Airliners-India Forum Index Airliners-India
Flickr Group & Facebook
 
 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   UsergroupsUsergroups   RegisterRegister 
 ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 

Sabya's pilgrimage to Kolkata on the eve of Durga Puja (2016

 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Airliners-India Forum Index -> Trip Reports
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
sabya99
Member


Joined: 19 Dec 2011
Posts: 1077
Location: New Jersey/CCU

PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2016 7:22 am    Post subject: Sabya's pilgrimage to Kolkata on the eve of Durga Puja (2016 Reply with quote

Sabya’s pilgrimage to Kolkata on the eve of Durga puja (2016).

Trip planning: USA-India travel is highly seasonal in nature. Summer time, Christmas time are the high demand periods, but any information about Durga puja? My hunch was not many people will fly in September/ October. My investigation indicates JFK/ CCU round trip fare follows an interesting trend. AI JFK-DEL-CCU asking only $775, EK $1170, JET/ Etihad $975, Qatar $1000. EWR-BOM-CCU $840 indicating AI wants to use its DEL hub for eastern India traffic rather than BOM. Also AI may try to give ME3 airlines a run for their money with this kind of fare structure. One fine July morning The Wife decided to buy the AI ticket via DEL for both of us without even letting me know! That day Travelocity reported 73 booking for CCU from JFK.
A week before Durga Puja we arrived before JFK check in counter of Air India and learned that only a set number of passengers are allowed each day to have seamless transfer to Kolkata airport. As a result we will have to do immigration and customs in DEL and not in Kolkata, transfer all our luggage to DEL transfer desk within a span of 2.30 hr and then proceed. Reluctantly I had to accept such a transfer procedure.
Departure from JFK: AI102 was full on that day and I don’t know how many were Kolkata bound. As our aircraft was pushed back from bay area I noticed a mile long line of wide/narrow body aircrafts lining up for runway 31L. Just two aircraft behind us were Etihad A380 waiting for take-off. AI102 was B777-300 ER (Nagaland) an aging aircraft but not as old as Bihar of last year. Capt. Suxsena took to the sky smoothly and a left turn later over the long island. From this point AI102 flew on a northerly course parallel to US north east coast and away from large cities.
Before the departure AI crews explained at great length how to use aircraft toilets, seat belts and emergency doors. As a result even after 14 hr. flight toilets were useable. Desi folks have come a long way! It was also announced that we will get one lunch, breakfast and snack. Departure time of AI102 now 3.10PM and with such timing we will fly almost 10 hr. in dark and rest in day light.
New flight path / inflight service: AI102 usually follows a transpolar flight path. But this time it followed almost US northeast coast hugging flight path till St. Lawrence River. Merging point of the river to Atlantic Ocean clearly visible from my window. At this point river was muddy grey. Soft drink/beer was served. Outside became very dark and windows were closed. Aircraft drifted east and headed for Dublin Ireland, then to Scotland, then again crossed North Sea over to Russia. At this point most passengers were asleep. Dinner in economy class was OK compared to other American airlines. Non veg : boneless chicken curry, cooked spinach ,chatney, small pita bread, rice pudding. Breakfast served at the middle of night : sausage peeper, cooked potato, pita bread, a small pizza like thing, desi sweets, water melon and coffee. Snacks were served an hour before landing to DEL. Cheese sandwich, seasonal fruits, butter Croissant, coffee. I think considering air fare AI gave us a Royal banquet and far superior service than American airlines foods. Keep up the good job; still people fly AI only for inflight service.
Is my flight path OK? : After almost ten hours I opened up the window. Dawn broke out in this part of the world. We are near Caspian Sea heading east. My inflight map reference point indicate we will soon be over Aral sea. Soon I noticed that inland sea from sky, much of it is dried up. Around that dry up sea , land looks like lunar landscape, pock marked with craters. Such landscape continued for about half hours. Then we were flying over low altitude mountains for about an hour. This area had no river, trees, farmlands, villages or human habitation. I was waiting to see Bagram Air force base and then Hindu Kush Mountains which I could recognize unmistakably. Are we not flying over Durand line? Are we flying entirely different flight path? (See Sabya’s trip report 2013 in this forum ). At this point in flight maps were not working. Whats going on ?
Upon arrival in Kolkata my folks asked me did you fly over AFPAK air space? Then I learned that the day I was flying, Indian Army commandos crossed Kashmir border and attacked terrorist bases. Did GOI changed my flight path? If so then thanks a lot, I may have entered DEL air space from Tibet, a safe area indeed!
Transfer desk at IGI : My aircraft landed at IGI around 1.30PM on the new runway 29. I noticed some construction activities on old IGI terminal. It was a foggy sunless day. I ran for immigration desk as fast as I could. Eight counters were open, but three inspectors were reading newspaper. There were not many passengers either. This lobby is nicely decorated and already a tourist symbol of INDIA! Upon presentation of my papers they stamped my passport. Why? These days all passports are machine readable, do you need to stamp them?
IGI luggage delivery was not that efficient and it took half hour. We got out of green channel and nobody was there. I asked a police for transfer desk. It was a garage like area poorly lighted and with small signage. Here both domestic and international luggage could be transferred. Since our origin was JFK, Kolkata boarding pass was checked again and luggage was accepted without any question. Then I asked a janitor for way to domestic departure, it was one flight up on the main lobby. My flight was from gate 28B. I confirmed my tickets but at this point we were split up as no seats available. I accepted reluctantly.
Air India flight to CCU from DEL: AI 764 started at 5.05PM, A320 flight and completely full. It took off from old runway 10. Sky over DEL was foggy. Soon I noticed two other aircrafts at different speed, direction and flight level near my aircraft. I have noticed such high density sky in USA and thought India heading the same way! We are supposed to get “dinner” in this flight as per our ticket manifest. Yes dinner came in little later which should be described as somewhat better than cat food! I think this was worse airlines food I received in my life (even United food is better). But I enjoyed the coffee.
It is already dark, cloudy and all landmarks are invisible including Ganges river. Aircraft losing altitude, but could not find the grid pattern streets of Bidhannagar! We must be approaching from north. Yes we landed on secondary runway under Cat 1 condition from north. Roll out to Delta taxiway, took a right turn and parked at bay 56 Air Bridge. Runway edge lights were orange, no center line lights available. At last 01L ILS system working for me! Upon landing I noticed monopulse radar INDRA is working at this hour, its housing well lighted. Newly built fire station on the east still incomplete, who knows what AAI is doing. I could not find old junked aircrafts of Mr. Biju Pattanaik. But apron construction in the east going on! Newly built taxiway F1 and F2 are ready to be used and fully lighted. We walked through the mezzanine floor to the arrival area. This floor has the entry point to immigration lobby and luggage claim area.
Luggage claim area was well built, clean and efficient. I noticed our luggage came in just 10 minutes. As we walked out. I found all the long line of yellow Amby gone replaced by new SUV and high end cars ( Audi). Kolkata has come a long way. We drove out in a SUV. There was festival lights all around me. Durga Puja around the corner.
_________________
Sabya99
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
blrsea
Member


Joined: 25 Mar 2007
Posts: 181

PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 8:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good report.

Regarding passports, almost all countries do it. At US airports, if you are a US citizen or green card holder and go through automated immigration kiosk, you don't get a stamp. But sometimes it redirects you to one of the counters and the officers there stamp the passport. If you are on visa, you will go to the immigration counter and they will put a stamp in the passport.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
PAL@YWG
Member


Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 403
Location: YWG, Canada

PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 1:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love the details in your TR, Sabya!
Hence lack of pictures is not an issue!
Didn't know that AI has a cap on "seamless transfer to CCU" passengers! Is it because CCU immigration/customs can't handle more than a certain number of passengers each day! That would be strange!

Loved the description about Aral sea. About passport stamping, I think at Indian ports it's mandatory. My passport was always stamped entry or exit.

Thanks!
_________________
Tally Sheet:
34 Countries ||39 Aircraft types ||54 Airlines ||66 Airports
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
sumantra
Member


Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 4392
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2016 9:01 am    Post subject: Re: Sabya's pilgrimage to Kolkata on the eve of Durga Puja ( Reply with quote

Dear Dr.Ganguly, thank you for a long-awaited and a nice trip report!
It has your usual level of detail, and nice descriptions.
Your description of the flight path, and what you see outside the windows, always leaves me transfixed at the level of detail, and your immaculate knowledge of geography.
I also see that you have stuck to your own no-photography rule Smile
I will also reply point-by-point to some parts of your report:
sabya99 wrote:
...indicating AI wants to use its DEL hub for eastern India traffic rather than BOM.
BOM is still AI's secondary hub, and the slot-constrained busy BOM is no match right now, for DEL's incredible connectivity. The other reason is that the EWR-BOM flight has also made money in AI's dark days, and sees good numbers, cargo volumes, and yields as well. The JFK flight on the other hand, struggles a bit on all three counts. Given DEL's connectivity, they promote this flight, and justifiably so.
sabya99 wrote:
A week before Durga Puja we arrived before JFK check in counter of Air India and learned that only a set number of passengers are allowed each day to have seamless transfer to Kolkata airport. As a result we will have to do immigration and customs in DEL and not in Kolkata, transfer all our luggage to DEL transfer desk within a span of 2.30 hr and then proceed. Reluctantly I had to accept such a transfer procedure.
This is a complete mis-interpretation, as far as I know. If you were connecting on an International connector, you would be doing your immigration and customs at CCU itself. The rules are clear, documented, and transparent. And uniform, as well. AI 764 was the connection Mrs.G booked for you. Hence, you would have to do your immigration and customs at DEL. Had you been coming in from LHR, you could have taken AI 020, and done the customs and immigration at CCU. Had you taken AI 022, you would have also done the customs and immigration at CCU. But why would you unnecessarily wait longer at DEL?
It is a simple rule: an international flight or international connector has a flight number less than 399, or more than 900. And a simple matter of numbers, for the facility of an international connector. AI 020 gets a very large number of international connecting passengers. The 5pm flight (AI 764, in your case), doesn't, on an average. Of course, a passenger on an international connector could choose to have the customs and immigration done at the first port of entry (DEL, as in your case).
sabya99 wrote:
As a result even after 14 hr. flight toilets were useable. Desi folks have come a long way!
Ha ha! Smile
sabya99 wrote:
I think considering air fare AI gave us a Royal banquet and far superior service than American airlines foods. Keep up the good job; still people fly AI only for inflight service.
It is not just considering the fare, Sir. AI has been consistent in its incredible food and beverage offerings, even in its dark days.
sabya99 wrote:
Then I learned that the day I was flying, Indian Army commandos crossed Kashmir border and attacked terrorist bases. Did GOI changed my flight path?
I think that is true. Else, you would have made a turn over Lahore's Allama Iqbal airport, from memory.
sabya99 wrote:
Upon presentation of my papers they stamped my passport. Why? These days all passports are machine readable, do you need to stamp them?
Stamping is still the most prominent procedure all over the world, and I do not see this as anything bad, or undesirable.
sabya99 wrote:
IGI luggage delivery was not that efficient and it took half hour.
This is more an exception than the rule: DEL baggage handling is mostly automated, and efficient. Unlike CCU, where the delays are completely legendary.
sabya99 wrote:
We got out of green channel and nobody was there. I asked a police for transfer desk. It was a garage like area poorly lighted and with small signage. Here both domestic and international luggage could be transferred.
Sir, you failed to read the one page in the AI inflight magazine. This details the transfer procedure. Additionally, it would be nice if this could be announced on the AI flight itself, or shown on the screen. You could put this suggestion to Air India. Second, many of us on the forum are well aware of the rules around: you could have asked us! I have also detailed the entire procedure in one of my trip reports:
The Planned City. By Plan, By Plane. Mar'14
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic14392.html
I guess my trip reports unfortunately, do not experience that much patronage.
sabya99 wrote:
Yes dinner came in little later which should be described as somewhat better than cat food! I think this was worse airlines food I received in my life (even United food is better). But I enjoyed the coffee.
This is perhaps a bad day on AI, since this flight usually does not have dinner, and second, usually has some excellent catering. I have years of experience on this flight till AI 020 because my afternoon Calcutta flight of choice, to get an international connector and widebody experience.
sabya99 wrote:
I could not find old junked aircrafts of Mr. Biju Pattanaik.
The three derelict planes are still there in their sad condition.
sabya99 wrote:
I noticed our luggage came in just 10 minutes. As we walked out.
Now, this is the shocking part, and a really pleasant surprise.
Thank you once again for taking the time to write a lovely trip report, and all of us look forward to your describing your return. Don't we? Smile
Cheers, Sumantra.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
sabya99
Member


Joined: 19 Dec 2011
Posts: 1077
Location: New Jersey/CCU

PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2016 1:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

@birsea, Mr.Pal and Sumantra thanks for reading my post.
Passports are scanned now a days and I got a paper receipt. My flight was 100% full from JFK. Why do you say this flight did not make enough money for AI compared to EWR-BOM? I admit I could not find wealthy Guggus in this flight! International connector is a new term for desi folks and Mrs.G did not know that. But she saved 2 hrs. waiting time at DEL.
Very Happy
_________________
Sabya99
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
sumantra
Member


Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 4392
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2016 5:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sabya99 wrote:
Passports are scanned now a days and I got a paper receipt.
Sir, most of the world still stamps passports. And this includes most of the first-world countries, as well. In fact, there are people who collect passport stamps and treasure them, as memories Smile
sabya99 wrote:
My flight was 100% full from JFK. Why do you say this flight did not make enough money for AI compared to EWR-BOM? I admit I could not find wealthy Guggus in this flight!
Sir, two points, here. First, occupancy and yield are often completely different factors. A flight can be 100% full on most days, and yet yields can be rubbish, depending on the ticket prices, cargo loads compared to the operating cost of the flight. (Which is precisely why most carriers pulled out of CCU.) Second, the JFK flight (unlike the EWR one) does not see such magnificent loads many times. I have travelled this route relatively often over the years, and I have seen both types of loads.
Cheers, Sumantra.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
jbalonso777
Member


Joined: 05 Jul 2012
Posts: 1393
Location: Never, never land

PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2016 1:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very nice report sir thank you for sharing!

I am quite inclined to trying out AI's DEL-SFO-DEL service.. It should be a lot of fun, flying across the world Very Happy
_________________
http://www.youtube.com/c/JishnuBasu777
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
sabya99
Member


Joined: 19 Dec 2011
Posts: 1077
Location: New Jersey/CCU

PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2016 7:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for reading the TR.
_________________
Sabya99
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Airliners-India Forum Index -> Trip Reports All times are GMT + 5.5 Hours
Page 1 of 1

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum


Powered by phpBB © phpBB Group. Hosted by phpBB.BizHat.com