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Jabalpur, if I May, in May'14

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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 4477
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 12:17 am    Post subject: Jabalpur, if I May, in May'14 Reply with quote

Jabalpur, if I May, in May'14

92.1 Introduction: Trip Planning

Jabalpur? Yes, it has been in the news of late.
On the evening of 04 December 2015, at around 07:45 pm, a herd of
wild boars ran across the runway, just as a SpiceJet Q400 plane
operating SG 2458 from Mumbai to Jabalpur, came in to land.
The plane struck a few animals, and veered off the runway to the left.
On 22 December, the Airports Authority of India suspended the
licence of the Doomna airport at Jabalpur, for commercial flights.
Jabalpur has been somewhat of an exotic location, which I have
been rather fortunate to have visited...not once, but on many occassions.
I have written about my travels to the place in the following trip reports:
85. March to Jabalpur. Mar'14.
69. At 6s & 7s? No. On all 4s? No. Jabalpur, Oct'13
68. Jab We Met: JAB-alpur WE-e hours, nice METar. Sep'13
63. July Jabalpur Jet Jaunt, Jul'13
38. 2012: Jabalpur in July
15. Marble Rocks, Marbles Rock; Jul 2011

I would have two more trips to this Emerald green city, before
this accident forced the closure of the airport, in December 2015:
23 June, 2014, and finally, on 14 August, 2015.
And amazingly enough, towards the last third of January 2016, the
airport was back in operation, albeit with only Air India
Regional (Alliance Air) operating flights to the city. SpiceJet
would start in February, when Air India Regional would go 5 times
a week on the sector, starting with a CRJ-700 `masked bandit',
and possibly later shifting to an ATR-72-600, with operations
connecting Delhi and Mumbai. Jabalpur was a medium yield
destination, and Air India was possibly going in for a rapid push.

Ah, let me get back to May, 2014.
Air India Regional had reduced its frequency to Jabalpur to
thrice a week quite some time back, leaving me a bit disappointed.
For official work, good Government officers, and those in
semi-Governmental jobs (as Yours Truly) like to travel on Air India,
to ease official permission.
This time again, I was caught between the Devil and the Deep Sea.
If I were to go by the Government travel norms,
I would have to return on the third morning after I set out from Delhi,
in case The Wife let me in,
and in case my employer still recognised me.
If I were to gain entry to my home, and not give my employer any
bright ideas about what to do on the next morning,
I would have to partake of a sandwich on SpiceJet,
for a same day return.
The reader well-versed with my scheme of things knows my general
bad luck with sandwiches on SpiceJet, and yet, my eternal hope,
just like seeking a good coffee on an Air India domestic flight.
While I have occasionally got lucky with the coffee,
the statistics do not do me proud with sandwiches, on SpiceJet.

Ah, before I get to the food part, let me consider my choices.
Basically, I had two choices.
At the time of my trip (May'14), Jabalpur was served by two operators,
Air India Regional, and SpiceJet.
I had a choice of the dates, this being a relatively lean period for me,
with regard to my office work.
Let me also add that for a person in a Government job,
or a semi-Government one, most of our days are just like this.
And we just like this.
However, we dilligently put up a pretence of working hard,
when we are hardly working, in reality.

At the time of planning my trip in May 2014,
Air India Regional served Jabalpur on three days: Mon, Wed, Fri.
AI 9617 DEL-JLR [07:15 am - 08:35 am]
This plane came back as
AI 9618 JLR-DEL [09:05 am - 10:25 pm]
SpiceJet served Jabalpur daily.
SG 2441 DEL-JLR [07:50 am - 09:45 am]
SG 2452 JLR-DEL [06:35 pm - 08:35 pm]
I have just written about my best possible choice, a same day return,
with Air India Regional in the morning on a Monday,
Wednesday or Friday, and an evening return on SpiceJet.
The other choices were to have a two-day trip, with a morning
departure from Delhi on a Sunday, Tuesday or Thursday.
I would not mind this too much, since it would mean me departing from
Terminal 1-D at the IGIA in Delhi, which has now become the LCC
(Low-Cost Carrier) terminal. It has been quite some time since I
used T1-D in Delhi, and I would not mind this in any way.
An added attraction was the use of either the main runway 10 or 28,
or the secondary one, 09 or 27, which I now longed for, since Air
India flights do not get these runways that often, now-a-days,
(except perhaps AI 864, the Delhi-Chandigarh flight, which
usually seems to get the main runway).
I would also get a chance to travel in a SpiceJet Q400 in the morning,
which would be for the first time in about two years.
My work at Jabalpur would not take that long however, so it would
be prudent to make a same-day return, in the interest of marital harmony.
As one knows, things in this domain can change from
`marital', to `martial', in a very short period of time.

And that would mean two trips on SpiceJet,
which I would have trouble justifying.
Why did I not come back on Air India the next day?
This would mean the need to take another half-day of leave,
since the Air India Regional flight from Jabalpur back to Delhi
lands in the late morning, and I would be able to get back to
office only around mid-day. It was May, 2014, and I did not want
to even think of patronising the buy-on-board on Air India Regional
(somehow, I just could not bring myself to do this, from what I had
seen around me). On the other hand, I did not want to miss out on a
chance to travel on the Air India CRJ-700 `masked bandit'.

Very soon, things were to change.
The date of my Jabalpur visit was postponed by a day.
22 May, 2014.
This left me with no choice, but to go in for the SpiceJet option.
This would again be a same-day return trip.
The itinerary for the onward leg of my journey would be as follows:

Set out 22 May (Thu) for Jabalpur from New Delhi
SG 2441: SpiceJet (Q400) [Seat: 18A; PNR: U3JS8V]
IGIA T1-D, New Delhi - Doomna Airport, Jabalpur
New Delhi (DEL) - Jabalpur (JLR)
[07:50 am - 09:45 am]

What would this mean for me?
I would get to experience Delhi's Terminal 1-D after ages.
Yes, the last time I had taken a flight out of here was in 2009,
when the extremely impressive T3 was not yet in operation.
After IGIA T3 had come up, initially it had opened only for
International operations, after the then IGIA T2 had closed down.
Air India and Go Air were operating out of T1-A. T1-B was closed,
and eventually came down. All full-service carriers shifted to T3,
T1-A closed down, and T1-D became the Low Cost Carrier (LCC)
departures terminal, while T1-C became the LCC arrival terminal.
I had liked the space and airy feel at T1-D, with its nice view of the tarmac.
How would it be, now?

92.2 The Day of the Trip: 22 May, 2014. IGIA T1-D

I woke up with a start at 04:00am, the time I had set the alarm for.
Out of habit, I tried to shut the alarm off, and go back to
sleep again, but soon, a terrifying though struck me. I was to go
out of station. Yes, Jabalpur, and what if I was late?
I jumped out of bed, and though it took quite a while to appear
and feel human, I realised that I had taken a bath this early
after a really long time. I was feeling a bit drowsy, but having
made the effort to get fully ready in time, I felt nice, setting
out in the pleasant cool summer morning.
T1-D, yes. The cab driver was a bit surprised as to why I was
not setting out from my usual T3, but I reassured him that no, I
had not partaken of too much of the good things the night before,
and I was in my senses, and no, I had not made a mistake.
He dropped me outside T1-D well within my time bracket.

My first few impressions were not terrific.
There was a huge crowd outside the terminal, there were people
and vehicles everywhere, and horns blaring all around. There were
very long lines for both the check-in, as well as security. I had
only one piece of cabin baggage with me, and nothing else.
A SpiceJet executive came to the cabin baggage-only line,
and took three of us to another counter, where she checked me in
without any ado. Did I have any seat preferences?
Of course, I did!
A window, preferably row A, seat 18 or around that, would that
be available? I remembered my friend Mr. All-Stare MacLean's
recommendation, of trying out row 18, to see the wing and wheel bay action.

There were very long lines for the security check.
Multiple lines snaked in and out, and tempers ran quite high.
I noticed the terminal much like I had remembered it.
Clean, neat and airy, with a nice view of the action on the tarmac.
The main runway 28 was in operation, and a Kuwait Airways
A310 had taken off as I was entering the terminal building.
The SpiceJet B738s were parked closest to the terminal,
Indigo A320s to the right, towards the secondary runway, and the Go Air A320s
were some distance away. Behind them, were the SpiceJet Q400s.

Th extensive food court was beckoning me to sample the fare,
but I was also keen to resist all temptation. I did not have the time
to grab a quick bite at home. The saving grace however, was that
I had booked a sandwich for both the legs. It would be a
Grilled vegetable sandwich on the outbound, and a spinach and
sweet corn one, on the return leg. I hoped that at least the
first one would be nice and fresh, given that this would be the
first flight of the plane, out of Delhi.

92.3 On the Plane!

We had boarded on the dot, at 07:20am.
It was a full flight, with not a single seat empty.
At one point in time, Air India Regional (Alliance Air) had a
Delhi-Gwalior-Jabalpur ATR-42 flight. At that time, Kingfisher
(Red) had flights to Jabalpur from Delhi and Mumbai. When
Kingfisher went under, Air India Regional had upgraded the flight
to a CRJ-700, a larger and faster plane. While Jabalpur is
typically has medium-yield destination, the rising number of passengers
was perhaps indicative of a trend. SpiceJet perhaps capitalised
on this the best, with their DEL-JLR-BOM-HBX-BOM-JLR-DEL rotation,
with a Bombardier Q400. Kingfisher Airlines had perhaps
the aircraft type best suited for such operations, an ATR-72.
At the time of my trip, Air India Regional had selected the
ATR-72 for its requirements, but the endless process of
officialese leading to the final aircraft acquisition,
seemed to be in a limbo. By the time I actually ended up typing
this trip report, Air India Regional was quietly building up a
decent fleet of ATR-72-600s, to replace the CRJ-700s to be
returned later this year, 2016.

For a CR7, the block time itself was an hour and twenty minutes.
This changed to an exact two hours, for an AT4/AT7.
It was 01:55 hours for a fast turboprop as a Q4, but the actual
flying time was close to 01:45 hours. The AT7 was perhaps the
best of the lot, as far as operating costs went.

Our ride for the day was to be VT-SUH `Dhania'.
Captain Harkamaljeet Singh Sokhi was in command, with
First Officer Manish Jha. Mr. Sachin and Mr. Harsh were in charge
of the cabin. Captain Sokhi took off from the main runway 28,
towards the West. At 08:33am, he came on the Intercom, and
announced that we were flying at 25,000 feet (7.6km) above sea level.
We had left a 31 degrees Celcius Delhi. The temperature
outside the plane was -18 degrees Celcius, while the cabin
temperature was being maintained at a comfortable 20 degrees.

92.4 A Dose of...Dozing off!

After the captain switched off the seat belt signs,
the lack of sleep had its effect on me. I dozed off.
Yes, it had been a tough Wednesday.
In the midst of a drowsy moment, events that had unfolded the
previous day, went through before my eyes.
We had had a long set of interviews right from eight in the
morning, to ten at night. I was dog tired.
The interviews had their share of fun, and the usual leg-pulling.

A colleague was grilling a candidate on a question in probability theory.
A person had come in to a new house, and had been told that
his neighbour had two children, one of whom he had seen to be a boy.
What was the probability that the other was also a boy?
Soon after, a senior colleague mentioned that he had been waiting
for the Boy-eisan probability question session to end.
I let out my usual loud boistrous laugh.
``Sumantra, you have no clue about the answer, right?''
``The Rev. Thomas Bayes was a priest, and he formulated the laws of
conditional probability. Look at you. In all probability, you do not
even have a book on Bayesian probability.''
I was a bit taken aback at this sudden double-barrelled snipes.
``So what if I do not have the book you are referring to?
I can search the 'net, and the web,'' I protested.
``Sumantra, the only 'net and web in your room is that constructed by spiders,''
said the first.
``And books in your room? Come on. There are papers all strewn
about. The entropy of your room is very high, damn the Second
Law of Thermodynamics...'' the second joined in.
``What nonsense: there is not a speck of dust on Sumantra's table...''
This took me aback, frankly. That is, till he completed his sentence.
``...not an inch of the table top is visible, how can a speck of
dust even settle on it?''
A colleague who had been sitting near me, joined in now.
``Sumantra, now that we have finished with the last candidate,
please go home, immediately.''
Why, I protested.
``All you have been doing since the morning is eat, and letting
those beside you bear the brunt of the rest.''
As I coloured, he did not stop.
``When you got up to go to the corridor a while back, the loud
noise was not a clap of thunder. Nor was it a snare-drum roll.''
My other colleagues now joined in the fun.
``Sumantra is too burly. If he started walking back, he will
reach home with the speed of...smell. No rocket science, here.''
``Sumantra, you just need to spread your arms, and stand facing
the general direction of your home. You will get there very soon.
This is the basic principle of rocket propulsion.
A ramjet engine.''

I woke up from sleep, chuckling to myself.
In the animal world, the weak or the injured carnivores do not stand a chance.
They are massacred by the rest of the herd.
However, I took a while to reflect on what my colleagues had told me.
My situation with too much of eating was dangerous for my neighbours.
Interestingly, my situation without food was also quite similar.
I needed nourishment, and I needed it quickly.

92.5 Sandwich Time!

The two members of the cabin crew were Mr. Sachin and Mr. Harsh.
They were cheerful and chatty with passenger, but it was 9am by
the time they came to my seat, 18A.
``A sandwich is pre-booked for you, Sir.''
``A grilled vegetable sandwich,'' I said hopefully, so as not to
get a wrong choice. On my last SpiceJet flight, I had been served a wrong item.
91. terI sUrat, merI Ankhein. Apr'14

A grilled vegetable sandwich!
``Sir, the sandwich is not grilled, but the vegetables are,''
said the cheerful Mr. Sachin, with a smile.
I broke into a smile, looking at him, and said,
``Do you want to grill me further, Sir?''
Enjoy your sandwich Sir, he said with a smile, and went along with the service.
The sandwich for once, was really nice.
It was cold, but it tasted very fresh.
The marbled bread was soft, and moist.
I was delighted to find no potatoes inside. The grilled vegetables
included tomato, capsicum, and to my delight, the green pumpkin
as well, having been tossed around in a bit of onion, and a
little mayonnaise. I was disappointed that it had disappeared
down my oesophagus in the next few minutes.

At 09:06am, Captain Sokhi came on the air again, and announced
the descent into Jabalpur. We would be on the ground in 18
minutes, he said. The temperature at Jabalpur was 34 degrees
Celcius. There would be some turbulence in the approach into
Jabalpur, he warned us, but in spite of the turbulence, he made a
lovely landing at the Doomna airport. I was picked up by my
gracious hosts, and I was on my way to work.

92.6 Post-Work food for Thought. And Slumber. And Back to Doomna

After an extremely satisfying lunch at the Guest House, I was
feeling quite full, and extremely drowsy. In addition to the
Indian `green' salad (cucumber, carrot, tomato, onion), there was
some arhar/toor/tuar dAl (pigeon peas), a dry mixed seasonal
vegetable preparation, and a nice paneer (cottage-cheese)
and peas-based preparation, and gulAb jAmun (a sinful
cottage cheese-based deep fried sweet in sugar syrup) for dessert.
I tried to work for a while,
but the bed beckoned to me more than anything else.
I took a brief nap before it was time to set out back for Delhi.
Just as we approached Jabalpur's Doomna airport, at 04:51pm,
I got an SMS to the effect that our flight had been re-scheduled
for 07:15pm departure. The check-in happened without any ado.
The cheerful Sikh gentleman at the check-in counter is someone I
have seen for quite some time, at Jabalpur. I tried to exorcise
the demons in my head with regard to the flight itself.
What would happen if the flight got cancelled?
I had to be in Delhi that very day. Had the flight taken off from Hubli?
The Sikh gentleman told me with a smile, that as we were talking,
the flight was taking off from Mumbai, and was headed towards Jabalpur.
The original itinerary for this leg of the journey was as follows:

Set out 22 May (Thu) for New Delhi from Jabalpur
SG 2452: SpiceJet (Q400) [Seat: 10A; PNR: U3JS8V]
Doomna Airport, Jabalpur - IGIA T1-C, New Delhi
Jabalpur (JLR) - New Delhi (DEL)
[06:30 pm - 08:35 pm]

92.7 Roaming around the Doomna Airport. Err...

Till around 05:30pm, there were announcements requesting passengers
to check in, but none to the effect that the flight was delayed.
At 05:32pm, the delayed departure time of 07:15pm was announced.
The delay was for `operational reasons', we were told on the PA system,
as well as in the SMS. The call for the security check
was announced at 06:15pm. We got air-side very soon.
I decided to explore the waiting hall,
a process which took me all of thirteen seconds.
Unlike the land-side waiting hall, the air-side one has a few power-ports.

It was quite cool there, as the air-conditioning was clearly
showing its effect. On one trip to Jabalpur, I had suspected
that the air-conditioning unit may have gone out of order.
Our plane came in around 06:42pm, as the tarmac buzzed with activity.
Two SpiceJet buses went ahead to receive passengers,
as the aircraft entered the parking apron from the runway.

We boarded the plane. All passengers were distributed among four
trips of the two buses, which alternated efficiently between
taking the arriving passengers to the arrivals, and the departing passengers,
to the aircraft. The plane looked full once again.
At 07:08pm, the propellers were switched on. The flight time was
announced as 01:35 hours. Captain Pranav Sood was in command,
with First Officer Akshay Chauhan. The senior flight attendant
was Ms. Pema (I have flown with her before), and with her was Ms. Nisha.

92.8 A Sandwich for my Thoughts, Again

At 07:23pm, the leading flight attendant announced that SpiceJet
was transitioning from the current catering agency, to Cafe
Coffee Day (CCD), and asked passengers to bear with them in case
their preferred choice of the menu item was not available.
I recounted that the Air India Regional catering was also done by
the same agency, at least, that is what I had seen on my recent
flights with the airline, yes, incidentally, to Jabalpur itself,
and Surat. (The period I am talking about, is April-May 2014.
During this period, Air India Regional had a buy-on-board
service, which was taken out later that year, much to my delight.)
The regular reader know what happens to my digestive
system at the mere mention of food, or related thoughts, thereof.
How soon would I be able to gorge on my spinach,
sweet corn and cheese slice sandwich?

This time, the service was extremely prompt. with the two ladies
starting off as soon as the seat belt signs were switched off.
Much to my joy, I got what I had booked.
Much to my disappointment, the sandwich was not that fresh.
It was not terrible though, it was passable.
Had it been loaded at Delhi in the morning, when the plane had
started its journey? Between two slices of marbled bread, there was
a generous amount of spinach and sweet corn, on a bed of cheese spread.
The spinach shreds stuck to the cardboard covering,
along with some cheese spread that had made those parts a bit soggier,
These told their story quite clearly.

At 07:52pm, there was an announcement to the effect that the
cabin lights would be dimmed, and passengers who wished to work,
could use the reading lights. I had them switched on right from
the time the seat belt signs went off, with my laptop fired on.
At 08:11pm, the first officer announced that they would be
commencing the descent into Delhi shortly, and would switch on
the seat belt signs, in the next four to five minutes. Captain
Sood got us down smoothly, and took us to a remote stand. A bus
was waiting for us, and another came in soon after. For once, I
did not have any checked-in baggage with me. I hurried to the
pre-paid taxi counter, and booked a taxi to get me back to the
place from where I had started, in the morning. Home.

92.9 {P/F}arting Shots

I sincerely apologise to the reader, for the complete lack of
pictures corresponding to this trip. I had taken quite a few
pictures, but a disk crash put paid to all my hopes. To somewhat make up,
I have attached pictures of two vehicles, whose names usually put
dirty thoughts into my head. It is said that the eyes sometimes
see what the mind thinks about. The first vehicle type is the
Renault Fluence. I always seem to read this name as `Flatulence'.

As if this is not enough, a new vehicle from Hyundai has hit the road.
The company has named it `Creta', but I always seem to read it
with an `Ex' prefixed to the above name.

Links to my 92 trip reports:
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Location: Singapore

PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 9:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for posting the detailed report on Jabalpur. Seems like another great day trip.

The sandwiches seems to be a hit and miss with spice jet but I hope they have stabilized their catering now. Regarding Jabalpur airport itself are there any eating options like small food court etc.

The Renault Fluence although the name is not appealing the Fluence itself is very comfortable car. In Singapore one of the taxi operators uses Fluence as its taxi fleet and I find the leg room quite comfortable for the back seat passengers. As for Creta some car companies add variants like EX VX so I hope they donít add that to it.

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Posts: 4477
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 9:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the kind words, Srinivas!
sri_bom wrote:
The sandwiches seems to be a hit and miss with spice jet but I hope they have stabilized their catering now.
Yes Srinvias: from what I hear, while the prices have gone up, the food itself is supposed to be better on the bigger planes. The sandwiches rule the roost on the Q4s: I do not know about the current level of quality there.
sri_bom wrote:
Regarding Jabalpur airport itself are there any eating options like small food court etc.
The Doomna airport is a tiny place. Remember that when I decided to roam about the departures hall, the process took exactly thirteen seconds in all. There is a tiny snack shop, but that is just about it. This is on the land-side part.
sri_bom wrote:
As for Creta some car companies add variants like EX VX so I hope they donít add that to it.
Ha ha! Yes, I remembering you writing about the Fluence in a previous post.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2016 8:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Sir for posting another great TR. For some reason I forgot to reply after reading it quickly on phone, after your email about the TR.

I envy you for travelling to these smaller AAI airports and many a times on some rare birds like the Q or the CRJ !
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2016 10:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ameya wrote:
For some reason I forgot to reply after reading it quickly on phone, after your email about the TR.
He he, my self-promotion at work. But seriously, thank you Sir for all the pushing and prodding, (and not to mention the constant encouragement) to get me to come out with the ever-belated trip reports!
ameya wrote:
I envy you for travelling to these smaller AAI airports and many a times on some rare birds like the Q or the CRJ!
I guess it is the other way round...with so many exotic wide-bodies under your belt (and not to mention, many rare narrow-body types as well), and so many exotic international locations, I often rue my lack of chances (and lack of a better monetary status, as well!) to travel more! However, I guess I should be satisfied with what I have got: after all, it is much more than I would have ever imagined, given my lowly economic status and job profile.
Thank you very much once again, Sir!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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