BLR to COK on board SpiceJet's B737-700

Again on VT-SLA?

Probably every #avgeek would not like to repeat a registration. I am no different!

This was the very confusion I had when I looked at tickets for a Friday flight to Kochi. SpiceJet 432 was the cheapest option for the day - but this rotation has a fixed aircraft since over 6 months now. Its an ex-AnodoluJet Boeing 737-700 (Winglet) flying this rotation since the beginning of Winter '2015. I had flown this aircraft already in January 2016, and was really confused if I should opt for SpiceJet. But then, the cost difference between this flight and the next cheapest flight was substantial. I booked on SpiceJet 432 with a feeble hope that they may rotate SLA with SLB, and had a very low probability of flying the only other 737-700 in SpiceJet's fleet. I tracked the rotation on FR24 almost daily - but nothing of that sort happened. Sierra Lima Alpha is based in DEL, while Bravo is based in CCU. With just two of the type in fleet, no exchanges happened, and on the day of my flight, Sierra Lima Alpha itself took off from DEL towards AMD, and further towards COK via HYD.

March 18, 2016:
A change in the working pattern at office meant I had to take a day off. Had a very late start to the day - waking up in the morning without my alarm making noises is an everyday wish I nurture. I generally enjoy that freedom only on Sundays! I was really enjoying this one day I got from my otherwise monotonous and boring schedule. I didn't have to hurry in the morning, or change buses to get to office and do exactly what I do daily. A late start meant I spent a lot of time catching up with social networks and mails. The end result of all this was that I got late! It was already 1100hrs by the time I realised I was late. My flight leaves at 1500hrs, and the airport is 46kms from home, in a city where distances are measured in terms of time than kilometres.

I booked a taxi though a leading cab aggregator and then had a hurried brunch. The cab appeared by around 1155 - with the driving losing his way and landing up on the wrong side of my apartment. We left from my place around 1159. Traffic was heavy right from the beginning and got worse as we reached the CBD. The driver took alternative roads wherever he could - and at one point he confirmed my flight timing and acted accordingly. Traffic was the worst for a friday afternoon. The 46 kilometre ride ended up taking almost 2 hours (105 minutes to be precise) - and I reached the airport at around 1350 - exactly 70 minutes for my flight.

Date of Journey: March 18, 2016
Flight No: SG432 || Seat: 20A
Aircraft type: Boeing 737-700 (WL) || Regn: VT-SLA
Sector: BLR-COK
STD: 1500hrs, ATD: 1455hrs
STA: 1600hrs, ATA: 1548hrs
SpiceJet check-in counters at BLR..
My Boarding pass..
I had to rush in to the terminal - thankfully, the entrances weren't crowded. The SpiceJet check in counters, unusually, had fairly good crowd. I got my boarding pass by 1355hrs and rushed towards security. Thankfully, security check wasn't too crowded, and I got through to the security hold by 1407hrs. I headed straight towards the boarding gate (#6) on the lower level. The last time I took the same flight, we were on a jetway gate - but this time on a bus gate. The first boarding call was made at 1414hrs, and I joined the queue soon after. The loads seemed quite light - all the passengers fit into a single bus, and we left the terminal by 1417hrs. I quizzed the ground staff about the loads - they replied the flight was almost full. I was inside the aircraft by 1422hrs - it was very hot out there, the sun on my side made matters worse. The aircraft seemed all empty - hardly a hundred souls on board! Soon later, an announcement was made asking all passengers to switch off their electronic devices, since fueling was in progress - this was a first for me. There was no movement around the aircraft for quite a lot of time. Another bus full of passengers were brought to the aircraft sometime around 1445hrs, and boarding was finally completed by 1450hrs - true to what the ground staff said, the flight was almost full.
Right after boarding commenced.. 
This is a branding disaster. VT-SLA with no indication about the operator..
Waiting for the next bus of passengers to arrive..
Doors were armed at 1454hrs, and we were pushed back a minute later. By now the welcome announcements began. In the deck were Capt Micheal and First Officer Vinay. Lavi, Jai, Mitesh and Neha were in the cabin. Safety demonstrations began by the time pushback was completed. Taxi commenced at 1458hrs. During the long ride to the holding point of Rwy09, a SpiceJet Q400 and Air India's A319 (VT-SCP) landed. We had to hold before the runway for a minute. We entered the active runway at 1504hrs, and took off at 1505hrs. We climbed straight to the east and flew east for quite sometime, before we turned South-West. The seatbelt signs were turned off at 1508hrs. The buy-on-board service commenced soon later. Passengers with prebooking were served first. Since I was sure I wouldn't be able to have a proper lunch, I had opted for a hot meal. I got my Paneer Makhanwala with Jeera Rice and Dal in a box-in-box packing, along with a small bottle of water.
Lifting off from Bangalore...
The meal..
Delicious Paneer Makhanwala with Jeera Rice and Dal.. 
The dessert - Mysore Pak!
The meal box contained the main course, a bun, butter chiplet and an Indian sweet. Plastic cutlery, along with sufficient paper napkins were provided. The meal was hot. The serving seemed a little less. Paneer Makhanwala was rich in terms of quantity of soft and succulent Paneer (Cottage cheese). The rice was perfectly cooked and the dal provided was creamy in consistency. I was quite hungry by this time, and finished my meal in no time. The bun provided was softer than the previous flight. I did not use the butter chiplet. The sweet was a Mysore Pak - it was soft and very tasty. I really loved the food this time as well. By the time I finished my meal, the seatbelt sign was back on (1524hrs), and crew had already begun preparing the cabin for landing. Two rounds of refuse clearing was performed.
The resplendent beauty of River Periyar winding around Cochin airport. Taken while on finals..
Just before docking at COK..
Last passenger to get off..
Like every time, I got hooked to watching the beauty of the western ghats as we overflew them to align with the landing path for Rwy27. We touched down on Rwy27 of Cochin International Airport at 1545hrs. After exiting the runway, we had to hold for a minute or so on the taxiway, before being allowed to enter the apron. We finally docked at Stand #9, at 1548hrs. Like every flight in India, passengers were already fighting to get off the aircraft first - the aisle was already chocked with pax waiting for the doors to be opened. I got off the aircraft at 1556hrs, as the last passenger to deboard. The tarmac coach took us terminal by 1558hrs, and like everytime, my bags had already reached the carousels - had to just pick it up and walk out of the terminal into a waiting KSRTC bus, to continue my journey home.
Shot from the tarmac coach using my phone.. a different perspective of the winglet..
The FR24 track of my flight. We cruised at FL260
This was my second flight on VT-SLA (c/n: 34759). The aircraft has been flying with SpiceJet for more than 6 months now, and they did not seem to find time to atleast put up the SpiceJet decals on it - quite a branding disaster, IMO. The aircraft as such seemed well cared for - I couldn't find more deterioration in the interior quality from my last time - the seats showed their age, and would really get a fresh lease of life if the upholstery is take care of. I know its difficult to manage with just two aircrafts of this type in the entire fleet. The Boeing 737-700 is like a rocket when it climbs - climbs quite fast, and its fun flying a 73G. I hope SpiceJet takes care of the branding part on these aircrafts.

Ratings:
Check-in: 5/5 (Counter was a bit crowded, but not enough to cut points)
Cleanliness: 4.95/5 (the aircraft was in great shape - clean and well kept interiors)
Punctuality: 5/5 (Before time at both ends)
Crew: 5/5 (Great service)
Catering: 5/5 (Awesome food. Very filling as well)
Overall: 4.99/5

Summary:
SpiceJet is a preferred airline for me already. I've been loving their services more with each flight with them. They may not be the perfect airline, but certainly a value carrier. Their catering is one of their biggest highlights. The crew were great - friendly and caring for the passengers. I am loving it, and look forward for more flights with them.

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