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Duronto Debut,Dream)liner Despair,Double-Decker Desire:Jan13

 
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sumantra
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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 4485
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Mon Aug 26, 2013 7:29 pm    Post subject: Duronto Debut,Dream)liner Despair,Double-Decker Desire:Jan13 Reply with quote

Duronto Debut,Dream)liner Despair,Double-Decker Desire:Jan13


http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic13354.html

52.0 ``Wide-body reporting''

A zeroth section?
This was necessitated by an interesting development.
Normally, Postscripts come at the end of a document.
But then, the reader can hardly call me `normal', right?
Member Ameya had observed that of late, most of the trip reports
on this forum depicted journeys made on wide-bodies.
In response to a recent trip report by member Rishul, here is a
conversation that went on between us.
ameya wrote:
The TR section is flooded with wide body reporting
these days - thanks to you and Sumantra!

sumantra wrote:
Ameya Sir - I really hope you are not referring to
the fact that both Rishul and I are...wide-bodies, ourselves? Razz

ameya wrote:
I keep my comments restricted to aircraft!

Not quote one who knows when to stop,
to prevent a pun from getting runny, I replied,
sumantra wrote:
Planes I guess, as opposed to highly non-plane surfaces Razz

Ameya Sir, here is another trip report involving wide-bodies.
Of the wide-bodies, for the wide-bodies, and by the wide-bodies.

52.1 The Book of Genesis, er...The Genesis of the Booking

I sincerely apologise once again, for a bizarre title.
No, this trip has nothing to do with the Creation, it is just a
farcial attempt at a pun on the events which took place, leading
to my booking three flight tickets.
And of course, planning the entire trip.
This involved joy, and despair, more the latter, than the former.
Calcutta it would be.
The City of Joy.

The build-up to this trip had started in November 2012, itself.
As the reader may already know, I was quite desperate to catch a
ride on the Air India Dream)liner till the time they were
operating on the longer domestic routes, which included
destinations from Delhi, where the Dream)liners were based.
The reader may remember the family trip to Mumbai in December
2012, which coincided with a conference I had to attend.
This report may be found in two parts, at the following URLs:
47. Dec'12: Mumbai. Mum-bhai/Sum-bhai, MBBS. Part 1
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic13255.html
48. Dec'12: Mumbai. Mum-bhai/Sum-bhai, MBBS. Part 2
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic13264.html

I had booked my DEL-BOM trip on the Air India website, and for
the first time, Lady Luck smiled on me. I was one of the winners
of the `Get Lucky' scheme, where since I had booked a one-way
ticket, I was entitled to a one-way ticket on any non-stop sector
of Air India's vast domestic network. That also got me thinking.
I had to hurry up, since the Dream)liner domestic operations were
scheduled till the end of December. I soon realised that there
would be no further official trip to Bengaluru, Chennai, or
Calcutta, in the month of December. For our small family unit to
travel together, I needed another free ticket. I would have
enough points only for a one-way ticket on the Delhi-Calcutta
sector. I asked my friend Mr. All-Stare MacLean, a prominent
Delhi plane spotter, and someone very knowledgeable with
operations of many airlines in India. He estimated that Air India
would run the Dream)liners on domestic sectors till at least
March, when the planned Australia operations could start. In
December 2012, the Dream)liners were not Cat-3 compliant (they
were only Cat-2 compliant), hence fog on many sectors saw the
Dream)liners replaced with other aircraft (the A321s family for
me, on three of my four attempts till then, to catch a ride on
the Dream)liner), as the Delhi fog had set in very early, in
December itself.

That bode well for a possible January trip for the family.
I was lucky to have an official trip to Calcutta in that month.
The dates were flexible for the meeting, and I put my thinking
cap on. December 2012 had a lot of travel for me.
Mumbai: 15 - 19 Dec
Chennai: 20 - 22 Dec
Bengaluru: 24 - 25 Dec
I had already missed the Dream)liner on AI 439 DEL-MAA on 20 Dec
2012 (when AI 803 got it, owing to better loads, when one
Dream)liner had been stranded owing to the fog), AI 803 on 24 Dec
DEL-BLR, and finally, BLR-DEL as well, on 25 Dec.
`Dream)liner Despair.'

52.2 Better Delhi Weather, Running into Rough Weather for a Booking

The weather improved after Christmas in Delhi.
I would have to book my award ticket within a month of performing
the journey on the initial ticket, so I did not have that much
time on my hands. I suddenly realised that completely against my
usual habit, I had submitted my documents for reimbursement well
in time. That included the original boarding passes.

An award ticket of this nature had to be booked at the Air India
booking office, unlike award tickets on points, which could be
booked on the Air India web site. I would need to produce
evidence of my having travelled on that ticket, along with all
associated documents.

I ran into rough weather, here.
No amount of convincing worked on the Air India booking agent at
the Air India City Booking office at Safdarjung airport.
I showed the lady the web check-in document, a copy of the
boarding pass, a copy of my Flying Returns account showing that I
had performed the trip in question, and had got 177 points for the
sector, 17 as the Silver Edge Club bonus, as well as 500 points
for a web booking. No, she would need to see the original
boarding pass, and then accept a copy.


I work in a semi-Government organisation.
Government and semi-Government organisations are not quite
flexible in their rules, and the Administration and Accounts at
such organisations have a lot of tape around.
And the colour of the tape was red.

The lady who used to look after reimbursements for our Department
just exemplified the above paradigm. Much to my surprise, she was
replaced at her desk by a younger lady, who was extremely liberal
in her outlook (I mean, with regard to her job), and no, not out
of inexperience, did she stray from the official path to help
someone out. She knew the rules as much as she was efficient in
her job. I was able to extract the original boarding pass (which
luckily hadn't been processing owing to a freakish missing
signature in the long-drawn process of reimbursement).

The previous lady used to sit on our papers.
And literally so! Why? We joked that her chair did not
have a cushion, so she used our documents instead. And how did we
get this additional evidence? When we used to go to check what
had happened to our documents (quite some time after submitting
them), she used to search high and low (all the while seated on
her chair), and inform us that our documents had not come to her,
or had got misplaced. It was very simple.
She should have just looked under her, on the chair.


52.3 At the Air India Booking Office, Again. Joy and Despair.

I rushed to the Air India booking office, again.
This time, I got a very friendly lady booking officer. Not just
did she not mind the original boarding pass being taken back, she
asked her booking supervisor about the process, cancelled the
boarding pass, wrote a note, and allowed me to endorse the award
ticket in the name of The Wife (`TW' to the regular reader),
which I wanted.

The next step for me was to endorse my Flying Returns points for
an award ticket for Junior (`Jr').
The lady agreed to do this at the general booking counter itself!
This was very kind of her, since the Flying Returns counter had
been inundated with people whose points were lapsing, lines were
long, and tempers ran high. The date was 31 December, 2012.

There was an additional hurdle to be crossed, which I haven't
mentioned yet. I did not want Jr to miss any day of school, on
this Dream)liner trip. Hence, I would try to have one leg on a
nice train, and the return, on the Dream)liner, AI 701 CCU-DEL, so
that we would be back in Delhi at night, for Jr to attend school
the next day. This was a long weekend. 25 Jan 2013 (Friday) was
a holiday on account of Id, 26 Jan 2013 was a Saturday, anyway a
holiday for India, and 27 Jan was a Sunday.

I found out that there were two award tickets per flight on this
sector (both tickets were in the `X' category of Economy class
bookings), and there was only one available for 27 Jan. So, 26
Jan it would be. It would finally be a family Dream)liner trip,
albeit a short one, but I was hopeful about it. I rushed back
home to break the news to TW, and book my seat on the same
flight. I had pre-booked 36A and 36C for TW and Jr respectively,
knowing that middle seats would not get booked that quickly. I
was in luck when I got back home to my computer.
Thus, we booked ourselves for 36A, 36B and 36C, which would
give us a decent view outside the window, even though we would
set out in the early evening from an Eastern city.

52.4 Memories of Safdarjung Airport

Almost every time I pass by the Safdarjung airport, I get
goose-bumps. I count myself lucky enough to have seen operations
at this airport, albeit not regular passenger operations, which
ended in 1962. My father recollects the days when the flyover was
not there, and for a landing or take-off, road traffic would be
halted there. At one time, it was Delhi's main airport, with the
name `Willingdon airport'. As I have written in my previous trip report
Chhattisgarh' & 36, Chappan-bhog & 56:Mumbai,Jan'13
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic13333.html
I have lasting memories of the largest plane I have seen at the
airport, the DC-3 Dakota, most of them in the blue `Indian Air
Force' markings, which used to be parked in the hangars, or
outside them. At that time, this was at one side of the city,
which grew all around it. The busy flyover added a displaced
threshold, which all but made operations even more difficult
(especially landings), in an airport that did not see regular
passenger traffic. In Delhi, the usual direction of the winds
ensures that most operations take place from the East to the West.
I have kiddie memories of my parents taking me along to the
Safdarjung tomb, with me excited to get a better view of the
DC-3s, but it was all in vain, since there was no easily
accessible vantage point from where one could see the operations
at the airport.

Where was Palam, then?
There was a WW-II era airstrip close to the Palam village in
Delhi, and was called the `Palam airport', then.
The name stayed till it was re-christened IGIA, not too long
back, after the then-new Terminal 2 had come up.

Aviation enthusiasts would baulk at the film `Gandhi', from an
aviation point of view. Even as a layperson, I found at least
three incongruities when the Ben Kingsley-starrer was released:
First, Lord Louis Henry Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten landed
at Palam, and not at Safdarjung Airport, as the new Viceroy of
India. I have seen a photograph of the same, which I cannot trace
today, nor find it on the Internet.
Second, he was received by the then Viceroy, Lord Archibald
Percival Wavell. In the film, he is not received by any dignitary.
Third, in the film, he is seen descending from the steps of a
silver-coloured DC-3 Dakota. This is absolutely untrue.
The photo clearly shows an Avro York, with its twin boom clearly
visible, and Lord Wavell receiving Lord and Lady Mountbatten.
The caption to that photo mentioned Palam.

In the late 1980s/early 1990s, I have memories of a crashed light
single engined aircraft hanging over the edge of the flyover,
which had crashed there, coming in from the east. I have seen
this a few times from a bus, travelling on the flyover. The
occupants escaped without major injury, if I remember correctly.
I also have memories of numerous gliders being launched, and
light planes floating in past the large displaced threshold,
while coming in to land. However, nothing can be more memorable
than watching a DC-3 take-off towards the west, over the Officers
Mess. I have never walked along the edge of the flyover - it has
always been a sighting from a car, or a bus.

52.5 Great Expectations...a Family Dream)liner Trip, and a
Dekko at the New Terminal at Calcutta!


After this not-so-brief digression, let me get back to the
planned family trip. There was more to it.
The new terminal (Terminal 2) at Calcutta was supposed to be
inaugurated on 23 January, the birthday of great freedom fighter
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, after whom the airport is named.
Regular operations were to start on 26 January, Republic Day.
TW and Jr have never been to the city's airport, and I wanted to
show them a brand-new airport terminal.

That is where all the planning came to nought.
First, around the middle of January, came news of the Dream)liner
grounding all over the world, a piece of news that affected all
the 50 or so Dream)liners in service.
`Dream)liner Despair.'
Next came the news about the opening of the NSCBI airport all
going haywire. There was a notional opening, and the lack of
preparedness and lack of enough facilities at the new terminal,
and the traffic snarls at both Jessore Road and VIP road adding
to complete chaos in the area.

52.6 Double-Decker Desire, and Dreams. A Sliver of a Silver Lining?

`Double-Decker Desire.'
Mr. All-Stare MacLean keeps me absolutely up-to-date on all
movements involving interesting aircraft with Air India.
Mr. MacLean appraised me of a Boeing 744 operating this route on
one day. It was `Ajanta', VT-ESO. That brought me some cheer.
I texted Mr. MacLean, `piyA ESO jiyA mein samAy gayo re', the
famous Geeta Dutt song. `Ajanta' was an old friend. I have had
two journeys aboard `Ajanta' in the past, a memorable 2007 trip
to Minneapolis, with the BOM-FRA-ORD leg on the plane, and the
ORD-LHR-DEL return, on the same plane.

2007:
Set out Jun 15 (Fri) from Delhi for Chicago
Reach Jun 16 (Sat)
AI 127: Air India (B747-400)
Mumbai (BOM) Terminal 2 - Frankfurt (FRA) - Chicago O'Hare Intl (ORD)
Terminal 5 (International Terminal)
[07:00 am - 04:05 pm] {19:35}

Set out Jun 22 (Fri) from Chicago for New Delhi
Reach Jun 24 (Sun)
AI 124: Air India (B747-400)
Chicago O'Hare Intl (ORD) Terminal 5 - London Heathrow (LHR) -
New Delhi (DEL)
[08:40 pm - 01:20 am (Jun 24 Sun)]

`Agra' (VT-EVA) was the only refurbished B744 in the Air India
fleet at that time, with the new seats and PTVs. I had travelled
on `Agra' once before, when she was not refurbished:

2005:
Set out Sep 29 (Thu) for Mumbai at
AI144: New York{Newark}(EWR) [09:05 pm]
Paris [10:00 am - 11:30 am] 30 Sep (Fri)
Mumbai [11:30 pm - 01:00 am] 30 Sep (Fri) - 31 Sep (Sat)
Ahmedabad [02:05 am] 31 Sep (Sat)

A lot of American passengers were taking that flight, and when
`Agra' came into her assigned gate, there were gasps from a few
passengers, ``look at that plane...look at those windows!''
The earlier multi-arched outline of the windows (in the Hawa
Mahal, Jaipur style) was something I really loved in the old Air
India design. This is something I miss in the current simplified
one, which has just one stylised rectangular arch.

52.7 The Dream)liner Groundings. What plane would we get?

Let me come back to the topic at hand.
Midway through January 2013, there were some incidents relating
to the Dream)liner, which finally resulted in the Japanese
carriers grounding their fleet, and later, the US FAA suggesting
that the type be withdrawn from service, pending a thorough
investigation. Air India was still operating the planes, but a
day after the FAA announcement, The DGCA followed suit.
Mr. MacLean had appraised me of the situation: the Paris CDG
service has just started. The `New Joy' plane VT-ANJ was heavily
delayed in CDG on its first trip on 15 January, and the
AND, the `connector plane' VT-AND was heavily delayed to Dubai
DXB by around 8 hours. I had not anticipated the DGCA also taking
the Dream)liners out of service. I was in a playful mood.
Why had ANJ got delayed in CDG?
I remembered the Rafi song in the famous old Hindi film,
`An Evening in Paris'.
(I am not much of a `Rafi-an',
but do not find this song too bad, either.)
``AN(j) evening in Paris,'' I reminded Mr MacLean.
``Her night in London would have to wait,'' I added, referring to
another well-known old Hindi Film, `A Night in London'.
Mr. MacLean was a bit apprehensive after the Dream)liner incidents
with the Japanese carriers. One's cargo hold had had a fire in
Boston, whereas another had had a fuel leak at the edge of the runway.
``At least ANJ behaved herself well,' I added,
``She may have had a drink too many at Paris.
Even though it was her first evening in Paris, she did not
throw up by the runway, or light up.''

Mr. MacLean also appraised me that the route had now been taken
over by the Air India A332s, which were much more appropriate for
the route, and its loads, as compared to the huge B744. This
sector usually sees good loads on this flight, but the number of
passengers in the premium cabin is not very high. There were crew
issues, concerning the Dream)liner crew going back on their
original aircraft assignments (specifically, to the B777s). There
is a designated conversion period for suitably type rating
conventions. Capacity-wise, the B77L is possibly appropriate in
terms of capacity, but is a complete gas-guzzler on this short
route, and a complete financial drain for the airline, without
enough premium passengers. Moreover, at the time of the trip, two
Air India B777s, a B77L and a B77W, were out of service.

`Double-Decker Desire.'
The Air India A332s happen to be one of my favourite aircraft,
since they were converted from a high-density charter
configuration, to a decent one. Further, they have the unique
under-floor toilet complex. Technically not a double-decker, but
I told TW and Jr that it would not end up as a complete
disappointment, either. They had been on an A330 before, an almost
brand-new A333 of Virgin Atlantic, on the LHR-DEL route in
mid-2012. I had been on an Aeroflot A332 `N. Gogol' on the
DEL-SVO and SVO-DEL route, in 2011, and on 14 Mar 2012 on AI 801,
DEL-MAA, with the celebrity captain (Capt Devi Sharan) in
command. Here is a link to a trip report describing that
memorable trip:
To Chennai, Mar'12 with a Celebrity Captain!
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12196.html

There was the not-so-small matter of a train booking as well.
Most of the trains on the sector were booked out, even in the
higher reservation classes. We were really lucky to get berths on
the Calcutta Duronto. My parents would also be with us on this trip,
going to Calcutta to meet my maternal uncle, who had come over
from the US. (Uncle and Aunt have a house in the city.) After my
official work, we would join them at their place in the morning,
and then set out back for Delhi, in the afternoon. My parents
would stay on for two days more, before coming back to Delhi on
the Sealdah Rajdhani. I had never been on a Duronto before, so I
had something to look forward to. The Duronto's USP (Unique
Selling Proposition) is that it is a point-to-point train, with
no stops in between (save technical ones), and that food would be
served on board. The Duronto's average speed is a bit less than
the Rajdhanis and Shatabdis, but the lack of stoppages increase
its average speed considerably.

52.8 The Trip Opens with a Duronto Delay

Junior was in an unpleasant mood, having been woken up much
before he is ordinarily supposed to.
He refused to cooperate with us, in getting him ready.
``Just ignore his rants,'' advised TW.
``Ignorance is bliss,'' said I, but wasn't exactly convinced with
what I had just uttered.
The friendly cab driver asked if he was warming up.
``No,'' I replied, ``he is our laptop. He is booting up.''

My first impressions of the Duronto were not excellent.
First, the train was delayed by about an hour, owing to late
arrival of the incoming aircr...er, train. The train had come in
from Sealdah around 5pm, and got to the platform no. 11 around
8:30pm, for a 9pm departure.
While the coaches were the new German technology-based Alstrom
coaches, and they were quite clean, some parts looked a bit worn
out. There were some rust marks around the place, and the paint
job was quite shoddy. I guess these would have been from among
the initial batches of coaches to be manufactured, some 8 years
back. These had been put into Rajdhani service at that time, and
must have been `refurbished' to put them into the Duronto fleet.
The interiors had the old Indian Railways-style blue rexine
seats. The toilets were clean, but had a worn-out appearance. A
welcome change was that the Indian-style WCs were on the ground,
rather than somewhat raised, something which caused some
undesirable water-logging in the then-new coaches. The flushing
system had also changed: it had some bursts of high-speed water
jets coming into play, three times. It is nice to see the Indian
Railways putting in some thought into the design process.
Something which was not welcome was the railings, which were
earlier much wider and more convenient on the new-style coaches,
as well as the refurbished older traditional coaches. The middle
and upper berths are not easily accessible now, more so for a
person like me, who is not exactly the epitome of a uniform
distribution of blubber around the figure.

Our itinerary for this leg of the journey was the following:
Set out 24 Jan (Thu) for Sealdah (SDAH)
from New Delhi (NDLS) at 08:05 pm
12260 Sealdah Duronto, III Tier AC
Coach B07, Berths 2,3,5,6 (M,U,M,U) [PNR: 224-2383064]
to reach Sealdah 25 Jan (Fri) at 12:30 pm

The forum's scheduling and technical analysis genius Ameya texted
me that rail radar had showed 52% on-time-performance for the
Indian Railways. This did not bode well for me.
Jr was in a good mood, luckily. So were his parents, and
grandparents. Jr's good mood meant that he was quite chirpy,
excitedly chatting with my parents. They also picked up a
conversation with a young couple, who graciously agreed to
exchange their lower berths with our two upper and two middle
seats. The Wife picked up a conversation with a lady in the side
berth. This precluded any remote chance of working while on the
trip, something I usually enjoy doing. I could type in a part of
this trip report, I thought, and set down to do this. I
connected my laptop's power cable to the power port.
Just then, one set of lights went out.

They were soon followed by the other set, leading to the neon
signs in the coach glowing in the dark, and the coach enveloped
in complete darkness.
Had we come that close to Calcutta, I wondered loudly.
Calcutta is known as the city that never sleeps.
Yes, power cuts and mosquitoes account for the prime reason.
I suggested to TW that we should all clap our hands.
Why, she asked, taken completely aback.
``Many hands make light work,'' I replied.
It didn't work immediately,
but power was restored in due course of time.
I got to the laptop.

The tomato soup came in relatively quickly, by 9:30 pm.
The soup sticks, and the butter chiplets kept Jr interested,
albeit for a while. As the reader knows,
food is not very high on Jr's list of desirable preferences.

Dinner was served close to 11pm. The cabin attendant had enquired
about our dietary preferences almost as we started off from New
Delhi. We enquired about whether a continental meal would be
available. We were dissuaded from expressing our interest towards
it, as it would take time to organise. Would the non-veg option
be more spicy as compared to the veg offering? Yes, said the man.
Spicy or not, nothing came in till around 11pm.

The ticket checker, an elderly and smiling gentleman, came in to
check our tickets, and collect the difference in fares.
Indian Railways has a policy of collecting the difference in
fares, in case of a fare rise: the threshold is the date of
travel, not the date of booking.
``Would dinner be served today,'' Papa asked softly.
The gentleman gave a hearty laugh, and requested the cabin
attendants to hurry up with their service.

When the trays came in, most passengers were too sleepy to worry
too much about what had been served.
I was a notable exception, not-able: not able to sleep well until
proper food was served. The dinner was a pleasant surprise.
There were three slightly greasy parAnThAs, and a bed of jeerA
(cumin) rice, a simple red lentil (malkA/masoor dAl) preparation,
with a light black cumin (kAlA jeerA/kalonji) seasoning. It was
nice to miss red specks in the preparation - we appreciated the
preparation immensely. There was some salad: two slices of cucumber,
and two of red carrot. The main course had a slightly oily
chicken curry, which was surprisingly quite tasty. There were two
slices of chicken, with a spice-and-onion-based gravy.
Mummy went in for a veg plate, which had an ordinary rice.
We joked that the non-veg plate did not have cumin in the rice,
and that those brown specks were the rice insects.
The Wife confiscated all available pickle sachets,
for her own pleasure.
There was a Mother Dairy curd bowl.
We wondered if dessert would be served, in this age of cost cuts.
The dessert was an age-old traditional North Indian offering.
Ice Cream.
Mother Dairy, Vanilla.
It was rock hard.
It was just the way I like it.
I enjoyed my cup to the last lick.
And my Mummy's.
And The Wife's too.
Three cups deep inside my entrails, I was satisfied.
And sleepy.
I climbed into the middle berth, with the couple on the upper
berths, my parents on the lower ones, and TW and Jr on the
adjacent middle berth. He was going tweet-tweet, but I was too
tired, and soon, my snores rent the atmosphere in side the train.

52.9 The Next Day...Delays, Galore

I got up well in time.
Whenever I set an alarm, I am unable to get up well in time.
Here, I was hoping to sleep out most of the morning, but that was
not to be. There was a choice of tea/coffee, and two biscuits.
All of us got up early, including Jr.
We went past the heavy foggy atmosphere, as Mr. MacLean announced
that we were 5 hours and 17 minutes late, at that point in time
and space. My host at Jadavpur University had arranged to keep
lunch ready for us, I wondered if it would end up as dinner.
In the end, I would wonder if we would even get that.

The landscape went past. There were abandoned sheds, and
buffaloes, cows and horses grazing on the lowlands.
The houses constituted `stable accommodation', as horses stayed in it.
As we adjusted ourselves around the seats, with the bedding being
transferred from one part to another, succumbing to the pull of
gravity, and let our posteriors descend on the seats, in stages.

Here is a nice bridge viewed from the scratched and smudged glass
window, on the Sealdah Duronto:



Breakfast was served on time.
I was hungry, and was looking forward to it.
There was a Mango drink small carton, and a banana.
There were two slices of white bread, with a butter chiplet, and
a preserve: mixed fruit jam for some, and orange marmalade, for
others. The main box had a nice omelette, with steamed peas. The
beverage run, where we went in for a coffee, with sachets of Bru,
and another instant coffee, both of which had some chickory mixed in.
I got the latter.
It was horrible.
My luck with instant coffee would tag along with me even in the Duronto.

The train was getting further delayed, with time, due to fog en
route, and other delayed trains. Around 1pm, the delay was
estimated to be around 7 hours. Hmm...so much, for looking
forward to my Duronto debut! A piece of news which delighted me
beyond words, was that lunch would be served to all passengers.
This was a very nice gesture on behalf of the management, more
so, given that IRCTC is now a separate venture hived-off from the
railways. I overheard some even more incredible news. We would
also be served tea and snacks in the evening, given that our train
was now expected to reach Sealdah station at around 7pm.

I have experienced this wonderful treatment once before,
incidentally in 2007, again.

Set out Mar 07 (Wed) for New Delhi at 04:55 pm
2301 Calcutta Rajdhani Express
Coach A3, Berth 43 (Lower) [PNR 610-1610599]
to reach New Delhi Mar 08 (Thu) at 09:50 am

The train was supposed to reach at around 9:50 am, but was close
to 4 hours late. We were given an extra snack: a fruit (an
apple), a sweet (burfi), biscuits, and tea. This was immensely
appreciated by all passengers, as a wonderful gesture.

This 2013 Duronto lunch was welcome, too.
There was some red lentil (masoor/malkA dAl) again, with a
cottage cheese (paneer)-based curry, with some long-grained rice.
The long-grained rice was not a Basmati variety, but possibly
something known in Mumbai as the `UP Basmati'. It was a bit
under-cooked, though. However, all passengers appreciated the
offering immensely. The Duronto does not have any passenger stops
in between, this was picked up from Mughalsarai during the
technical halt, there.

The snacks were more than welcome.
There were the usual Indian Railways tea sachets, with paper cups
having hot water. On the small try was a pack of Britannia
pineapple cakes, a Haldiram's namkeen salty savouries packet, and
a Tiger orange cream biscuits pack.
This was a small meal in itself!
We were not hungry, and we decided to `save it for a rainy day'.
The words would prove prophetic, albeit for the fact that
it never rained, it just poured.

The train arrived just outside Sealdah station around 8:10 pm,
almost exactly 24 hours after the train was supposed to start
from New Delhi. The train was around 8 hours late, and we were
looking forward to get down at the city. My parents would head
towards VIP road, we would head towards Jadavpur University. I
had missed my afternoon appointment, would I be able to meet my
host for at least a while that night?

The train remained motionless.
We were supposed to dock at the platform 9A-9B part, but both
were occupied. We could see the platforms from the doors,
and the crowds on them.
We moved in only about half-an-hour later.
When we got out, we realised that we had landed in an unruly place.
There were too many people squatting on the platform, and
the huge crowds were moving at a snail's pace. There was pushing
and jostling all around, and tempers were running quite high. When
we finally managed to get out of the mess, the Comesum restaurant
on the platform did not have standing space nearby. Our host had
informed us earlier that it would be advisable to pick up some
food at the station itself, since it was a religious holiday that
day (Id), and a national holiday the next (Republic Day). Even if
we did manage to get to the Guest House, the skeletal staff (if
present), may declare a lock-out. The term `skeletal' in no way
describes the physical appearance of the staff members, though -
it just indicates the numbers `physically present'.
We managed a take-away, and headed towards the pre-paid taxi stand.

Only to find that the counter had closed quite some time back.
Fellow passengers were also roaming around, looking for alternatives.
The alternative, for passengers with luggage, was
of course, be fleeced by `The Men in Yellow'. A cab to VIP road
would cost Rs.285/-, and one to Jadavpur University, Rs.250/-. If
I knew the route, I would have protested, or haggled, but neither
I, not The Wife were in the know about the city.
My parents were just plain tired, and disgusted.
Anyway, we got to the Guest House, and got a good room,
thanks to our gracious host.

52.10 From the Concrete Jungle, to...

The Jadavpur University campus is quite beautiful, more so, in
the environs of the Guest House. The Guest House is just beside a
lake, with a local train line, just behind. In the darkness, we
sighted something moving in the trees, and when it came in sight,
it was a civet, or a palm cat! What a pleasant surprise - I had
never expected to see this inside such a busy city.
We tucked in without much ado.

The next morning, we woke up to some very pleasant weather.
I got ready, and found Jr also up, with TW ready to get up.
Where is the palm cat, he asked.
I went downstairs to the ground floor, to enquire about some milk
for Jr, or some breakfast. It was 7:30am.
There was no one in sight, anywhere around.
As I roamed about, I asked the first person I saw coming in to
the complex. It was a bit early, I was told.

The `snacks' from the previous evening's Duronto trip came in
handy, along with some food and civil supplies that TW always
carries around with her. As I waited for my host, people came to
their posts, and I was promised breakfast at around 8:30 am.
The breakfast came in about 15 minutes late, but we did not mind
that. It was TW's and Jr's first time in the Jadavpur University
campus, and they liked the brief visit. The palm cat/civet
(`bhAm' in the local language, I did not know that), the main
pond with the fishes surfacing with mouths agape, the bamboo
house in front of the Guest house, the other ponds - one with a
bridge over it, and two others, with a variety of lotus (`sAplA'
in the local language), the artwork on a fairly new building, the
`Gandhi Bhavan', all had TW quite impressed, though she also
noticed the general slightly shoddy upkeep of the campus, and the
roads through it. The sight of the famed ponds however, had us
enthralled, with the pink lotus in bloom in many of these small
water bodies.



52.11 The Golden Fleece, Jason, Cargonauts

We walked to Gate no. 4, and took a taxi from there.
We spent some time with my uncle and aunt at their place (my
parents had gone straight there, from the Sealdah station),
before it was time to set out for the airport.
We saw a taxi by the road, with no other taxi in sight.
It was a holiday, and there was very little traffic on the road.
We waited for a while, in trepidation, before I decided to take a
step forward, and ask him if he would take us to the airport.
He agreed immediately, but asked for my weight in gold, as the fare.
Not quite, but the reader would have got the point.
``The Golden Fleece,''I told TW.
TW squirmed at another of my attempts at a weird pun,
as I tried to `ram' it down her mind.
``I wonder what forum member Jason would say to this,''I added, helpfully.
``Now, be a Cargonaut, and please load the bags quickly,''TW added.
``Hold it...else, it will become a case of car-go-not!''I retorted.

52.12 A Surprisingly Nice CCU T1!

Our itinerary for the return leg was as follows:

Set out 26 Jan (Sat) for New Delhi from Kolkata
AI 701: Air India (Dream)liner) [Seats: 36A,36B,36C; PNR: YTD66,J4ZHP,J4ZKN]
changed to:
AI 701: Air India (A332) [Seats: 10K,09J,09K; PNR: YTD66,J4ZHP,J4ZKN]
NSCBIA Domestic Terminal, Kolkata - IGIA T3, New Delhi
Kolkata (CCU) - New Delhi (DEL)
[05:45 pm - 08:05 pm]

We were a bit apprehensive about the news items about the
complete chaos at the NSCBI airport, and huge lines for the X-ray
machines. We had set out well in time, and as we came towards the
airport, we noticed the brand new terminal building to our right.
This would be a pleasure to experience, but this would have to
wait. As I was to check out the part closest to the current
domestic terminal air-side, there was still some work left in the
new terminal T2. We entered the old terminal, NSCBIA T1-Domestic.

I was in for a pleasant surprise. It looked cleaner and brighter
than before. I had warned TW not to expect too much of it, in
case we indeed got the old Domestic terminal. All lights were in
working condition, and the terminal had been cleaned up quite
well. Was this after the airport got some really bad news
coverage? Whatever be the reason, it was quite nice! We had
arrived well in time, and the baggage X-ray happened quite
quickly, as did the security check. I usually get singled out for
a re-run of my bag through the X-ray check, since I carry my
large analog SLR along with me, rolls of ISO 400 film, laptop
cables, and a host of cables for a miscellany of connections
related to my laptop and mobile phone. Jr was getting a bit
cranky by this time, since he had not had his afternoon snooze.
He went through the security with TW, with TW getting increasingly
irritated as well. I decided that the best way out would be to
calm Jr down, since that would hit two birds with one stone, so
to say. TW set out to have some eye-shut in front of our boarding
gate, 01 on the ground floor. Jr had spotted an escalator to
gates 3, 3A till 5 on the first floor.
For a change, I had an ace in my hand.

Jr's mood change was visibly changed for the better after the
ride on the escalator. He loves escalators, and in shopping
malls, one of us (usually, Yours Truly) is entrusted with the
duty of going up and down on any escalator in sight, just to keep
him busy. I hoped that would not be the case here. As we went up
the escalator, his mood changed, as he saw the tarmac views, and
aircraft all around. I was pleasantly surprised to see the
airport terminal having been done up, just as it was to close
down, officially. On the other hand, I was disappointed that the
old terminal would be around for some more time, without any
renovation, before CCU T2 came up.

As I went upstairs, I was quite surprised to see that the entire
place had been done up, possibly for the President's visit a few
days back, to inaugurate the new terminal, at least, notionally.
What if he had decided to take a dekko at the old one as well?



`Lipstick on a pig,' as people would say, but hey...this did not
look bad at all!



I showed Jr quite a few planes, as he watched an arrival, with
the aero-bridge coming forward towards the plane's door. We then
moved down again, on the escalator. We went to the new gates 2
and 2A. From here, Air India's first A319 CA, the `Accounts' plane
VT-SCA, was visible.



52.13 On board a pristine IWB!

I had tired out Jr a bit, with the tour of the terminal.
There was a huge line in front of Gate 1 much before the official
announcement came on. TW had Jr in her lap, and requested the
lady at the boarding gate if we could board first.
Our request was happily acceded to.
We boarded a new air conditioned Air India bus (for a change, not
the usual `after-burner' old rickety ones), and TW made herself
comfortable in a seat near the entrance/exit, while I stood
nearby, with her bag, purse and Jr's jacket in my hand, with my
bag on my back. I was excitedly looking forward to board the A332
from the stairs, something which I have had the opportunity to do
for a B77L, an A300B4, an MD DC-10-30, and a B747,
among wide-bodied aircraft.

I was really impressed on boarding WB, the `wide-body' aircraft,
VT-IWB. Yes, this was the very aircraft I had flown in, with Captain
Devi Sharan in command, on 14 March, 2012. I was pleased beyond
words, to note that the aircraft was in pristine condition. The
plastic surfaces were very clean, and the fabric looked fresh and
clean. The plane was in excellent condition.



Captain Behram N. Kolah was in command, and Ms. A Singh, the chief
purser on this flight. As passengers were getting in, I spotted a
familiar face, who in turn recognised me. It was the same member
of the cabin crew who was on that memorable A332 flight from
Delhi to Chennai with Captain Sharan in command, on 14 March 2012,
and...again, on a Calcutta to Delhi flight, on 22 Jun, 2012!
What a nice memory this lady has - she came up to me, we
exchanged pleasantries. The Wife noticed me being the centre of
attraction, I introduced her to The Wife and Junior as well. The
lady cheerfully said that should we need anything, we could let
her know. We were pleased. The cabin crew sees hundreds of
passengers day in and day out, here was this lady recognising me,
and remembering that I had taken two journeys earlier with her,
and welcoming me! She was in another section of the plane, and as
the doors closed, she headed to her position, for the security
demonstration. For the record again, here are links to the two
trip reports, for the two journeys, mentioned above:
To Chennai, Mar'12 with a Celebrity Captain!
http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12196.html
Calcutta: A Short and Sweet Trip, June 2012
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12982.html

I appraised TW of the fact that we would have the three old
turboprops to our side, as we took off from the main runway 01R.
I told her of the Biju Patnaik DC-3, and the HAL-748 and Fokker
Friendship there. It had got a bit dark by then, as we skipped
over the secondary runway, and made a powerful take-off from the
South side, towards the North. There was hardly anything visible,
as TW strained her eyes, to catch sight of the famous DC-3. It
was that very plane (now, unfortunately in a terrible condition)
from which he as a daring young pilot, had rescued an Indonesian
leader from the then Dutch-occupied Java. In the same plane, he
had been the first pilot to touch down at Srinagar airport when
the Pakistani raiders had invaded Kashmir in 1947, and start the
air bridge, which finally allowed India to get in troops, and
repulse the enemy. Most people know Biju Patnaik more as a political
leader, rather than for his amazing exploits in the air - and
that included me till a few years back, until I chanced upon a
post mentioning this, on this forum itself.

Let us get back to the Air India A332, VT-IWB.
The spectacularly cleanliness of the plane extended to the unique
under-floor lavatory section, whose seats and plastic surfaces
were very clean, and the lavatories were clean, and well-stocked
with soap and paper napkins. I had earlier told TW about this
unique feature on Air India's two A332s. The two had been leased
from Novair, and had been in a very tight 2-5-2 seating
configuration, with a tight seat pitch. Air India had relaxed the
tight pitch, and converted it into a 2-4-2 layout in Economy. Around
row 26 comes a spiral staircase to this section, housing the 5
lavatories. There were two waiting areas as well, with seat
belts. There were 3 seats in one part, and two in another, close
to the crew/equipment section.
The sight was quite ominous, to the on-looker!
TW and I were going towards this section, and me, with my large
analog SLR around my neck.
What was the young couple up to, and
that too, with a camera around the man's neck?


The following images show the two waiting areas, with three and
two seats, respectively.





Here is a picture from the waiting area, looking towards the
spiral staircase entrance up ahead to the left, and some stowage
area (racks), to the right.



As I was ascending the stairs, I noticed how clean they were
(except for evidence of a small spill near the curve),
with the steps being lighted by the small white LED lamps, in an
unobtrusive manner.



Here is the spiral staircase, from the top:



These two planes do not have a mid-cabin galley, instead have a
really huge galley at the back of the plane, in addition to the
Business class galley at the front. The business class loads
today were light, it would have been in the mid-single figures,
from what I estimated. This made the task of serving the huge
economy section quite challenging for the cabin crew, but they
were to do it with panache.

52.14 Food. But of Course

The much awaited announcement was greeted with much pleasure by
Yours Truly. TW too was hungry, and would not mind a nice Air
India meal er...snack. It would technically be a snack, since our
scheduled take-off time was 6pm. Dinner flights generally are
those that take-off around 7pm, for a two hour flight, for
instance. The crew got into action very quickly.
The smells permeating the cabin had me excitedly telling TW as to
what we could expect on the menu. TW doesn't quite share my craze
for food, I was somewhat assured that she would not publicly
reprimand me in front of so many people. At most, I would get a
glance that would express her disapproval of my actions.
``Chicken quiche,'' I pronounced.
She smiled at me understandingly.
Jr was fast asleep by now, and I did not want him to miss out on
the Air India experience, though Jr and I were as far apart
as chalk and cheese, as far as food and gluttony went.
The `snack' turned out to be quite heavy.
TW decided that taking the boxes along would not be quite propah,
and her bag's condition would not end up being too propah either,
if something happened to leak out.
She pronounced that the food would have to be finished here, and now.
I agreed, readily.

The snack started with an ordinary cheese sandwich, and a tomato
sauce/ketchup sachet. There was a slice of Mozzarella cheese
between two triangular slices of some ordinary white bread.
This surprised me a bit, since Calcutta is known for some fine
bakeries, and when the catering is from Taj-SATS, the bread is
usually excellent. The cheese was not meagre in amount, which I
do not mind. The dessert looked at me invitingly.
I promised myself I would not allow it to entice my mind any
further, but go in for the main course.

My earlier guess was not too bad, after all.
There was a quiche all right, but it was another of my
favourites, an Air India masterpiece, the spinach-sweet
corn-cheese quiche. The amount of cheese here was a bit less than
I had anticipated, but the taste was heavenly, all the same.
There were 5 pieces of some excellent marinated skewered chicken
(`tikka') occupying most of the box, of varied sizes. The
marination had seeped in quite deep, and the external
coriander-and-yogurt paste covering perfectly complemented the
lightly spicy marination, and lent it a touch of sourness,
heightening the taste further. TW and Jr were on the seats ahead
of me: half of Jr's share of the skewered chicken and the quiche
had come to me. Jr was sleeping soundly.
While I was quite full by then,
Air India food is something I will rarely refuse.
The dessert was an excellent apple pie.
And for once, the coffee was excellent.
This was an A330 - did they have a coffee brewer on board?
Perhaps no, but the coffee was a pleasant brand of instant coffee,
piping hot, and quite strong, to boot.
I recommended it to TW, who loves coffee, too.

Captain Kolah made an amazingly soft touch-down on the new runway
29, so soft that Junior was still sleeping as the plane came in
to our designated gate. As TW gathered things around her, I
clicked the P&W engine from my seat:



TW loves plants, and looks forward to trips, to see the plants at
IGIA T3. Here is an arrangement just after the `mudras' gallery.



There was an interesting sight beside the baggage belt, as well:



That concluded an eventful trip to Calcutta-Junior had woken up by
then, my favourite cab operator had come in to IGIA T3 to pick us
up, and the three of us boarded his car, and set off for home.
---
Links to my 52 trip reports:
https://sites.google.com/site/sumantratrip/
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shivendrashukla
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Joined: 21 Dec 2006
Posts: 1347
Location: Mumbai, India

PostPosted: Mon Aug 26, 2013 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice TR Sir. Unfortunate that your Train trip was on a delayed one. Duronto's do have new coaches. Unfortunately, their upkeep is not as good as AI's. regarding duronto food. From your description it seems that they seem to have a common catering menu on all Duronto's and Rajdhani's. I have travelled on almost all Rajdhani's and four Duronto's till date and I get exactly the same dinner mentioned by you here.

I do remember the Cessna that crashed in Mid 1990's I think at Safdarjung. Fortunately both the pilot and the passenger survived.

As regards to security, I do suggest that you buy a new DSLR Smile. Instant clicks and instant uploads. No hassle at all.

Overall, enjoyed reading the TR as I always do.

Cheers
Shivendra
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sabya99
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Posts: 1142
Location: New Jersey/CCU

PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 12:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sumantra you came close to my house. I still remember pond with lotus inside JU campus. Lots of old memory!
The small domestic terminal Kolkata used to have was nice and elegant suitable for a small US mid western town but definitely not for Kolkata. The terminal has somehow joined with the integrated terminal and I could find aircrafts parked on its bays! Perhaps it has not been abandoned. Very Happy
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Spiderguy252
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Posts: 4257
Location: Indian Ocean

PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 12:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another nice read, Sumantra.

Sorry for the rough ride on the Duronto - I thought it'd be better than that. Crying or Very sad
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sumantra
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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 4485
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 6:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

shivendrashukla wrote:
Duronto's do have new coaches. Unfortunately, their upkeep is not as good as AI's.
Ha ha, nice one, Sir! You are referring to the speical love and attention that someone at DEL pays to the elderly birds.

shivendrashukla wrote:
I have travelled on almost all Rajdhani's and four Duronto's till date and I get exactly the same dinner mentioned by you here.
Interesting, Sir! Among Rajdhanis, I have done the Mumbai, Augst Kranti, Howrah, Sealdah, Ahmedabad ones over the years - none very recently though, but the food earlier was a bit different! The Calcutta ones had an extra item.

[quote="shivendrashukla"]I do remember the Cessna that crashed in Mid 1990's I think at Safdarjung. Fortunately both the pilot and the passenger survived.[/quote"]Yes, it was nice, since the plane managed to wedge itself into the flyover side at a high speed. Do you have any pictures, Sir?

shivendrashukla wrote:
As regards to security, I do suggest that you buy a new DSLR Smile. Instant clicks and instant uploads. No hassle at all.
Ha ha, Sir! However, the size difference between an ASLR and a comparable DSLR is the same as between a Mig-23BN and a Mig-27 - the major difference in length due to the nose cone in the Mig-23FL; or the lens itself, for the cameras Very Happy

Thanks Sir, for going through this report, in detail!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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sumantra
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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 4485
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 6:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the kind words, Dr. Ganguly, and Varun!
sabya99 wrote:
Sumantra you came close to my house.
Dr. Ganguly, the next time, please give me a tip-off. If I can manage an official trip then, it will be really nice! I do not know Calcutta much, so you'll have to give me directions, though.

sabya99 wrote:
The terminal has somehow joined with the integrated terminal and I could find aircrafts parked on its bays! Perhaps it has not been abandoned.
I have a possible trip to Calcutta (JU again) 06-08 Sep. I look forward to another set of Dream)liner rides, and of course, seeing CCU's T2. As with MAA, I think they will upgrade the old part, and join it in - MAA uses the old bays, by the way. They have done a lovely job there.

Spiderguy252 wrote:
Sorry for the rough ride on the Duronto - I thought it'd be better than that.
Me too Smile However, the food part was awesome on the part of the train management, I found that a wonderful gesture, in this era of cost-cutting. Feeding a full train 1.5 times extra - is no joke!
Cheers, Sumantra.


Cheers, Sumantra.
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ameya
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Posts: 3591
Location: Pune,Maharashtra

PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 12:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Sir for the wonderful TR and the start of the report !
Since my travels are restricted to domestic flights and on private carriers, I have always had umpteen flights on A320 but hardly any of wide bodies, so its always a treat to read them

First of all - Welcome to 2013 !We hope to see more reports or possibly all of 2013 from you before the end of 2013 and I know you have had quite a high number of trips

Considering how the lady changed at your organization and how the lady changed at booking office, I agree that Lady luck indeed smiled on you at the right time

You are blessed to have seen operations from safdarjung airport, I have seen some private planes land in 2010, I believe it was before the working on converting that area as a parking lot of CWG started

I am not sure if the airstrip can be used for fixed wing any more.

Your description of the tomato soup is making me miss the soup served on Mumbai - Pune leg of the 6 dedicated trains
I have had atleast 3, each time I have been on them

Do the duronto have in train catering or they uplift meals at technical halts ? Just wanted to know how they budget the additional meals if the train is late, or they assume its gona be late in foggy times

I did not know that Biju Patnaik was a pilot. Shame on me and thanks for the info
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Nimish
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow - lovely TR Sumantra - both the train and the air parts! Thanks for posting.

The description of the lady at your organization who is responsible for the expense reports - that was hilarious. Glad you got a much more efficient person!

You're getting a lot of AI's 332 at the expense of the 787 - quite the irony Smile
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sabya99
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 6:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sumantra,
That will be wonderful. You could take a look inside the domestic terminal and how it is connected with T2 and in which way it is being used. Aerial view indicates that aerobridges are frequently used but no official information. May be you could light us up! Very Happy
My wife came back from CCU last week by AI101, she said that now one could walk straight from aircraft to immigration hall vial international arrival lounge. No need to walk through apron areas. In fact you could view inside of the immigration hall from the nice glass aerobridges.
By the way I am near the South City Towers!
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 7:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ameya wrote:
...and the start of the report!
Thanks a lot, Sir Smile

ameya wrote:
First of all - Welcome to 2013!
Sir, you welcomed me to 2013 in my last report, which was my first, in 2013!
51. `Chhattisgarh' & 36, Chappan-bhog & 56:Mumbai,Jan'13
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic13333.html
Curiously enough, the next trip report is one to Nanded - in one direction, via the airport which had ignited the aviation passion in you - Chikkalthana, Aurangabad! I will have to really work on this one, since I had lost the complete report (which I had nearly finished typing in March, as it was my first Q400 ride, and I had wanted to be the first to report on a Q400 experience). I have very little factual information about most of the trip -
the cockpit crew, and more importantly, the food.

ameya wrote:
We hope to see more reports or possibly all of 2013 from you before the end of 2013 and I know you have had quite a high number of trips
Yes, Sir - definitely Smile Hopefully, before the B789 gets into active service. No, not that long, but Ameya Sir - you would have noticed some progress at my end. The last three reports have come in a gap of about a week each. Each time, I had this voice ringing in my head, it was your soft voice, getting me into action.

ameya wrote:
You are blessed to have seen operations from safdarjung airport, I have seen some private planes land in 2010, I believe it was before the working on converting that area as a parking lot of CWG started
Yessir! And that almost indicated the end of fixed-wing operations from Safdarjung airport, much like the Delhi Flying Club was shifted to...Hissar, in the aftermath of 9/11, never to come back. The airstrip has been decaying ever since. Only rotary wing craft now operate from the airport, that too, usually the VVIP movement on the tiny hop to Palam.

ameya wrote:
Your description of the tomato soup is making me miss the soup served on Mumbai - Pune leg of the 6 dedicated trains
I have had atleast 3, each time I have been on them
Sir, you get me hungry. As a Mumbaikar, I used to patronise the Pune Shatabdi (with its awful catering), which later changed to the Intercity Express, the Pragati (04:20 pm ex VT), and the Deccan Queen (05:30 pm, ex-VT). Talking of soup, one of my worst sights was on the then 2951 Mumbai Rajdhani to Delhi...of seeing a catering attendant throw away some very nice soup on the tracks, as the meal service had got over. I guess he did not know of my
existence on the adjacent coach!

ameya wrote:
Do the duronto have in train catering or they uplift meals at technical halts? Just wanted to know how they budget the additional meals if the train is late, or they assume its gona be late in foggy times
The Durontos have pantry cars, from what I have seen. Somehow, I think the Bong general obsession for food has resulted in the Howrah/Sealdah Rajdhanis and Durontos having some good catering on board.

Cheers, Sumantra.
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 7:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nimish, thanks a lot for the kind words!
Nimish wrote:
The description of the lady at your organization who is responsible for the expense reports - that was hilarious. Glad you got a much more efficient person!
Nimish, the other lady is back, unfortunately. the efficient one resigned, and changed jobs!
However, you have referred to some of the sher joys of a Govt/semi-Govt job:
1. Getting an opportunity to observe such persons
2. Getting the time to observe such persons Very Happy

Nimish wrote:
You're getting a lot of AI's 332 at the expense of the 787 - quite the irony Smile
Yes, Nimish - I had another trip through your home town in March, which I too via MAA (AI 439 was DEL-MAA-BLR) just to experience the AI A332 once again. By the way, I have a possible official Calcutta trip in Sep, for which I will definitely opt for the Dream)liner flights (AI 020 DEL-CCU, AI 701 CCU-DEL), but this may get changed to an A332 in case VT-ANN/ANO get further delayed, and they take out some domestic Dream)liner routes, for international operations.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 8:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sabya99 wrote:
You could take a look inside the domestic terminal and how it is connected with T2 and in which way it is being used. Aerial view indicates that aerobridges are frequently used but no official information.
Will check this out, Sir. On this particular trip, I took Junior all the way to the place where the old T1 Domestic joined with the new T2 - I could see a lot fo construction work going on, there.
sabya99 wrote:
My wife came back from CCU last week by AI101, she said that now one could walk straight from aircraft to immigration hall vial international arrival lounge.
Sir - can we have a trip report, based on her descriptions, and photographs? Here, The Wife was on AI 020 on 25 Jul - the flight with the oven incident. I will post her pictures, and description of the trip (though the passengers did not come to know much about the oven incident).
sabya99 wrote:
By the way I am near the South City Towers!
On your next trip, please drop me a PM. In case I have an official Calcutta visit - especially to JU, I would love to disturb you Smile
Cheers, Sumantra.
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Theairplaneguy4ever
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 9:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I absolutely loved this TR! Brilliant work sir!

Nicely done on the descriptions and detailed insight into aviation!

Quote:
I count myself lucky enough to have seen operations
at this airport, albeit not regular passenger operations, which
ended in 1962.


Indeed. It's great that you've had the opportunity!

Quote:
Set out Jun 15 (Fri) from Delhi for Chicago


I flew AI122 ORD-LHR-BOM three months or so before you did on a 744 as well. I distinctly remember that the airplane had no PTVs, so it probably wasn't 'Agra'. It was a pretty uncomfortable flight, I'm glad I don't remember much of it.

Quote:
We enquired about whether a continental meal would be
available.


Are continental meals usually served on these trains? Forgive me, but, could you say what are the exact continental dishes being served if you happened to know? Thanks!

Quote:
I usually get singled out for
a re-run of my bag through the X-ray check, since I carry my
large analog SLR along with me, rolls of ISO 400 film


Quote:
As regards to security, I do suggest that you buy a new DSLR


I second Shukla sir here, and do recommend going for a better DSLR.

Quote:
We went to the new gates 2
and 2A.


Was this from a jetway? Honestly though, nothing beats the air stairs.
Especially seeing the weather was great!

Quote:
I spotted a
familiar face, who in turn recognised me.


This really shows that though the shine of the Maharaja is fading, there are still people who keep the spirit going. Brilliant of the crew!

Quote:
Food. But of Course


The food sounds great! I'm hungry already. A shame you couldn't grab a picture.

Great TR again and look forward to more!

Cheers!

Theairplaneguy4ever
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 11:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks a lot for your detailed comments, Adi!
Theairplaneguy4ever wrote:
Are continental meals usually served on these trains? Forgive me, but, could you say what are the exact continental dishes being served if you happened to know? Thanks!
Adi, this is Indian Railways' best-kept secret. What started off in the 1970s with two continental meals per Rajdhani coach, has now increased in number, thanks to the tourist traffic, especially on trains such as the Bhopal Shatabdi, which does Delhi, Agra, Gwalior and Bhopal (just look for the number of tourists on the Buddhist circuit from Japan, Thailand and Sri Lanka). There are veg and non-veg options, both. I have found the catering to be nice on the Calcutta trains: the Howrah and the Sealdah Rajdhanis, the Bhopal and Lucknow Shatabdis, the Mumbai and August Kranti Rajdhanis, and so-so on the Ahmedabad and Secunderabad Rajdhanis and the Dehradun Shatabdi, and quite horrid on the Ajmer Shatabdi - among those that I have travelled frequently on. First class on the first catering is absolutely terrific - at least, it used to be, when all the bone china cutlery used to be warmed, and individual items were served from trays. It has been a while since I travelled on these trains. On the II and II Tier AC coaches, the non-veg continental, from what I remember on the Howrah Rajdhani for instance, had Fish Orly, Roast/Fried chicken, noodles, boiled vegetables, a sandwich, salad, curd/yogurt, and ice cream, of course, in addition to the soup and the bread sticks.

Theairplaneguy4ever wrote:
I second Shukla sir here, and do recommend going for a better DSLR.
This will perhaps have to wait a bit Smile Some TRs to follow will have scanned-in pictures from my Analog SLR prints, and some from TW's new Nikon P&S, and new Sony Experia phone.

theairplaneguy4ever wrote:
Quote:
We went to the new gates 2
and 2A.
Was this from a jetway? Honestly though, nothing beats the air stairs.
CCU's 2 and 2A (T1 Domestic, now closed) are bus gates - so yes, it was a real pleasure! I have had the amazing pleasure of boarding the following wide-bodies through the stairs: B742, B77L, DC-10-30, and the A332! I have de-boarded form the B788 on stairs too, at MAA. The experience is amazing.

Theairplaneguy4ever wrote:
Quote:
I spotted a familiar face, who in turn recognised me.
This really shows that though the shine of the Maharaja is fading, there are still people who keep the spirit going. Brilliant of the crew!
I noticed this sea change about since the time the new planes entered the fleet, from around 2007-2008 or so. This feels nice!

Cheers, Sumantra.
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jbalonso777
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 11:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another superb and stunning TR you have written, Sumantra sir!
Pleasure as usual to read it!

As usual, the element of your build up to trips was present right here, great to read through it!

-Its no surprise to see the LHB rakes being badly maintained. I traveled on these for the first time in 2010 (AK Rajdhani, BCT-SVM-BTM) and the ride was not comfortable at all, due to the suspension (?). While I don't remember much of the interior, it was a rough two nights. However, a few months later much newer LHB rakes on the CST-HWH Duronto was a much welcome change, but the torn of vinyl, exposing the Rajdhani livery teed me off a bit.
-Wow. I too had a similar power port experience. Complete darkness for 5 minutes. I think to date, only Mum knows I was the culprit of the same Razz Rolling Eyes
-A question: was the tomato soup more diluted when it was served for the second time? My dinner soup was much more rich compared to the lunch soup.
-2010 or 2013: food on Duronto anywhere in India is pretty much the same. In this day and age of cost cutting, I'm glad this is still the same Mr. Green
-Its quite common to have a train wait outside the station. It has happened to me countless number of times. In Kolkata, and in Mumbai. Mostly in Kolkata, because I used to fly around less frequently back then.
-The green local trains in Kolkata. I miss them. I miss the brown ones in Mumbai too, now that they are almost gone (except on the harbour line!)
-BhAms. I have seen enough of them in Colombo. And its particularly annoying when they take a crap on our lawn and Mum scolds poor Dobby for it. There is also the golden palm civet cat, which is endemic to Sri Lanka only. Yes, I am on the lookout for it everytime I visit the Yala National Park.
-Interesting to note about the CCU T1 being clean! I have always had not so pleasant experiences when I have gone through it, sadly. Well, that won't be missed, thanks to the arrival of the new terminal!
- 2-4-2 on board Air India? I was always under the impression that it was in a 3-3-3 configuration?
-Interesting pictures of the waiting area! Wow this is one unique bird, no doubt!

And as usual, food descriptions, normal descriptions, a high amount of humour made it a great trip report.
Looking forward to more!

Regards
Jish
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks a lot for the detailed read, Jishnu! Yes, I remember your detailed descriptions on the train rides, which are certainly not comfortable for one with back pain. Our host at JU told also us about the repulsive smell of the bhAm's nuisance creation! AI's two A332s, and the old A310 tubbies also had the 2-4-2 seating. I somehow like this quite a lot! The Airbus wide-bodies are a bit narrower than the B777s, hence the 8 abreast. Taking of two on the two sides, the United hand-me-down B772ERs (and the only B772A, IIRC) had a replusive 2-5-2 seating in Y!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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stealthpilot
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2013 1:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm just going to start putting a thumbs up smiley (or whatever) when I reply .... as usual a great and descriptive TR.

Air India has a "get lucky" scheme Surprised start of a thousand jokes
All this from a trip 8 months ago- how on earth do you remember and have the patience to type in such detail!! I'm super impressed, I'm too lazy to type out my TR from a few days ago.

Redeeming the ticket (and the bureaucratic sloth associated with the process) seemed like such a pain, that would put me off an airline more than crappy food or the flight being late. Glad that ended well.
Interesting history about the DEL airports

Nice train report .... It's been a while since I had train food Smile

On the return flight, why separate PNRs for everyone? That couldn't be combined into one?

You recognized the crew member, again I'm impressed hehehe!!! I find it hard to place someone a week after I fly with them Smile

Great food descriptions ... Good coffee? You and aircraft coffee theres a rarity
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2013 8:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

stealthpilot wrote:
I'm just going to start putting a thumbs up smiley (or whatever) when I reply
Thanks a lot, Stealthpilot! I admire how you are able to keep up with a taxing schedule in the aircraft front office, and yet be regular on this forum! To come to your questions: no, I do not remember details. I just jot them down soon after they occur. If the notes get wiped out (as you will see in my next TR: a visit to Nanded, you will find the food and front office crew name details missing, along with other details). I too forget things after a few days - even the food.
Why separate PNRs for everyone? Mine was an official trip, so booked separately - to be reimbursed separately (Govt and semi-Govt organisations are nasty when they see more names on an itinerary than they expect!). The Wife's was on the `get lucky' scheme, and Junior's was on my points - separate schemes to book the tickets, although both were in the same booking class `X', and done by the same agent across the counter.
Recognising the crew member: ask The Wife Razz
And yes, nice point about the coffee - I envy you for being from Bengaluru, and yes, of course, you are flying all around the world, but when you are back in town, you can at least get some marvellous chicory-infused Kodagu/Coorg filter coffee - heavenly!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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