My first flight: Sahara out of Kochi

Thirteen years ago. A November in 2004. 

I was just recovering from the excitement of my first solo train journey. We were put up in Mumbai then, and I had to travel to Kerala to escort my mother back to Mumbai from our home town. We were originally booked to return by train, and being a die hard railfan those days, I excitedly looked forward for that train journey. The ticket was waitlisted during booking, and those were the days before Tatkal scheme was started. The ticket remained waitlisted even as the journey date came closer, and attempts to get it confirmed using the Emergency Quota scheme commenced. It was peak vacation season, and the railway divisional headquarters was flooded with EQ requests and our request got rejected. Every train had a long waiting list and we had to reach back in Mumbai the next day. With hardly any options left, our family decided to try getting a flight ticket - my uncle arranged one through his travel agent.

Those were the days of manual ticketing - hand written ticket jackets of Air Sahara was handed over to us. I had kept them safely for a lot of years - looks like I've misplaced them recently. I remember the excitement of having air tickets in my hand. We (my mother and I) took a taxi to the airport - my first ever visit to an Airport! Cochin (Kochi) Airport was fairly new at that time - a little over 5 years since it was commissioned. I was a little nervous as I stepped into the airport. I really didn't have an idea what to do, but natural instincts directed me towards the baggage scanner. I left our bags at the scanner, but had no idea that it needs to be collected back - we just walked forward to the check-in counter. I am not sure if it was normal, but a ground handling agent wheeled a trolley containing our bags to the check-in counter behind us.

I had asked the check-in agent to allot a window seat - we were given seats together, one Window and one Middle seat. Once we got the boarding passes, the agent directed us towards the security check - which was fuss free affair. The domestic security hold was much smaller those days. As the boarding was called, the gate agent pointed her fingers towards the aircraft and directed us to walk to the plane. It was a Boeing 737 family aircraft (I am not sure if it was a -300/400/700 - but Air Sahara had all these at that time). We boarded through the rear entrance, since our seat was in the aft end. My excitement had no bounds as I stepped into an aircraft, for my first ever flight journey - I still remember what I saw like it just happened yesterday.
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We took our seats on the starboard side, for our first ever air journey - on board Air Sahara's S2-228, operating Kochi to Mumbai. Those were the days when candies were handed out to welcome guests - those hard Ravalgaon candies. We were pushed back a little later than the scheduled departure time, IIRC. Pushback and engine startup was another exciting experience. We commenced our long taxi a little later. The parallel taxiway at Kochi was commenced by then, IIRC, and it was a long journey to the holding point of Runway 27. While taxiing, we even thought if we'd be driving down the road for longer. We entered the active runway, the engines powered up and we commenced the first ever flight. That feeling of being pressed on to your seats as the engines try to beat gravity and lift off terra firma is something I love every time I fly. My ears blocked as we lifted off, and it took some effort to reopen them.

We slowly lifted away - passed over the railway line that runs along the perimeter wall at the 09 end of the airport, passed over the highway and flew westwards towards the Arabian sea. We turned right and headed in the north westerly direction. I was glued out of the window for most past of the flight. A little in to the flight, food trolleys came out. The veg option had roti(s), Dal Makhani and some rice. The meal was served in bone china crockery with metal cutlery. I do not recollect what it was, but some dessert was provided. The food was finger lickin' delicious. I remained glued to the windows for the rest of the flight. We flew over Navi Mumbai and made the final approach to Mumbai's Runway 27 sometime past 1700hrs. We were in Terminal 1B, if my memory serves right. It was a marvellous experience flying. The cabin crew were very friendly, and signed off with the Sahara Pranam at the end.

A few months after this flight, Sahara moved to a hub-and-spoke operations and this flight became history. As luck would have it, we repeated the same sector the very next year, under the same circumstances, but on an Airbus - on Indian Airlines! I've had 71 flight segments since then, mostly after 2014. This post comes at a time I prepare for the longest flight in my life. 


sukesh said…
The first one is always special the one we keep in our heart forever