Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Low Floor revolution in Kerala: A short trip from Alappuzha to Kochi Airport

Low Floor buses were first introduced in 2009 - as part of JnNURM funding. The basic intention of these buses were to modernise city transportation in the cities of Kochi and Trivandrum, where they were launched. Operations of these buses were handled by KSRTC, who felt they made losses in city routes and put them on longer intercity routes. While the passenger response in these routes were good, the basic purpose wasn't served. This led to some legal issues finally leading to the High court of Kerala issuing orders restraining KSRTC from operating such buses beyond the project area. Considering the fact that urbanisation in Kerala is widespread and not confined to certain areas, the Kerala government divided Kerala into clusters of 2-3 districts and received funding for clusters than cities. A new subsidiary was formed under KSRTC, called Kerala Urban Road Transport Corporation (KURTC) to handle JnNURM buses.

With JnNURM-2 funding, there are Volvo services across the state now. Low floor Volvo buses operate on intercity routes now, connecting one cluster to another. Traveling has become all the more comfortable with the advent of these buses. It is a different fact that the buses are a complete misfit to most of the routes that they operate on - the buses aren't comfortable for the routes they operate, and the higher operating costs translate to higher ticket fares as well.
One of the newer Volvos in Kerala..
In one of my recent trips to Kerala, I had the chance to travel a lot in the newer Volvos that were purchased under JnNURM-2. The newer buses have a more lavish seating compared to the older ones - the number of seats are down to 31 from 38, as well. The newer buses have a high back seat as well - offering a more comfortable ride to passengers. I had the opportunity to travel in one such bus (JN361 of Alappuzha depot) from Vyttila to Alappuzha - the improved leg room and the comfortable back rest makes for a very comfortable journey. The bus took close to about 90 minutes to complete the journey, since it was a normal shuttle service and had too many stops on the way. Given the comfort the bus offered, I was particular about traveling in a Low Floor bus for my return journey as well.

August 09, 2015:
I was to head to the airport to catch a 1605hrs flight back to Bangalore (read the flight review here). My parents would be traveling along me till Ernakulam. We left my maternal home at sometime around 1000hrs. We were at Alappuzha bus station by around 1050hrs. On enquiry, I was told that the next Volvo to Ernakulam was at 1110hrs - that was acceptable. My parents approved the plan to wait till that bus comes. Since that bus is inbound from Trivandrum, I had a small fear that it could be crowded and getting a seat might be tricky. I remained around the entrance of the bus station, so that I'd have prior information about the arrival of the bus and we have a better chance of getting a seat.
JN64 of ECKL working Trivandrum-Ernakulam @ Alappuzha BS
Sometime past 1110hrs, JN64 of Enchakkal Depot (Trivandrum) pulled into the bus station. The bus was registered in April 2012 - a 3 year old bus. I had to attack the door as soon as it opens, in order to grab seats. The doors opened, people walked out, and I succeeded in grabbing three seats - 2 for my parents, and 1 a little bit behind for me. The bus left Alappuzha at 1115hrs. The bus showed its age - rattling sounds were apparent from the rear axle. The engine sounded calm, though. All seats were taken when we left Alappuzha bus station. We crawled for sometime on the highway. Some melodious songs were being played on the entertainment system. The driver let the beast loose after some time. The bus went into Cherthala bus station (1145hrs). The bus remained full throughout. We left Cherthala at 1148 - it was bliss after we entered the 4-lane roads after Cherthala.
Ticket for three.. Alappuzha to Ernakulam
I was dropped at Vyttila junction at 1231hrs - my parents continued in the same bus to MG Road. While the AC made the ride comfortable, the stiff seating position made the ride painful. I had a stiff back by the time I got off at Vyttila. The ticket fare was Rs. 113 per head. The legroom was poor, and the seating position was poor as well. The end-to-end ride took an hour and 16 minutes - and we made just 2-3 stops on the way. These low floor buses are certainly a great way to commute short distance - I am not sure if one might be able to travel long distance in these comfortably.
JN78 of Ernakulam - which took me from Vyttila to Airport
I took another low floor Volvo from Vyttila (JN78) to reach the airport - this bus was packed to the core. Had to travel standing till Edappally, where I got a seat. I was at the airport by 1345hrs - long time before my flight back to Bangalore! Kerala presently has about 190 Volvo Low Floor buses (not all of them are commissioned yet). Short intercity shuttles are a great choice of routes for these buses - but KSRTC/KURTC is taking it a bit too far with longer routes. They are too uncomfortable for long travel. I hope they realise the mistake and concentrate on higher frequencies on shorter routes.

Monday, September 28, 2015

On iFly Four Two Five: BLR to Kochi on IndiGo A320

Very much like every Keralite working in Bangalore, one of my favorite time passes is to keep hunting for tickets to go home everytime my college (office) shuts for two consecutive days or more. While hunting for holidays on our holiday list, I found two consecutive holidays in the middle of September - add two days to it, and I get a 5 day vacation at home. I was unsure of getting two more days off, and I had to book for a two day trip. I found a great round trip fare on India's biggest airline - IndiGo. The only catch being that the fare is non-refundable. Since the fare was great, I decided to go ahead and make a booking. I have a jinx with trips planned in advance - they never happen as planned, and this trip was no different. Infact, a trip just before this trip was cancelled, forfeiting the entire booking amount! As fate would have it, the return leg of this trip was not utilized - and I too a long way to come back (more about that in the coming posts).

The booking was done through the IndiGo website itself. IndiGo has a system of issuing Advance Pass to all passengers booking through the IndiGo website - Advance pass is the Boarding pass issued to passengers a good 5-10 days before journey! IndiGo has also introduced a concept of Integrated Travel Document, which contains boarding passes for all the legs that are part of the itinerary along with the eticket booking confirmation message below. The page layout is not great, since it is sent as an email - it would be a great idea to send it as a PDF file, which would ensure that the formatting is perfect when printed. I forgot to print this document, and printed only the itinerary - I realised the mistake only when I reached the airport.

November 15, 2015:
Like every time I head home, I was excited about travelling home from the previous night itself. I was so excited that I could hardly wait to get to home. I left office as usual at 4pm, and was dropped at Hebbal Police Station bus stop by the college bus. It was drizzling a bit and I desperately wanted a bus to come in before it pours down. About 5 minutes into my wait, the green monster appear at the bus stop - while the bus appeared a bit crowded, there were enough seats available. I always feel the bus is the best way to travel to the airport from the city if you are travelling alone - as long as you are not carrying your home along. The bus ride from Hebbal to the airport takes about 25-30 minutes (a distance of about 30 kilometres), and is very comfortable as well. The ride sets you poorer by Rs. 180 - it IS expensive if you are travelling in groups. I was dropped at the airport at 1700hrs.
In the bus to the airport...
The bus service to the airport is unmatched - the bus terminal is located right outside the terminal as well.
After a quick coffee break at Hatti Kaapi on the kerbside, I headed inside the airport. I joined the check-in queue soon after entering the airport - I had baggage to be checked-in, and I generally prefer getting a boarding card from the airline counter, than the self check-in kiosk - It took about 5 minutes to get my boarding pass - I had the boarding pass with me at 1727hrs. I headed up to security check soon afterwards. Very unusually, security check wasn't very crowded for the time - Frisking moved a bit slow though. I finished security check and reached the holding area by 1737hrs. I headed right away to the waiting area neat Gate #1. Most of the jetways were empty at this time - very unusual again. I was hooked to FR24 for most of the time, trying to locate the bird that would work my flight. 6E425 works a Kolkata-Bengaluru-Kochi rotation, and the aircraft was inbound as I waited at Bengaluru.
What remained of the boarding pass after the journey...
Nepal Airlines A320 lifting off from Bangalore..
Thats VT-IDF taxiing in to its stand..
In the meantime, I had the fortune to watch the exotic Nepal Airlines A320 lifting off from Bengaluru, working a recently launched rotation out of Bengaluru. Sometime around 1809hrs, FR24 confirmed that VT-IDC - an A320 (cn: 5426) originally delivered to Tigerair Mandala in December 2012, leased by IndiGo in January 2015 - was on its finals, and would take me to Kochi about an hour later. The bird reached the gate at 1811hrs. The aircraft almost emptied out in Bangalore - the first boarding call was made at 1820hrs. Row-wise boarding was enforced, and the agent at the gate called out for passengers in rows 21-30 first. I was in 28A this time, and got into the queue first - I generally remain till the end, but was bored to the core this time and wanted to just get into the craft.
The gate - Gate #7..
Date of Journey: September 15, 2015
Flight No: 6E425 || Seat: 28A
Aircraft type: Airbus 320-200 || Regn: VT-IDF
Sector: BLR-COK
STD: 1900hrs, ATD: 1847hrs
STA: 2005hrs, ATA: 1947hrs

While at the gate, I casually enquired and found that we weren't full - 114 pax were boarding in Bangalore, while 43 pax were flying in from Kolkata and continuing to Kochi. Thats a total load of 157 out of 180 - over 87% occupancy. Even as passengers were permitted into the jetway by the gate agent, the agents at the aircraft stopped passengers for a minute as the bird wasn't yet ready. Soon after the housekeeping staff got off, we were let into the aircraft (1823hrs). Even though it just worked in an over two hour long flight, the interiors were clean and fresh. I got to my seat soon enough - my excitement levels were up now - its just an hour more to meet my parents! The Boarding complete calls were made at 1832hrs - a full 28 minutes before time. As mentioned earlier, we weren't full. The middle seat next to me was empty, while the passenger at the aisle as flying all the way from Kolkata to Kochi! The flurry of announcements began soon. In the deck were Capt Ravi Teja and Capt Sachin Desai, both based in Hyderabad. Devapriya, Supriya, Jassica and Paridhi were in the cabin.
The seats - they were not the usual Recaro Slimlines..
Shortly before push-back..
Doors were armed at 1847hrs - but push back was delayed due to congestion at Bangalore. In the meantime, AirAsia India's VT-BLR was pushed back from the nearby stand - she flew off to Vizag soon after. We were pushed back only at 1853hrs. We commenced taxi only at 1857hrs. It was a long run to Rwy27 - We finally took off at 1900hrs - exactly at the scheduled time. The clouds were very clear - in sharp contrast to what it was an hour before. Bengaluru is an every growing city - it was lights all over the place. We banked left soon after take off, and flew parallel to the city for some time, before gaining altitude again. The seatbelt sign was turned off at 1904hrs - another round of announcements began. The Purser announced that passengers who had prebooked a meal would be served first. On all IndiGo flights, the BoB service uses two carts - one serving seats #1-10, and the second serving #11-30. So its one cart that has to take care of twenty rows - thats 120 passengers!
Shortly after takeoff from Bangalore - look at the lights!
Thats my boarding pass - the FA would tear off a portion when she serves my "meal"
The cart moved slowly from #11 towards my row - there was no sign of passengers with prebooked meals being served first. I was busy trying to decide what I wanted from their onboard catalogue Hello 6E. Being a short flight, I could expect only Sandwiches and cold beverages. The IndiGo food menu is S A D! You have only sandwiches and some ready-to-eat food products on board. The other LCCs in the country are far ahead when it comes to food options on board. The cart came to me at its leisurely pace. The FAs attending to my row were of the mixed kind - one was a very enthusiastic person, who smiled and served guests with a very personal touch, while the other was a very mechanical person who scorned on guests and gave out stern looks. The former came around to take orders from pre-booked passengers - on offer were only sandwiches, and three juices - two canned and 1 in a tetrapak. I chose a Veg Sandwich and the tetrapak juice.
Thats my "meal" - a Sandwich and a serving of juice
It was a Tomato, Cucumber, Cheese and Lettuce Sandwich, As usual here was one serving of brown bread and one serving of white bread. The white bread portion was a bit soggy - probably damaged due to the refrigeration process. The juice was from Real active Fruit-Veggie series, and was of Orange-Carrot flavour. The orange flavour dominated. By the time I had finished half the sandwich, the First officer came on the PA system and announced our descent. After some time, the cabin crew came about to clear the trash and prepare the cabin for landing. It was fairly cloudy outside, and we were surely into Kerala. Sometime around 1940, the First officer comes on the PA yet again, and announces that we'd touch down in another 4 minutes, followed by the cabin to stations call. By now the lights in the ground were clearer and we were descending quick. We touched down at 1943hrs on Rwy27 and exited the runway quickly. We had to hold on for a while after exiting the runway, for unknown reasons.
My flight's tracking from FR24.
In the apron were Air India's new sharklet'd Airbus A320 VT-EXB (came in from Sharjah), Jet Airways' VT-JBU (heading out to some place in the middle east) and GoAir's VT-GOR (preparing to head to Mumbai). We finally parked at Stand #8, at 1947hrs - still a good 18 minutes before time. Quite shockingly, IndiGo did not brag about being before time! I was left awestruck for a very long time - that I remained seated without even remembering the fact that my parents were waiting for me at the kerbside! I got off the aircraft finally at 1955hrs. One can just walk off to the terminal from the aircraft in most opportunities - unless you came in a turboprop, or your aircraft gets a very remote stand. I was in the terminal by 1957hrs. The luggage took a while to come - I got mine by 2001hrs. By now, I could see my mom's excited face at the exit gate, and dad busy on the phone asking the driver to get the car to the exit. That was an exiting trip - no doubt. The fact that IndiGo made ONLY 8 announcements in the entire flight was an icing on the cake - they made just the routine announcements. They did not brag about their achievements or just keep going blah blah!
Soon after alighting..
Thats VT-IDF after reaching Kochi..
Check-in: 5/5 (Had web checked in - used the counter to get my boarding pass and drop my baggage)
Cleanliness: 5/5 (the aircraft was in great shape - clean and well kept interiors)
Punctuality: 5/5 (Before time at either ends)
Crew: 2.5/5 (One good FA and one Mechanical FA)
Catering: 3.5/5 (The food as such was good - but no choices)
Overall: 4.5/5

Summary: A no-nonsense flight - we took off before time, landed before time. I was carried from point A to point B safely on time - thats about it. The crew were a mixed bag - one really nice FA paired to absolutely mechanical FA. The food was good - but its hardly a "meal". It is priced exorbitantly as well - at Rs. 250, other airlines give a proper meal, not a sandwich and some odd packed juice. But then, that wouldn't be a deal breaker! For me, the meal is part of the experience - so I'd also look at that factor when I enjoy a flight.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Red. Hot. Spicy Dash from MAA to BLR!

The Chennai-Bangalore sector is now dominated by turboprops! The sector sees as many as 8 ATRs from Jet Airways and 4 Dash Q400s by SpiceJet. The only 'bigger' aircrafts are 2x IndiGo (A320) and a 1x Air India (A320). Then there is a thrice weekly ATR from Air Pegasus as well. With my love for Turboprops, I could very easy narrow down by choices.

Oh! Why did I say all this? 

I was looking for tickets to return from Chennai, after a two day outing there. I initially toyed the idea of taking a bus - but the evening and night buses from Chennai were sold at a thousand rupees or more. I certainly do not like paying exorbitant prices for a short distance bus journey. Soon after realising that taking a bus isn't really an option, I moved my search to my favorite OTA, Cleartrip. I found a couple of cheap options for Monday morning - a quick search was made on more OTAs to hunt for the cheapest fares for that flight, and I got the best fares from the website of my credit card issuer bank. I quickly grabbed a seat for another flight in a Bombardier Dash-8 (Q400) operated by SpiceJet.

September 07, 2015:
I had a very early start to my day - I had booked a cab to pick me up from my hotel at 4AM, and I had to be ready by then. The cab was ready much before time, and we could actually leave from my hotel by 4AM. It was a fairly old vehicle, and the driver wasn't really amused when his phone showed that part of the payment for the ride was from my mobile wallet. I was at the airport by 0416hrs! My flight would leave only at 0615hrs! I had almost two hours to kill. There was a very small queue to get into the airport - I then had a long walk to the SpiceJet check-in counters, which were at the extreme end of the terminal building.
The deserted SpiceJet counters at that time...
There was another queue for baggage scanning. This turned out to be a peak hour for the airport, with around 16 flights to depart before my flight, from the domestic terminal itself. I completed check-in by 0426hrs, and headed to security check. It was huge queue for security check - and even longer queue was seen for hand baggage scanning. The CISF guards were quite efficient, and they kept the queue moving fast. I was done with security check by 0441hrs. My flight was boarding from G14. I first headed to my gate - I was quite shocked to see that it was a very small area, and there were no wash rooms or eateries in sight. I headed back to the upper level. The upper level is actually 2 floors higher than the bus gates. I had some light refreshment and a coffee from a very famous donut outlet located in the airport.
The queue for Security Check..
Thats the huge list of departures! Taken at 0441hrs!!
The way to gate#G14, on the ground floor
Once my tummy was happy, I was back at the gate, and found a seat near the gate itself. All through the time, the PA system was busy with one fight after the other being called. An airline very famous for bragging all the time kept making "last calls" for their passengers - infact, the lady at the mic made no less than 10 "last calls" for the same passenger in about 5 minutes time! Imagine the state of poor passengers sitting at the terminal. Is it that difficult to just whip out their mobile phone and try calling the passenger on his/her registered phone number? As if it was some competition, the other airlines did not want to feel left behind - they started their share of "last calls". What left me bemused was that every single announcement was a "last call"!! Announcements kept pouring at the rate of about 1.5 calls per minute - and this continued all the time from about 0515 till my flight was called!
The gate - a few minutes before boarding was called..
It was a disappointing and disgusting experience sitting at the airport and being force fed with announcements. Gate #G14, from where my flight would board, was a busy place - my flight would be the 5th flight to board from that gate, from the time I reached there! Infact, the last 4 flights (including mine) were scheduled in a period of about 30 minutes! At one point, two flights were boarding from the same gate! I decided to explore the surroundings of the gate a little before boarding called - it was then I discovered a full fledged cafe near the gate! There were no signage elsewhere (except at the gate)! Boarding for my flight was finally called at 0551hrs. Since two flights were boarding at the same time, from the same gate, a couple of agents checked my boarding pass to ensure I was getting into the correct bus.

Date of Journey: September 07, 2015
Flight No: SG3301 || Seat: 17A
Aircraft type: Bombardier Dash-8 (Q400) || Regn: VT-SUI 'Haldi'
Sector: MAA-BLR
STD: 0615hrs, ATD: 0613hrs
STA: 0710hrs, ATA: 0719hrs

The bus got moving at 0555hrs - it was a very long ride to the stand (#54) where the bird for my flight was parked. The bus reached the aircraft by around 0559 hrs - since ours was the first bus, boarding was confusion-free and orderly. I got into the aircraft at 0602hrs. The first thing that struck me was that the door height was less - I had to adjust a bit to get into the bird without hitting my head. My seat was at the rear half of the aircraft (#17A) - the gangway felt very narrow. The seats were very comfortable, and the seat pitch was great as well. Although the seat pitch was good, the leg room for the passenger at the window seat is at premium due to the shape of the aircraft. In the meantime, boarding was completed (0608hrs). The doors were armed by 0613hrs, and we were good to go. The crew came on the PA system, and announced that our pushback would be slightly delayed due to congestion at the apron. In the meantime, safety demo was conducted. In the deck were Capt Nikhil Bora and Capt Shabir, while Rakesh and Prathibha took care of the cabin. We were finally pushed back at 0619hrs.
Boarding VT-SUI, Haldi
The terminal, well lit, as we wait for the Sun to appear...
The Pratt & Whitney PW150As came to life shortly after. We commenced taxi at 0623hrs, and headed straight to the holding point of Rwy25 (0629hrs). Taxi was very bouncy . We were third in queue for take off - ahead of us was another SpiceJet Q400, and one IndiGo A320. We moved over to the active runway at 0636hrs, and held on for sometime. We were finally airborne at 0638hrs from Rwy25. After lifting off, we banked slightly towards north, then to the west, and finally aligned on the path towards Bengaluru. The climb was very quick - quite unlike the ATRs. Seatbelt signs were turned off at 0643 - soon after, the cabin crew sprung up from their seats and prepared to start the BoB service. I had prebooked a sandwich, and as promised, the cabin crew served guests with prebooked meals first. One of the crew came with the list and confirmed the order, while the other crew came with the sandwiches. Even then, my sandwich came after the captain announced that we'd be landing in about 15 minutes!
Lifting off from Chennai... Thats the domestic terminal in sight.
The In-flight magazine, and menu for the BoB service - SpiceJet Bistro
My Slice of Spice! A Tomato, Cucumber and Cheese Sandwich
Like the last time, it was again a Tomato, Cucumber and Cheese Sandwich. The sandwich was slightly high on Tomato - took me to the good old memories of the sandwiches my mom used to make at home. The sandwich felt a bit dry towards the end - and I had to hurry with it. Soon after I received the sandwich, the seat belt signs came back on (0658hrs). I wanted a serving of water to wash down the sandwich - the FA attended to my call quickly, and with a very warm smile. I somehow like this aspect of SpiceJet - even at the peak of their turmoil last year, the FAs served with a very nice smile. They had to hurry about preparing the cabin for landing - collection of thrash, ensuring that the tray tables were shut and the windows were open. We finally touched down on Rwy27 at 0715 - we had the usual long taxi to the parking stand. We finally parked at 0719.
The touchdown moment - the runway was wet - so its a lot of water there.
I remained seated till all the other passengers got off - I wanted to take a couple of pics. I succeeded in that, and hurried to the bus which was waiting for me to get on board. We were dropped at the terminal at 0729hrs - after a long ride from the stand till the other end of the apron, and then turn around and travel half the earlier distance to drop us at the gate. My bag came out very soon - this happens to be a fairly regular incidence for me these days. I was out of the airport by around 0735hrs.
The clean and well maintained interiors of VT-SUI
Thats VT-SUI, aka Haldi
Check-in: 5/5 (Had web checked in - used the counter to get my boarding pass and drop my baggage)
Cleanliness: 5/5 (the aircraft was in great shape - clean and well kept interiors)
Punctuality: 4.95/5 (A 5 minute delay is perfectly acceptable)
Crew: 5/5 (Awesome service!)
Catering: 5/5 (Great food)
Overall: 5/5

Summary: Another great flight with SpiceJet - this was perfectly one time as well (a 5-10 minute delay is acceptable, IMO). Great crew again. Good food as well. I liked the Q400 ride this time - except that the aircraft is really bouncy when it taxi'd. It climbed very fast compared to an ATR. The aircraft was noisier than an ATR, IMO - it produced more vibrations as well. But it was faster. I look forward to fly with SpiceJet, and the Q400 again.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

On the smiling Plane 114 - BLR to Chennai!

An airline that caught my fancy ever since it was announced was Air Pegasus. For some reason, the name struck a chord with me, and I awaited their first flight for a long time. The first pictures of their first aircraft attracted me even further - the aircraft featured a nice smiley on the nose! Another fact that attracted me was that they flew the ATR72 - and I love them for some reason. Air Pegasus took off in mid-April this year with one ATR72, that flew earlier for Kingfisher. Another aircraft joined their fleet last month (also ex-Kingfisher). The opportunity to fly Air Pegasus never came until they started flying to Chennai. I had been planning an outing to Chennai since a very long time, and this came as an opportunity. The catch being that they flew only three times a week, a late morning departure from Bangalore.
Thats the "Smiling Plane" :)
I finally booked for a Saturday flight from Bangalore. The flight leaves Bangalore at 1025hrs on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. Booking was simple - except adding a Snack box, there were no add-on services. Seat Selection was not offered as well, neither did they provide web check-in. A few days before my trip, some disruptions began appearing on the Pegasus website - morning flights were regularly disrupted. With the pattern repeating day by day, I was sure my flight would be delayed as well. And I was not wrong. On the day before my journey, an email popped up informing me about the reschedule, followed by an SMS with the same information. The departure was pushed from 1025hrs to 1135hrs.

September 05, 2015:
I had a very late start to the day. I woke up quite late, and ended up not having time even for a breakfast. I had to rush with packing as well - and realised my camera's charger was missing! I did not have time to hunt where it was - but I had to just let it go and use the camera till its battery dies out. I left home sometime around 0900hrs - the airport is a good 48kms away from home. I was driving down to the airport and leaving my vehicle at the long term parking this time. Traffic was on the higher side and I had to step on the gas once on the highway. An accident on the highway slowed me down considerably. Somewhere on my way to the airport, I received a call from Air Pegasus asking if I was at the airport - the agent on phone confirmed that the flight is rescheduled and would depart only at 1125hrs. I reached the airport around 1015hrs - I spent some time taking photographs before entering the terminal.
Kempegowda International Airport!!
Two counters were open for Air Pegasus - there was no queue at the counter - just a couple of passengers ahead of me. Air Pegasus doesn't offer web check-in as of now - so had to do a check-in at the airport - I am doing this after a very long time. I requested for a seat at the front - and was given #3A. The agent manually wrote the new boarding time and handed over the pass to me along with the hand baggage tag. The check-in process was a bit slow - but a good experience except for the slow process. The airport was unusually empty at this time - most of the counters were closed, and there were hardly any souls at security check as well! Infact, they had shut down most queues and kept just a couple of them open - and they too were empty. Security check was a breeze, and I was in the security hold in under 15 minutes of reaching the airport - six minutes of which was lost at the check-in counter!
The Air Pegasus check-in counters..
My boarding pass - sorry, I lost it somewhere, and couldn't even get a decent pic :'(
The almost deserted KIA!
Thats the common departures announcement
I headed to my favorite spotting location, and found one Air Pegasus ATR72 (later identified as VT-APA) sunbathing at the far end of the apron. I was expecting this to be my bird, and kept an eye on the aircraft all time to see if there is any activity around. Both the E190s of Air Costa were in Bangalore at this time (one went to VTZ and other to HYD). IndiGos kept coming and going, while a SpiceJet B738 was busy catching up some sleep on the apron. I headed to the gate (#6) sometime around 1100hrs. I was quite surprised to see that the 4 bus gates in this area were also deserted! There were some passengers waiting near Gate #6 for the Pegasus flight to Chennai - thats it! Finding an empty corner to sit was not difficult, and I did just that! There were no Pegasus agents anywhere to be seen even as the clock ticked past 1115hrs.
The Air Costa E-190 family at BLR!
Date of Journey: September 05, 2015
Flight No: OP114 || Seat: 3A
Aircraft type: ATR72-500 (212A) || Regn: VT-APB
Sector: BLR-MAA
STD: 1025hrs, ATD: 1202hrs
STA: 1125hrs, ATA: 1308hrs
Waiting for boarding to begin..
An agent appeared sometime around 1120hrs - but boarding was not called. On being asked, he said the aircraft is late by a few minutes and boarding would start once we were ready. Boarding was finally called sometime around 1125hrs - we were all put into a bus. The bus did not get moving for quite some time. The plot was now clear - the aircraft for us hadn't even landed! It had to come in from Trivandrum, and would be turned around to Chennai!! Some time around 1138hrs, a smiling plane lands and rushes towards the apron. Around the same time, the bus started crawling towards our stand. There was another bus ahead of us, which would take the passengers from the inbound sector. We were at the stand by 1139hrs - and a long wait started. In the meantime, the passengers of the inbound flight alighted, and housekeeping staff got to cleaning the aircraft.
Waiting inside the bus, as pax from the inbound sector walk off..
Thats the bus that brought us to Alpha Papa Bravo
It was VT-APB that would ferry me to Bangalore. Alpha Papa Bravo is an ATR72 (cn #762) that was originally delivered to Kingfisher Airlines in November 2007. The aircraft was repossessed when the airline shut owing to their financial distress. The aircraft came back to India as VT-APB in July 2015. The aircraft was about 8 years old, and was configured as 66Y. The aircraft looked awesome with the smiley on its nose, and the fully white fuselage.
Thats VT-APB..
Getting into VT-APB.. I love the smileys!
We were allowed to get off the bus at 1150hrs - an orderly queue formed soon, and passengers got into the aircraft soon. I remained at the end of the queue, and I got into the aircraft by 1154hrs. The first impression on getting into the aircraft was - wow! It was so clean! The upholstery was very good - soft and comfortable. The seats were in great shape. There were no visible signs of damage from its long days of sunbathing after it was repossessed. Boarding was completed by 1156 and doors were armed by 1202hrs. It wasn't a full flight - but the loads were certainly in the 60s range. My co-passenger seat was empty though. We were pushed back at 1204hrs. In command was Capt Dimitry - I couldn't get the name of the First officer. We commenced taxi at 1208hrs, and were airborne from Rwy27 at 1212hrs. A nice climb to the west, followed by a series of left banks to finally align towards Chennai. Seat belt signs went off at 1218hrs. Soon after the seatbelt signs were switched off, the trolley was brought out and a quick buy-on-board service was conducted.
Waiting to take off.. a Jet Airways ATR just came in..
Overflying Bengaluru Airport..
I had prebooked a snack box, and I was informed that I would be served shortly. In the meantime, we over flew Bangalore airport and made swift progress towards Chennai. My snack box came soon afterwards. The box was fairly big, and had TajSATS printed on it. The box was warm - and I knew i had to expect something hot inside! I opened the box to find a nicely packed aluminum disposable container, a small serving of a dessert and plastic cutlery. I opened the aluminum container to find two piping hot vegetable cutlets, a vegetable puff and a medu vada. The dessert was a pudding made of semolina with a very mild rose flavour. The food tasted awesome, and served a perfect brunch for me. It was filling, properly heated and well served. I felt they could've added a juice or probably atleast a serving of water.
The snack box..
Inside the box..
Thats the fully unpacked version.. 
The seatbelt sign was back on at 1246hrs. In the meantime, we turned into some really dense clouds - really dense ones. The aircraft shook violently as we passed through the clouds. The first officer came on the PA and apologised for the delay, while adding information about the climate in Chennai and some other miscellaneous information about the flight. We finally touched down on Rwy07 at 1303hrs. It was a fairly long taxi to get to the apron, and we finally parked at Stand #48 at 1308hrs. It took sometime for deboarding to begin, and I wanted to be the last to get off. I was finally off the aircraft at 1312hrs, into a waiting AI-SATS tarmac coach. We had to wait for quite some time since an old lady required assistance to get off the aircraft, and the ground staff took some time to get her off the aircraft. We were finally dropped at the terminal by 1321hrs, and I got my bags by 1328hrs.
Welcome to Chennai!!
Thats how VT-APB looked from inside..
The AI-SATS bus that took us to the terminal in Chennai..
To wind up - Air Pegasus did a great job with the flight. I do not admire being delayed, and did not really like the way they handled the delay as well. Instead of putting passengers on the bus and they letting us to sunbath on the tarmac, they could've held on boarding till the aircraft landed. What I admired was that they ensured the aircraft was cleaned before it was turned around. The bird came in at 1138, was cleaned properly, seatbelts properly arranged and we took off again at 1202hrs (time the doors were armed) - that is 24 minutes! The aircraft was in great shape as well. The flight attendants were very responsive, and ensured that every passenger was served. The snack box was served at the right temperature, and the contents were just awesome! I look forward to trying Air Pegasus once again to see if the service remains consistent. Being a new airline, they surely are facing problems with crew availability, and I do expect their services to be impacted by the same.

Check-in: 4.5/5 (Slow)
Cleanliness: 5/5 (the aircraft was in great shape - clean and well kept interiors)
Punctuality: 2.5/5 (Delayed!)
Crew: 5/5 (Awesome service!)
Catering: 5/5 (Great food)
Overall: 3.5/5

Summary: The airline is still maturing and is suffering from teething problems. I am sure they will have a great future if they clear the issues and set procedures right! Hope to see a great airline that is true to its South Indian's genes! Happiness 'shall' be in the air!