GO to Pune!

A conference in Pune. Attending conferences and making paper presentations are often a part of my profession. I sent in an entry for the paper presentation and it got approved. I was undecided whether to go or not until a few days before the conference when a senior person in my department encouraged me to attend the program. After confirming my registrations, it was time to hunt for tickets and accommodation. I booked a room using a famous travel portal (which I later cancelled and rebooked in a different hotel) and then began the hunt for the travel tickets. I hadn't still decided whether to attend the entire conference or only the main part of it - and hence I first booked my return ticket. Then the search for the outward ticket started - I had two options - Indigo and Go. Since I had never been on Go, I selected a Go Air Flight to Pune, departing at 0545hrs on November 29, 2014.

The day prior to my journey was quite busy, and I reached home quite late. Some guests at home meant I slept very late - I hit bed past 2300hrs - and I had set an alarm for 0200hrs! I had booked a cab with a pick-up time of 0300hrs. With hardly 2.5 hours of sleep, I was all set for my first flight with Go Air.

November 29, 2014:
My day started off answering a phone call from the cab driver asking for directions to reach my place. I realised that I was already running late as I disconnected the call - I had probably turned off the alarm when it rang. I was ready for the journey after rushing through the morning formalties and walked out of my home at 0300hrs - just after the cab guy informed me that he was waiting outside. A trusty Toyota Etios stood outside my apartment complex to ferry me to the Airport - close to 45 kms away. The driver confirmed my flight timings as he started off. The empty roads of Bangalore meant we had a stable cruise all the way to the airport. While the roads in the City were empty, the Airport road was exactly the opposite - recklessly driven cabs and private cars made for a turbulent ride to the Airport. But I must say - my cabbie maintained steady pace and did not try doing heroics on the road. I was dropped at the Airport at 0400hrs.

I was quite hungry and headed straight to Maiyyas outside the departure gate for a light breakfast. After breakfast, I walked into the terminal - the CISF personnel directed me to a random scanning line - where my check-in bag was scanned and my ticket details noted down. I then headed to the check-in counters. Go Air was using 6 counters for check-in, Counters #8 to 13. Only 5 of them were active, and one among them were kept for GoBusiness check-ins and for special passengers (mothers with infants, elderly, etc). Check-ins for two flight were in progress - one to Mumbai, and the second mine (to Pune, Nagpur, Kolkata). Loads seemed fairly good for both the flights. It took about 8 minutes to get my boarding pass. I expected longer queues at Security check, and rushed to the upper level for security - The queue there wasn't very long (thankfully) and I managed to complete checking by 0435hrs.

Date of Journey: November 29, 2014
Flight No: G8-283 || Seat: 21F
Aircraft type: Airbus 320-200 || Regn: VT-GOP
STD: 0545hrs, ATD: 0545hrs
STA: 0705hrs, ATA: 0704hrs

Boarding for my flight was announced from Gate #09, and boading time on my Boarding pass was 0505hrs. Gates 1 through 3 were empty - there were none to board from there. There were some passengers waiting near Gate #09 - I took a seat there and got busy browsing on FR24 to make an informed guess about my aircraft. On my way to the gate, I had seen a Go Air A320 (Later identified as VT-GOR) parked at a jetway. I got tired sitting at the gate and decided to have a stroll - just then I noticed that the aircraft for my flight had been brought to the gate - it was VT-GOP, an Airbus 320-200 delivered to Go Air in 2013. Boarding hadn't yet commenced since the Go Air Agent hadn't come yet. An agent came in sharp at 0505, but he did not start boarding. CISF personnel to came in, and the gate was unlocked and prepared for boarding. The deck and cabin crew came in, and about five minutes after they came, the first boarding call was made (the agent at the gate shouted for passengers traveling to Pune/Nagpur by G8-283). I was the second passenger to board (was infact the first in the queue, but a unruly fellow jumped the queue in truly Indian style). I was inside the aircraft at 0518.
The aircraft : VT-GOP (image courtesy: Nishant Rao @ JetPhotos.net)
The boarding pass..
This was my first experience being on the first flight of the day for an aircraft - the cabin crew were just settling, securing their baggage, et al. Just as the first passenger walked in, they just put off what they were doing and warmly welcomed passengers. The first two rows were earmarked as GoBusiness, while the remaining 28 rows were Economy. Seats had a dark grey theme. I headed straight to my seat at the back (#21F) - a seat on the right side, purposefully chosen to have a nice view of the sunrise. Recorded announcements welcoming passengers to Go Air were being played as boarding was in progress - they also made announcements asking passengers not to block the aisle so that we could finish boarding earlier. Boarding was completed at 0539hrs. Capt Anup Ghosh (Commander) came on the PA system and made a brief announcement welcoming passengers to the flight and giving out some information about the flight. He introduced the passengers to the First Office, Capt. Amrut, and also named the cabin crew - led by Fauzan, assisted by Kanchan, Tishu and Nutei. He congratulated passengers for choosing Go Air, specifically the early morning departure, and he gave out the flying details. He informed that we'd be Pune an hour and 10 minutes after push-off.
Waiting to be pushed off....
We were pushed back at 0545hrs. In the mean time, the other GO Air departure (to Mumbai) started its taxi to the runway. Another Go Air aircraft was sleeping off at a parking stand. Safety demonstration was made soon after push off. We started taxiing at 0549, and headed straight towards Rwy09. Right behind us was a Jet Airways ATR (to Kochi?). We took off at 0557hrs. For some reason, this take-off felt very special to me - this was my first with Go Air, first early morning departure. We took off straight to the east, and turned towards our north-west direction. It was still dark, but signs of the sunrise were evident. Buy-on-board service commenced soon after seat-belt signs were switched off. Majority of the announcements were pre-recorded ones. They had a lot of Britannia products on sale - since I had a light breakfast earlier, did not buy anything on board. Passengers who had a pre-booked meal got another serving free! Loads on this flight were very good - the seat next to me was empty, and there were a couple more empty seats - but the rest were occupied.
In-flight...
One more...
The captain came on the PA system once again (sometime around 0641) and announced out descent to Pune. His sounded quite enthusiastic about his job - he sounded happy as well. He gave some info about the flight - that we were cruising at FL320. This was my first flight to Pune, and I was quite engrossed in absorbing the surroundings. We flew over an assortment of fields interspersed with apartment complexes. We finally touched down on Rwy28, at 0702hrs - the IAF apron was quite busy. A smooth touchdown, followed by a quick braking. The exitway from the runway is near the apron, and hence we did not have to spend time taxiing - we parked at Gate #1 (#4 of arrivals) at 0704. The apron was quite busy at the time - we were accompanied by an Air India A320 (VT-ESF, in Star Alliance livery), an Indigo A320 (VT-INS), and SpiceJet B737 (VT-SZJ, landed right behind us). De-boarding took some time, since they had opened only the front exit (due to checking of boarding passes, since the aircraft flies to NAG and CCU afterwards). I was out of the aircraft at 0712. It took some time for the baggages to come out - and I was out of the airport by 0725hrs.
 At Pune Lohegaon Airport
Go Air is a Budget airline floated by the Wadia Group, and commenced operations in 2005. They've been a no-nonsense airline, and have been going about strengthening their operations by remaining stable and not expanding too rapidly. They operate all of 19 aircrafts, and have been around for 9 years now. I liked their service - purely no-nonsense. The crew were professional in what they did. The buy-on-board service wasn't really great - they did not bother offering items to all the passengers. But they did respond to passenger requests. The check-in experience was good - it was a bit slow though. Most of the announcements, except the flight specific ones, were pre-recorded announcements - that ensured clarity of information. The fact that the captain announced flight details himself made for an interesting flight - it gave a very personal touch.

Ratings:
Check-in: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Punctuality: 5/5
Crew: 4.5/5 (losing points for the B-o-B service)
On-Board Service: Did not use.
Overall: 4.9/5

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