Shirdi Calling! It was almost 10 years since my last visit to Shirdi Sai Baba Samadhi. I've never been a hardcore devotee, but always cherished this dream of being in Sai Baba's abode once again. My plans of going there never happened for a long time. I had almost booked my ticket once - but had to drop it since it was rush time at Shirdi then. After rejecting a lot of dates, I finally decided to do a quickie to Shirdi - a weekend was opted, and I had the task of getting tickets. Taking a bus was out of question - for two reasons: They were expensive, and I didn't have as much time to spare. After the routine hunting around for good fares, I got them on the Jet Airways website. The outbound and return tickets were ticketed seperately.
So finally my trip looked like this:
9W2847 BLR PNQ 1545 1705 October 03, 2015
9W2842 PNQ BLR 1125 1255 October 05, 2015
- And a few bus journeys thrown in between to connect to Shirdi from Pune and back.
I was excited from the moment the e-ticket popped in my mailbox - the excitement was for multiple reasons. This was my first journey in a Jet Airways Boeing 737-800 aircraft. If lucky, I might be in for an all new Boeing Sky Interiors aircraft as well.
October 03, 2015:
I got up from the bed excited. Before even getting off the bed, I logged into FR24 to check which bird would be flying me today to Pune. I was excited at what I saw (I'd leave that for you to guess for now - read on..)
After a hurried day in Office, I had to hurry out without waiting for my lunch. Driving to the airport is a different experience - you are constantly at the fear
of receiving a ticket for speeding. The Airport road is mostly signal free, and has some good roads. Overspeeding on this road had been fatal for many, and hence the vigil on overspeeding. I drove peacefully, and made it to the airport by around 1400hrs, and left my vehicle at the long term parking. The airport was quite deserted for the time, on a weekend. That was probably because most of Bangaloreans had already travelled out, since it was a long weekend.
|Jet Airways check-in counters at KIA|
|The boarding pass..|
I decided to go through the regular check-in queue and get my boarding pass - I had web checked in, but had baggage to be checked in. I had my boarding pass by 1414hrs, and headed to security check. Security check was even more deserted - there were passengers in single digits waiting to be cleared. I went through security and reached the security hold by 1419hrs. I was quite hungry by now - my lunch was still pending. I did not want to eat anything heavy, and hence decided to try out something from Grab N' Fly. But, I noticed a newly opened restaurant - The Flavours of India - on the way. I tried this place out - the food was strictly average, and the prices were exhorbitant.
Date of Journey: October 03, 2015
|Deserted security check area..|
9W2847 || Seat:
Boeing 737-800 (WL) || Regn:
After lunch, I decided to head to my gate. My flight was boarding from Gate #6 - a bus gate. This particular aircraft spends about 2:30hrs on the ground in Bangalore, and hence uses an bus gate for boarding. I reached the gate perfectly at 1500hrs - the scheduled boarding time for my flight. The gate area was a bit crowded. There were two flights boarding around the same time - both operated by Jet Airways. One was heading to Kochi and the other was my flight - both were boarding from adjoining gates. Once the boarding for the Kochi flight was over, the boarding area became more free. I took a seat a little away from the gate, and kept an eye on the gate. There was no sign of boarding even as the clock ticked past 1515hrs. People slowly started enquiring with the agents at the desk as to why boarding hadn't commenced yet - they gave vague answers all the time.
|Thats my bird.. VT-JFK sleeping off at the other side of the apron|
I could see the aircraft for my flight parked at the opposite side of the apron - there was no activity around the aircraft - so, I guess it wasn't a technical issue. The FIDS was silently updated to show a departure time of 1555hrs now - a ten minute delay now. The ETA was updated further to 1600hrs later. People kept mobbing the agents on and off asking for reasons for delay - they kept telling operational issues all the while. I was a bit tensed as the delays increased - I had to catch a bus from Pune to Shirdi at 1830hrs. I had booked a cab to travel from the airport to Shivajinagar bus station (from where my bus would depart) for 1715hrs - I was now sure we'd not make it there on time, and cancelled the booking.
|Before boarding began...|
|Boarding in progress..|
Finally, they called for boarding at 1555hrs - ten minutes past the scheduled departure time. The queue for boarding was so long that I decided to wait till the tail end reaches the place I was seated at. There were a couple of passengers who were connecting to Indore from Pune - they were at the risk of losing their connection, and hence were retained at the airport by the gate agents, while they tried working out an alternative connection. I finally get into the bus at 1611hrs. I was quite sad at row wise boarding being not implemented - that might have controlled the crowd to a large extent.
|The "tarmac" coach.. |
The tarmac coach was a major disaster - a very old rickety bus, which was not even airconditioned. This surely doesn't fall in line with their image of being a full service carrier. We finally reached the aircraft at 1614hrs. I was flying VT-JFK - a Boeing 737-800 (WL) with Construction number 39060, delivered to Jet Airways in July 2013, a 2 year old bird. I was still excited about my first Jet Airways B738 flight - The Boeing Sky Interiors was a welcome change, and the interiors looked very airy and spacious. I got to my seat by around 1620hrs. Boarding was completed by 1621hrs, and the flurry of welcome announcements began. The doors were armed at 1625hrs, and the safety demo began. In command of the aircraft was Capt. Sanjay Kumar along with First officer Capt. Balveer Singh. In the cabin were Faisal, Megha, Priyanka, Aisha and Ruben.
|Before getting in...|
|Welcome to Jet Airways!|
We were pushed back at 1628hrs - and soon later the CFM56s came alive. The engines powered up and we commenced taxi at 1631hrs. We did not have to wait at the holding point, and infact had a rolling take off. We were airborne from Rwy27 at 1635hrs. We climbed very fast, and then banked right to head in the North West direction towards Pune. The seatbelt signs were turned off at 1640hrs, and the attendants prepared for service. Very soon, carts started rolling through the aisle. Passengers with special requests were served first, followed by the others. The cart came closer and the attendant asked if I wanted a Veg Roll or a Chicken Roll - felt good hearing the content, instead of just "veg or non-veg". Of course, it had to be the Veg Roll for me.
|Soon after take off...|
|The meal tray...|
The meal tray had a roll packed inside a paper cover, a 5-Star chocolate, imli (tamarind) candy, a bottle of water, and the sky-mart catalogue. The cover was too hot to hold, and I let it be for a couple of minutes. I tried opening the cover and taking the roll out - but it was sticking on to the cover - so had to cut open the cover. The roll was overheated, and the covering had become too soft. The filling was good - appropriately spiced, properly cooked vegetable. After about 10 minutes, the crew came around with the cart again - to clear the tray as well as serve tea/coffee. I opted for tea, which was served in a paper cup. The beverage kit
was handed over along with the serving of tea - the kit contained a packet each of dairy whitener and sugar, and a stirrer.
|The roll peeps out of the badly torn cover..|
The seatbelt sign was turned on again at 1724hrs. The deck crew came on line and announced details of our flight. The first officer announced that we'd be landing amid light showers in Pune. As this announcement as completed, we were amidst thick layers of clouds. We finally touched down on Runway #28 of Pune airport at 1737hrs. The runway was wet, and it was drizzling slightly. The aircraft parked at a non-jetway stand at 1740hrs. I was already tensed, and wanted to get off the aircraft as soon as possible - I was out of the aircraft at 1744hrs. It was still drizzling, and I had to walk swift to get to the terminal without getting wet. There was no announcement about which belt would the luggage be available - and none of the baggage carousels were on. After about 10 agonizing minutes of waiting, the carousel came to life. I opened the taxi operator apps I had in my phone, and tried getting a cab. My bag came at 1758, and at the very moment, Uber confirmed availability of a cab right outside the airport. I came out of the airport in another minute, and in another two minutes, I got my cab as well. What followed then was a nailbiting finish - did I get my bus? You'll have to wait for the next part :)
|Cloud cover as we neared Pune...|
|The cabin as it was prepared for landing...|
|On the finals in to Pune..|
Check-in: 5/5 (Had web checked in - used the counter to get my boarding pass and drop my baggage)
Cleanliness: 5/5 (the aircraft was in great shape - clean and well kept interiors)
Punctuality: 3/5 (Left late, reached late)
Crew: 5/5 (Great service)
Catering: 4/5 (Overheated, no proper dessert)
|Tracking of my flight from FR24|
This was my first flight in a Jet Airways B738 - all my previous flights with Jet Airways were on ATR72s, and one on a JetKonnect B737. I was, obviously, excited about this flight - I was disappointed the way the delay was handled. Gate agents were not replying to why the flight was delayed, nor did they have a proper answer to how long would we be delayed. There were connecting passengers - who were tensed about their connections, and they did not have a proper answer for them as well. Although the delay did affect my experience, the onboard service was great, and kind-of made up for bad taste due to the delay. The catering was another let down - c'mon, handing out a chocolate is too cheap! Overall experience was above average.