AirAsia to Kochi: RedKnight 1129

Any reason to travel is a good reason! The fact that I was traveling for a bus fans meet made me happier. This meet is an annual affair a group does - and I never managed to make it for it ever. It was a prestige issue for me this time, and I had to make it to it this time, no matter what. I had looked at various permutations and combinations to find a way of conveniently making it to the meet. The meet was being organised on a Sunday at Pamba - the base station of Sabarimala pilgrimage. The annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala happens every November-January - two full months of devotees, and hundreds of KSRTC buses to ferry them to various nearby railway stations to the base camp in Pamba, until where one can reach by motorways.

Getting to Pamba in time for the meet wasn't easy, given that buses from Bangalore to Pathanamthitta reach there quite late. I had to look at other options. I worked around a lot of options, including going via Madurai, Kumily (a little circuitous) before I finally looked at flights from Bengaluru to Kochi. I was in for a surprise - tickets were cheap! I got a new confusion now - take the last flight, or go a little earlier! I chose between the two, and finally decided to fly RedKnight 1129 aka AirAsia India (I5) 1129. A day before my flight, I thought to do a web-check-in. I used the AirAsia App - which allotted me a window seat on the starboard side. the App did not give me a boarding pass, but only a QR code, that I had to use to print a boarding pass at a self-check-in kiosk.

December 10, 2016:
Things weren't rosy. A quick check at FR24 showed that this particular flight was regularly delayed, with delays as bad as 120 minutes! The first thing I did on reaching office was checking the status of the rotation. The aircraft that works I51129 does a BLR-GOI-BLR-IXC-BLR-VTZ-BLR-COK-BLR rotation. The aircraft was still on ground at the time when the aircraft should've been half way to IXC (Chandigarh, for the uninitiated). A delay for my flight was imminent. I kept tracking my flight till it actually took off from Bengaluru to Chandigarh.

Sometime past 1105hrs - A message pops up:
                        Dear Guest, the departure of flight i5- 1129(BLR-COK) on 10 December 2016 is revised to 2125hrs. Check-in counters will close 45 minutes prior to the departure. We regret the inconvenience caused. Wish you a pleasant flight with us - AirAsia.
The worst had happened. A one hour (55 minute) delay throws a spanner in my plans. I'd end up missing some precious sleep! I remained tracking the flight for the rest of its rotation to be aware of any further delays that could pop-up later. The aircraft that was working the rotation was VT-HYD (cn:2612) originally delivered as 9M-AFA to AirAsia in November 2005. She was transferred to AirAsia India in September 2016, and re-registered here as VT-HYD, commemorating the launch of AirAsia India's operations to Hyderabad. A 11 year old aircraft for me!
Just entering the airport.. loved the colours on the sky..
The AirAsia check-in counters..
I remained in office for a little longer than my working hours to avoid sitting doing nothing at the airport. I finally decided to get moving by about 1650hrs. I was to leave my car at the airport and hence set out of office by a route that GMaps thought was the fastest. However things weren't as rosy as GMaps predicted and I actually ended up losing a bit of time. I landed up at the airport by about 1740hrs, and took quite some time to find a vacant parking slot. I still had a lot of time to spend and headed out to Chai Point for a light snack and a hot beverage. I got inside the airport a little past 1800hrs and remained seated for some time. I checked in by around 1845hrs. The gate agent promised there wouldn't be any further delay. Security was a little slow partly due to disorganised queues. I was done with security by 1855, and headed straight to the Above Ground Lounge using my Ola Select access. Getting in was a little tiresome thanks to lack of proper methods from Ola's end. Their system never generated an OTP for me, and the lounge manager insisted on one.
Above Ground Lounge
The Buffet area..
I picked up Podi Idlis, Schezwan Noodles, a Pulav and some fried crispies
Thats a Mysore Dosa with Tomato Chutney and a serving of Buttermilk
The lounge was great. Well arranged seating. I had some food from their fairly good buffet menu. The lounge also offers live counters for Dosas, eggs and chaats. The food was fairly good - not too spicy either. I headed out of the lounge as the aircraft, VT-HYD, entered final approach. Boarding was from Gate #16, which is the last jetway stand for domestic departures, and is located towards the farther end of the airport. After a brisk walk, I found myself near Gate. Passengers from the inbound sector (the aircraft came from Vizag) were quick deplaning, passengers for Kochi didn't seem to hurry and queue up.

Date of Journey: December 10, 2016
Airline: AirAsia India
Flight No: I5-1129 || Seat: 17F
Aircraft type: Airbus A320-216 || MSN: 2612 || Regn: VT-HYD
Sector: BLR-COK
STD: 2030hrs (Rescheduled to 2125), ATD: 2127hrs
STA: 2130hrs (Rescheduled to 2225), ATA: 2220hrs

The first boarding call was made at 2054hrs. Zone-wise board was strictly implemented. The aircraft was divided into three zones - the rear seats (21 to 30) were Zone-1, while the forward seats (1 to 10) were zone-3. I was on 17 Foxtrot aka #17F (was auto-allocated by the system) - so Zone-2. I remained seated till they called boarding for Zone-2.
Gate 16 - the last domestic gate.
Boarding for Zone-2
I passed the boarding gate at 2107hrs. The agent at the gate said we had a load of 170pax. I was inside the aircraft by 2110hrs. The seat wasn't very clean - in typical AirAsia Style. Seatbelts were clumped up, food waste and used paper napkins were on the floor. Boarding was completed by 2120hrs and doors were armed by 2124hrs. Pushback was slightly delayed due to congestion on the apron. In the meantime, the welcome announcements and the safety demo commenced. In the deck were Captain Vikram with first officer Prakash. The welcome announcement was made by the captain himself, who regretted the delay due to delay in the previous sectors. We were finally pushed back at 2127hrs. Taxi commenced at 2130hrs. It was a fairly long taxi to the 27 end of Bangalore's sole runway. We didn't have to hold - directly entered the active runway by around 2134hrs. It was a very long take off roll. We were airborne by 2136hrs, amidst heavy vibrations and unusual rattles. We climbed quite fast, to the west before turning South-west, giving a marvellous view of the city of Bengaluru.
The boarding card..
Seatbelt sign went off by 2141hrs. The onboard service commenced real quick. I had prebooked a meal, and I was served first. This being a short sector, they concentrated on passengers with pre-booked meals first, and then the routine service commenced. I had prebooked a Palak Pulao with Subz Kadhai and Dal Bukhara. This was served with a 200ml serving of bottled apple juice and a similar sized serving of water. AirAsia picks its food from TajSATS, and needless to say, they serve the best food among the LCCs in India. The hot, red container, contained white rice with diced spinach leaves, flanked by Dal Bukhara on one side and Subz Kadhai on the other. Dal Bukhara is a Punjabi preparation made of Lentils and Beans in a tomato based thick gravy, while Subz Kadhai is a mixed vegetable curry spiced with different spices, cooked in a Kadhai (Indian version of a wok). The rice was appropriately cooked and had a very light flavour. The Subz Kadhai had an overpowering flavour of cardamom, while the Dal Bukhara was creamy, well cooked and had the perfect flavour. I loved every morsel of my meal.
This is how the meal was presented. 
On unboxing.. on the extreme left is Dal Bukhara, then the Palak Pulav and finally Subz Kadhai
Soon as I finished my meal, the seatbelt sign was back on (2204hrs). We were over the western ghats already, and all set to line up for the final approach to Kochi. The cabin crew were hurrying to prepare the cabin for landing. We finally touched down on Runway 27 of Kochi at 2216hrs. We docked at stand #6. Deplaning started immediately - I was the last to get off the aircraft, at 2227hrs. Since I didn't have any check-in baggage, I just walked out of the terminal, hired an Uber and headed to the city. I wasn't traveling home this time.
VT-HYD after reaching Kochi
Ratings:
Check-in: 5/5 (Online check-in was fuss free. Counter was no-nonsense)
Cleanliness: 3/5 (Aircraft was quite dirty)
Punctuality: 3.5/5 (Delayed - but was pre-informed)
Crew: 5/5 (Great crew)
Catering: 5/5 (Great food, if only the quantity was a little higher)
Overall: 3.75/5 (I really enjoyed the flight. Points cut for unclean aircraft, and the delay)
Tracking from FR24
Summary:
This was my seventh flight on AirAsia India, and the first on this particular aircraft (VT-HYD). I really like the service - the crew have the warmth and respond to passengers quite quickly. The music they play while the aircraft is on ground is great as well. Their catering is the best among the LCCs, and the offering this time was no different. The check-in option on the app is a bit confusing - it doesn't (atleast, didn't, in my case) let choose a seat - I was fortunate to have been allotted a window seat over the wing. The aircraft wasn't in great shape - the interiors felt worn out and really showed its age. Overall good service, and a great flight. 

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