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..
Ratings:
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.

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