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US,Nov'13-1: Tailwinds to the Windy City!

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

PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2015 11:36 pm    Post subject: US,Nov'13-1: Tailwinds to the Windy City! Reply with quote

US,Nov'13-1: Tailwinds to the Windy City!


http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic14179.html

73.1 Planning for the Trip
With much excitement, I discovered that I would get an
opportunity to attend a conference in a city I had been to once
in 2005, San Diego. While I had done of the tourist circuit
there at that time, it would have quite a bit of new attractions
for me in terms of the route, the carriers flown, and a bit of
the city itself, sometimes referred to as `America's Finest City',
with its Spanish-styled architecture. Along with me was a
colleague, who was on a tighter budget than I was.
Both of us sat down to plan our trip.

My mind first turned to the airline I patronise most often.
Air India, of course.
I would try to get to the US from Delhi, and then take a US
carrier for the intra-US trip to San Diego.
What were my choices?
Air India has three flights to the US on its own metal, all three
served by B777s. AI 101 was (BOM)-DEL-JFK, AI 127 was (HYD)-DEL-ORD:
both of which would be non-stops for me. The third option was
AI 191 (AMD)-BOM-EWR, often called the `Gujju Express', on a B77L
(at the time of planning for my trip, circa mid-2013), with
the others being on B77Ws. Two of these flights earned Air India
a fair amount of revenue. The Gujju Express AI 191/144
combination had in the past being perhaps the only route that
actually made money, with the B744s then going jam-packed with
passengers and cargo. With Air India's premium-heavy B77Ls and
better-configured B77Ws, both guzzle a lot of fuel with average
loads, however the two services justified the short AMD-BOM and
HYD-DEL legs, and actually doing quite well. As a side-effect,
Continental/United took a hit on its BOM-EWR and DEL-EWR route
(AI has DEL-JFK, not DEL-EWR), and American Airlines bled badly
on its DEL-ORD service, before pulling out completely. It is not
that either Continental and later United, and American Airlines
are examples of excellently managed airlines, but for a so-called
Third World airline, that too carrying with it the heavy extra
baggage of being owned by a Government, Air India was giving
them competition on the basis of pure O&D (Origin-and-Destination)
traffic alone. The US market is often driven more by affinity to the
three alliances: Star Alliance, OneWorld, and SkyTeam, and Air
India (till at least the time of my journey, Nov'13) was not a
part of any alliance, having been snubbed by Star Alliance in a
failed attempt to join it.

A slight digression: at the time of my journey, Etihad had agreed
to buy five of Air India's B77Ls, leaving the airline with the
three that it had originally wanted as a part of its multiple
aircraft acquisition plan of the late 2000s. The economic climate
had changed rapidly, and ULH (Ultra-Long Haul) flights were no
longer justifiable, so out went with it Air India's plan for San
Francisco operations with the B77L, for instance. However, these
very B77Ls did the `Gujju Express' run quite well, surprisingly.
Regular spotters had long observed a B77L parked in Mumbai,
gathering dust. It was ironically `Maharashtra', in a land where
people in Air India have been very possessive about names of
aircraft, leading to the odd-ball `Himalaya' B707, and the
controversy over naming a plane as `Shivaji', with the name
finally going to one of the B743 Combis in the fleet.
`Maharashtra' had been used as a `parts source' for quite some time.
Under Team Nandan, Air India had preferred to keep the guzzling
premium-heavy B77Ls on the ground, rather than bleeding the
taxpayer more, but putting them on uneconomic routes.
This raised hopes of `Maharashtra' being repaired, and put back
in to action, for a route such as the BOM-EWR AI 191/144 `Gujju
Express', would typically need three frames.
It had sat there ever since it had a crack
on its MLG (Main Landing Gear) spar.
``How did it get a spar crack?'' asked an acquaintance.
``The Wife has always been asking me a similar question, with
regard to my mind,'' I replied, as an unsavoury thought came to mind.
Just at the time of writing this article (January 2015),
`Maharashtra' had taken a testing flight after being repaired,
and stored, for some time.

Now, I have taken all three of these flights before,
AI 101/2 on DEL-JFK and back, on 2008, on a direct B77L flight;
AI 127/124 on BOM-FRA-ORD and ORD-LHR-DEL on a B744 in 2007;
and AI 191/144 BOM-CDG-EWR and back on a B744, in 2005.
I was not averse to transiting via Mumbai, which has somehow
remained my favourite city, and had been my favourite airport
till IGIA T3 had come up, and CSIA T2 had not been renovated.
I looked up the flights cost-wise, and time-wise.
The AI 127/6 combination would give me an opportunity to fly the
longest non-stop route in Air India's network, circa Nov'13.
This would get me the longest distance into the US, giving me a
lower intra-US flight. AI 127/6 was costlier than the AI 101/2
combination in itself. However, I also had to look for convenient
connections.

71.2 A difficult optimisation, A welcome stop-over

As I wrote above, I was in favour of taking the longer flight
from India, to as far as I could get, in the US.
AI 127 to Chicago and back, to get a decent deal on a return
ticket, as opposed to a mixed itinerary, for instance.
While exploring all options, I saw convenient connections from
both JFK as well as ORD, to San Diego. However, the thought of
flying a US airline, with their extremely restrictive baggage
policies (circa Nov'13) was on my mind. American Airlines charged
$25 for the first checked-in bag, and $35, for the second one.
The official travel agent had given a good connection on American
Airlines to and from ORD, for instance. I would get not the
overall point-to-point fare, but something which the Indian Railways
calls `telescopic' fares, for instance. If I bought an in-line
connection from Air India, the American Airlines connection to
and from San Diego would cost me a mere Rs.11k, as compared to
the regular point-to-point AA return fare of Rs.24k. However, the
American Airlines webpage clearly specified that when connecting
from another carrier, the more restrictive policies (in this case,
the American Airlines baggage policies) would apply, though the
Air India website said otherwise. The official travel agent
warned me that it often came down to the check-in agent, as to
whether they would respect the Air India policy or not.
For instance, I was very happy that in 2008, Delta had respected the
policy, and I did not have to pay for my check-in baggage for my
JFK-Tampa leg and back, on the airline. I wanted to ensure peace
of mind, plus get some refreshment on board the flight.
The legacy carriers in the US had cut down on everything, and on
longish flights, one would get perhaps some biscuits with a drink.
I did not want to patronise their buy-on-board fare.
At the time of my trip (Nov'13), only two airlines offered the
convenience of free checked-in baggage. JetBlue, for one piece,
and Southwest, for two. The second was more up my line of
thinking, two pieces of maximum weight 23kg went well with the
Air India policy, so I was happy. JetBlue is perhaps the best US
airline at the moment, with relatively new and nice planes, nice
IFE and some filling snacks on board. Both JetBlue and Southwest
have reduced the amount of their snacks from the mid-2000s, however -
with Southwest going as per the US legacy airlines policy of a
drink and a cookie, or something similar. Southwest has free
seating unfortunately, and I would not be able to perform a web
check-in (which opens 24 hours before the flight, and is
patronised heavily!) to maximise my chances of getting a good
window seat, since I would be on the Air India flight in the
meanwhile, at that 24 hour-prior opening moment. Further,
Southwest served Chicago's Midway airport, and not O'Hare,
meaning that I would have to travel the good distance between the
two airports both ways. On top of it, I wanted a direct intra-US
flight, to minimise the inconvenience of a connection with
checked-in baggage, at an intermediate US airport.

The conference was from 06 Nov (Wed) - 08 Nov (Fri).
I had a tight itinerary: I was reaching San Diego in the evening
of 05 Nov (Tue), and would like to get back as soon as possible.
To my horror, I realised that there was no way I could make it
from the conference to connect to either Air India flight: the
JFK one, or the ORD one on 09 Nov (Sat), which would get me back
at my home base Delhi on 10 Nov (Sun) evening. There was no
convenient red-eye flight, or morning flight out of San Diego, to
get me to either JFK or ORD in time, except for a JetBlue red-eye flight,
which I did not want to risk, given the tight conference schedule.
I would have to apply for an extra day's leave: Monday, and more
importantly, have to apply for DA (Daily Allowance) for an extra
day, and think about booking a hotel at Chicago.

There was more to it.
Both JetBlue and Southwest were non-IATA airlines, which meant
that the official travel agent would not book the ticket for me:
i would not have a cash-less transaction, and I would have to
book the Southwest tickets separately, and have them reimbursed.
The Southwest return fares were comparable to the point-to-point
fares on American airlines, for instance.

My thoughts brightened up at the prospect of meeting my maternal
Uncle and Aunt, who stayed at Wisconsin, Madison. That would be
quite tiresome as well, since I would come to Midway airport on
Southwest, and then take the Van Galder bus service for the three
hour journey to Madison, stay the night with them, and then set
out early next morning, for Chicago O'Hare once more. I had met
my uncle after nearly two-decades-and-a-half (yes, 25 years!) in
2005, at my cousin's (their elder daughter's) wedding in 2005,
and then, early this year, for a few hours in
Calcutta, when I had combined an official trip with a personal one.
52. Duronto Debut,Dreamliner Despair,Double-Decker Desire:Jan13
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic13333.html

I looked forward to that!
Soon after, things got even better.
My cousin had settled in Chicago with her husband and two daughters.
Why didn't she get Madison to Chicago? she asked me.
I have met her in 1975, 1978-9, 2005 and 2006 - yes, we are not
very social people, a trend that flows in the family line.
Now, Uncle and Aunt would come over to Chicago, and I would not
get a chance to patronise the nice mass public transportation
system at Chicago, she would have me picked up from Midway
airport on 09 Nov (Sat), and have me deposited at O'Hare airport
on 10 Nov (Sun), in time to catch the Air India flight back.

My luck held.
I applied for permission (official, not from the Home Minister)
for both an extra day's stay at Chicago, and flying Southwest,
and having the tickets reimbursed.
I got permission for all the above.
Moreover, the official travel agent was able to book a ticket for
me on Air India, since it is often not too easy to get a ticket
on any of the three India-US Air India flights: they get booked
out very quickly, especially the Chicago one.
I was all set with the following itinerary:

Set out 05 Nov (Tue) for Chicago from New Delhi
AI 127: Air India (B77W) [Seat: 42A; PNR: J6RL8, Class L]
IGIA T3, New Delhi - O'Hare Int'l Airport, Chicago
New Delhi (DEL) - Chicago (ORD)
[02:00 am - 06:30 am] {16:00 hrs}

Set out 05 Nov (Tue) for San Diego from Chicago
SW 477: Southwest Airlines (B737-700) [Seat: xxx; PNR: AL5V9S]
Midway Airport, Chicago - San Diego Int'l Airport (Lindbergh Field)
Chicago (MDW) - San Diego (SAN)
[05:05 pm - 07:30 pm] {04:25 hrs}

Set out 09 Nov (Sat) for Chicago from San Diego
SW 1217: Southwest Airlines (B737-800) [Seat: xxx; PNR: AVFSYP]
San Diego Int'l Airport (Lindbergh Field) T2 - Midway Airport, Chicago
San Diego (SAN) - Chicago (MDW)
[06:35 am - 12:30 pm] {03:55 hrs}

Set out 10 Nov (Sun) for New Delhi from Chicago
AI 126: Air India (B77W) [Seat: 39K; PNR: J6RL8, Class L]
O'Hare Int'l Airport, Chicago - IGIA T3, New Delhi
Chicago (ORD) - New Delhi (DEL)
[01:30 pm - 03:25 pm, 11 Nov (Mon)] {14:25 hrs}

71.3 My colleague's itinerary

My colleague was braver than I was, and was on a much tighter
budget. An Air India Chicago return flight would cost me Rs.92k.
He found a one-stop British Airways flight via London Heathrow to
San Diego for Rs.84k, which would have the same generous baggage
rules as Air India. This too was on the higher side for him.
He found an absolute steal of a deal Rs.58k return on KLM,
and that too, on the airline's website.
There was the small matter of applying for official permission
for a non-Air India journey, but wary of the offer going away, he
booked it on his...net banking account.
He was really lucky to have got permission, stating his official
budgetary constraints, and the gravity of the situation.
He was able to combine this trip with some other work, so he
would be able to set out a day before me (he could have tried
harder for a trip two days before), and two days after, with his
constraint being that while he would get the leave, his expenses
on the stay would get beyond his personal budget, since he would
not get official permission for an extra stay. I would have to
`hare back from O'Hare', to put in a bad pun, since I had some
personal work, so I had to be back in Delhi on 11 Nov (Mon).
It was his first trip to the US, and he was excited about both
the conference, as well as going around San Diego.
He had done some good amount of homework with regard to the
places he wanted to visit on the tourist circuit.
I had given him some of my notes from what I remembered on my
2005 trip to the city, and showed him my photos - the first of
them from my much beleaguered Analog SLR, by the way!
He got a three-step connection on the outbound,
and a two-stop on, on the inbound.
He would take KL 872/871 for the DEL-AMS leg and back,
on a B744, take KL for the AMS-LAX segment on a unique B744
Combi, and then do the near hour-long LAX-SAN segment on Delta
Connection, a CRJ-900 (CR9). On the return, he would take a
SAN-MSP flight on Delta (a B752), and do MSP-AMS on a Delta A332.
He would get one checked-in bag free of charge, and he resolved
to travel light, something I rarely do.
Or manage to do, as a matter of fact.
As for taking pictographic memories back, he had bought somewhat
high-end smart-phone, with a good camera. He is not much of an
aircraft enthusiast like most of us,
so would not mind non-high speed pictures.

71.4 A picturesque debut

This would also be the first trip where I would go digital as far
as taking photographs went, with my brand-new Sony Cybershot HX300.
I had often been castigated on this forum for my love for my old
Analog SLR, a Minolta Maxxum 50 with a 28-100mm lens. This would
contrast with the device I used to take born-digital pictures, my
entry-level Nokia 2700 Classic cellphone, and occasionally
scanning in photographic positives. Yes! I am too lazy to go the
recommended negative(s) way. After all, it is a part of my
overall philosophy of crass pro-procrastination
.
Officially, I state it as one of the most fundamental laws of
Physics, The Law of Conservation of Energy.

Trust me to go off-topic art the drop of a hat.
What had precipitated this change?
For quite some time, my favourite photographic device was giving
me some problems. It was switching off all on its own, and I had
to repeatedly switch it on and off, till it turned on.
This was an undesirable `auto switch-off' feature!
No, the CR2 batteries were working fine. I procrastinated till things got
quite bad, and the reel retracted on its own, at odd moments, and
sometimes, after the first shot itself. In the space of a couple
of minutes, I had lost three ISO 400 reels, in trying to capture
a Dream)liner take-off from runway 29 at Delhi - which was all in
vain, by the way. My vain attitude, resulted in me making trips
to Delhi's Connaught Place (Sunshine Camera Repair Shop), where
the gentleman told me that it would not be worth going in for a
repair. I persisted. A trip to Mumbai happened, something I have
put in a trip report,
69. A day & a half, can't have enough! Mumbai, Oct'13
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic14146.html

I had gone all the way up to perhaps India's best-known camera
shop, the tiny J. J. Mehta and Sons at Dadar's Chhabildas lane,
just outside the Dadar station (West), requesting for an attempt
at repairing it. With about ten days to go for my trip, I got a
phone call from J. J. Mehta, saying that an IC was overheating,
leading to the film retracting. I was aghast.
I had anticipated something like this, though.
About a month back, I had requested my brother to give a some
suggestions, which would give me a decent product, commensurate
with my budgetary limitations. He asked me to desist from
coveting a desire for a DSLR, a Digital SLR camera. The ones
with a low price were entry-level DSLRs, which otherwise would
suit me fine (since I am not very comfortable with all modes of
the SLR). they would come with a 18-55mm lens - a package deal,
which did not suite me fine. I wanted fair quality zoom lenses,
which would raise the budgetary bar well beyond my economic
capabilities. He comforted me with the fact that a good DSLR with
a zoom lens would be quite heavy and unwieldy, for quick
get-aways and my interest in aviation photography. For my
requirements, he suggested professional compacts, and the
slightly lower-end ultra-zoom cameras. He shortlisted three of
the former, and four of the latter, in his characteristic
thoroughness. His wife complained that he was quite inaccessible
during the period he was working on surveying the market, leading
to an increase is his flaring up,
and an increase in decibel levels as well.

He had clearly suggested that I should not go by the brand, but
decide by the features of individual models. Further, I should
check out both on-line shops, as well as ebay.in, Flipkart,
Snapdeal, and amazon.in. He had given me the approximate price,
details about the sensor type, the sensor size, the amount of
zoom, aperture ranges, camera dimensions, and battery life.
For most of these cameras, the battery life was approximately
the same. As for the CMOS sensor, he told me that more the
megapixels, more would be the noise, unless the sensor size were
larger. A larger sensor implied better low-light capability.
A larger zoom would mean a more complex lens arrangement, with
possible distortions, and a zoom greater than 300mm effective
focal length (relative to a comparable Analog camera) meant that
I needed a good compact camera tripod, or a very steady hand.
I had neither, he contended. The first could be
overcome with a low-cost but cumbersome arrangement, but with
regard to the second, nothing could be done about it.

My nickname was not `Shakespeare' for nothing,
and certainly not for any of my literary exploits.
I did not need to put any watermark, or superimpose the name of
the photographer, in many of my pictures. The characteristic
`hand-shake' was a sure-shot give-away.
With regard to the aperture range from a wide-angle setting to a
tele-photo one, lower this number, better low-light pictures would
result. I finally chose the Sony Cybershot HX300, with a decent
0.43 inch sized sensor, which an amazing 24-1200mm optical zoom
capability (at the expense of a ghastly aperture number of 6.3
at maximum zoom, from an acceptable 2.8 at the wide-angle
setting. The camera was actually a bit smaller than my Analog
SLR, the Minolta Maxxum 50 with the 28-100mm lens.

Would it come in before I would set out for the US?
I had used The Wife's Nikon Coolpix compact (the camera, that is,
and I am not `making this up', to get the runny pun any further!) for
some excursions before, and had come to greps with its
capabilities (or rather, the lack of them), so I had a back-up in
case the delivery got delayed. The camera came in on Thursday,
31 October 2013, but lack of time meant that I was not able to
play around with it much, before I set out on the night of
Monday, 04 November 2013. I had tried out some pictures on Friday
01 November, and on Diwali/Deepavali 03 November, with some
ghastly results. On seeing a friend's lovely pictures of
fireworks in the night sky, I had complemented him on this.
My attempt could be be classified as glove at first sight.
My friend Mr. All-Stare MacLean had also been happy that this Diwali, he
had not contributed even a bit to the air pollution, which was a
bit less than what Delhi is infamous for.
He said that he could hold his head high with pride for both reasons.
I replied that I wished I could say the same.
I could not hold my head high because of crackers and shots,
and that the pun was highly intended.
Yes, `shots' refer to the evil spirits, which I patronise often,
thanks to my ardent Bacchus-worship.

As a little footnote to this section, I asked my colleague if he
had a camera to take pictures of this trip. He was to go through
quite a few interesting airports, Amsterdam Schipol (AMS), Los Angeles
International (LAX), Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), in addition to
the two end points of our trips. He remarked that he had bought a
new high-end cellphone, which has a good camera. I remarked
that he could use the cell-phone in the `flight' mode if the
carrier permitted it, and at airports, of course.
Another colleague who had been paying attention to this conversation, asked
``Pictures...of planes? Does a person have nothing better to click?''
I fell into stunned silence. I was rendered speechless, and just
did not have the right answer.
Indeed, did a person not have anything else to take pictures of?

71.5 Notes from IGIA T3

I had come in to IGIA T3 at around 10:45 pm. I observed quite a
crowd for the common counters for the JFK and ORD flights, AI 101
and AI 127. There were three designated counters for the AI 127
flight on the side I was on, and soon, a fourth counter came up.
Though one counter said AI 101, they were not being specific
about which passenger was getting to which counter. There was
quite a crowd building up, and many passengers were of
Caucasian origin. I went past the Immigration quickly, and went
air-side. Much to my disappointment, the internal reflections on
the glass precluded taking decent pictures from inside the
terminal building. However, there was not much exotic traffic
around, which could be photographed from my favourite vantage
points inside IGIA T3, the international side. I could see the
United (ex-Continental CO 83/82 EWR flight), which closed gates
soon after I reached there, to try and take a picture of the B772ER.
Among other planes, there was the Jet Airways Hong Kong flight
(if I remember correctly), a Malaysian A332 to Kuala Lumpur,
SQ 407: the Singapore Airlines flight to Singapore, the Air
France A332 to CDG, AI 380 to Singapore, the Air India flight to
Damman (there may have been a few more Air India flights such as
the Hong Kong one, which I failed to take note of),
a Thai Airways B772 to Bangkok, the MJ Mihin Air A321 to
Colombo, an Indigo and SpiceJet flight to the Gulf, among those
which I could notice. However, none of these sights would be
amenable to taking a picture.

71.6 Boarding AI 127!

My chatty friend from Bhopal, Mr. J. R. R. Talking tracks most Air India
flights. He gave me thorough details about the movements at IGIA,
Delhi, that day. There were three B77Ws at IGIA T3, he told me:
ALS had come in from HYD, ALP from BOM, and sometimes,
Air India swapped the planes on the two US flights.
Mr. J. R. R. Talking knows it all.
He had correctly guessed that it would be `Madhya Pradesh' for me.
Gate 24 was for the Chicago (ORD) flight, and Gate 26 was for
the New York (JFK) one. I observed `Madhya Pradesh' standing at
our gate (just as Mr. Talking had predicted), and `Mizoram'
adjacent to us, which was actually for the JFK flight.

On boarding, we were welcomed by a young lady, and a very senior
gentleman with white hair, whose face looked quite familiar to me:
I have seen him previously on long flights. Both were welcoming
passengers in a rather cheerful manner, as were the other members
of the cabin crew inside the cabin. As I sat down, I noted `Madhya
Pradesh' filling up quite rapidly. I texted this fact to my
friends, adding that my `Madhya Pradesh' (central province,
literally) was quite empty. `my MP was MT', in spite of a full
dinner at home. There was a lovely soft piece of boarding music
playing on the IFE systems, which was based on the rAga jhinjhotI.
The plane was overall neat and clean, with the fabric looking
quite fresh. However, some of the plastic surfaces had grime
marks around the edges. The IFE unit on my seat 42A did not work,
though thankfully, the touch-screen did.

I took a picture of the opening screen on the PTV,
with the lady in the orange sari in the golden evening light,
reflected in one of the pools right in front of the Taj Mahal.
The result was quite bad, since the pixels were clearly visible.
I was experimenting with my new toy, my HX300.



This was the view outside my window. VT-ALS, `Mizoram'.
`Mizoram' pushed back on the dot, and what a sight it was!



Prominent forum member and one of our best trip report writers,
Jishnu Basu has documented the GE-90 start-up noise very
well as the `Mmmmm' sound, with the pitch progressively
increasing to a crescendo. We pushed back a bit late.
Captain Gautam Yadav was in command. He came on the air, and
announced the names of the cockpit and cabin crew. I did not
catch most of the names, except for two more, First officer B. K. S.
Randhawa, and Ms. Renu Kapoor, who was in charge of the cabin. It was a
nice gesture on behalf of the captain to introduce his crew.
As we made it towards the new runway 29, I noticed an unusual
sight: two Air India Regional ATR-42s parked at the domestic
remote stands, one in the usual old Alliance Air colours, and one
in the new Flying Swan livery. There were the two usual CRJ-700
`masked bandits' parked there as well.
Captain Yadav executed a long and powerful take-off towards the
west, as I drifted in and out of sleep.
I sensed the ding of the seat belt sign going off, but was too
drowsy to change my stance. I would remain in that state until
a soft voice announced a snack. This was music to my ears.
All my sleep completely disappeared, as I got ready to attack it.

I quickly switched the PTV on, and chose an audio channel with my
favourite old film songs. I took a picture of the `snack'.



By the time I was done with the settings to enable me to enjoy the
snack in perfect harmony with my surroundings, the beverage
service had begun, with a hot and passable strong coffee.
It started with a typical `Bombay Sandwich' (albeit with marbled
bread and not white bread) with some butter on the insides, and
the main filling consisting of slices of cucumber and tomato. It
was nice, though the bread was nothing special. The same went for
the other brown bread sandwich, which had some cheddar cheese
inside. I wanted to have this and the previous one with the
tomato sauce/ketchup satchet, but was also apprehensive of my
sleepy fingers soiling my clothes with an ungainly tear and a
squeeze - which The Wife characterises as the start of a trip for me.
There was a somewhat larger slice of cake, which on the other
hand was simply superb: it was an ordinary pound cake slice, but
was incredibly fresh, and absolutely melted in the mouth.
I was completely contended, but my sleep had gone off by now.
It would take some time to catch up with some forty winks or
more, but I could rest contended, in the thought that I had had
something nice, and filling.

There was `Aj sochA to AnsU bhar Aye', based on rAga kIrwaNI,
`ruke ruke se kadam', also based on the same rAga,
and `ek tU jo milA, duniyA jo milI', based on the rAga chArukeshI
- interestingly, both these ragas are imports from the Carnatic
system into the Hindustani system. There were some other lovely
rAga-based songs as well, such as the jhinjhoTI-
and mand-based `do dil TUTe, do dil hAre'[i],
and the somewhat rare [i]rAga dhAnI
(close to the more
conventional bhImpalAsI), on which the
lovely song `nainon mein badarA chhAye'[i] is based.

71.7 The cabin, the cabin crew, little passengers

I have to complement Air India for having the lavatories always
well-stocked: there was soap in the dispenser above the basin,
facial tissues, mouthwash, and a moisturiser.
There were water bottles in the galley, even when the plane was
all dark, and the cabin crew had retired for some well-earned rest.
Occasionally, some one would come with some
replenishment, and re-stock the galley. They also sprayed some
deodouriser in the lavatories, which was a bit too strong for my
linking, though. The toilets would be clean throughout the entire
journey - Air India's longest non-stop flight. This is something
which was quite inconsistent in Air India's Dark Ages, where bad
passenger behaviour would often be coupled with some apathy on the part
of the cabin crew.

In row 42, there was a baby girl who refused to sleep in her
bassinet, for some red-eye reduction for her parents, to put this
in photography terms. Over the ages, even in Air India's Dark
Ages, the cabin crew have always been quire superb with elderly
passengers and passengers with little children. All but two of
the cabin crew on this flight were young ladies and gentlemen.
All the cabin crew were quite pro-active, with re-stocking the
lavatories, picking up rubbish dropped inadvertently, and
getting back to the topic, helping people with little children.
For little Ms. Bassinet near me, her parents had dropped a toy
somewhere close-by, a lady came up, and handed it over to them.
Very soon, the bassinet was overflowing with blankets and other
miscellany for her use, but Ms. Bassinet clung on to her mother,
crying most of the time, reducing her intensity when in her lap,
albeit, somewhat. There was another young gentleman close-by, who was
incessantly going around with his daughter on his lap. The
difference between the father and daughter was absolutely stark.
The gentleman's eyes were red with a ti-red expression on his
sleepy visage, but his daughter was wide awake, looking all
around her perched atop his shoulder, albeit being very quiet all
the time. The Wife and I have gone through this period with
Junior, and this is something none of us would remember with pleasure,
more so, since Junior was mostly very vocal all the time.
A duet/[i]jugalbandI
between the two little girls
would have really been something. Something undesirable.

71.8 Breakfast!

At around half-way through the journey, as I was drifting in and
out of sleep, and my body clock was doing its best not to adjust
to the changing time zones. Amidst the light reddish mood
lighting signifying dawn, the irresistible aroma of breakfast
being warmed, filled the Economy class cabin of the huge B77W
aircraft. The cabin crew went about their task with a smile, and
with a well-rehearsed promptness. I liked both.



Much like the snack just after we reached cruising altitude, the
there was plastic cutlery handed out on the food trays.
It started with a lovely fruit salad, which had two slices of the
`disco' variety of papaya, two slices of a musk mellon/honey dew
mellon, sometimes referred to as the `sArDA' variety in Delhi.
There was a black currant on top, with four seeds inside. I had
been careful to avoid this seedy experience, twirling the grape
in my mouth with small bites, to let the juicy pulp out,
while enabling me to separate the grain from the chaff er...the
pits from the grape. This was a great start to the virtual day!
We were over the Scandinavian peninsula, and it was quite dark
outside. Much to my delight, the croissant was extremely soft and
absolutely melt-in-the-mouth, even though we were some seven
hours into the flight. It must have been nearly fresh out of
the oven, when it had been loaded onto the plane, unlike the
sandwich breads, which had been a part of the snack before,
which had not been this fresh. I was equally delighted to see the
butter chiplet come out with flying colours in the time-tested
`stone age' test: it was as rock hard as I love it. There was
some preserve as well, and I tucked into each bite of the
croissant, with a delight that can be scarcely be put into words.

The main course was completely out of the world.
To the left were three large pieces of herbed potatoes. The
flavour of the spices and herbs had seeped deep into the skin of
the potato, which had been broiled/roasted and then tossed around
in a minute quantity of oil. I savoured each bite of the
well-marinated taste of the potato wedges. Under the wedges, and
to the centre, was a large and fluffy omelette, which had been
warmed to perfection: neither was it runny, nor dry or browned.
Culinary perfection, if you ask me.
There were two chicken sausages to the right, which had been
tossed around in a minute quantity of oil once again, so as to
just brown the outer part. They simply melted into the mouth.
The coffee was not too bad, either - it was piping hot and strong.
This is one of the delights of sitting close to the galley: one's
digestive juices start preparing for the feast to follow, quite
well in advance, and the food is quite hot.

By the time I got around to typing this part of the trip report,
we were well over the Atlantic ocean, almost half-way to Iceland
from the Scandinavian peninsula. We had taken off from Delhi,
followed a North-Western route over the Central Asian ex-Soviet
republics, over Russia, almost touching Moscow, then Helsinki,
then taking the North Atlantic route. We would go past Reykjavik,
a bit of the southern part of Greenland , before coming in to
North American over the North Eastern part of Canada, over the
Great Lakes, and coming in to Chicago. To my delight, I could see
the stars in the clear night sky. I remembered the lines from the
famous Nursery rhyme, especially the not-too well-known second,
and the even rarer third paragraph,
``Twinkle twinkle little star
how I wonder what you are
up above the world so high
like a diamond in the sky

When the blazing sun is gone
when he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light
Twinkle, Twinkle all the night

When the traveller in the dark
thanks you for your tiny spark
He would know not where to go
if you did not twinkle so.''

71.9 Evil Spirits?

I missed a drinks run, with juices, soft drinks, and of course,
the evil spirits, the type with specific gravity well below one.
I wondered why.
I comforted myself with the fact that a snack service at 02:30 am
was not exactly amenable to a drinks run, though the benefits of
a nightcap aren't exactly unknown.
Breakfast isn't exactly the time to patronise a tipple moment.
However, I noticed the cabin crew with some nicely contoured
bottle-green bottles of the nice red wine that Air India serve on
board, going towards passengers who has specifically requested
for a little indulgence. Was this a part of the overall cost-cutting?
Air India was still one of the very few airlines which served
excellent complementary liquor on board, in the Economy class.
It could not be to handle an unwanted situation of drunk
passengers. This flight was sometime dubbed the IT Express, with
its regular cache of techies in the IT industry going from Andhra
Pradesh to Chicago. The ethnic composition of many passengers was
quite obvious, more so, the quiet and suave culture that went
with the educated people from the region.

On another visit to the galley handed me the pleasing sight of
two things that we Indians consume in copious quantities.
Water and tea. There were quite a few bottled water crates there,
with napkins, cups, and tea bags, milk powder and sugar sachets
near the hot water dispenser. The ice compartment was also
stocked up. For what? Orange Juice boxes were placed
there, much to my delight, and a large Coke bottle, for those who
liked soft drinks, albeit a bit on the sinful side.
Needless to say, I hydrated myself to my contentment.

I would not have to worry about the evil spirits, however.
It would come with the meal service.


71.10 Food for Thought, making a meal of it!

As we crossed over into Newfoundland, the appetising smells
around the cabin pointed to some thing that would give me
unbridled joy: the promised Air India meal. Yes, the cabin crew
were heating the meals. I had been typing most of this report
all the while, with my body clock ticking away as per Indian
Standard Time. I had not heeded the request of the cheerful
cabin crew to take some rest, lest I forget some details of this
trip, before I put them down.

The meal started with the drinks run.
I remembered the Doctor's advice of avoiding alcohol on flights.
Moreover, the lack of sleep would give me headaches, and alcohol
would accentuate it further. It remained at an Orange juice for me.

Appetising smells were enveloping me for all over.
I did not want to curb my hunger for much longer.
I desisted from making the groundnuts/peanuts do a disappearing
act into my fathomless belly. I would wait for the main course.
I remember what a senior colleague had told me about the Air
India service of late. He had recently been on his first US trip,
surprising for a person who has perhaps been to every other
continent, but for the southern-most frozen desert. He had
heard a lot about the Air India services on the non-stop flights
even in these days of cost-cutting, and his expectations were not
unfounded, and he was not disappointed. However, he also got a
snack, a breakfast, and a meal on his DEL-JFK flight, much like
mine, and had complained that the food was a bit too much, a bit
over-whelming. It was superb on the return leg, with the amounts
and moments when the food was served - very apt, and superb, in
terms of both quality, as well as quantity.
What?
I vehemently disagree with this analysis.
There can never be too much of something as nice as food.
I have fond memories of the two pairs of Air India US flights I
had taken in 2005 BOM-CDG-EWR and back (AI 191/144), and in 2007
BOM-FRA-ORD and ORD-LHR-DEL (AI 127/124).
One stop meant...nearly four meals.
Even a beverage run was accompanied with a filling large
sandwich, and...literally a piece of cake,
from what I
vividly remember from my AI 191 trip to New Jersey, when I saw
first-hand what a jam-packed B744 looks like, or feels like.

The cheerful crew members were asking around what one's
preferences would be, veg, or non-veg.
Was I missing something?
Yes, the third option, typically a non-vegetarian option of
cuisine local to the non-Indian end of a route.
When I chose non-veg, I was asked, Chicken curry with rice, or Lamb stew?
Yes, that was the third option!
Lamb stew, I said, enthusiastically.
I apologise for the lack of a picture here, I had completely
forgotten that I had a digital camera with me on this trip, and
did not click a picture of the meal.
My heart sank as this realisation dawned on me well after I had
devoured the offering, down to the last lick.

Let me get back to the topic...I have often looked forward to
this `third option'. the North American routes have a Continental
option. On North American routes, two Continental meals I
remember were smoked Norwegian Salmon on one trip, and grilled
Hake on another, which were incredibly tasty.

This started with an nice Indian `green' salad, with small pieces
of cucumber: which was interesting, since it had both the Western
cucumber, which is usually consumed with the skin on, and the
desI variety, which is (in my humble opinion), much tastier,
with an obvious difference being the colour of the skin, and the
level of crunchiness in the two. There were shredded tomatoes and
green capsicum/bell pepper as well, and a slice of lemon,
to add to the magic. I sprinkled a bit of the salt and pepper
on the salad bowl, and a few drops of the lemon on the same.
Even after fourteen hours in the air, this
salad tasted wonderful, which speaks volumes for Air India's
catering instructions, and fine taste. The salad was very low on
the presentation coefficient: the pieces were randomly chopped,
in no particular shape, or either large patterned slices, or
small and finely chopped ones. On Air India, I have had salad
with large oval serrated slices of cucumbers and carrots, and on
the other end of the scale, finely chopped pieces of the same.
The Wife often chops the Indian `green' salad ingredients fine,
and mixes them well with a hint of shredded ginger. and onions
(which Air India has often avoided to improve their
acceptability with people such as Jains, who avoid onions and
garlic - this had been traditionally done even before the price
of onions touched the sky. Air India food managers
certainly know their onions!).
The Wife says that with the increased surface area, and letting
it stay for a little while (but not too long) keeps the
crunchiness, and letting the flavour of the mixture permeate all
the constituents of the mixture.
It was a superb start to a nice meal.
The dessert was inviting me to partake a sample of it, for quite
a while, but I resisted myself.
Would it be Air India's signature firnI?

I dissuaded myself from getting into Dreamland once more, and
attacked the main box with gusto. In the middle was some
middle-sized aromatic Basmati rice, which had been herbed to
perfection, with some fine Cilantro. The light but subtle flavour
was a treat to the senses. I sprinkled the remaining juice in
the lemon slice onto the rice, and had it just for the subtle
flavour that the lemon did not overwhelm.
Of course, I added the salt and pepper to the preparation.
To the right were oven-baked vegetables, including squash and carrots.
This went well with the rice. The lamb stew was wonderful. The
pieces were small, soft and succulent and the light gravy with
the preparation complemented the flavours very well, so as not to
give a `raw' sensation to the traditional Indian taste buds, and
let it not be too spicy, or oily, for Western tastes.

When I finally allowed myself to pay attention to the dessert, it
turned out to be a moment of disappointment, which was only
overcome by the taste. No, it was not the signature Air India
firnI, the lovely Kashmiri rice and condensed milk delicacy.
However, most of the ingredients were similar - it was a
kheer/pAyasam, where small grains of aromatic rice had been
lovingly cooked over a low flame (the taste had permeated deep
inside each small grain: I put small quantities on the tip of my
tongue, and let each morsel tickle my taste buds.
Taste of what? The garnishing was a generous smattering of
chopped pistachios, and a hint of roasted cinnamon, clove and
crushed large cardamom (baDI elAichI) seeds. The `hint' ensured
that it would complement the subtle flavours of the sprinkled
crushed pistachio nuts, and yet would complement the milk which
had desiccated quite a lot before the rice was added in, and then
cooked to perfection. I was lost. Completely lost in Wonderland.
The beverage run included a hot and strong coffee, which
concluded the lovely meal.

71.11 Landing at O'Hare, and from there?

When coming into Chicago from over Lake Michigan, the view in the
darkness is simply awesome. Being on the port side of the plane,
I missed the star sight, the Sears/Wills tower, and the other
nearby skyscrapers, but even this horrid picture in
near-complete darkness with ample motion blur, will perhaps convey
some of my excitement at seeing this sight from the air.



Captain Yadav brought the plane down like a feather, on O'Hare's
runway 10L (which incidentally, is the airport's longest runway).
It was an amazingly soft landing, as we went towards
a gate in the sleepy Terminal 5, the International terminal.
I remember this terminal having only 18 gates in 2007, much less
than Mumbai's CSIA T2 at Sahar. As I thanked the crew for an
excellent flight experience, I headed towards the Immigration and
Customs. We had come in 40 minutes early at O'Hare. I was hoping
to hop onto a bus to take me to the Midway airport, where I would
connect to my flight to an Diego. What was in store for me there?
Please wait until the next part of this trip report...
74. US,Nov'13-2: Winds/Sands of Time..Windy City-Sandy Ego!
---
Links to my 73 trip reports:
https://sites.google.com/site/sumantratrip/


Last edited by sumantra on Tue Jan 27, 2015 11:08 pm; edited 4 times in total
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jbalonso777
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 3:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sumantra sir, what a fabulous Trip Report from an ultra-long Air India flight!
I did start reading this in the mid morning, however, staying awake almost this entire night ensured that my eyes were heavy and I quite simply fell off to sleep! No No, your TR isn't uninteresting Smile I'm just sleep deprived, that's all.

Interesting planning of US domestic routes before the trip, something which is oh so familiar to me today. Its sad that the legacy 'FSC' carriers of the US charge for luggage as well Sad But at the same, us Indians would also be very surprised to see the high fares on domestic flights in the US! Hmm, Southwest Airlines is pretty interesting, I wonder what part 2 of this TR has to bring about for us Smile

Also some amazing commentary from pre-trip. I loved every aspect, from the history of your AI experiences to the US, how they're doing, etc. Of course, I loved the awesome descriptions of the camera selection! Exciting times those are Smile

Good to see the AI B77W again, I have been noticing the rotational swaps at DEL off recent, its very mentioning. You didn't really have to, but thank you for a mention Smile I certainly do miss the awesome GE90 start ups, something I haven't experienced since....oh crickey, 2012! Shocked

The snack looks more of plastic than a meal to be honest Sad But at least it sounded to be pretty decent. Interesting that AI serve a cold meal, has this always been the case? 9W serves a hot snack if I remember correctly, on all of its redeye departures.
On the other hand, lovely to see the other two meals being up to the standard and of amazing quantity! Very Happy I particularly like the interesting fusion of the continental non veg meal Smile And as always, good to know there were 3 options on board.

I look forward to see what happens in the next part, it all looks very interesting!

Regards
Jish
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ameya
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 5:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks sir for the detailed TR and this is just part 1 ! The planning, optimization and the other aspects related to semi govt organization in booking are back again !

and certainly the description of good food and a great picture of landing at ORD - with an approach over the lake !

Look forward to the next parts

sumantra wrote:

the city itself, sometimes referred to as `America's Finest City',

Havent been to San Diego - but wouldn't it be Mexico's finest city in America or something like that Wink

sumantra wrote:

Van Galder bus service


They are a very professionally managed company. I utilized their services thrice in 2013. Fantastic !
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 5:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jbalonso777 wrote:
Interesting planning of US domestic routes before the trip, something which is oh so familiar to me today.

First, a big thank you for the detailed read, and the comments. I am glad you liked the planning part, since I love reading your optimisations. The camera part was written in detail, since I was learning from the experience. Not much, since I still rely on the auto modes - I am ashamed to say this!
jbalonso777 wrote:
I wonder what part 2 of this TR has to bring about for us
A delay? Razz I hope not. On a serious note, I had my first and second Southwest experiences on this trip, after years of hearing about them, and I am satisfied that I patronised their services. Yes, more about this in detail in Part 2, with some bad-light spotting pictures from a not-so-common airport, Midway airport, Chicago, from where SouthWest operates.
jbalonso777 wrote:
You didn't really have to, but thank you for a mention Smile I certainly do miss the awesome GE90 start ups, something I haven't experienced since....oh crickey, 2012!
Oh, ever since you had mentioned it on this forum, I have been telling The Wife, Junior, and all around me, as to how one remembers the sound of these engines!
jbalonso777 wrote:
The snack looks more of plastic than a meal to be honest...Interesting that AI serve a cold meal, has this always been the case? 9W serves a hot snack if I remember correctly, on all of its redeye departures.
Plasticky: true! My senior colleague was harping on this part: AI had got the food timings all wrong on the DEL-ORD/DEL-JFK legs, but correct, on the return. Well, as long as the quality and quantity are decent, I do not mind it, in the least! It was a cold snack+hot breakfast+hot dinner Hmm...of course, a hot snack would have been great, a la 9W.
Thanks a lot, once again, Sir!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ameya wrote:
The planning, optimization and the other aspects related to semi govt organization in booking are back again!
Thank you, Sir: for the detailed read! Yes, we have quite a few constraints here, and planning within those has its own intricacies, excitement, exasperations, and I just tried documenting all bits of information I had.
ameya wrote:
wouldn't it be Mexico's finest city in America or something like that Wink
He he...well said Wink
ameya wrote:
Van Galder Bus Service: They are a very professionally managed company. I utilized their services thrice in 2013.
Yes, they are good: though I patronised them only twice, in 2007. ORD-UW Madison, and back. They kept to the time moderately well, but did not have any counter at ORD T5 (as they had advertised then: perhaps their web page had not been up-to-date).
Thanks once again, Sir!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Sumantra - lovely TR - thanks for sharing. I especially liked the beginning sections on the trip planning and options and so on. I had a comment on the questions you faced regarding baggage allowance:

There's a specific IATA resolution 302 around the baggage allowance on mixed airline itineraries - called the "Most Significant Carrier" rule. Refer to page 4 of this deck) for resolution 302. This is further overridden by the US DOT as follows:

Refer US Dot ruling 399.87 (end of page 5 of this deck) for the US view of the "Most Significant Carrier" IATA ruling.

Quote:
US DOT Ruling 399.87
For passengers whose ultimate ticketed origin or destination is a U.S. point, U.S. and foreign carriers must apply the baggage allowances and fees that apply at the beginning of a passenger's itinerary throughout his or her entire itinerary. In the case of codeshare flights that form part of an itinerary whose ultimate ticketed origin or destination is a U.S. point, U.S. and foreign carriers must apply the baggage allowances and fees of the marketing carrier throughout the itinerary to the extent that they differ from those of any operating carrier.


Also interesting is the information on the next slide:

Quote:
US DOT Ruling 399.85 eff. 24 July 2012 (1/2)
 Baggage Disclosure.
(c) On all e-ticket confirmations for air transportation within, to or from the United States, including the summary page at the completion of an online purchase and a post-purchase email confirmation, a U.S. carrier, a foreign air carrier, an agent of either, or a ticket agent that advertises or sells air transportation in the United States must include information regarding the passenger's free baggage allowance and/or the applicable fee for a carry-on bag and the first and second checked bag.


Hence all USA bound tickets now always contain the baggage allowance explicitly spelt out.

Lufthansa (where I first heard of this concept), clearly calls it out at: http://www.lufthansa.com/in/en/Free-baggage-rules

Hence if AI had issued a DEL-ORD-SAN and return routing on any US airline on a single ticket, the US domestic sectors would mandatorily have the same baggage allowance as the DEL-ORD sector on AI. You need not have switched terminals at Chicago for this reason alone!
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you Nimish! This was some really detailed information, and all this was straight from the horse's mouth: the DoT manuals. Air India mentions the rules explicitly and unambiguously on its website. Yes, my ticket also said so. I was quite apprehensive about it because of what the US carriers' web pages say. AA for instance, explicitly say that the more restrictive policy would apply:
http://www.americanairlines.in/intl/in/travelInformation/baggage/allowIndiaToUs.jsp#
Click on `Connecting to/from another airline'. It is surprising that a US carrier does not make things explicit, and that too, on its web page!
Our official travel agent emphasised that it could be at the discretion of the check-in agent, as he had heard some tales about some vagaries in the agents sticking to the rule. I have personally seen this in action once in 2008: DEL-JFK on AI and JFK-TPA on DL, and TPA-LGA(!) on DL, and JFK-DEL on AI: the AI allowance was respected, and I had inter-lined on DL. I have had some odd experiences with check-in agents in the US (`Jet Airways? We don't know no airline by that name. NorthWest doesn't code-share with them.' On being shown a NW in-flight magazine with 9W's name and logo, `This is clearly wrong.'). I did not want to risk it.
As an aviation enthusiast, I got one more airport to check out, and one more airline to fly with, once I had been seeing for a good number of years without actually flying in it. And yes, I got my bags checked in without any ado at all. Check out one picture in Part 2 of this trip description: the ad on a plane's belly! I hope I get Part 2 up before people forget about this Smile
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2015 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Felt like we were in the planning process with you! Great TR, you are the only person I know who would describe eating a grape Laughing

- Jetblue is my favourite airline in America, though I havnt flown US domestically since 2007.
- DEL-ORD .... 10.5 hour halt .... switch airports .... then Southwest (hahah) Yikes!
- Your colleague must have been laughing at you after the flight/cost he managed to snag Smile
- When I need to buy another camera im coming back to this TR
- The first snack looked rather unappetising- something they gave for the sake of giving? Breakfast looked good tho.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2015 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

stealthpilot wrote:
Felt like we were in the planning process with you!
Thank you, stealthpilot! It took quite a lot of my time and mental faculties, hence I decided to document it blow-by-blow, from my notes, on the issue.
stealthpilot wrote:
you are the only person I know who would describe eating a grape
Ha ha! My grapes are often sour Smile
stealthpilot wrote:
DEL-ORD .... 10.5 hour halt .... switch airports .... then Southwest (hahah) Yikes!
...and all for two free bags, to add to your list. SouthWest isn't that bad by US staandards, in fact, it would possibly rank just below B6. Wait for parts 2 and 4 of my TR: I am on the job, this time.
stealthpilot wrote:
Your colleague must have been laughing at you after the flight/cost he managed to snag
Definitely...though I got the miles, and a Silver Edge club membership, thanks to my incessant domestic flying as well.
stealthpilot wrote:
When I need to buy another camera im coming back to this TR
I am honoured, since I hardly know anything else about cameras!
stealthpilot wrote:
The first snack looked rather unappetising- something they gave for the sake of giving? Breakfast looked good tho.
You should have seen the last meal, which was fabulous. The standard went up with time. The first was a light snack, relatively decent for a 2am start of the day, though yes, it could have been better. The breakfast and the last meal more than compensated for this light snack, both in quality and quantity. Oh how I miss AI's nearly-four meals on AI 191/144/127/124/..., before the non-stops came up!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2015 10:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Do you have like a planning department for your TRs? Who prepare charts, histograms and derive a conclusion for a trip Very Happy

Kidding ... excellent well descriptive TR, and yes welcome to the world of US carriers.

I'm sure you are inching towards Star gold soon with your array of AI trips
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 12:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sumantra, a nice trip report again. You did a wise choice of DEL-ORD-West coast as it is shorter and faster than trans-Pacific flights. Your comment about BOM-EWR flight of AI as a Guju express is widely accepted here. But AI 101 becomes at sometimes Punjab mail or Bong express also. But this traffic pattern is more seasonal. Please keep posting!
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sumantra
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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 4485
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

avbuff wrote:
Do you have like a planning department for your TRs? Who prepare charts, histograms and derive a conclusion for a trip
Ojas, I really wish I did, and I really wish I at least did so, myself. I am not good with numbers or statistics, and analyses...I wish I were like you!
avbuff wrote:
...and yes welcome to the world of US carriers
Sir, I've been seeing their gradual downfall from 1978 onwards: Northwest Orient, with a break of quite a few years to 2001, 2005, 2007, 2008, and finally 2013. I do not think I will encounter any during my 2015 trip, if it materialises (if it does, it will be AI all the way).
avbuff wrote:
I'm sure you are inching towards Star gold soon with your array of AI trips
Hardly Sir...I am the el cheapo ticket traveller, and no amount of frequency has ever been able to get me above Silver, and all that, only twice. I do not foresee anything else, either Sad
Thank you once again for your kind comments: I really appreciate an industry insider and knowledgeable person as you, taking the time out to read the TR in detail!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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sumantra
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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 4485
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sabya99 wrote:
...Please keep posting!
Thank you for the encouraging words, Sir! I remember your somewhat mixed AI 144 family experience in that memorable TR. We would love to hear about your travels, again!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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sri_bom
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Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 2365
Location: Singapore

PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2015 1:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A nice report Sumantra.

The opening screen on the PTV where the woman is standing in an angle looks like she is selling herself .

Over all I think Air India did a good job in terms of food with almost three meal runs and flow of water. Although the presentation looks poor.

The coffee that you get on Air India are they instant coffee like Nescafe etc. or do they brew it?

The night shot of landing at Chicago was awesome.

Regarding luggage allowance Nimish is right all carriers have to honor your main carriers baggage policy. As I do a lot of shopping in the USA every time I go I ensure I fly carriers that allow me maximum luggage allowance

You know so much about Air-India, that I am sure one day when this airline is long gone you can write a book “My Memoirs Of Air-India” will be a good retirement money for your 


Sri_Bom Very Happy
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sumantra
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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 4485
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2015 8:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sri_bom wrote:
The opening screen on the PTV where the woman is standing in an angle looks like...
Eeks...that is a bad advertisement for the airline! Seriously, I had otherwise quite liked the opening picture, since it had India's iconic monument in the background, and the evening light, and the lady's sari matched the Air India seat colours quite well.
sri_bom wrote:
Over all I think Air India did a good job in terms of food with almost three meal runs and flow of water. Although the presentation looks poor.
The `presentation' is just the opposite...`absentation', if there were such an antonym. Thankfully, both the quality and quantity of the food are much more than decent by today's standards.
sri_bom wrote:
The coffee that you get on Air India are they instant coffee like Nescafe etc. or do they brew it?
You hit the nail on the head, Srinivas. Nescafe Classic. This has to be THE most vile coffee ever produced, anywhere in the world. It is cheap: both literally, as well as figuratively. There are some occasional substitutions with some other (and definitely better) instant coffees.
sri_bom wrote:
The night shot of landing at Chicago was awesome.
Oh thank you, but come on: the motion blur is obvious! Further, my hand is not quite steady, more so, in the early hours of the day! No, I did not patronise evil spirits on board.
sri_bom wrote:
I fly carriers that allow me maximum luggage allowance
This is my constant endeavour, as well Smile
sri_bom wrote:
...one day when this airline is long gone you can write a book “My Memoirs Of Air-India” will be a good retirement money for you
Come on Srinivas, you know well that neither will ever happen. AI will go on, and on, milked dry by the corrupt and laid waste by the inept. The other: just look at my backlog. Do you think there will ever be such memoirs? Very Happy Thank you for deep read, and kind words, it keeps me going!
Cheers, Sumantra.


Sri_Bom Very Happy[/quote]
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sri_bom
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Joined: 22 Dec 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2015 8:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I cannot agree less. Nescafe is the most recognized instant coffee in the world, but if you read the reviews of different coffee's a coffee connoisseur will never touch instant coffee and Nescafe is always on the bottom of the list.

Your success to fame is now dependent on Air India's demise Very Happy
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sumantra
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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 4485
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2015 7:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sri_bom wrote:
Nescafe is always on the bottom of the list.
Yes, unfortunately. Nescafe has some better variants of instant coffee, but I guess Air India goes for the cheapest and most horrid-tasting one.
sri_bom wrote:
Your success to fame is now dependent on Air India's demise:D
Hmm...the premise is its demise?
Cheers, Sumantra.
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