you describe it, I mean - not the phenomenon, which I am quite used to!), your description of the ways of your accompanying family members, the in-the-face pickings at Jet's lacunae, a nice use of boldface, the little points which you observe all around you, both positive and negative parts of the service, the detailed food description - in the lounges as well as on board, and the subtle puns. Complete, wholesome and gripping entertainment.
Do we all not look forward to the report on the return trip?
Thanks, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very well written Jasepl, this may be the first TR I am reading involving an US legacy carrier on a long-haul route originating in India where there is hardly any complain (albeit in Business class) from a seasoned traveller like you. Why they don't maintain same standard in similar routes like ORD- GRU or JFK- MEX?

Also, does DL still do BOM-AMS-MSP (or DTW), in that case the same 767 crosses the pond, I guess?
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Nimish
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 2:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow - very well written report and the pictures were the icing on the cake Smile

DL seems to have got it's product right - which is amazing! I would have thought this report would be fairly critical of the crew/ service on board DL. I definitely wish to see a report from you on CO's BOM-EWR service next Jason, to compare the service offering from these 2 American carriers in India!

The scene at MIAL is just disgusting - in terms of the queues and the long delays. Seems like MIAL's revamp was essentially pig on a lipstick, nothing's changed in reality Sad. At least at DEL T3, the queues are much smaller and move very fast due to the large amount of space allocated to both immigration and security - and the vast number of open counters at both. I was thinking of giving CO's BOM-EWR a try on my next SFO trip, but I now wonder if it's better to skip BOM and stick with DEL-EWR...

Amazing that DL managed to serve Alcohol on the ground, that's the first I've heard of this in any airline in India! I know that LH does not do that...

Quote:
the crew managed to still do a full service, in silence, in near darkness. A perfect job.


Kudos to the crew on this! Truly remarkable, and definitely an area for other carriers to improve.

I wonder if Delna has access to these reports, I'm sure she would be amused Smile?
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AKLDELNonstop
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Define Bhes and Delna
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jasepl
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2011 9:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

GuyFromBOM wrote:
I have extensively travelled on the B767's operated by GF's subsidiary Gulf Traveller. I am yet to experience a cabin as spacious & comfortable as its 2-3-2 seating in all Y layout.

That's the thing: many people are fascinated with the 777s for reasons I don't quite understand. As a passenger, give me the 767s or Airbus planes any day. The cabin is so much less cramped. On the 777s, airlines invariably end up with a middle seat in J and 9- (or, horrors, 10-) across in Y. Ugh.

One thing Airbus got right is comfort, if only as a result of fuselage width.

sumantra wrote:
Complete, wholesome and gripping entertainment.
Do we all not look forward to the report on the return trip?

Thanks. It's always these little niggling things that tend to annoy/entertain us more. Or maybe it's just me.

And the return is coming up.

PAL@YWG wrote:
Also, does DL still do BOM-AMS-MSP (or DTW), in that case the same 767 crosses the pond, I guess?


Well, that depends. They have done BOM to AMS and on to any of ATL / DTW / EWR / JFK / MSP / SEA, all on the same flight number.

They've also done BOM to CDG and on to ATL or JFK, though that's gone now.

But that doesn't mean it is always the same aircraft. Everyone disembarks in Amsterdam. On this flight, which purportedly routes BOM-AMS-EWR, they announced on arrival at AMS that there will be an aircraft change, so everyone must disembark and go to the new gate.

It's one of those ploys patented by American carriers (and stupidly copied by Air India).

By the way, anyone realise that there are four "direct" flights between Bombay and Newark every day?

Nimish wrote:
DL seems to have got it's product right - which is amazing! I would have thought this report would be fairly critical of the crew/ service on board DL.
...
The scene at MIAL is just disgusting.
...
I wonder if Delna has access to these reports, I'm sure she would be amused Smile?

Thanks. Though I have had a fantastic trip on Delta in the past, it was years ago and I initially thought that there was no way they could match up to other airlines today. I was wrong.

As for Sahar, the less said the better. It actually gets worse every time. All that noise that was made when they refurbished was basically just a result of window dressing. New shade of lipstick, same nasty old pig wallowing in its own shit.

As for Delna, it's one thing to call her names to her face. But for her to see it in writing, I don't have the balls. What she doesn't know...

AKLDELNonstop wrote:
Define Bhes and Delna

Hahah. A bhes is what Delna should be, given how much she eats. Miraculously, she hasn't turned into one. If there is any justice in the world though, that will happen.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2011 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jasepl wrote:
That's the thing: many people are fascinated with the 777s for reasons I don't quite understand. As a passenger, give me the 767s or Airbus planes any day. The cabin is so much less cramped.


The only reason for my fascination with the 777 (300ER) is the massive engines. Inside, I don't like it one bit. The Airbus is far more comfortable IMO - the difference between the 380 and the 747 is like night and day, and the 77W does not do much better than the 747 in things like noise.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh I wasn't talking about you Nimish - I had no idea which aircraft you liked and which one you didn't.

My personal preference would be:
1. 330/340/767
2. 747 (the upstairs and nose are cool; otherwise, only for nostalgia's sakes, if anything)
3. 380 (never flown it, probably too much capacity meaning a pain to get on and off, but it at least has a novelty factor)
4. 777 (boring-beyond-belief, characterless creature, designed to be stuffy)
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Amsterdam - Bombay

Our flight from Nantes to Amsterdam was at 7h00, so we told the taxiwallah to fetch us at 5h30. Of course, the evening before, I had been ordered to instruct the nearby boulangerie to have a dozen freshly-baked pains au chocolat packed and ready first thing in the morning. So we swung by the bakery to pick them up.

Delna emerged from the bakery with two extra (for the road, apparently). And, even though she wasn't fully conscious yet, Delna ate both of them on the way to the airport.

Don't get me wrong, I love baked goods. Probably my most favourite kind of food ever. But this was just disturbing.

Nantes airport at that time of the day was painless and we only had the one bag to check. We reached Amsterdam after a quick flight that I slept through.

We had two hours between fights and we decided to get some coffee. Just as we sat down, an American kid approached me. He said hello, and he looked harmless enough (early 20s, good looking, well-dressed, well-spoken) so I said hello back.

As Julia Roberts said: Big mistake. Big. Huge.

Turns out he had decided I hadn't received the Lord yet and it was time for me to be one with Jesus. Jesus!

I'll spare you the gory details, but there was all kinds of praying and saving involved. And a gift from God, apparently. I didn't even know God knew I existed.

There was a whole gang of them infesting the airport apparently. All on their way to Rwanda to bring Jesus to the poor Rwandans (what did they ever do to deserve this?).

Garbage In, Gospel Out, if you ask me. Aiy!


American Evangelists and their missions. Good grief.

Then Delna declared she was hungry. So we went to one of the nearby restaurants, and, early in the morning, Bawa ordered a burger.

What showed up was something rather anaemic. A shrivelled, relentlessly trampled turd knifed off the footpath and mournfully perched upon a withered, octogenarian bun, but only after being sadistically stripped of every last drop of carnal moisture and earthly substance.

On the other hand, the chips were really good. And my coffee went down great!

I seriously should have taken a picture. It was it looked that pitiful. Served her right for laughing at my predicament with Bible Boy.

By the time I finished laughing and we had gotten over the mutual schadenfreude, it was time to make our way to the gates. Delta had already called boarding at 8h30 (for a 10h00 departure), but we knew their game.

Oh, and we all know that Delta have a decent-sized operation at AMS. But to see their aircraft lined up at the pier is another matter altogether. They're not all visible from this angle, but I counted eight Delta tails on this side of the pier and four on the other side. That's twelve, with a few more later arrivals yet to come. One could easily think this is a scene from Atlanta.



Convenient as AMS can be, the single terminal concept for such a busy airport means the walks can be loooooooong. Not fun. I'm probably in the minority, but I prefer the CDG layout, of multiple small terminals, where you can easily get from car to plane in no time at all.


There was a queue to get into the gate area, but the SkyPriority boarding was clearly marked and controlled thankfully.

Of course, all lines led to one, so to speak, and the inescapable American paranoia reared its head again: questions, security, more questions, stickers, a few more questions and on and on and on. As usual, people were carrying too much hand baggage so that resulted in gate checks and arguments. Oh the arguments. And the whining and the pleading. All related to carry-on baggage.

Seriously, the thing that slows down the boarding procedure most is the insistence of those who insist on carrying four bags onto the plane. When they're told they can't, they start whining and begging and pleading.

There was this kid just ahead of me who had three bags. He was asked to check one. "I can't, it's got a laptop". So he was asked to check another one instead. "I can't, that's got a laptop too." The third one? "Oh no, I need all the things in that for the flight."

Mein Gott in effing Himmel!

And it's these same people who insist on dragging what should be checked baggage onto the plane. In some cases, the bags are too wide to fit down the aisle. Then these people whine and complain when they can't find an overhead bin, failing to understand that the reason the bins are already full is that about others just like them have also insisted on dragging their massive bags into the cabin.

Check the bloody thing. Or don't carry more than you weigh. Or both!

All we had to carry on was Delna's handbag – my phone and wallet went in there. And of course her box of pastries. Thankfully they didn't make any noise about carrying that on board, else there would have been a murder, no question about it.

Did I mention I wasn't a fan of the gate security at Amsterdam? I'm still not. I like it even less. Beside it being an avoidable last-minute annoyance, it also means you have to dump any liquids. Bought coffee from the shop adjacent to the gate? Too bad. Ugh.

We entered the aircraft to a similar scene as before: an immaculate – though slightly dated – cabin, pillows and blankets in seats, headsets and amenity kits in seat-back pockets, FAs going around with trays of bubbly / beer / juice.

Here's some more photos of the cabin and the seat in better lighting. Also note the size of the pillow and blanket.



And no, that's not my crotch.

Boarding seemed to be complete well before departure time, but there was no movement. Then the captain announced that we're all set to leave, but there are a few people who didn't have the right documentation to enter India, so their bags needed to be offloaded before we could go. I wonder what that was about and how they were checked-in in the first place. They possibly checked-in at some obscure airport in Alabama or something, where the agent didn't know what to check for. Who knows. Fortunately, the whole thing only resulted in a delay of five minutes from the scheduled departure time.

On this flight, BusinessElite was staffed with one female and three male crew. Who, by the way, were all queeny divas, shashaying up and down the aisles. Even the non-existent gaydar on the straightest person ever would have started making siren noises like it was operating during the Blitz and the Luftwaffe had just been spotted over Dover.

And they were a total riot! Besides doing their job brilliantly, they had the whole cabin relaxed and even a bit entertained for the duration of the flight. The crew's casualness may have brushed the line on occasion, but it never spilled over and they remained professional and very efficient at all times.

I noted just the one empty seat in J. And no pilots came to sleep on this flight.

Whilst we were waiting, American and Dutch newspapers were handed out; no Indian papers surprisingly. The absolutely retarded Indian landing cards were handed out too. They also handed out menus and took lunch orders. They even had pictures of the meals in case you were wondering what you were about to order! That's a first.

(I asked one of the FAs later and he said they always get the pictures so that they know how to plate the food. It's not typically meant for the passengers though. Apparently Atlanta and Miami – that's where the food is designed – are insistent that each order of the same dish look identical, no matter which flight it is served on. I was going to ask him if I could have a copy once the service was complete, but it totally slipped my mind. I blame it on the wine.)

Code:
Appetiser
~ Channa chaat
~ Chili lime shrimp and seared scallops
 -- with southwest vegetable salad
~ Roasted yellow pepper soup
~ Spiced chilled ratatouille with crumbled feta

Salad
~ seasonal greens with choice of dressing

Mains
~ Gemelli pasta
 -- with cheese sauce, radicchio, spinach and shiitake mushrooms
~ Lamb masala
 -- with saffron rice, dal and leek and onion medley
~ Pan-seared chicken breast in a tarragon cream sauce and grilled shallots
 -- with citrus salad, mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach with roasted garlic
~ Mixed vegetable masala
 -- with saffron rice, dal and leek and onion medley

A selection of bread and rolls

Fruit, Dessert and Cheese
~ Carrot cake
~ Chocolate cake
~ Cheese board
~ Fresh fruit
~ Miniature jalebis

~ Delta's signature ice-cream sundae, with your choice of sauces, cream and nuts

Chai, pani, thanda, juice, daru etc


After a manual safety demo, we were off. As we levelled, the drinks service started. My inability to demonstrate restraint on a plane manifested itself yet again, and I asked for a Canadian Club with ginger (don't tell anyone!). As is the Delta service style, the FA took my order, went back to the galley to fetch it and brought it out on a tray, along with a ramekin of warmed nuts. The way they should be served.


Almost as soon as I had finished the delicious forbidden whisky, he was at my side, asking if I wanted another. In the five seconds it took me to debate with myself if I should, he had taken my glass and was sashaying towards the galley to replenish my drink. He came back, handed me the glass, smiled an evil smile, and said "As if you were really going to say no!" Hahah!

It was now time for lunch.

We started with appetisers:



The second and third photo above both show the chilli lime shrimp. I took the first photo, whilst the second one I came across by chance on Google. It's a better quality photo, but the meal appearance and presentation is identical. Good consistency.

Once done, they cleared the appetiser dishes and brought out the salad.

Again, the dressing was not presented in plastic or foil packages. It was poured into a ramekin in the galley and served off a tray.

Next out were the mains.




With dinner, I had a tiny bit of the off-the-menu Prosecco first; not bad. Then a tiny bit of a Chilean cabernet; pretty good.

The three gents made the endless rounds of the cabin for the dinner service, whilst the lone woman was banished to the galley to do the prep work.

Of course the omnipresent "after mint" cannot be forgotten. This one was clearly packed by a Gujju supplier in Britain, and labelled "mukhwas". And it did not stink up the whole cabin.


I was stuffed with the food, so I chose to wait a bit for dessert. No way was I going to pass on the Sundae!

This was by far the best meal I've ever had on plane, since Jet Airways produced a spectacular Thai dinner on a MAA-BOM flight many years ago. I realise that's hardly effusive praise, add to it the way it was presented, on black or white linen, with real cutlery and the appropriate tableware made quite a difference. I also really like they way Delta conduct their service, serving straight from the galley to the table; no trolleys in sight. And certainly no unwrapping in the aisle from a cart. Presentation and delivery really make a huge difference.

After lunch was cleared up, the window shades were lowered and the lights dimmed. The cabin settled into a calm laziness, but the FAs were still going around constantly checking if anyone needed anything, replenishing drinks, taking care of stragglers.

I messed around with the IFE, watched a couple of movies, took a couple of short naps. The usual time-pass. The galley snacks were on offer, I suppose, but I didn't get around to taking a look this time either.

The FA remembered I wanted to wait a bit before dessert, and came by 30 minutes later to check if I was ready for the sundae yet. I was, and decided to change it up from the last time, and asked for the hot chocolate sauce with the sundae instead. Made that much better with a double dollop of Chantilly and strawberries. And a gaufrette.




What was I saying about self-restraint?

That was followed by coffee (with empty dessert bowl visible), and I was ready to explode.


Delna, who had already eaten much more than I had, handed me her plate so she could get the bag of pains au chocolat out of the overhead. I just shook my head and complied.

At some point, the FAs started going around with tablecloths again. They kept the cabin lights dimmed, which was a nice touch, but started on a drinks round, followed by the nasta:

Code:
Snack
 ~ Chicken cutlet
 -- with samosa, dholka and batata wada, served with mint and tamarind chutneys
~ Cold salad plate
 -- with smoked salmon and potato salad, served with breadsticks and fresh fruit
~ Fresh prepared multigrain sandwich
 -- choice of roasted chicken or vegetables
 -- with pesto sauce and provolone cheese in a baguette, served with tomato and cucumber salad
~ Lamb, onion and cheese quiche
 -- with grilled asparagus spears
~ Vegetable cutlet
 -- with samosa, dholka and batata wada, served with mint and tamarind chutneys

~ Chocolate
~ Fresh fruit

Chai, pani, thanda, juice, daru etc





Miss Piggy asked if there was any dessert left over from lunch. There was:


One of the passengers asked for tea, which was brought out on a tray, with a silver teapot, silver creamer, mug and sugar bowl.


About an hour and a half before the scheduled arrival time, whilst the cabin was still in darkness, the pilot came on the tannoy. He basically said that, wonder of wonders, we have been told that if we are ready to make a dash for landing toute de suite, we can go right ahead. If not, we're going to be stuck in holding for a while. That means, folks, your crew needs to secure the cabin for arrival now.

Everyone was taken by surprise, especially the crew. But they managed to get everything done just in the nick of time.

I mistakenly deleted the picture I took of the moving map. For the first time in my memory, the flight path did not include endless loops over Kutch or Marathwada, just a straight line to Bombay.

We landed at 22h00, a full 75 minutes before our scheduled 23h15 arrival time. Of course, this also meant that ground was unprepared and we had to wait a few minutes before being able to disembark. Whilst waiting in the galley for the doors to open, I was talking to one of the FAs who does this leg often and he said that they usually reach the Bombay area well before schedule, but always end up in holding. This was the first time he had encountered a holding-free arrival.

As soon as we landed, I called the driver. As I feared, he hadn't left home yet which meant we would probably have to wait a while until he reached the airport, even if he left immediately. We could have easily taken a taxi, but the queue for the pre-paid counter is usually very long, so a cab might not have turned out to be a much better bet. So we asked Delna's brother to come and pick us up; Shivaji Park to the airport is easily doable in 30 minutes at that time with the bridge.

Again, the immigration fool started with a dumb question: keedhar say aayaa? I was tempted to give him a smart answer, but I behaved. Thankfully that's all he asked.

Bags took about five minutes to show up. Priority was maintained however, and our bag was the fourth one to appear on the carousel. Customs was non-existent: the x-ray machines were switched off (or maybe they were all malfunctioning at once; I wouldn't be surprised) and the men in white were sitting and chatting on one side. So everyone just walked past.

As expected, the pre-paid taxi queue was enormous. But we just had to wait a few minutes before her brother reached.

Outside, Sahar was the usual chaos, which I'm sure most have experienced. But I'll get into that later.

And then exiting Sahar was another matter altogether. The disgraceful condition of the roads in the airport vicinity (I described them as kachra, keechad and khadda when returning from the last trip) was now even more disgraceful. To the point that there was no road left; just bits of tar and concrete in between craters.

Mumbai madhey aapley swagat aahey. Please bring your own lumbar support equipment and pack a few extra kilos of patience.

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Jaysit
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2011 10:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad you liked Delta, and that our US carriers can do something right - at least in premium cabins.

As far as Jesus freaks go, I just tell them very politely "Thank you, luv, but I already know Jesus. Now, have a lovely day!"
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2011 12:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for posting the return sector as well - seems like DL has a winner here! Consistent top-notch service on 2 sectors for supposedly a dowdy American legacy carrier...

Of course one thing that bothers me - what's with all the abundant caution on the F&B front - are you morbidly obese or dying or something? Surely a few Whiskies are par for the course?
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2011 1:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jason, this (the return trip report) was something worth waiting for! The pace was a bit frantic, possibly mirroring your departure. The zealous young missionary, check-in description, the cabin shots and the experience, the detailed description of the food and beverages, and of course, the Sahar description - were simply a piece of art. I will repeat Nimish's words regarding Delta - it is nice to see them doing it well. Thanks once again for your time and effort in putting this down - simply superb!
Admiringly Yours, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 27, 2011 10:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for posting another wonderful trip report.

I am really surprised at the great level of service that you received on Delta and has made me think of the American carrier in a positive light. What really impresses me is that they provided you meal service without turning on the cabin lights. One of my biggest gripe travelling long haul is that the cabin lights are turned on full blast 3 hours prior to landing and if you are sleepy it is very difficult to sleep.

767 is a great aircraft as I recently found out on my first 767 flight on ANA so will post that report shortly.

It’s also surprising to note that the missionaries were trying to proselytize you at the airport which is quite unusual place to do so. If I am caught in such situations I typically ask them questions from their own religion, and you will surprised to know that many of them don’t even know what’s mentioned in their own books. Most of them are trained just like call centre executives who only know “standard Operating Procedures” ask them a philosophical out of the box question and they will be dumfounded.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 27, 2011 10:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sri_bom wrote:
767 is a great aircraft as I recently found out on my first 767 flight on ANA so will post that report shortly.

We look forward to that!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 27, 2011 1:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very nice TR jasepl ... enjoyed it.

Good to know you had a decent experience on DL ... and I'm with you on the B767s .... they are by far the best wide body I've flown on.

As for personalised service ... does EK gets marks in your books for offering reservations in English, Hindi and Malayalam Razz

Thanks for sharing
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 28, 2011 1:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jaysit wrote:
As far as Jesus freaks go, I just tell them very politely "Thank you, luv, but I already know Jesus. Now, have a lovely day!"

Haha! I’ll have to remember that for the next time. Until now, the only God freaks I’ve really encountered are the Hare Krishna types, but they restrict themselves to handing out books (besides the singing and chanting) – no attempts at conversion.

Nimish wrote:
Thanks for posting the return sector as well - seems like DL has a winner here! Consistent top-notch service on 2 sectors for supposedly a dowdy American legacy carrier...

Of course one thing that bothers me - what's with all the abundant caution on the F&B front - are you morbidly obese or dying or something? Surely a few Whiskies are par for the course?

Delta did turn out be a winner, but more on that later.

As for your second question, it’s a long sob story, and I’ll do you the favour of sparing you from it. The short version, is that I have a growing list of foods my body won’t let me eat. That includes wheat, corn, alcohol, meat and milk. The occasional indulgence in small quantities is usually okay – and lately that indulgence has been on the plane. Whilst plane food is generally rubbish regardless of class or airline, I decided it’s easier to just go with what’s on the plane than to take my own (which I used to do).

sumantra wrote:
Jason, this (the return trip report) was something worth waiting for! … Thanks once again for your time and effort in putting this down - simply superb!
sri_bom wrote:
I am really surprised at the great level of service that you received on Delta … I typically ask them questions from their own religion

Thanks. It was indeed a great travel experience, so writing about it wasn’t difficult at all. I still need to conclude the trip report though (coming up soon).

As for the missionaries, I don’t know enough about any religion, so I best keep my mouth shut and just tell them thanks, but no thanks.

avbuff wrote:
As for personalised service ... does EK gets marks in your books for offering reservations in English, Hindi and Malayalam Razz

Of course they do! It’s these little touches that go a long way, much more than one would realise. They don’t cost that much more, if at all, and can make a world of a difference.
And if you think about it, it’s all of the foreign airlines that go the extra mile, at least in these supposedly trivial matters. Our airlines? Not so much. AI used to, with their European and Japanese FAs, but I don’t know if they do anymore.
On top of that, if a foreign airline doesn’t have a desi-speaking FA, or Indian food, or Indian movies etc, there’s a big round of whining about it. We, collectively, as a nation and people, are champs at demanding the world from the world, yet not quite returning the favour.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 28, 2011 5:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jasepl wrote:
I have a growing list of foods my body won’t let me eat. That includes wheat, corn, alcohol, meat and milk


On a lighter note, is it really worth living like this Wink? More serious note, this is shocking and horrible, daal-bhaath is good food for the soul, but you do need to feed the rest of your body as well. I feel for you here...
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 28, 2011 6:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wonderfully written TR Jasepl! You know, you have an incredibly indulging talent for writing (which can be equally offensive at times), whoever says you ought to write a book is damn correct!
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 29, 2011 12:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jasepl wrote:
Again, the immigration fool started with a dumb question: keedhar say aayaa? I was tempted to give him a smart answer, but I behaved. Thankfully that's all he asked.


'Angry Young Man'..! Twisted Evil

The return segment was nice as well. Thanks for sharing. Do keep flying high and sharing such reports with us..!
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2011 3:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice TR, impressive for DL.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jasepl wrote:
Oh I wasn't talking about you Nimish - I had no idea which aircraft you liked and which one you didn't.

My personal preference would be:
1. 330/340/767
2. 747 (the upstairs and nose are cool; otherwise, only for nostalgia's sakes, if anything)
3. 380 (never flown it, probably too much capacity meaning a pain to get on and off, but it at least has a novelty factor)
4. 777 (boring-beyond-belief, characterless creature, designed to be stuffy)


Ditto. But a 3-3-3 777 ain't that bad. Rare these days, yes.

Thanks for sharing.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2011 10:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nimish wrote:
jasepl wrote:
I have a growing list of foods my body won’t let me eat. That includes wheat, corn, alcohol, meat and milk


On a lighter note, is it really worth living like this Wink? More serious note, this is shocking and horrible, daal-bhaath is good food for the soul, but you do need to feed the rest of your body as well. I feel for you here...


It's amazing how your body can adapt. There's only one thing from the verboten list that I crave: bread! And there are only two foods that I cannot live without: pizza and bhel. Whilst pizza is banned, there's always bhel!

Besides, you do get a lot of substitutes for almost everything these day. Some are nearly as good as the real thing, others not so much. Unfortunately, most haven't found their way to India yet, but fortunately the regular trips mean I can stock up!

me111993 wrote:
Wonderfully written TR Jasepl! You know, you have an incredibly indulging talent for writing (which can be equally offensive at times), whoever says you ought to write a book is damn correct!

Thanks. Let's not hold our breaths on the book though! Haha!

GuyFromBOM wrote:
'Angry Young Man'..! Twisted Evil

Well, they insist on asking retarded questions! And that's after they insist we fill in the retarded forms!

Spiderguy252 wrote:
But a 3-3-3 777 ain't that bad.

True, though the 2 and 2 sections of the 330/340/767 make a huge difference. And in J, the 777s invariably have a middle seat - big no-no!
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jasepl
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So it's about time I conclude this. And I will, by writing something about the best and worst things about this trip.


The Best: Delta Air Lines



Delta I suppose are often painted with the same brush of negativity that all American carriers are. And I'm sure it's not always unwarranted. But they seem to have seriously upped their game, especially in the past few years. Without adding too many new aircraft or making any vast changes in kit or hardware, they have managed to deliver a suberb premium travel experience, with a great emphasis on the soft product, service delivery and on the crew.

Seat
I've said a few things about the seat already, that it is extremely comfortable and plush and almost preferable to the lie-flat option of other airlines (and Delta too, on some of their aircraft). Given a choice, I would pick the cradle seat to a lie-flat for most flights, unless it's one of those ultra long flights; then I think 18 hours in a cradle seat might get a bit too much.

But since I don't see myself on one of those endless flights ever, I, for one, will miss the cradle seats.

Still, Delta are replacing their seats and making other changes / upgrades across their fleet. Given the size of their fleet, however, it takes time. In the meantime, they provide you statistics on completion of retrofits for seats, IFE, WiFi etc:

http://www.delta.com/traveling_checkin/inflight_services/products/progress.jsp

And speaking of providing the statistics, for individual flights, the availability of amenities is shown when looking up schedules or making bookings. Hover over the little diagrams next to the flight number and the details will show up:



IFE
The IFE screen is small (tiny compared to Jet, for example). But the choice of programming is surprisingly large. Delta on Demand offers:
  • 35 Movies
  • 100+ TV shows
  • 30 HBO options (including TV shows, movies, documentaries etc)
  • 20 live TV channels (when overflying North America)
  • Over 4,000 songs
  • Maps and games and crap

http://entertainment.delta.com/on_demand/


Service Style
Once again, Delta clean bowled every single airline when it came to keeping the galley noise down and keeping the cabin lights off for as long as possible. This cannot be appreciated enough.

The fact that they do not use trolleys at all is great. I wish other airlines would adapt such a practise.


Branding
I do like the branding path they have taken: Almost nothing comes in its original packaging, but is delivered to the customer as a Delta product, their own brand, as it were.

Whether Mr Kraft made the salad dressing or Mrs Heinz did, I'll never know, because I got it in a ramekin that said Delta. The amenity kit said Delta too (not Molton Brown or Bulgari etc, which have become as commonplace as vada-pao).


Passengers
The passenger composition – something I always pay attention to for an unknown reason – was interesting. The J cabin was about 50/50 desi and phoren, which is similar to what I observed on BA. Other airlines I have flown recently – AF, CX and LX had mostly all phoren passengers in the front cabins.

And of the 50% desi crowd on the Delta flights, nearly all seemed to be of the American variety. It's funny how one can spot the ABCD / DCBA types from a mile away. Doesn't matter what the person is wearing and if they keep their mouths shut, just one glance and the game is up.


Cabin
The cabin was cool - bordering on cold - all the time. A welcome change from most others, where the temperature is just a degree or two above ideal and BA, where I was actually sweating.

There's a myth that they keep it slightly on the warmer side because that makes people sleepier. And the quicker / more people sleep, the easier it is on the FAs.

Also, I always think back to the pictures I've seen and descriptions I've read of the newer Asian airlines, and just don't see what the fascination is. Here was firsthand proof that you don't need to be ostentatious to provide a stellar travel experience (at least to the premium customer).


Flight duration
About both flights being early, Delta pad their schedules so much, it's ridiculous. Eg: AMS-BOM on Delta has a block time of 9h40, whilst FRA-BOM on LH is blocked at 8h00. And Amsterdam isn't that much farther than Frankfurt from Bombay. Hell, London's even farther than AMS, and BA have a block time of 8h50 on BOM-LHR. In the winter schedule, Delta push it to a belief-defying 10 hours plus.

So their flights almost always show up as being on time or arriving early.

Makes you wonder though, all this additional time and the fact they call boarding so early must mean they hog up gate space. How do airports charge for gate usage? For example, BOM has a chronic shortage during the nasty hours and of Delta's plane is sitting there for three hours, I hope they are charged more.


Customer Service
The day after each flight, I got an email from Delta, asking "Please tell us how we did?". It was several questions, primarily focused on the on-ground experience, with emphasis on boarding. My kind of attitude: work on reducing the pain of the ground experience and you win me over!


And here's something else: Remember Delna muttering to herself when we were boarding at Bombay? She thought the securitywallah was needlessly rude (or maybe he was just uncouth, as these folks tend to be). I wasn't aware of this, but turns out during the flight she casually asked an FA if the securitywallahs were Delta employees or contracted, because they could do with some politeness training. That was the end of their conversation.

Next thing you know, I get an email from Delta (because my contact information was in the reservation), apologising for "your recent poor experience" and including a $300 "Electronic Transportation Credit Voucher" for use on a future Delta flight.

The FA must have taken it upon herself to inform whoever it is in Atlanta that a customer had something negative to say, and customer relations just shot off the apology and voucher.

Now that's what I call customer service.

I'm not going to launch into any long whines or compares with other airlines about their customer service, but only point out one recent incident. Remember I brought up my friend's flight where Jet's clueless children were too busy gossiping to bother securing the cabin for landing? When he brought that to Jet's attention, he was basically told by Jet Airways "You're lying. Now eff off."

And speaking of Jet, given their recent communiqués to customers, this ad of Delta's is very appropriate:

Jet Airways, learn something.


I am also upset. Very upset. Extremely, terribly, upset. Because Bawa just casually mentioned something and she got all this attention.

But whenever I complain (which is very rare, but still) I get palmed off to some 22-year old Assistant-Something who is to customer relations what Mayawati is to haute couture. What the eff?


The Crew
Honestly, Delta's greatest asset are their employees. It is clear they take pride in their company, and that shows through (this pride business seems to be an American feel-good thing, but it works).

It's hard to believe the brilliant crew I had were the same folk who used to staff the Northwest flights not to long ago, and could make Mother Theresa seem like Catherine de Medici.

Of all the airlines I have flown, I have decided Delta's crew are the best by a considerable margin. They were competent, energetic, warm and welcoming. The no-trolley style meant they have to work that much harder. It also meant they were on their toes constantly, scurrying (or mincing, depending on which of the two flights we're talking about) up and down the aisles and providing a service that had both heart and soul.

In addition so many little things they say and do:
* "Can I get you anything else?"
* " I hope you enjoyed your meal."
* "Did you enjoy your flight?"
* "Come back and see us now."
* "We really appreciate you choosing Delta."


One cannot underestimate the difference such seemingly trivial things make when looking back on the overall experience.

Give me thirtysomethings (or even fiftysomethings) who're sure of themselves over the fem-bots or the kowtowing geisha girls or the hordes of giggling airheaded tweens any day of the week. And twice at week-ends.


Overall
I have had a couple of brilliant flights on Delta in the past, but generally they've been just about average. In recent times, however, Delta have definitely made some serious improvements, in both their hard and soft products, as well as service delivery. Especially given the general all-around bashing that all American carriers get, regardless.

I suppose, as Julia Roberts also said (in the same movie), "The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?".

Nothing jumps right at you and makes you go oooh. On many other airlines, there are several wow factors that register almost immediately: the seat or the FA's skirts or the cabin bling or what not. Not so much on Delta.

But, as the flight went on, it crept up on me that I was actually enjoying the Delta experience. Especially on the return, because it was a day flight and I was mostly awake.

This is a horrible analogy I know, but it's like when one person does something in your pants, whilst the other does something in your heart (hands up if you had to reach for the air sickness bag). You soon realise which one's going to last.

(I just reached for the sickness bag myself after writing that.)

There are several airlines that excel in many individual things, but somehow never manage to get it all together. Again, all the bling in the world can only take you so far; you must have your basics down first.

Whilst no single aspect of their product will be winning any award anytime soon, Delta have put together a solid product, the pieces of which all come together to create an extremely agreeable whole.


Count me in as a Delta fan.

*************

The Worst (of the Worst): Sahar Airport

What to say about this dump? No matter how much lipstick has been slapped onto swine-like Sahar, it remains a miasma.

Besides being chronically overcrowded, it is damp, dingy and unclean and one needs to navigate an obstacle course to get in and out. Both in terms of the crowd and mess in the immediate vicinity of the terminal, as well as the approach roads (which no longer exist).

Of course, to add to the delight, there are no less than thirteen (yes, thirteen: one-three!) checks of some document or stamp or something.

It is seriously out of control:
  1. Airport entry (ticket and passport)
  2. Airline check-in area (ticket and passport)
  3. Check-in desk (passport and visa)
  4. Entry to immigration area (boarding pass and departure card)
  5. Immigration (boarding pass, departure card, passport and visa)
  6. Right after immigration, within sight of the immigration desk (boarding pass and passport)
  7. In the security check queue, by the customs desks, right around the point the queue splits for males / females (boarding pass)
  8. Security check (boarding pass)
  9. Right after security check within sight of the x-ray / pat-down wallahs (boarding pass, baggage tag)
  10. At the gate podium (boarding pass, passport)
  11. Immediately after check #10 (baggage tag)
  12. On the gate (passport, boarding pass, baggage tag)
  13. On the plane (boarding pass)


There could be more, if you go to the lounge or if you're flying Jet Airways and invariably end up at a remote stand (which means one or two more check at the bus entrance and the foot of the stairs). And if you're unlucky enough to be driving up the departures ramp when the pandus have momentarily stopped scratching their balls, you might be stopped for some pointless check and questioning.

Not to mention the things I already talked about: the disgracefully long queues for security and immigration on the outbound and the chaos of the pick-up area after arriving. As well as the roads around the airport.

Sahar's only saving grace is that the terminal is relatively small.


Why on earth airlines – especially desi ones – insist on doing midnight arrivals and departures is beyond me. We must be the only country where none of the local airlines offer flights at decent hours. And I suspect it is because (a) they're chasing after some fantasy fifth-freedom phoren market and (b) that's how it was always done (by the foreign airlines), so they're aping that.

I see no reason why our airlines cannot have mid-morning departures from India (and, consequently, early morning arrivals). That way, the local market gets flights at civilised times and the domestic connections work in both directions.

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sumantra
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No, I am not a Jumping Jack.
No, I am not someone who has to jump out-of-the-box (no pun
intended) when you, or anyone else posts a trip report, in case I
find it to my tastes.
I had been left wondering as to what Jason has to say, when he
announced that he wants to conclude this trip report. After all,
he has arrived in his `favourite' airport, in his home-town,
Bombay. What more can he have to say?
I must say that I looked at the screen sceptically, when I found
a new addition to the thread. I started reading, and...
read, and re-read it twice over.

So, what stood out?
A superb summary, in your own in-imitable style.
The Mr. Kraft and Mrs. Heinz part, the `houter-couter'
comparison, the check-count - all make for a very wholesome read.

Did anything else stand out?
No, this sounds quite a bit hair-splitting, but I notice that our
in-house grammar expert has one-and-a-half typographical errors
in this report - something quite unbecoming of a person whom the
Almighty has blessed with an incredible command over the Queen's
Language. `practise', and spelling the name the way it
should be pronounced, `Bulgari', rather than written, `Bvlgari'.
Of course, this is often also written the way you have written
it, `Bulgari'.

Did anything in the facts stand out?
Yes, some things which I have experienced, and possibly refer to
three points.

First, I have, do, and will perhaps always travel in the
moo-bleat class for the simple twin reasons of my official
position (or rather, the lack of it - for official travel), and
matters of the pocket (for personal trips) will perhaps never
permit anything better. Some of the Delta features you found
wonderful, I will never experience, as I steadfastly refuse to
swipe my credit card, under the PTV of the seat in front of me.
What is complimentary for Business class, or for Economy class on
long-haul flights, is not complimentary, otherwise. I last
experienced Delta in the US domestic skies in December 2008, and
found the experience nothing to write home about. Or write in any
forum, for that matter, or simply, hold it with myself, till I
debuted in this forum. Standard US airlines fare - Buy-on-Board
(which I steadfastly refuse to do), the over-hyped `signature
cookies', some orange juice, and non-complimentary PTV programmes
(which again, were nothing too interesting for me to even
contemplate touching my wallet). Coming to think of it, the
choice of programmes (as on the website) is too America-oriented,
but then, does one expect it to cater to anything but their
primary clientele? Accidentally Orient-oriented? No. Occidental?
But of course.

Second, Delta being responsive to complaints? This is news to me.
Of course, this is the new Delta, so what if effectively
Northwest bought over Delta - as the rumour mills say.
Let me rewind to 2005. I was flying trans-continental on
Northwest. BWI-DTW-SAN, and vice versa. I tried to check in using
my Jet Privilege membership number. The system refused to accept
it - something their website used to mention then. On asking the
agent, I was told sarcastically that they did not accept anything
from `some airline called Jet Airways'.
The same happened on my return trip - this
time, I showed the lady the Northwest in-flight magazine, which
had listed Jet Airways as a partner airline, and requested for my
Jet Privilege number to be put in. I was rudely told that the
magazine had got it wrong.
No, just that did not put me off.
Nor did the fact that the seats were completely worn out, torn,
and dirty - there was even some dirt on the floor beside where I
was seated, on the Boeing 757-200. This was worse than any Indian
airline would have.
On the return trip, I had fallen asleep on the red-eye flight from
SAN, and missed the beverage service. There being two elderly
ladies beside me (I was on my favourite window seat), I did not
want to disturb their sleep. Repeated calls on the call button
did not elicit any response. I just wanted some water - and I got
it only when I landed in DTW, in the terminal. I complained
bitterly - to both Northwest, as well as Jet. Northwest sent a
robotic email to me, offering me a royal sum of $25 which I could
avail of in my next trip on Northwest, but within the next year.
Did I avail of it? Would anyone?
Jet sent another robotic email, apologising for the incident.
And nothing else, by the way.
On sending them scans of the boarding passes, I got some measly
points for the trans-con.
Con - yes, literally so.
Trans? Yes, this broke me out of my trance.

Last, but (oh the cliches!) not the least, Delta seem to be
taking their job seriously. This is really a breath of fresh air
in an era where product cut-backs rule. Of course, this is the
new Delta. In 2005, the old Delta and the old Northwest went into
the red (along with Untidy/United Airlines), and the champion of
free market economy had to garner support for three badly managed
airlines of their nation.
All this recent development is a positive sign for Delta, and
I hope they do well.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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Nimish
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 2:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Jasepl for the excellent summary. I would be curious to understand their standards/ service in Y as well, and how CO do on their flights ex-India in J? Do they offer a similar classy/ unobstrusive service?
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jasepl
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2011 8:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sumantra - I've flown a fair bit domestically on the American carriers when I lived in Chicago, but that was a long time ago (and it was mostly AA / UA), so I don't really know how Delta's domestic operation stacks up.

However, domestic / regional air travel in North America is now little different from travelling by bus. And it's getting to be that way everywhere else too.

Regards the customer service aspect, again, it's been a while since I've been in America, so I can't really comment much. The general word on the "street" though is that Delta have been doing better and bette rin terms of customer relations and the human element overall.

Also, in 2005, DL and NW hasn't merged. And NW's crew and the overall travel experience is by far the worst I have encountered in al lmy travels. Hence my comment earlier about how it was hard to believe that the friendly, fantastic crew I had on my recent flights were once Northwest's nasty neanderthals.

Since merger and bankruptcy, Delta have put in a little bit of money and a huge amount of effort, and it seems to have worked out


Nimish - honestly, Y is Y and even the bare minimum levels of service and amenities have slipped considerably for all airlines over the years. I have flown several segements on DL in Y, but that was a while ago. Still, what I do know is that everything is comparable with most of the competition, with one big exception: no personalised IFE screens in Y on the 763s - and that can be a big deciding factor for a lot of folk.

On the plus side, the crew are better than most and the 767 / 330 wins over the 777s in the suffocation contest any day of the week.

Continental I haven't flown longhaul, and it's unlikely I ever will, unless they start doing Bombay-Europe flights.
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Last edited by jasepl on Thu Sep 22, 2011 11:32 am; edited 1 time in total
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 7:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hair-splitting, now. You spelt my name incorrectly!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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jasepl
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 22, 2011 11:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sumantra wrote:
Hair-splitting, now. You spelt my name incorrectly!
Cheers, Sumantra.


Oops! All fixed now! Sorry!
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