We were blessed with our bundle of joy in the COVID year and TD (The Daughter) is now a school going toddler. With her passport ready in December last year, we wanted to restart country hopping but there were more factors in mind now than we ever had. With most, if not all factors, being ticked, the destination of choice became Mauritius. This also would mean the first time in Africa for us and TD’s passport gets inked without the hassles of applying for visa and going through the horrible folks at VFS in most cases.
Booking and days leading up to the journey
The flight booking was done by the friendly travel agent and the hotel more often than not is driven by our loyalty program and this time was no different. For years, Air Mauritius was the only carrier to operate the route but just days before we finalised Mauritius, Vistara launched the service to Mauritius from Mumbai. The initial announcement saw the departure time at 0730 hours, while it later shifted to 0605 hours. The timings just did not suit us to travel from Pune (always a pain to go to Mumbai and fly out) and hence Air Mauritius it was.
Flight out of Mumbai was at 0245 hours, reaching Mauritius at 0715 hours which meant paying extra for early check-in, while the return was at 1710 hours, reaching Mumbai at 0110 hours, which also meant staying in Mumbai to avoid the hazards of night travel by car to Pune. On the equipment front, the option was between the A321LR of Vistara and A330neo of Air Mauritius, with the latter giving a new aircraft type and a new airline. Bookings done, it was time to keep tracking the flights. I have a habit of adding fare alerts on google for my flights as it gives a fair idea of the loads, but in this case I urgently reached out to the friendly travel agent to inform them that our flight seems to have been cancelled. Indeed it was! Air Mauritius changed the days of operation for the sector abruptly. The airline was to induct two old A330-200s which had not made it on time. That meant it wet leased A340s from Hi-Fly the specialized ACMI operator and operated them to Mumbai as an interim measure. A day of back and forth later, the ticket was changed to a day earlier on a Free of Cost basis and luckily we managed to get an extra day’s room (though at additional cost).
The equipment was still variable (EQV in airline parlance) on the route though I secretly hoped to get a ride on the A330neo, as I had never been on one! Two days to go, I started plotting all planes on paper to see what I should expect and the airline already had one A330-200 in its fleet. A330neo said my calculation. Was it wishful thinking or my network planning skills, time would tell it was the skills. On the return it was the A359 doing the honours.
On both occasions, web check-in was an easy affair. The Air Mauritius website was easy, functional and hassle-free. The boarding passes were in the inbox in no time and also included meal selection.
Day of Departure – Check-in, Security, Immigration, Boarding
It was still early for check-in counters to open when we reached T2 and we used that time to have TD’s dinner. The counters were open and the staff was very helpful. Bags were checked-in and seeing TD, the fourth seat was blocked since it was a light flight. This was helpful since it gave two seats for TD to sleep. The famed security and immigration queue at Mumbai lay ahead of us. Pre mid-night, it was fast moving and we were directed towards the end counters for immigration which was for families with kids in arms (or prams) which helped us get on the other side faster.
We still had some time at hand, which we spent in the food court adding some carbs in our body. The inbound aircraft had left with a 20 minute delay and was about to land when we decided to make our way towards the gate, the last ones on the international side of T2 at Mumbai. A long walk later, we stared at the lack of empty seats.
The noise of the dot matrix printer has always been my cue to start hovering near the boarding gate and this time was no different. Boarding was announced for Business class, priority passengers, passengers in wheelchairs and passengers with children. Off we went on the aerobridge only to be stopped before boarding. The cabin was not ready and the ground staff and cabin crew were clearly not in sync. Five minutes on the aero bridge and we were off inside.
The A330neo serving us today was 3B-NBU named Aapravasi Ghat – a UNESCO world heritage site in Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius. The aircraft is configured with 28 Business Class seats and 260 economy class seats. The economy class seats are the Recaro CL3710, fast becoming popular across airlines in the world. The tray opens as a half and then full and has a cup holder when the tray is stowed. The seat also comes with a screen having USB output and earphones plug. I have not found these seats to be very comfortable but across airlines, these are becoming standard.
The seat had headphones, a pillow and blanket on the seat. As we settled in, the crew handed over a kit for TD. I remembered my flight on Singapore Airlines when I had got one, many many years ago!
We pushed back with a delay of around 20 minutes and taxied to runway 27. The safety demo was on the IFE and the crew made multiple rounds in the aisle to check the seatbelts of passengers. We were number three in queue and the pilot made an announcement welcoming us on board, giving the flight time to Mauritius as five hours and twenty-five minutes. A snack will be served followed by breakfast a few hours later.
Luckily for us, TD slept and so did we. The snack was a veg roll and at best forgettable. An hour and half to arrival, the breakfast service started. The meal comprised a bun, fruits, juice, baked beans, grilled veggies and potato patty. This was followed by a Tea/Coffee and Juice service. The IFE has a good amount of music, movies, TV serials, cartoons and games along with the most important aspect of flight details, route map and camera. On the crew front, there was little in terms of service due to the timing of the flight.
We landed on runway 14 at Mauritius on-time and taxied to one of the aerobridges. The landing was a fantastic experience with our screens showing the nose and downward camera which made for a good sight in absence of a window seat. It was fun to see the aircraft navigate the clouds and then see the PAPI lights before touching down.
Immigration was a long walk away at this small airport but was a breeze since we had printout of the Mauritius One form. This was followed by a stop at the health check counter and then towards the baggage belt two floors below. The bags took very long to appear on the belt and there were no signs of the stroller. A little bit of asking around and we told it would be somewhere near the last belt where it was lying in the middle of multiple strollers and a lot of oversized luggage. Interestingly, we had no confirmation on the check-in of the stroller though it was tagged at check-in, the counter stub was never given to us.
The exit passes through currency exchange counters where there was utter chaos but we did exchange some currency before meeting our driver at the exit for a very nice ride to our resort. From a very sunny airport area, we experienced heavy rains for 20 minutes followed by a breezy welcome at the resort.
The next few days were spent doing nothing – which was exactly the plan when we signed up for this trip!
Glimpses of Mauritius