TRV to BLR on Air India 584

Getting back to Bangalore after the busfans meet at Pamba was getting hectic. The meet was on a Sunday and I had to be back in office on Monday, since I was traveling through the week, and I couldn't afford to miss a day's work. I looked at options to fly out of Kochi, but were prohibitively expensive. I decided to try flying out of Trivandrum, and was quite shocked to find flights at less than half the price of those flying out of Kochi. I initially thought of taking the red-eye Indigo out of Trivandrum, but the prospect of losing sleep, and the fact that I had more journeys that week made me rethink on that option. I kept procrastinating the booking for quite a few days, until I found that Air India offered me the cheapest rates for a Trivandrum - Bengaluru flight.

December 12, 2016:
I had reached Trivandrum the previous evening, and was put up at a state tourism run hotel near the Central Railway Station. Sadly, the property was in tatters, but luckily was undergoing a refit, giving me some hope if I were to consider this property the next time. The property is centrally located, and had plenty of eating options around. I was a little confused as I checked out of the hotel - I was confused if I should have my breakfast and head to the airport, or try my luck on the flight. Since I was flying Air India, I had great hopes on the catering.

The lure of those Beetroot rich Masala Dosas from Indian Coffee House nearby was too strong to resist. I am a fan of those Masala Dosas of Indian Coffee House - they are just enough crisp, contain a very mushy filling that is rich with Beetroot and Potatos, accompanied by coconut chutney and typical Kerala styled Sambhar. I washed them down with hot Coffee, and walked out of the bus station. I was hooked to apps of the two leading cab aggregators during the time, and was quite shocked to find no Olas around, and the Ubers were at quite high surge rates. After the surges came down a little, I booked an Uber, and headed to the airport.
Trivandrum Terminal-2
I got to the airport a little past 0800hrs, for a 0915 departure. I spent a little time clicking some pics outside the terminal, and finally walked into the terminal around 0805 or so. All Air-India flights departed from the newer Terminal-2 at Trivandrum, while other domestic flights were mostly from the old Domestic Terminal. My earlier flight from Terminal-2 was in the dark, and I utilised this opportunity to have a better look at the terminal in day light. It was the typical AAI terminal - a metal structure with glass cladding all over. Check-in counters for AI was located straight across the entrance itself - I walked over to the counters since I had no baggage to check-in. Seperate counters were open for Air India's Trivandrum and Male flights, which were departing around the same time.

I got my boarding pass by 0808hrs and walked upstairs for security check. Since the terminal was primarily an International airport, all passengers had to go through immigration. A separate walk-through lane was earmarked for domestic passengers, but the passengers had to first go to an officer, get the boarding pass verified and receive a green "Domestic Passenger" Seal on the boarding pass. Security check was a breeze - although a couple of international flights were boarding around the same time, there was hardly anyone at security check. I was in the security hold area by 0817hrs. The security hold area gave great views of the apron, and gave some good spotting opportunities. I spent some time spotting planes from there, till the aircraft for my flight came.
VT-ESE with reversers deployed, soon after landing at TRV
It was quite a busy time. My aircraft at the stand, an Etihad heading out, and an AI A319 (to Male) arriving..
Etihad meets her "partner".. 
The aircraft that would work my flight was the highlight of the trip - this particular flight regularly got ancient A320s - the rare double bogie A320s! Barring one instance, when they substituted with an A319, it was A320s all the time. I was hooked up to FR24 all the time, and I was quite excited to spot VT-ESE coming in for me. Sierra Echo was originally delivered to Indian Airlines in June 1993, and was transfered to Air India in August 2007. I was getting excited to fly a 23.5 year old aircraft! The double bogies are a rarity, and very few of them survive now. Sierra Echo touched down at Trivandrum by 0833hrs. Trivandrum airport doesn't have a full length taxiway, and aircrafts backtrack after landing on the primary runway. A pre-boarding call was made by 0842hrs.
VT-ESE after entering the Apron.. heading to the gate..
The lounge at TRV
Date of Journey: December 12, 2016
Airline: Air India
Flight No: AI-584 || Seat: 2A
Aircraft type: Airbus A320-231 || MSN: 431 || Regn: VT-ESE
Sector: TRV-BLR
STD: 0915hrs, ATD: 0910hrs
STA: 1020hrs, ATA: 1022hrs

The first boarding call was made at 0849hrs - boarding happened strictly by seat numbers. I was seated up at the front, on #2A. Sierra Echo had a full economy seating layout, taking in 168 passengers, seated across 28 rows. The gate agent mentioned we had 163 passengers on board. The boarding gate is quite a confusion. Both Gate #3 and #4 use the same door, that opens to a long ramp - which is quite stuffy and lacks sufficient ventilation. The ramp reaches a level below the boarding gate - which is Gate#3 - this one is a jetway gate. The ramp continues further down to a bus gate, Gate #4. I found this arrangement quite unique, and haven't come across such a setup earlier. I was inside the aircraft by 0904hrs.
Boarding in progress
The aircraft showed its age - really. The overhead panels seem to have been painted upon to make it look fresh. The air vents, reading lamps, seat number indicators were all old school. Air India offers the best leg room - and this flight was no different. The seats were in fairly good shape - not much damages were seen. The windows were dirty and bore a lot of scratches. Boarding was completed by 0907hrs, and doors armed by 0908hrs. We were pushed back by 0910hrs. Soon after pushback, the routine welcome announcements were made, followed by the safety demonstration. The commander of the flight was Captain Niranjana Ashok, and the cabin incharge was Ms Konica. The safety demo appeared a little different - the crew were less mechanical, and appeared quite proactive in their demonstration.
My boarding pass, with the inflight magazine, Shubh Yatra
We commenced taxi at 0916hrs, and had to hold short of the active runway. Trivandrum has no taxiway, and all taxi happens on the active runway, christened 14-32, itself. A B738 of Jet Airways landed by around 0919hrs, and we were permitted on to the active runway. The aircraft taxied to the turnpad at the 32 end of the runway, where we reached by 0922. The commander increased power as we were turning, and did a rollling takeoff by 0923hrs. We flew north-west for a while, before turning north-east and setting off towards Bengaluru. The seatbelt sign by turned off by 0927hrs. The crew got to their work soon after the seatbelt off announcements were made, and the meal trolleys rolled out. I had expectations of a great meal on board, but was quite disappointed by seeing what was offered.
Soon after take off from TRV..
The contents of the snack box
All passengers were handed out a Snack Box. The snack box contained a small Spinach and Corn sandwich. with a tetrapak serving of juice and a 200ml bottle of water. The snack box was a terrible letdown. The sandwich way too small - had a good quantity of the filling, though. The serving was quite inadequate to be called a snack on a full-service airline. The rest of the flight was uneventful. We hit a bit of turbulence, leading to the seatbelt sign being turned on inflight. Landing was announced at 1006hrs. We approached from the east, and touched down on runway 27 at 1017hrs. We exited to the rapid exit taxiway, and had to hold short of the apron for a while. We entered the apron by 1019hrs, and docked at a jetway stand by 1022hrs. Deplaning was quite quick, and I was out of the aircraft by 1025hrs, and out of the airport a few minutes later.
The bulkhead partition. Notice the "A320" Stickers, and the old school overhead panels
The cabin.. 
Ratings:
Check-in: 5/5 (Online check-in was fuss free. Counter was no-nonsense)
Cleanliness: 4.5/5 (Aircraft was clean. Cutting points for the dirty windows)
Punctuality: 5/5 (No major delay)
Crew: 4.5/5 (Good crew)
Catering: 4/5 (Low on Quantity, fairly good quality)
Overall: 4.75/5 (I really enjoyed the flight. Good one from Air India)
Tracking from FR24. This being an old aircraft was not fully trackable. 
Summary:
I was looking forward for this one - for many reasons: another flight with the Maharaja, a flight on the soon to be obsolete double bogie A320, and a day flight out of TRV. The old lady, VT-ESE, was very well kept. The interiors were clean, but showed its age. I liked the service from Air India - I expected a delay, but we flew out on time. The crew were warm - they gave soul to the service. The chief of cabin crew seemed a little grumpy, but she was quite courteous to the passengers and gave out a smile while dealing with passengers. Air India offers unbeatable comfort on Indian skies with their generous leg room in economy. The catering was a big let down. While I would not complain about the quality of the snack served, I really did not appreciate the choice of snack, or the quantity served. I loved this flight with Air India, which happened to be my 5th flight with AI, and the first on an Air India A320. 

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