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Annual Ritual: Trip to Calcutta (2015): This time it’s EK

 
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PAL@YWG
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Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 406
Location: YWG, Canada

PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2016 7:25 am    Post subject: Annual Ritual: Trip to Calcutta (2015): This time it’s EK Reply with quote

Hello from a lazy AI-netter after a long hibernation. Time to catch up on some pending TRs before fall/winter sets in and I go underground (like the gophers here) and raise my head again in late summer next year Very Happy. But even in my hiding, I promise that I read all TRs that have been posted here by Sumantra & Jishnu (is the torch bearer lately), Stealthpilot and host of others. Ameya & me111993- I thought they eventually found some other greener pastures but lately I see they are coming back not treating this site as offline station anymore, that’s good news. Jasepl is surely MIA, we might have to send a search & rescue team (start with Bombay but be ready for a trip to Nantes)!!

To see my old parents I try to make a trip every year. Sometime I try to add on a side trip in Europe some place and sometime it’s so tight that I just go to India and return with shortest possible flying hours. Last year’s (2015) trip I had to complete in 15 days flying time included.
So I knew it had to be one of the ME3s so that I can avoid transiting at DEL. Luckily EK was offering promo pricing from YWG! They were offering flight out of ORD to CCU on EK metal and YWG-ORD connector with UA express (supposed to be Skywest). The total price was CAD1096! I have never flown so cheap on this sector. This year (2016) I searched in vain similar EK deal but nothing was on offer from YWG. There were similar deals from YYC & YVR to put extra bums on their flight out of SEA. So I took BA/AY combo for CAD1161 up to DEL, will write about it separately.

I have a dear colleague who always wants to go to India with me. His only trip to India was about three decades back, at the height of hippie era. Before ending up in Goa he has fond memories about how he spent a night penniless at Bombay VT station sharing the floor (literally!) with coolies and other homeless men! Before that he says he entered Iran just before Shah’s overthrow and subsequent revolution that happened, from there to Afghanistan by bus then onto Pakistan and finally to India thru somewhere in Punjab!

This time he is adamant, he is coming with me and bringing his wife too who has never been to India! We sat down and came up with a travel plan. We three will do YWG- ORD- DXB together, from there they will go to DEL and I will go to CCU. From DEL, they will visit Nepal, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand and will return to CCU just in time so that we three again can do the last legs of our Journey CCU-DXB-ORD-YWG. Sounds like a plan! Tickets were bought using a brick and mortar Travel agent.

Date: March 2 2015
Route: YWG-ORD
Airline: United Express
Flight #: AC 4590
Dep: 1237
Arr: 1446
Aircraft: CRA





Delta Connector arriving from MSP


Our bird at the gate



CRJ-700 series is really a nice aircraft, on a sunny, crisp day we effortlessly arrived at ORD. Now we wait, EK doesn’t depart before 1950, that’s 5 hours in transit.



We had to get a new set of boarding passes here.



Biggies arriving

Friendly duel Very Happy


I love 77L!
[/img]

Date: March 2 2015
Route: ORD- DXB
Airline: Emirates
Flight #: EK 236
Dep: 1950
Arr: 1910+1
Aircraft: B777-200 LR


Once everyone took their seats I couldn’t believe my eyes about how light the load was, 40% at best. No wonder we got such a cheap deal, at least 3 more bums on this almost empty flight. The route was about a year old by then, EK was I guess trying to figure out how to trick the other players out of the game. Other Arab brothers Etihad & Qatar also came in to ORD almost at the same time so it would be the LH, BA, AF & KLs of the world who got to accommodate these 3 ME muscle flexers. How AI doing on this bread-and-butter-route lately?






The service was impeccable. Hot towel, Menu card, amenities pouch- all were present reminding the good old time. And B77L is a silent workhorse for longer routes, does the job so well. Because of the troubles in Ukraine, Syria and Iraq, the flight path is little longer but once over Iran, it’s just straight downward route. We landed in Dubai on time.




We are in transit. Nancy, my friend’s wife, this is her first trip eastwards beyond say, England. So her eyes are wide open looking at so many different nationalities in DXB. She tracked an Arab man with his few wives busy shopping in Duty-free. She wanted to take a picture with him and definitely wanted to brag about it to her peers back home. Asked me whether it’s a good idea, I said you give it a try as I was holding the camera, she gets a stern look from the man and a firm “No”. She was heartbroken Smile

I said bye to them as they will be boarding DXB- DEL flight earlier than my DXB-CCU flight. I had to kill time so I loitered around. Found this nice display about Dubai airport. It’s a display about how Dubai that was a small trading post few decades back became a huge transportation hub due to the vision of one of its ruler. It’s indeed commendable. Geographical location is one thing but one has to give due credit for the successful long term business plan that has made what DXB is today and an world class airline called EK that most of us are in love or hate relationship.


Fascinating history!

Date: March 4 2015
Route: DXB- CCU
Airline: Emirates
Flight #: EK 570
Dep: 0200
Arr: 0740
Aircraft: 332


Boarding was announced for CCU flight. And the announcer made it clear by requesting no one should jam the boarding gate, boarding with be done Zone-wise as printed on the Boarding pass. Announcements were made in English and Hindi. Though most of the passengers were clearly labourer type, may be this is their first trip after many years of slogging in Dubai, understandably they are anxious to board, eagerly waiting to be in loving arms of their dad/mom/wife who are waiting for them in different corners in Bengal but that doesn’t mean that dashing towards the gate will shorten the journey time Very Happy. The moment the EK agent appeared at the counter, all rushed towards him. Finally the zone-wise boarding went out of the window, Indian style prevailed.


Last few passengers boarding

Flight was full. The aircraft has definitely seen better days and still chugging along for low yield routes like CCU. Calcuttans shouldn’t complain much; at least ME3 have paid attention to their plight by providing connectivity out of CCU. Once up in the air, the service level is nowhere near what I experienced in ORD-DXB sector. Lousy food (quality & quantity), hard to find FAs and uncomfortable seats. Well, all in the name in Low yield sector, I guess.


What are those Transistor like stuff? Can they explode?

I am just 5 ft 9. Shouldn't have to bear with this Very Happy




I am not an aviation revenue management expert. But I see no promo/sale prices to CCU from the points where EK/EY/QR fly out of Canada. Never. There are plenty offers for DEL and BOM but not to CCU. In fact, adding separate ticket costs on 9W/6E for DEL-CCU-DEL with EK’s price for say YYZ-DEL return will still be cheaper that EK’s YYZ-CCU return price. Why so? Is this called price gouging? Or revenue optimisation for low yielding routes? Lately I am seeing AI offering competitive prices thru code-share with AC, harnessing the benefits of being part of star alliance. But that’s still an extra flight (DEL-CCU or BOM-CCU). I think time is ripe for a daily AI CCU-LHR flight offering connection thru whole star alliance network out of LHR. If that happens the ME3 (who offers 27 weekly flights out of CCU) will conveniently drop the price to such a level for so long that not-so-committed-for-the-long-run AI will find an excuse and get out of CCU at the first opportunity Smile I can imagine what's going on in sabya99 and sumantra's mind Very Happy

We landed in Calcutta.




Anyway, I spent quality time with my parents for 10 days or so. As per plan, my friends also reached CCU a day and half before our departure from CCU. They couldn’t go to Nepal (due to the TK accident while landing in foggy KTM) but otherwise they had good time in S/E Asia. I had to take them around and show Calcutta. George wanted to go to a big railway station, he wanted to relive his Bombay VT experience. So I took him to Howrah station, he was thrilled to see the platforms are buzzing with activities, people are waiting for train, some of them are lying on the floor as they did 30 some years back.


On our way to Howrah Railway Station

Date: March 16 2015
Route: CCU- DXB
Airline: Emirates
Flight #: EK 573
Dep: 2030
Arr: 0030+1
Aircraft: 332



Getting dropped off at NSCBI Airport




AI hanger in the background


Our aircraft just arrived

Again a full flight and a sizable chunk of that are connecting passengers. I met three men who are going to ACC. This is the beauty of EK’s vast network, especially to the African continent. Passengers are saving on one extra flight (for many destinations) by transiting thru DXB. Crew ran out of “chicken meal”, the guy next to me desperately wanted to have Chicken. So we exchanged our trays, got a spicy “veg meal”. We started talking, he is from Bangladesh, going back to Dubai after spending a month with his family. One thing boggles my mind why Bangladeshis transit thru CCU for a place like DXB when they have plenty of options out of DAC.



Upon landing George suddenly discovered that that we have about 9 hours to kill before we board our flight to ORD, why don’t we have a quick look at Dubai? I was not very much interested to be frank to deprive myself of a quick timely nap but for them it’s the first time in Dubai! How can I say no?
The best part was Visa on arrival. For some selected countries Emirates allows “Smart Gate” option. Scan your passport, some ID procedure, photo taken and straight to baggage claim. No contact with human being. In our case straight to exit since we had all bags checked in till ORD. Very nice!



Way towards the smart-gates

So we grabbed a taxi, driver happened to be a female from Kenya. Our deal was take us to most of the Dubai landmarks and bring us back to airport. I am in Dubai after 15 years or so. Even in the midnight I could see how Dubai has transformed in to a mega city. Saw billboards displaying Bollywood Khans. The young driver did a good job by explaining the places we were taken to. Her accented English was punctuated by something sounding “Yanni”. I don’t know what language was that but it was very interesting to listen to her.


Famous tower in the midnight

Khan's billboard everywhere. Other Khans too.

We came back in time. At some point we were given a proper “pouch” type baggage tag. Nice.


To almost all destinations in our planet!

Date: March 17 2015
Route: DXB- ORD
Airline: Emirates
Flight #: EK 235
Dep: 0940
Arr: 1530
Aircraft: 77L





Loads were better than our outbound flight. That means no “Flat bed” Option. Again impeccable service. As if DXB-CCU-DXB never happened for us! After 15 hours of smooth sailing we landed in ORD for our last short hop to Winnipeg.







Our CRJ taking us to YWG

Date: March 17 2015
Route: ORD- YWG
Airline: United Express
Flight #: AC 4063
Dep: 1906
Arr: 2115
Aircraft: CRJ


Thanks for reading!
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Last edited by PAL@YWG on Tue Aug 30, 2016 5:53 pm; edited 1 time in total
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sumantra
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Posts: 4446
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2016 9:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a lovely trip report by the person, who started describing places and exotic routings, on our forum! It is also quite ironical that I mentioned you in my reply to stealthpilot's lovely two-part TR to two exotic Central Asian former Soviet Bloc republics. Did this stir you into action, `dust the old SD cards', and post a TR? If so, I am indeed honoured, Sir!
Samir-da: it is really wonderful to see you posting TRs on the forum, and equally heartening to read that you read my unfortunately sporadic TRs as well. I will try to be more regular now, and have some rather exotic trips to describe, in addition to some of the more ordinary domestic routes Smile

Samir-da: why do you want to avoid transiting in DEL? DEL T3 is perhaps the best in India, with its sheer frequencies, and the pleasantness, and efficiency? It is quite comparable to many global hubs, now. The new BOM T2 is not too far behind, though DEL gives much better connections, especially to CCU. I also look forward to your BA/EY trip via DEL, this year.
Your colleague's travels look just as exotic as we are used to reading about, from you!

How is AI doing on the ORD-DEL-HYD route? It has perhaps been their best-performing long haul route, where even operating the DEL-HYD leg with a fuel-thirsty B77W makes it well worth it, for the passengers and the cargo. The loads have to be seen to be believed. This has been performing exceedingly well for AI, and I have had many a memorable trip on all of the AI 127/6 legs: DEL-HYD-DEL and DEL-ORD-DEL. The offod offerings are simply incredible, and AI's service on this route has been consistent good, on all counts.

The food offerings on the ORD-DXB section on EK look fine, but I have seen better things on EK! Your descriptions hit the right spot, as always.
PAL@YWG wrote:
I can imagine what's going on in sabya99 and sumantra's mind Very Happy
So you do read about Dr.Ganguly's CCU-centric dreams, and my practical banter Razz
Frankly, I still do not see the time being ripe for a CCU-LHR dedicated flight on AI. Other politically motivated routes will still make money, but this one perhaps only will, when passenger loads hit a higher threshold, and AI has some more inventory of B788 Dream)liners. AI's increasing *A links will work Westwards, though as of now, the connections out of CCU will be only to DAC, and of course, the North East, for which CCU serves as a mini-hub. Economics simply do not warrant Eastward connections out of CCU, at the moment.

I really look forward to the return leg description.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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sabya99
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Joined: 19 Dec 2011
Posts: 1114
Location: New Jersey/CCU

PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2016 6:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mr.Pal your hibernation is too long ! We expect your TR more often. Your valuable comments are welcome in this forum. Waiting for your next segment. Very Happy
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star*gold
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Posts: 186

PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2016 9:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great trip report---reflecting actual service experienced,unlike the too good to be true trip reports posted on other websites.
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PAL@YWG
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Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 406
Location: YWG, Canada

PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2016 12:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The TR is now completed.

sumantra wrote:
It is also quite ironical that I mentioned you in my reply to stealthpilot's lovely two-part TR to two exotic Central Asian former Soviet Bloc republics. Did this stir you into action,


Not really Very Happy. The text was ready about a week back, I was struggling to upload pics! I thought I used Picasa for my earlier TRs but Picasa is not giving out the BBCode anymore...Damn those free service providers who make your life difficult once you start using them... finally I remembered my Flickr account and found a way Very Happy


sumantra wrote:
Samir-da: why do you want to avoid transiting in DEL? DEL T3 is perhaps the best in India, with its sheer frequencies, and the pleasantness, and efficiency? It is quite comparable to many global hubs, now. The new BOM T2 is not too far behind, though DEL gives much better connections, especially to CCU.


I love T3. My only issue is with loss of time in landing in DEL, wait for DEL-CCU, 2 hours flying time. It can be almost half a day of lost time.


sumantra wrote:
Frankly, I still do not see the time being ripe for a CCU-LHR dedicated flight on AI. Other politically motivated routes will still make money, but this one perhaps only will, when passenger loads hit a higher threshold, and AI has some more inventory of B788 Dream)liners. AI's increasing *A links will work Westwards, though as of now, the connections out of CCU will be only to DAC, and of course, the North East, for which CCU serves as a mini-hub. Economics simply do not warrant Eastward connections out of CCU, at the moment.


788s are bringing the cost down. With 772s (that AI used on DAC-CCU-LHR route) of ex-UA (graveyard returnees) AI stood to loose from the first day of operation. inconsistent schedule didn't help either.

With DAC as an additional tag, 788s and star alliance AI should be able to run it cost-effectively (not saying profitably!) Very Happy
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sumantra
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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 4446
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2016 12:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PAL@YWG wrote:
The TR is now completed.

Sir, thank you very much! I will also reply to your points, point-by-point, but first, let me get to the remaining part of your lovely trip report!
A few points:
- Howrah Station versus VT, Bombay/CST, Mumbai
While I like the old-style architecture in both places, the latter would come a winner without doubt, due to the sheer beauty of its maintenance, and ability to preserve its charm in spite of the incredible number of people it handles! VT is also amazing neat and clean.
- EK's amazing network out of its DXB hub. Indeed!
And to think that to a large extent, they grew due to the unimpeded access to the Indian market. They have to be complemented for maintaining their status as a good airline.
- Bangladeshis through CCU and not DAC: too many people, and a price-sensitive market. Often, the routing does not matter that much.
- Nice of you to exchange your tray! That spicy veg meal looks yummy. EK's food offerings in general, are very good!
- A 9 hour transit time in DXB? That is a lot! Compare it with AI's options out of DEL, to CCU.
- The food options on the second leg look yummy as well!

Now, back to the points:

PAL@YWG wrote:
I was struggling to upload pics! I thought I used Picasa for my earlier TRs but Picasa is not giving out the BBCode anymore...Damn those free service providers who make your life difficult once you start using them... finally I remembered my Flickr account and found a way Very Happy
See Sir? You have been away from the forum for quite a while Smile Indeed, most of us shifted away from Picasa to Flickr for the same reason, including Yours Truly. That was quite some time back! In fact, I do remember posting my plight on this forum, and the WA forum as well.

PAL@YWG wrote:
I love T3. My only issue is with loss of time in landing in DEL, wait for DEL-CCU, 2 hours flying time. It can be almost half a day of lost time.
Sir, is it the wait (you had a 9 hour transit in DXB!), or the time of the day (perhaps, yes: day travel)?
You have to get to one main start point in Canada or the US, out of YWG. From there, it is a one-stop to CCU, either way, on EK, or on AI. On AI for instance:
AI 126 ORD-DEL lands at 14:35 pm
AI 102 JFK-DEL lands at 14:25 pm
You can easily connect on AI 764 CCU-DEL which sets out at 17:00 hours, or if you prefer to do your immigration and customs at CCU, this will mean a wait for AI 022 20:15 pm (not really worth it).

PAL@YWG wrote:
788s are bringing the cost down. With 772s (that AI used on DAC-CCU-LHR route) of ex-UA (graveyard returnees) AI stood to loose from the first day of operation. inconsistent schedule didn't help either. With DAC as an additional tag, 788s and star alliance AI should be able to run it cost-effectively (not saying profitably!) Very Happy

Indeed, the B788 Dream)liners are bringing costs down, and are contributing to AI's upward trend. The earlier CCU-LHR leg was also tried with the best aircraft of the day, the A332. Unfortunately, the yields were very poor. Right now, with the Dream)liner's economics, it may still work out. However, the numbers still do not make the threshold cut right now. I guess with more Dream)liners coming in, and more numbers, this route may see the light of day, and bring in some moolah for AI as well. However, not right now, form what I know. Second, the DAC tag is better served by a narrow-body, than an Dream)liner. The numbers and the yields just do not warrant a wide-body on CCU-DAC.

Thanks for a lovely TR, Sir!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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jbalonso777
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Location: Never, never land

PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2016 11:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice on, Mr. Pal!

Its clear that EK have won the USA-India traffic, even with their super low fares! That said, I wonder what the new 9W/DL JV comes up. So far so god!

Ahhh, DL CRJs and MSP - a love story better than Twilight Smile

Great pics!

The EK A330 is an aircraft now on its final legs...a great aircraft!

Food looks pretty decent (on the Emirates flights..)

Thanks for sharing this report!

Jish
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PAL@YWG
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Posts: 406
Location: YWG, Canada

PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 12:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

star*gold & Jishnu
Thanks for reading my TR and kind comments.

sumantra wrote:

AI 126 ORD-DEL lands at 14:35 pm
AI 102 JFK-DEL lands at 14:25 pm
You can easily connect on AI 764 CCU-DEL which sets out at 17:00 hours, or if you prefer to do your immigration and customs at CCU, this will mean a wait for AI 022 20:15 pm (not really worth it).


Thanks Sumantra for suggesting two best possible connections to reach CCU from where I live. And you think I don't try to avail those insane fares that AI offers from time to time Very Happy Very Happy ? But my problem is that I can't find a decent fare either to ORD or JFK from YWG.

For my upcoming trip to CCU, the best connection I find is from AC/(AI or 9W) routing being YWG-YYZ-DEL-CCU.
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