Mangalore to Thrissur: KSRTC Airavat Club Class

I had timed my Examination duties in Mangalore around a family function happening at home. I had to head home from Mangalore - trains were not an option due to ticket availability. I decided to take the bus - I weighed between Kerala and Karnataka RTCs and picked Kerala RTC for the outbound and Karnataka for the return. I had avoided private buses for two reasons - high fares and timings. Kerala RTC options were a little iffy - I picked a Scania bus that departs at 1800hrs, since I had to return from exam work, and the earlier departure would be took close for comfort.

June 29, 2019:
I slept soon after I reached the hotel room - the tiredness from the sleepless travel the previous night had drained me completely. I slept for a couple of hours before getting ready and heading down to the restaurant for breakfast. A mail that I received during breakfast made me a little concerned - the subject read, "Service Cancelled by Org".  I saw this when I opened the email:

Service cancellation alert: KERALA RTC regrets to inform you that for Journey Date:29-Jun-2019 18:00 TripCode 1800MNGTVM with PNR:K1*****2 is cancelled. Inconvenience regretted.

What? This mail about 9 hours before the scheduled departure of the bus! And that was a Friday evening! I had no alternative options available - the only other premium bus that evening was the Karnataka RTC's Airavat Club Class to Ernakulam - which was sold out! The earlier Kerala RTC bus was also sold out by then. Interstate private operators were on a strike, and that option too was ruled out! I looked a trains, and booked a waitlisted ticket in one of the trains departing in the evening - I had no choice but to hope the ticket gets confirmed. 

I was busy with examination work over the day, and didn't have the time to check what happened to my ticket. The examination completed earlier than expected and I was back at the room earlier. I could've booked the earlier bus had I known this - but then, it was too late to do that. In the meantime, the railways put its hand up - my ticket didn't get confirmed after the reservation chart was prepared. I was desperately searching for alternatives now. I found a seat in the last-but-one row in a Kerala RTC Deluxe bus - I didn't want to lose this one too, and booked a ticket without a second thought. However, I continued my search for tickets. As I continued searching, I found an aisle seat, towards the rear end, in the Karnataka RTC Airavat Club Class service to Ernakulam. No second thoughts - I snapped it up. I cancelled the ticket on the Kerala RTC bus, losing about half my ticket amount, though. 

I checked out of my room by about 1930hrs - the bus was to depart at 2100hrs. I had sufficient time for dinner and some shopping now. I got to the bus station by around 2040hrs - my bus arrived at the bus station around this time, as well. The bus was parked at the farthest platform from the entrance of the bus station. The conductor was busy checking tickets and letting in passengers, while the driver went to a shop to buy something. Later, he was seen helping passengers with their luggage. Boarding was fairly quick - there were a lot of seat seekers due to the private bus strike. The bus backed out of the platform at 2105hrs - but waited for a while more for a passenger. We finally started from the bus station at 2108hrs - about 8 minutes behind schedule. 
The bus @ Mangalore

The next pick-up point was at Kasturba Medical College in Hampankatta - being a Friday, most of the passengers in the bus seemed like students studying in various colleges in Mangalore. After KMC, the next halt was at Jyothi Circle (2122hrs). We got to the highway soon later, and then stopped at Thokottu for a while. A few passengers joined here, and we got moving at 2139hrs. Lights were turned off - the night lamps were left on, though. I often find it difficult to adjust in an aisle seat - but I felt very comfortable in the aisle seat that day! I dozed off soon after wards. I woke up just as the lights were turned on - we were out side a restaurant called "City Lights" - map showed that we were outside Kasaragod bus station then (2232hrs). 

Most passengers preferred not having anything from the restaurant - but there was long queue outside the restroom! I spent time walking around until the crew returned. A lot of seat seekers also were crowding around the bus. I think the conductor managed to sell seats to a couple of passengers there. We started off from there at 2256hrs. I slept soon after the bus started from there - a nice long sleep afterwards, till about 0245hrs - the bus was parked at Kozhikode bus station then. At this point, I was sure that a timely arrival at Thrissur was next to impossible - which a scheduled arrival time of 0430hrs, it was not possible for the bus to get there from Kozhikode. I was mentally prepared for delayed arrival - I slept off even before the bus departed from Kozhikode. 
During 'dinner' break...

I woke up hearing my phone ringing - it was my mom, enquiring about my whereabouts. The bus was passing Kunnamkulam then. My mom was upset that I was quite late - but then, I was helpless! The bus stopped on the road side at Choondal junction (did not notice the time) - the crew went away from the bus. Meanwhile, alarms went berserk in the bus - looked like a lot of people to Thrissur took this bus. Some of the alarms went on for a while till the neighbours woke up such people. People used this stop to stretch, and some of them to take a leak. I spotted the crew busy having a early morning snack at a hotel just then! They were quick about the food - they were back soon, and the bus got moving by 0459hrs. We stopped at Kechery and Poonkunnam to drop passengers. The bus finally got to Thrissur bus station by 0524hrs - about 54 minutes late now. 

Remarks: The bus, KA-57-F-2851, homed at Mangaluru-2 depot had clocked about 2.8 Lakh kilometres. It was maintained really well - no squeaks or squeals - appreciable for a bus that runs through Kerala roads for most part of its journey! Both the crew members were great - very soft spoke and well behaved. I did not like that early morning break - the crew could've stopped at the bus station instead - allows the passengers to use the restroom as well, in that case. With an ride time of about 8 hours and 12 minutes to cover a distance of about 350 kilometres, almost completely on two-laned roads! A good ride again!

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: Yes
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, Did not Use.
Entertainment: Available, Not used.

Ratings:

Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 4.5/5

Overall: 4.75/5

Pros: Value for money, fairly punctual
Cons: Nothing really

Will I take this service again?
I don't see other good options there - even otherwise, this is a great option for the route.

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