GoAir Christmas Special: Kochi to Bangalore

This very trip was planned by chance. I initially had no intentions of heading home for Christmas. The entire trip took shape when I found that Go Air was operating special flights. I initially thought it was an afternoon flight - but realised it was a late night flight a little later. I changed the date a bit and got a flight for Monday at a price that was cheaper that bus fares for that day!

December 27, 2015:
I reached the airport quite early for a 0215hrs flight - it was just 2245hrs as I got off the car and walked towards the terminal. Quite puzzled and sleepy, I wandered outside the terminal for sometime, before finally entering the terminal. The sleepy CISF cop at the entrance barely looked at the ticket and my ID card before letting me in. I was in for a surprise inside - the terminal was fairly crowded for the time. I found an empty seat in the waiting area and settled down - I had over three hours to go for my flight, and check-in would open only another hour and a half later. There were two red-eye flights scheduled for that night - one to Mumbai and another to Bangalore (my flight). The regular flights for that night had already departed and the terminal was open only for the two red-eye flights that night. Half the passengers were asleep, while some like me were trying to. The seats were too uncomfortable to sleep - and I had finally resort to browsing on my phone to spend time. Sometime around 2345, the baggage screening machines came alive, and the terminal sprung up to activity. People started shoving in their baggage for screening.

December 28, 2015:
I remained seated for more time - infact, I was busy watching a movie on my laptop that I did not realise the time. Sometime around 0055hrs, I headed towards the check-in counter - very long queues had formed at all the four counters that Go was using. They had earmarked counters according to the destination. I joined the long line for the Bangalore flight. Some time after I joined the queue, I realised that the CUTE Terminals weren't working and they were using manual check-ins! They had taken print outs of boarding passes for all passengers earlier, and had the passenger manifest with them. They had to go through the manifest everytime, find out the sequence number and then issue the boarding pass. All this took a lot of time, and to add to all their miseries, passengers came with lots of baggage, since majority of the crowd was returning after a vacation (or heading out for a vacation). They had to manually enter details of the baggage, put on tags and then stick the counterfoil on the boarding passes.
The queue at the check-in counters..
As I reached the counter, my phone just switched off itself! And, I did not have a print out of the ticket - but I remember my PNR. I told him the PNR and my sequence number - he cross checked my name on that with that on my Identity card and issued my boarding pass. It was 0106hrs by now. My next destination was Security check. Surprisingly, the queue there was not very long. It did take some time for me to clear security - I got into the security hold by around 0111hrs. Security hold was very crowded - with most seats taken. I found an empty seat in one corner of the terminal - a plug point nearby seemed to be an icing on the cake. The apron appeared empty - save for a Silk Air B738 preparing to head back to Singapore. Sometime around 0120hrs, a Go Air Aircraft (VT-GOJ) arrived from Mumbai. The bird returned back to Mumbai as the red-eye additional rotation from Kochi to Mumbai. In the meantime, I got hooked to FR24 to find out which bird would take me to Bangalore, and where she was. She hadn't left Bangalore it - and the bird for me would be VT-GOM. She took off from Bangalore sometime around 0135hrs.
The boarding pass..
The terminal after the Mumbai flight departed..
Just the two specials listed...
Date of Journey: December 28, 2015
Flight No: G8-1299|| Seat: 26A
Aircraft type: Airbus 320-200 || Regn: VT-GOM
Sector: COK-BLR
STD: 0215hrs, ATD: 0256hrs
STA: 0315hrs, ATA: 0353hrs

Boarding for the Mumbai flight meant the terminal got half empty now. GOJ was pushed back for her voyage to Mumbai at 0159hrs - and the apron got deserted all over again! Sometime around 0218 my aircraft appeared to be on its finals. A Qatar B777 arrived at the apron first. My bird finally came in to the apron at 0223hrs. I was quite shocked looking at the number of people who de-boarded. I am sure they had no less than 100 passengers. Boarding wasn't called until 0234hrs. No zone-wise or row-wise boarding was enforced. I remained seated until most of the crowd cleared the terminal. I joined the queue only as the tail end of the long queue reached the boarding gate. I got into the aircraft through the rear door by around 0251hrs.
My Bird: VT-GOM.. Boarding in progress..
Boarding from the rear entrance..
For some reason, I liked this image a lot.. 
I was among the last passengers to get inside. By the time, I reached my seat, the boarding complete call was made on the PA system (0252hrs). As soon as passengers settled down, the welcome messages started playing. Doors were armed at 0256hrs. In the deck were Capt Guraya and Capt Rajiv Sharma, while Anjali, Prashant, Nash and Anchal took care of the cabin. We were pushed back at 0258hrs. Safety demo was in progress at this time. A block time of 1 hour was announced as the deck crew went detailing about the flight. Taxi commenced at 0302hrs. We headed straight towards the holding point for Rwy27. This meant a very long taxi. We were finally airborne from Rwy27 at 0309hrs - a delay of almost an hour.

We climbed quite soon in the Westerly direction, before turning to the North East. We leveled off, and the seatbelt signs were turned off 0314hrs, only to hit a bit of turbulence, and the seat belt signs came back on again at 0316hrs. The seatbelt sign remained on for a couple of minutes before being turned off again. The seatbelt sign came on a few times inflight - and everytime, a very annoying prerecorded announcement was played. Buy-on-board service commenced soon after the seatbelt signs went off the second time. I had prebooked a Veg Sub. The sub was served on priority, not during routine course.
The GoAir Sub!
This is what I got... no cheese or fresh lettuce to be seen
Go Air had recently revamped their entire BoB range, and offers a lot of items for pre-reservation. The sub I had ordered was among the new offerings. Although the packing talked of fresh vegetables, cheese and lettuce, in reality it was a dry baguette with a very masala laden filling largely made of cauliflower. The filling was wholesome - but it had too much of masala for my liking. I prefer neutral stuff generally. I was quite hungry and hence finished it in no time. By the time I finished, the call for landing was made. The seatbelt signs came on at 0334hrs. The cabin was secured for landing in no time. The approached seemed very familiar - we were heading towards Rwy09. We finally touched down on Rwy09 at 0348hrs. The airport seemed dead at that hour - barring for a couple of international departures (to the Middle east). The entire domestic side appeared like a parking ground - all the jetways were occupied by aircrafts sleeping for the night. Except one Jet Airways B738, there was no activity around any aircraft.
Flight tracking from FR24..
It was a long taxi to our parking stand, and we finally parked at 0353hrs. Probably because it was a special flight, the ground support took its time to get to us. Deboarding took quite some time to start. I was out of the aircraft by around 0400hrs. While on my way to the terminal on board the tarmac coach, I saw another Go Air aircraft land - that was a special from Goa. Go Air seemed to have utilised the christmas-new year rush to the fullest and cashed in on the opportunity by flying extra flights to Kochi and Goa.

Note: Part of this travelogue was composed live at the terminal while waiting for the aircraft.

Ratings:
Check-in: 4.5/5 (Had web checked in - used the counter to get my boarding pass. Manual boarding did take considerable time)
Cleanliness: 5/5 (the aircraft was in great shape - clean and well kept interiors)
Punctuality: 4/5 (Left late, reached late)
Crew: 5/5 (Great service)
Catering: 4/5 (The baguette was too dry, and the filling wasn't really good)
Overall: 4.5/5

Summary: 
Really appreciate GoAir for cashing in on the opportunity - they operated red-eye specials on atleast three sectors during the Christmas-New Year season. The rates weren't very high, and came in as a blessing for a lot of passengers. Although the flight was late, the crew made it up with great service. I had great hopes about the all new inflight catering menu - but the product I selected did not meet my expectations. I'd certainly not hesistate to fly GoAir again, and only hope they introduce a regular flight in the BLR-COK sector.  

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