My first charter flight – Make My Trip Charter operated by Jet Airways to Leh

This part of the report will cover two flights, on the Delhi – Leh – Delhi sector operated by Jet Airways for Make My Trip as a charter. How I reached Delhi – can be read here IndiGo Review

As we came out of Terminal T1C at Delhi, I took the boarding pass and ticket for next flight to the DTC counter to get a receipt for free inter-terminal transfer. We waited near the bus stop – the bus was to come at 2310 hours. As we waited for the bus, on a beautiful full moon night, the dreary Delhi weather was making it difficult to stand. 2320 and the bus did not turn up yet. The number of passengers kept on swelling and it looked like it will be one big mess whenever the bus turns up.

 

FIDS Showing Alitalia – Jet Airways Code Share

It finally did at 2325, and experience of getting into Mumbai locals came in handy for my wife and me, as we were one of the first ones to board the bus and occupy seats. The bus obviously wasn’t sufficient for the number of passengers who wanted to go to T3. While the bus is not operated by DIAL and is a service provided 24×7 by DTC, I hope GMR – DIAL impresses upon DTC to improve the services and have more busses during peak transfer hours.

Taking the 4 escalators to Departures, we entered the terminal from Gate 2. The FIDS reflected our charter – 9W 9930 at 0500hours, which would be the first flight of the day along with AI 851 to Pune. The scheduled Jet Airways flight to Leh was showing a delay of 15 mins. FIDS threw up some more interesting facts – like Air India logo was changed to Air India – Star Alliance, all Air India regional flights were with 9I code and a code share with AI, and the Alitalia – Jet Airways code share was up and running. Most of the international departures were on time or had minimal delay.

The terminal was crowded and very hot, it was becoming impossible to be seated anywhere due to the heat. We requested the Jet Airways staff to check us in for the flight, but were asked to come back at 0230 hours.

 

Check-In

 

It became unbearable in the temperature with DIAL had maintained in the terminal and I went and checked with Jet Airways again at 0045, if we could check-in. One of the senior staff said yes and we went in to the counters.

 

The charter flight is not available for a web check-in of blocking seat over the phone. Infact it took eternity to check us in at the counter, with the lady who was doing the check-in, went away twice after initially showing a lot of displeasure and asking who has directed us here for check-in. Not a very pleasant experience, we only hoped that the baggage comes along with us.

 

Terminal Experience& Boarding

 

We proceeded to security around 0115 and only the left most channels were open. Security was brisk and we were on the other side in no time. The entire retail section was closed and so was the food section, except for McDonalds in the food court area. With the long slouching chairs removed and scattered all across the terminal, finding a place for the night is a challenge at T3.

 

We had some food at McDonalds and settled in one of the chairs in the terminal. Saw a strange sight of a person brushing his teeth with misri and tongue cleaner in his hand, around 0230hours, inside the terminal. Wonder why this person was not using the washroom. My wife had an interesting comment to make, to check if he is brushing before sleeping or for the morning!


There was a substantial rush in the terminal at this time of the day.

Around 0400 hours, we made our way to Gate#49, from where we were to board, and a crowd of around 100 pax was around. The aircraft indeed was VT-JGY, as I had guessed the previous evening.

Jet Airways has been operating either VT-JGY, or VT-JGZ to Leh for a long time. Either only these are compatible for Leh, or this is after the DGCA directive on Leh, Jammu & Patna airports.

 

VT-JGY is MSN 34806, Boeing 737-700 with Winglets, delivered to Jet airways in 2007.

Boarding commenced at 0430 hours and by 0445 we were ready with fuelling done. The pilot asked the crew to close and arm doors before we pushed back at 0447 and taxied to runway 10, for a takeoff in the easterly skies.

 

Inflight Experience

 

The aircraft looked old, much older than it indeed was. To add to this, the old yellow lights of Boeing only make it further worse. The a/c vents were dirty and took effort to open or close it. The seats were dirty and the windows, completely dirty.

The J & Y sections were separated by curtains.

 

The weather outside looked good and no METAR was available for Leh, as we left. The pilot would get it enroute and decide if we would proceed or not to land into Leh – one of the trickiest airfields to land in India.

 

The charter was BoB service and the crew made a quick run for water and had limited stuff on offer. We did not purchase anything.

 

At 0537, the pilot came on PA announcing that Leh is reporting 6000 MTR visib with 20- degree temperature and we would be the first one to land in Leh.

Navigating from the clouds, mountains and valleys, we were over Leh at 0545 and after some final twists and turns made a powerful landing in Leh at 0550 and came to a stop with a lot of heavy braking and taxied to the bay.

 

We covered the distance of 619kms in an hour from Delhi, with a straight routing.

The terminal reminded me of Chandigarh – 2 bays arranged such that it’s a power in power out parking for each flight. We came out to the windy and chilly weather of Leh with 40% less oxygen and waited for the Swaraj Mazda to take us to the terminal. Luggage arrived in no time, on a very short conveyor belt in this small terminal and we came out to the dozens of cabs waiting for flights to land.

 

The announcements in this flight had their funny bits too. Jet airways crew announced “ Please select flight mode before switching off the mobile phone”. I wonder what confusions reins in now since flight mode is allowed in-flight.

Leh Airport – Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport

 

  • Named after the head of pethup gompha in spituk, Ladakh
  • At 3256mts / 10682Ft, Leh is the highest airport in India and 13th highest in the world
  • Unidirectional approach, limited bays, shorter operating window, strong winds – all the challenges are thrown in while operating to this airport.
  • Operators

o   Go Air – Delhi

o   Jet Airways – Delhi

o   Air India – Delhi, Jammu, Srinagar

  • Terminal Capacity

o   150 each for Arrivals & Departures

  • Bays – 2
  • Runway Orientation – 07/25, 7000 feet
  • Air Traffic

o   The last released data – April’14 shows 32513 passengers at Leh, a growth of 18.6 % YoY

o   July’13 shows that 37144 pax departed from Leh

 

While I worked for a now defunct legacy carrier in India, I always wanted to go to Leh on a Free ticket, which never materialized. I was part of the team which launched flights to Leh, when I moved to an LCC but again I missed going to Leh – where part of the commercial team went, I instead was buzzed off to Pune – my hometown, which then I did not complain!

 

Flight Summary

9W9930 / Aircraft: Boeing B737-700(WL) VT-JGY

STD: 0500        ATD:0447        STA: 0620        ATA:0550

On-Time: 5/5

Website: 0/5 (Not helpful in this case, because it was a charter)

Check-in & Airport Experience: 2/5 (Not a pleasant experience at check-in)

Aircraft Cleanliness: 2/5

In-flight service: 4/5

Food: NIL

Alighting & Arrival Experience: 4/5 (Had to wait long for the bus to come)

The week was spent in visiting the wonderful region known as Roof top of the world and visiting some of the most beautiful places around, which I will cover separately in due course of time.

 

The return journey was scheduled on 20th July, with Make My Trip giving us the tickets only a day in advance. The weather was not looking so well, and our driver predicted that the charter might be cancelled. Nonetheless,  we got up at 0350 but were delayed in hotel as co-pax thought it was best to have tea, instead of leaving for the airport as planned.

 

Airport & Check-in

 

We reached the airport at 0520, and were greeted with long lines to get inside the terminal. A senior and polite J&K police personnel checked our IDs and let us inside and we waited endlessly in the line to have our baggage screened and complete first round of frisking before entering the small check-in area. Bad luck prevailed again, since a group of 30+ Koreans were ahead of us and had no clue on what to do. The Jet Airways staff patiently helped them check-in. The Koreans forgot their boarding cards, carried half eaten sandwiches, steel utensils and water bottles in the security and overall kept the Jet airways staff and security on their toes.

 

Due to lack of internet connectivity, I couldn’t check the METAR. The staff confirmed that flight is delayed as we checked in and got the requested window and middle seat. Ours would be the first scheduled arrival for the day followed by Go Air at 0630 hours.

 

The previous evening, I had smartly set up a flight alert on Jet’s website, for departure of 9W 9930 from Delhi. However, the service is so slow, that I got an SMS saying this flight has departed after boarding! Fail!

 

The ticket said that hand baggage is not allowed for flights departing from Leh, but that was not the case! Security was brisk and was followed by baggage identification – which was done at 0620 and we awaited some news on the flight, in the small and packed Security Hold Area with just one food stall.

 

GoAir arrived at 0640 hours amidst bad weather and was followed by 9W 9930 at 0700 hours. Zone wise boarding commenced at 0715 hours and it’s anybody’s guess that zone wise boarding was not followed.

 

In-Flight

 

We were bussed to the aircraft, and we got down, the rear stairs were removed – which would have been convenient for us to board, since we were in last but one row. As I settled in the seat, I anticipated that we would wait for Air India to land before leaving and VT-SCO did land and park at 0740, by when, VT-JGY was still not ready for departure.

 

We pushed out at 0745 hours with Capt. Raina in command and took off from runway 25 at 0750, a delay of 50 mins and turn-around of 50 mins. Service started soon after and there was nothing much to see from the window, as it was cloudy outside throughout the flight. 

We flew straight again to Delhi, and landed on runway 29 with heavy braking, reaching at bay at 0910. It was a long walk to baggage belt 5 and even longer wait for the baggage to come. I hope GMR / DIAL take few steps to speed up this process. Bags came out at 0935, 25 mins after docking.

 

Flight Summary

9W9931 / Aircraft: Boeing B737-700(WL) VT-JGY

STD: 0700        ATD:0745        STA: 0820        ATA:0910

On-Time: 4/5 (Beyond Jets control but turnaround was slow)

Website: 0/5 (Not helpful in this case, because it was a charter)

Check-in & Airport Experience: 4/5

Aircraft Cleanliness: 2/5

In-flight service: 4/5

Food: NIL

Alighting & Arrival Experience: 5/5 

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