Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Location: YWG, Canada
|Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2018 6:41 am Post subject: India- Kazakhstan- Uzbekistan: All in one trip
|There is a saying in Sanskrit (yes, Sanskrit!), ďGhranena Ardha-bhojanamĒ. For younger generations (who didnít get the chance to study Sanskrit) it means in loose translation, aroma is half the taste.
Lately, planning a trip gives me equal pleasure going on the actual trip. With every selection (or change afterwards) whether itís an airline selection or a routing or even ticket price one takes the journey many times even before the trip happens.
The last one that I took this March-April for example. I wanted to cover India, Uzbekistan this time but then at a later stage remembered a friend who now lives in Kazakhstan, so mind started working on how to combine the three countries in one trip with reasonable ticket cost.
Casual searches on Google flights started about 6 months before the trip. My aim is to get an open jaw ticket where I should arrive in DEL/BOM and depart from TAS/ALA. Tashkent offers no direct flight to Western Europe so my searches concentrated on ALA departures. Suddenly around end November, a routing showed up with open Jaw:
YWG-YYC-AMS-DEL / ALA-AMS-YYZ-YWG with KL/9W for a princely sum of CAD1176! As Google Flights always advises different pricing, no exception for this one:
Book with KLM: CAD3166
Book with a Travel agent: CAD1176
Book with Expedia: CAD1198
For this kind of routing, I know I have to go to a brick and mortar Travel Agent, so I visited Flight Centre where I most of the times buy my annual India trip tickets.
A friendly TA got me the flights that Google Flights suggested but the price came to CAD1256 (CAD80more) which he explained is due to higher class fares for domestic connector flights (YWG- YYC/YYZ-YWG). Fair enough, tickets gets issued for the family (TF). I will leave on March 10th whereas rest of TF leave on March 25th then I come back with my son on April 2nd but the wife (TW) stays back. Little complicated, as always
Once the main flights are ticketed the rest of the itinerary is less cumbersome. I need:
DEL-CCU-DEL: No issues there. I wanted to fly Go Air (the only mainstream airline in India that I never flew). Go Air website is friendly but anyone accessing their website from outside India will be offered prices in USD (obviously higher when compared to INR). Canít fool me, I go to Make my Trip and they offer the same flight in decent INR. So my ticket gets done. TF wants only Air India because of desi food and that extra Paratha wrapped in aluminium foil . I buy for them AI for DEL- CCU. We all came back (CCU- DEL) by Go Air because of their time of departure suited our connection at DEL.
DEL- ALA- TAS- ALA: Now the remaining piece of the puzzle was how to cover TAS. Since our Inbound journey starts from ALA (KLM ticket), I knew I have to use Air Astana because they fly daily to TAS from ALA. So I started searching in Air Astana website with different options: One way DEL- ALA and ALA-TAS- ALA or multi city routing DEL-ALA-TAS-ALA. My experience says airline websites are not designed to handle complicated routing and pricing as was evident with KC website.
Finally Expedia came to my rescue and I got the tickets done. So, final flight segments looks like this
YWG-YYC-AMS-DEL-CCU-DEL-ALA-TAS-ALA-TSE(tech stop)-AMS-YYZ-YWG 12 flights for just over CAD2000. Not bad I say. In the process it will be my first time to experience a B789 (YYC- AMS), 9W long haul (AMS- DEL) and two new airlines G8 and KC.
TF flew together for CCU-DEL-ALA-TAS segments, father and son flew together CCU-DEL-ALA-TAS-ALA-KBP-AMS-YYZ-YWG segments. Curious ones already noticed and thinking how KBP came in to the picture?
KLM withdraws from Kazakhstan and hell breaks loose!
Around end-January I read somewhere that KLM is withdrawing from Kazakhstan market from S18. Oh no! Next thing going thru my mind is what is going to happen to my well-knitted and well-priced dream trip? I called Flight Centre. The very professional TA told me that he has got a notification from KLM just now and I shouldnít worry. I kept in touch with him but nothing was moving, finally he gave me a Delta airlines phone number. Delta handles KLMís cases like mine for North American flights. The junior staff kept on telling me that I can take a full refund, no penalties deducted. Big deal! If I accept refund, I am going to pay double $$ to get the same routing now. I held on to my point that KLM cancelled the flight, KLM has to find a solution. She transfers me to a senior officer at Delta who lectured me about fare classes and that I bought at the lowest possible class. He suggested that I take refund when I declined that he said I should talk to my travel agent.
Travel agent told me that his seniors will take up the matter with KLM. I had confidence in my Travel Agent. A month before the trip, we get re-routed via KBP (on Air Astana metal) at no extra cost. The final routing become:
YWG-YYC-AMS-DEL-CCU-DEL-ALA-TAS-ALA (Night stay)-KBP-AMS-YYZ-YWG. The only added cost was a night in Almaty, KLM didnít budge. Then I remembered about my almost expiring Finnair Plus points
Expiring Finnair Plus Points= One night Hotel $ in Almaty
Some points we collect thinking one day it might come to use one day but most times it quietly gets expired, only time you notice it expired when monthly statement comes showing Zero points.
In 2016 we had a great trip to India on a very cheap fare offered by BA/AY combo and we all collected Finnair Points for the first time. Finnair Plus allows adult family members to transfer their points to one account for a minor fee. Our points were about to expire and about that time the need for one night hotel at Almaty surfaced. One transfer from TWís account to mine and I get a hotel night in Almaty for free courtesy hotel booking portal of Finnair Plus program.
Air Astana offers Hotel Stopover Program in Almaty and Astana for USD1 per person
Came to know about this program while surfing KCís website. If you stopover in Almaty or Astana on your way to your final destination, KC will give you decent hotel room for USD1 per person for the first night. It worked perfectly for us. We were anyway stopping over in Almaty to meet my friend before flying to Tashkent. I didnít have to call anyone, the hotel (Ramada) was bookable thru their website by mentioning the reservation code. Impressive cooperation between a national airline and tourism authority.
I am now going to deviate from the traditional Trip Report writing style that I followed in my previous TRs posted here, I will just mention the highlights of the trip. With technology the world is changing so fast in front of us (especially to the not so younger generations) that writing a traditional TR has become a futile exercise. After watching excellent Video TRs from CollegeAviator (aka Jishnu Basu) and other in this forum, I sincerely think I have no excuse to burn midnightís oil anymore
Jet Airways and their Amsterdam hub
Seeing 3 Jet Airways biggies parked shoulder to shoulder in a busy European airport is a sight in itself but impressive part was the transfers between the flights were happening seamlessly. Agents at the end of the aerobridge was directing incoming passengers to their respective connecting flights.
Once inside, I found my DEL flight was almost 50 percent empty. That gave me space to lie flat. One observation: A FA literally tossed a paratha (in aluminium foil) halfway thru my lunch. If she didnít give me that I wouldnít have known that a Paratha was part of the menu.
Air Astana is a good airline
FAs are courteous and knows how to handle Indian passengers. No rudeness. Candies offered in all flights (I took four flights with them). Passengersí got a pouch with toiletries and slippers on DEL- ALA flight, kids got toys. Edible food. From DEL when we were about to board our flight another KC flight landed (I guess from Astana) and docked at the next gate and at the end of the aerobridge a KC agent was directing ďTransit PassengersĒ. Who could be transiting from KC in DEL? Do they have code share flights out of DEL?
Go Air Excess Baggage Fee
Go Air allows only 15kgs of checked in baggage. While buying the ticket I thought it would be enough. But final weight came to 22Kgs courtesy TW. So I went to G8 website and they have a special pricing if you are connecting to/from International flights. So I called Go Air call centre from Canada to pay by credit card the excess baggage fee. Their system was down to take payment but the guy said Sir, donít worry I have made note on your file and pay at the airport. He was right I paid INR500 while checking in for DEL-CCU as against INR2500 if no note were made.
T3 to T2 transfer
Absolutely hassle-free, part of the connector is canopied. Trolley with my two bags were no issues, took about 10 minutes. Thanks Sumantra for the heads up.
Thatís all for the time being, friends!
Taking off from Calgary
KL571 at AMS
elusive Iran Air
One of 9W's biggies at AMS
T2's post check-in area
Tian Shan mountain range in the vicinity
Our plane from DEL
You can still find them in this part of the world
F100 from Bek Air
View of Almaty from Mountain top
Traditional music presented by local artists at a restaurant
Almaty Hotel Stopover voucher
ALA duty Free area. Our friend who went to Nepal met us in Almaty
Brisk trading inside the Bazaar
Taskent Metro station called "Kosmonauts". Yuri Gagarin there on the wall
Kam Air from Afganistan landed at TAS. Parked pretty far from the building
Beautiful Tian Shan mountain range in view during TAS-ALA
Our bird for KBP-AMS
"City of Johannesburg" Alas, this one will retire soon!
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