Kochi to BLR on AirAsia.. again!

The hunt for weekend tickets was running hot on my laptop. Almost all the flights for the date I wanted were selling at fairly high prices - but there were sufficient low cost tickets for the next day (i.e., Monday). It was then that an idea flashed - I had enough leaves left, and I could afford to take half-a-day off, fly a morning flight to Bangalore and head straight to office from the airport. I decided to do that - and started looking at the morning options. There were four flights - one each by Jet Airways, Indigo, Air Asia and SpiceJet (in the order of departure). I decided to pick the cheapest - and Air Asia it was! Things went normally after the booking, till my Sis-in-law booked on the same flight (for a different date) - she got a message saying her flight was rescheduled and would leave only an hour later - later, the flight got cancelled as well. The punctuality of this particular flight wasn't looking great whenever I checked its stats.

A couple of days before my journey, I got a mail from AirAsia notifying a change in my flight timings. This was followed by a series of messages, an email message and a phone call from AirAsia the day before my journey. I did not check in online, and decided to check-in at the counter instead.

Date of Journey: November 17, 2014
Flight No: I5-1124 || Seat: 9A
Aircraft type: Airbus 320-200 || Regn: VT-ATF
STD: 1110hrs, ATD: 1111hrs
STA: 1210hrs, ATA: 1207hrs

Like everytime, I felt lazy as the time to leave home came closer. I got up late, and kept loitering around till it started getting late. It was a Monday morning, the first of a Malayalam month - all these factors called for heavy crowd in buses. The journey from home to Airport ensues changing three buses (i.e., 4 buses in all). I had to travel standing for a portion of the journey, and hire an autorickshaw for the last leg of the journey. I reached the Airport at 0945hrs. The domestic terminal was quite crowded - in fact the maximum I've seen here. Two flights were checking in at that time, and a couple more scheduled a couple of hours away. The baggage scanners were busy. The SpiceJet counter was busy while the AirAsia counter was quite empty - I headed to an empty desk and a smiling lady checked me in and issued my boarding pass. She handed over a hand-baggage tag and directed me towards security check.
The Domestic Terminal at Cochin
A CISF guard was screening passengers by their boarding pass first before allowing them towards the actual security check area - probably she was prioritizing the immediate departure passengers first. Only one scanner was working and hence there was a fairly long queue to leave the bags for scanning. Frisking took some more time. I reached the security hold by 1000hrs. I took a seat closer to the gates so that I can watch some birds land at Kochi. Soon after, an Indigo A320 (VT-IFD) to Bengaluru/Kolkata was pushed off. I saw the bird taxi towards Rwy27. In the meantime, A Saudi Arabian A330 (HZ-AQF) arrived from Riyadh - she taxied in towards the International Terminal, and a while later the Indigo A320 took off. The airport was silent for sometime, until a Sri Lankan A320 (4R-ABL) came in from Colombo. Soon after, an Air India A320 (VT-ESE) was pushed off - I was seeing the ground activities during push-off so close for the first time. In the meantime, a SpiceJet B737-900ER (VT-SPU) came in from Mumbai (the same aircraft left for Goa/Bangalore right behind us). My aircraft (VT-ATF) came in at 1045hrs. Interstingly, SpiceJet had already began boarding by then. The boarding call for my flight was made at 1051hrs - a long queue had formed already by then.

I visited the washroom one and joined at the back of the queue - which was already in an inverted "Y" shape. AirAsia collects the stub of the boarding pass at the gate itself, and later do a headcount on board - the same procedure repeated here. I've noticed that all other airlines collect the stub of the boarding pass only at the entry to the aircraft. At the stairs an AirAsia agent checked seat numbers and re-directed the passengers to the appropriate door - since I was on Seat #9A, I was permitted through the front door. I got inside the aircraft at 1100hrs. Half the aircraft was still to board. Boarding finished by 1107hrs. Interestingly, SpiceJet was still boarding! Soon after boarding was completed, the headcount procedure started. Doors were closed only after the number of passengers on-board were tallied with their passenger manifest. We were pushed off at 1111hrs. Soon after pushoff, the safety demonstration began - an pre-recorded announcement was played and all the four attendants on board participated in the demo. The purser for the flight was Monica, and Captain Pravin Sharma was in command (could not get the first officer's name).
The aircraft: VT-ATF (Image courtesy: photoyogi @ JetPhotos.net)
As we were about to taxi, the SpiceJet was being prepared for push back. The ground staff gave the characteristic thunbs-up signal as the aircraft began taxiing (1116hrs). We entered the taxiway and turned towards Rwy09 for take off. In the meantime, a Jet Airways ATR 72-500 (VT-JCN, the same bird I flew in on) arrived from Bangalore and exited the runway. We took off from Rwy09 at 1121hrs. As we were climbing, I noticed the SpiceJet taxiing towards the runway. Soon after the seat-belt signs were switched off, the buy-on-board service commenced. Passengers who had pre-booked their meal was served first - I missed to book a meal, and  was feeling a bit hungry. The service was a bit slow, since everybody seemed to be buying something. I was told a sad news when the cart came close to me - no vegetarian options were available! The attendant checked with the other cart and confirmed that no veg options were available - that was really bad. An LCC not providing veg options on they b-o-b service. I picked up an Iced Tea (which was not even cool - forget being cold). We were overflying the western ghats at the time - I saw a town which I presume to be Ooty from the aircraft - there were lots of houses/building on the top of a hill.
In-flight.. somewhere over the western ghats...
The skies were largely clear - hardly any clouds anywhere (completely opposite of the scene on my inbound flight, where we experienced turbulence most of the time and flew under cloud cover). The sky was hazy though. The hills gave way to agricultural lands and villages - this signalled we had entered Karnataka. Landing was announced at 1147hrs. In the meantime, we were closing in towards Bangalore - and I was busy guessing each road I saw below. We turned left and were approaching Bangalore from the west - I was sure we'd land on Rwy09. We finally touched down on Rwy09 of Bengaluru Kempegowda International Airport at 1201hrs. It was a fairly long taxi after landing at Bengaluru. As we were taxiing towards the apron, the SpiceJet from Kochi landed as well. We finally parked at a remote stand at 1207hrs. The bus-fan in me jumped up in joy spotting the new Air India-SATS Volvos coming in to pick us up. The bus dropped me at the terminal building at 1218hrs - interestingly the bus stopped right next to VT-SPU (also from Kochi) which got an aerobridge. I did not have any check-in baggage, and got out of the terminal building by 1223hrs - and ran into a BMTC Volvo departing towards the city.

I was happy with my last AirAsia Flight (read here). This flight was a mixed experience - the buy-on-board service disappointed with the lack of veg options. The announcements on the flight were too fast and difficult to comprehend. The check-in process was great - so was boarding. The aircraft wasn't very clean - there were chocolate wrappers on the floor, used paper napkins in the seat pockets. I was not really happy with the re-schedule as well. I really had to hurry from the airport. The fact that they had cancelled a flight the previous Sunday (on which my sis-in-law) was to fly, without any alternatives being offered, too put me off.

Ratings:
Check-in: 5/5
Cleanliness: 4/5 (not very clean - leftovers from the inbound flight found)
Punctuality: 5/5
Crew: 4.5/5 (too fast announcements - incomprehensible)
On-Board Service: 2.5/5 (No veg options  - cold beverage wasn't even cool)
Overall: 4/5 (Could get better)

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