Of the few reasons I feel I should go back to working with an airline is the chance to fly often. A month is a long time to be away from flying and in this case it was two – so when I got a chance to go to Ahmedabad for work, I more than willingly accepted it and started planning for the short trip.
Planning – Flight Options, History & Rotations
Kingfisher was the earliest operator on the sector operating BENGALURU(BLR) – PUNE(PNQ) – AHMEDABAD(AMD) and return flights in 2006/7. This routing was enhanced to BLR – PNQ – AMD – JAIPUR(JAI) – PNQ and return by Spicejet in 2010 only to be pulled out and restrict it till Ahmedabad when the head winds started.
IndiGo has been operating flights on the sector since 2008 and for a brief period had monopoly on the sector.
Jet Airways launched a connection from Pune to Ahmedabad as part of its Chennai – Pune – Ahmedabad flight but recently changed it to Chennai – Pune – Indore. The erstwhile Hyderabad – Pune – Indore ATR now does Pune – Ahmedabad. Going by the loads, competition and flight timings, it seems Jet Airways has done something good. Equipment perfect to justify loads on the sector and timings which make the airline different and attractive. For these good timings, I choose Jet Airways over Spicejet which was the cheapest (half of Jet Airways, but I would need a day more in Ahmedabad if I choose Spicejet or IndiGo)
Depart 16th June (Tue) on 9W 2822 at 0750 from Pune for Ahmedabad
Return 17th June (Wed) on 9W 2821 at 1715 from Ahmedabad to Pune
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport Ahmedabad is the 8th busiest airport in the country but with a single runway which is 3599 mtr long. The airport has two terminals, with the latest one operationalized in 2010. My only experience at Ahmedabad has been when I once travelled Bengaluru – Mumbai via Ahmedabad! So I never had an opportunity to see the terminal.
I did web check-in and had my boarding pass printed with me a day prior to departure. I reached a little too early and the Jet Airways counters were not even open. Air India counters were overflowing for its flight to Delhi. I proceeded for security which was a breeze. For smaller airports like Pune, it indeed is a blessing that you are in Security Hold Area within 5 minutes of entering the airport.
VT-JCV – an ATR of Jet Airways was departing to Hyderabad. The empty apron was slowly filling up with Spicejet (VT-SZL B737-900 from Chennai, to Delhi via Pune), Air India (VT-PPQ A321), Go Air (VT-GOR A320 from Bengaluru, to Nagpur) and IndiGo’s (VT-IEE and VT-INZ – Delhi & Bengaluru flights). While the apron filled with planes, stomach filled with coffee as I made myself comfortable on the few rows of seats overlooking the apron.
Soon VT-JCM landed ahead of schedule and parked at bay 6.The departure to Ahmedabad is the last departure out of Pune before the airport closes for commercial operations till 1030. CISF was repeatedly requesting to come and collect an Apple Ipad which was left behind at the security. “Apple company ka IPad koi chod diye hai, jiska hai leke jaega”. Both the IndiGo flights had loads in excess of 170 inbound as well as outbound. Sadly loads for Spicejet and Air India could not be ascertained owning to where they were parked.
Boarding started at 0720 and I was on my seat within minutes after the crew warmly welcomed the passengers. Boarding was over by 0730 while cargo was still being loaded. There were 54 pax in this 66 seater plane and the seat next to me was empty. The cabin was clean and smelling fresh.
Capt. Adarsh and F/O Prateek were in command for the flight which would take one hour and thirty minutes with an Expected Time of Arrival (ETA) of 0920. Cabin secured, doors closed we pushed back at 0738 and made a long taxi to runway 28 to take off in westerly direction at 0745. Minutes before our take off, VT-TLB of Carver Aviation took off from runway 10!
We banked right, followed the Pune Mumbai expressway flying over Lonavala and banked right again to set source in north westerly direction towards Ahmedabad. Service started soon and on offer was a Veg Junglee sandwich or a Chicken Junglee – which I opted for and came in a nicely packed box with a piece of cake which was very fresh, moist and tasty. The sandwich was also fresh with juicy and succulent pieces of chicken and a bread which was not chewy or stale.
Hidden beneath was Nostalgia – the famous Jet Airways Imli !!
The anticipated bad weather came about an hour into the flight but with some twists and turns, we managed to avoid the clouds and started our descend into Ahmedabad at 0847. The pilot came on PA at 0854 announcing our cruise altitude of 17000 feet and speed of 533 kmph. We were 103 kms short of our destination and number two in sequence to land expecting touchdown at 0920 being welcomed by winds of 13 kms from north westerly direction and a temperature of 32 degree Celsius.
We made a very smooth landing on runway 23 at 0920 and within minutes parked at bay 22. At an airport traditionally dominated by Jet and Spicejet, there were three IndiGo aircraft. We were quickly bussed to the terminal and I was out in no time.
The not so clean windows of VT-JCM and the cabin during alighting at Ahmedabad
It was time to head back home and I made my way back to Ahmedabad airport cruising on the Gandhinagar highway. I reached way too early, at 1545 and the empty looking terminal had very few flights. I made my way to the Jet Airways counter to show my ticket, photo ID and request for boarding pass. A hello to the staff was met with blank stares and like a robot the staff printed the boarding card and handed it over to me. This was exactly opposite to the pleasant and cheerful crew.
The aircraft had already arrived from Indore and parked until our flight to Pune onwards to Hyderabad. Security was breeze and I was in the Security Hold Area in no time. Gates 1 to 4 were on first floor where I headed to check out the flights which were boarding – Jet Airways to Mumbai, IndiGo to Pune – Nagpur and Mumbai.
First floor departures at Ahmedabad have a lot of eating options and some shopping options along with clean lavs. Soon Vistara landed from Delhi and I counted a little over 90 passengers get off and a little less waiting to board. The ground staff far outnumbers ground staff of any other airline. I am surprised and astonished that Vistara required so much staff to turn around an airplane in 40 minutes that too at a non-catering station!
My boarding card mentioned boarding time of 1630 and it started at 1635. I noticed that the same crew which flew me in yesterday would operate the flight today. I was on my seat by 1640. The inflight crew requested the ground staff to check for oversized luggage and keep it aside to help speed up boarding, yet quite a few were inside not knowing where to place the bags since the overhead bins could not accommodate them.
Boarding was complete and cargo loading done as we waited for some paper work before leaving bay at 1705 hours for a long taxi to runway 23. The magazine at my seat was not in the cover but kept separately. Considering that the ATR had a long break before this flight, I am sure there was ample time for the ground staff at Ahmedabad to do this!
Service started soon and the options were Spinach Sandwich and Chicken sandwich – and I again choose the later. However, the tasty cake was replaced by kitkat. The chicken sandwich was tasty and the bread was fresh. No complaints on food this time around. Only wish they would provide ketchup sachets, considering how much tomato ketchup Indians love to have!
We cruised over sea somewhere near Alang and I could see the Hazira terminal and Surat beyond that before me flew over land near Dahanu. The pilot came on PA announcing our altitude of 17000 feet and a speed of 498 kmph as we left Mumbai air space and started our descend into Pune. We turned 180 degrees coming from the northern side, before aligning and landing on runway 28 coming in to park at Bay 1 for a before time arrival.
I had written in the past about the aniwarya (Compulsory) and mahatwapurna(Important) announcements of IndiGo. Jet Airways announced prasannata(happiness) as they announced a before time arrival.
The crew wished pleasantries as people exited and there were few passengers going onwards to Hyderabad.
For both the flights, web check in was a seamless affair. The airline also sent an email for web check-in. The load was 54 on both the flights. Good number!
I was surprised both times when the announcement mentioned this is an Etihad code share flight. I checked online and I did not find that either 9W 2822 or 9W 2821 were code shared with Etihad.
The food has seen improvement and a Boeing flight coming up soon would let me know how they fare on a little longer sector and more load.
Ground Service at Pune – Counters were closed. Boarding was handled well
Flight Crew & experience – Very Good. The crew was same on both flights.
Ground Service at Ahmedabad – Boarding was handled well but a smile and hello would go a long way at check-in
Aircraft cleanliness – Up to the mark
On Time – Yes!
ATR72-500 -> VT-JCM (MSN: 793) – Delivered in June 2008
ATR72-500 -> VT-JCU (MSN: 928) – Delivered in November 2010