First on AirAsia! I5 Airbus320 from COK to BLR

The long diwali weekend. Most buses were already sold out - and the ones remaining had hefty fares. I turned to travel website for checking airfares. The airfares for that Sunday was quite high, but a late night flight of a famous airline on Saturday was available for cheap rates. Yes! I am talking of the world's leading Low-Cost Carrier - Air Asia! The tag line "Now Everyone Can Fly" impressed me, as I switched to the AirAsia website. Air Asia has a single website for all their operations. Tickets were available on their website for Rs.990 - the only catch being it was a late night flight. Since the next day was a Sunday, I decided to fly with Air Asia. I was quite excited in getting an airticket for just around a thousand rupees, and was infact enjoying my countdown to the journey.

October 25, 2014:
The journey was shaky as the day began - certain other domestic reasons were compelling me to put off the trip and travel by road instead. Sometime around evening, my journey back to Bangalore got finalised, and I was flying indeed. I left home after my dinner, sometime around 9pm. My brother left me at Cochin Airport at around 2150hrs. The agents at the check-in counter smiled and spoke very courteously to each passenger. This was the last domestic flight out of Cochin for the day, and hence the domestic terminal was slowly getting ready to sleep. The agent at the counter handed me my boarding pass and the hand-baggage tag and directed me towards security check.

Security check was crowded on the day - quite unusual from my previous trips. Quite unusually, checking was progressing slow as well - trays for Laptops were in short supply, and a guard there was passing on trays as they exited scanning. There was some altercation at the security check area on some restricted items being present in the hand-baggage. I headed to the waiting area soon after security check. An Air India flight was preparing to depart as I walked in to the waiting area. The waiting area was fairly filled - there were two flights to Bangalore at that time - a re-scheduled JetKonnect and my AirAsia (I5-1130). Sometime around 2210hrs, a 9W agent announced that their aircraft had arrived (in the meantime, I noticed a JetKonnect ATR72 taxiing to the apron) - and added that the same aircraft will return to Bangalore shortly. They turned around the ATR in about 15 minutes and the flight was pushed back around 2225hrs.

Sometime around 2229hrs, I noticed an AirAsia aircraft arriving at the gate - that was indeed my flight! The International terminal was very busy all the time - there was an Air India Express, then a Silk Air, and another Air-Asia ready for departure. Boarding was called at 2233hrs. By the time they finished announcing, a long queue had already formed - I too joined the queue. Boarding was quite slow - since AirAsia had put another layer of security check just before boarding. They checked bags and put an additional seal on the boarding pass as well as the baggage tag on the hand baggage. They gave the passengers two options for boarding - one, a bus to ferry them from the terminal building to the aircraft, and, Second, walk down to the aircraft. Kochi is a small airport, and Airbuses generally park at one of the two bays right outside the domestic boarding. I chose to walk down to the aircraft. The agent at the aircraft re-checked my baggage tag and the boarding pass before permitting boarding. I was flying on VT-ATB, an AirBus A320-200.
The aircraft - VT-ATB. Photo Courtesy: Vedant Agarwal @ JetPhotos.net
A hostess stood at the aircraft door welcoming all the guests with a smile. I was in the initial lot to board, and hence the aircraft was still quite empty. My seat was #15A - right behind the emergency exit row. The seat covers were black in colour, with "Air Asia" engraved on the headrest covers. The large legroom seats had red headrest covers while the others had black. I settled in my seat and did a "leg rest check" - it was tighter than the one in Indigo, but far more comfortable than the one in SpiceJet. Boarding took some time due to the second security check. Boarding completed at 2255hrs. The loads didn't look great to me - in the row that I was seated on, there were just three passengers! The row ahead had 4! Soon after boarding was completed, the captain (Capt. Vijay Jose) came on line and welcomed all the passengers to AirAsia. He announced that our departure would take a few more minutes due to "congestion" at Cochin Airport (We were right in the middle of an international departure lot). He gave out details of the flying time and expected arrival time in Bengaluru.

We were pushed off at 2301hrs. Soon after push-off, the safety demo started. The First officer was Mr. Harish Lamba. The chief attendant or purser that night was Mr. Bharat, and he was assisted by Mr. Kiran, Ms. Ankita and Mr. Avinash. The safety demo wasn't pre-recorded like on Indigo, but was an announcement by the Purser. We started taxiing at 2306 and we finally took off from Rwy09 at 2310hrs. Rwy09 is closest to the apron and hence take-offs are faster from here. The aircraft took off straight to the east, banked to the left and turned towards the North East. Soon after take-off, the buy-on-board service started. Ours being a late night flight, they quickly served passengers who had prebooked a meal - and for the others only beverages were available - I don't remember anyone around me buying anything. It was an eventless flight, with a little bit of turbulence as we neared Bangalore.

The captain came on line at 2331 and announced that our descent had commenced, and we'd be landing around 2350hrs. The seatbelt sign came on by 2335hrs. By now we were flying over the southern parts of Bengaluru city. The aircraft flew eastwards and executed a nice turnaround and aligned to land on Rwy27 in Bengaluru. While turning around, I noticed we had another aircraft ahead of us - far ahead of us actually - all I could see was the flashing lights - but I had a feeling it could be the 9W ATR which left ahead of us from Cochin. We touched down at 2350hrs, and headed towards the apron. We finally stopped at Stand 21, which is an aerobridge stand, at 2355hrs. De-boarding began at 2358hrs. The captain was at the door personally thanking each passenger - I really loved that gesture. The first thing I did on reaching the baggage area was to check which was that aircraft which landed just before us - it was indeed th 9W ATR from Cochin! I finally came out of the airport at 0007hrs, and started hunting down the cab I had booked in advance!

Ratings:
Check-in: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Punctuality: 5/5
Crew: 5/5
Overall: 5/5 (I loved it!)

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