To Kochi, on a rare B737-700 of SpiceJet!

It was a couple of months ago. A update on a WhatsApp group read that SpiceJet received two Boeing 737-700s. SpiceJet predominantly operates B737-800s, and a few B737-900s. SpiceJet is one airline that had almost gone down towards the end of 2014. I remember those nail-biting moments back in December 2014, when a Christmas trip seemed to get cancelled (read here). SpiceJet rose out of the ashes like a phoenix. They've been doing great for the past few months, topping the load factor charts for months in a row. Sometime in November, I realised that SG432 (BLR-COK) was moved to a B737-700, from the usual B738. I wanted to fly in a B737-700 quite badly, and looked out for that opportunity. I found SpiceJet to be cheapest for a flight in mid-January, and without second thoughts made a reservation. Based on my previous experiences, I don't book add-ons in the beginning. I added a meal to my book a couple of days back, and did a web check-in the previous day. I checked in using their mobile app - everything went fair till I selected the seat, and pressed check-in. Nothing happened after that. I did not get the boarding pass. I tried again through the desktop website - and found that I had already checked in.

January 14, 2016:
I reached the airport sometime around 1350hrs. I had exactly an hour and 10 minutes to go for my flight. I hadn't had my lunch yet - and I wasn't feeling like having anything. I was in for a shock when I entered the terminal. It was deserted - yes, deserted. Hardly anyone around. The SpiceJet counter had only their staff around - not a single passenger anywhere to be seen. I got my boarding pass in no time, and headed towards Security Check. I was surprised to see a jetway gate for my flight - especially since the aircraft had 90 minute ground time - I surely had expected a bus gate. Security was a bit slow, and appeared a bit crowded, thanks to only a couple of counters being open. Scanning seemed to progress very slow - some passengers were asked to put their shoes through the scanner. I passed security by 1402hrs. I felt a bit hungry and headed straight to MTC Express. Had a very light lunch - I had prebooked a meal on the flight, and surely wanted to leave some space for that.
The deserted check-in counter..
FIDS.. Three flights to COK in an hour's time!
My gate.. before boarding commenced
My aircraft - VT-SLA at the gate
MTC Express is located right opposite my gate (#2). While I was having food, boarding for my flight commenced (1413hrs). We had over 45 minutes to go for departure, and looking at the crowd at the gate, I understood I have a lot of time left - just enjoyed my meal. I finished my meal and joined the boarding queue. I casually enquired about the loads with the agent - she passed a nice long smile, looked at the system, and replied back - "146, Sir". Wow! So that 146 pax in a 149 seater plane! Great loads, for sure. There was one round of security check by SpiceJet Security staff as well. The guy asked me if I was carrying any "sharp objects". I got a bit irritated by that, and asked back if he thinks I could clear security if I had any! He smiled back. He checked my bag, stamped my boarding pass and let me through. I was inside the aircraft by 1420hrs.
My boarding pass - it had a plethora of seals!
Date of Journey: January 14, 2016
Flight No: SG432 || Seat: 24A
Aircraft type: Boeing 737-700 (WL) || Regn: VT-SLA
Sector: BLR-COK
STD: 1500hrs, ATD: 1447hrs
STA: 1600hrs, ATA: 1549hrs

I was onboard one of the only two Boeing 737-700s with SpiceJet. Registered VT-SLA, the aircraft made its first flight in January 2007, and was delivered fresh to SkyEurope Airlines. It then went to AnadoluJet - a Turkish Carrier. SpiceJet picked it up from AnadoluJet in November 2015 - the aircraft still bore the AnadoluJet livery. Along with this one, SpiceJet received another B737 from AnadoluJet itself.
Seen from my seat. VT-JGU is far away. Thats the AnadoluJet logo on the winglet.
The interiors looked very fresh - unlike most other Boeing 737 family aircrafts that I've been on, this aircraft seemed to have a single tone of lighting throughout. Usually one gets to see a mix of whites and yellows - but this one had white throughout. The seats had a dark-blue colour, with red covers around head rests. The seats had rexin upholstery - the seats surely had better days, and might need a reworking soon. But, I must say there were no torn seats or hanging seat pockets. My seat was very clean - even clean windows. Boarding was happening very slow - very slow. Boarding was finally completed by 1439hrs. As soon as the boarding complete announcement was made, the welcome to SpiceJet announcements followed. In the deck were Capt Puneet Solanki and First Officer Tejas. Kashika, Ashish, Neha and Kuldeep were in charge of the cabin. Safety demo followed the welcome announcements.

Doors were armed at 1442hrs, and we were pushed back at 1447hrs. While we were waiting to commence taxi - which was delayed as we had to wait for the Follow Me escort vehicle - the Capt came on the PA and gave out details of the flight. A block time of 45 minutes was given out, and were told that we should expect a peaceful flight - no turbulence was expected. We finally commenced taxi at 1453hrs. We changed lanes and proceeded towards the runway. Ahead of us was VT-JGU, heading to Mangalore. As we were moving towards the runway, we passed VT-IET (headed to Mumbai, IIRC) which was getting ready to commence taxi. We reached the holding point for Rwy09 by 1458hrs. We turned on to the runway and waited for a few seconds before commencing takeoff roll. We finally lifted off at 1459hrs.
As we begin taxi.. The escort vehicle, and two aircrafts ahead can be seen.
Lifting off from Bangalore..
It was clear skies as we lifted off. We headed straight to the east, then turned south and finally south-west. The aircraft actually went around Bangalore before heading to Kochi. The seatbelt sign went off at 1504hrs. Soon after the seatbelt sign went off, announcements about the buy-on-board service were made. Their on-board menu, SpiceJet Bistro, seemed very rich and attractive - the menu mentioned that hot beverages are sold only on flights with a block time of over an hour, and the turboprop flights serve on sandwiches and cold beverages. I had prebooked my meal, but just went through the menu to find what was on offer in the meals section. By now, the meal cart came to my seat, and I was called by my name. The FA confirmed my order. A tray came out - a pre-filled "box" was the base, and they put in another container into it. The "box-in-a-box" along with a bottle of water was handed over to me.
The box-in-a-box meal, with the bottle of water
The "box-in-a-box" thing was made famous by Vistara in their attempt to differentiate between their premium economy and normal economy. But this serving from an LCC was surprising and a welcome change. The appearance of the box itself was appealing. One of the boxes was hot - it contained Paneer Kathi Roll. I opened the other portion of the box - it contained a small bun, a dessert, a butter chiplet along with neatly packed plastic cutlery. I went berserk taking pics of the food - my co-passenger was confused what I was upto. After the photos, I dug into the Kathi Roll. The parantha (the base - made of wheat and spinach) was soft. The filling was generous with amount of Paneer (Cottage cheese) - which was soft and well cooked. The gravy had the right amout of spices and masala - not too pronounced, and not too bland. The food was finger licking delicious. I used the bun to balance the taste. I then took the dessert - that was a Badushah (a deep-fried sweet made of maida, later dipped in sugar syrup). The sweet was soft - soft enough to be eaten with the plastic cutlery. I really loved every bit of the food.
Unboxed meal..
This was the rich and soft Paneer Kathi Roll
The dessert - Badushah!
By the time I finished relishing my meal, we had already commenced descent. Landing announcements were made at 1529hrs, and the seatbelt sign came on. The FAs had to hurry with preparing the cabin for landing - thrash was collected and they ensured tray-tables were closed. We were approaching from the east - over the beautiful Idukki district. We did not overfly the airport this time. We finally touched down on Rwy27 at 1546hrs. We parked at a remote stand at 1549hrs. The stands right outside the terminal was busy - two Indigo A320s and one Jet ATR72 were occupying them. I was out of the aircraft by around 1555hrs and got into the already packed tarmac coach - they actually opened the front door to let me in. I was at the terminal by 1601hrs - I was out of the terminal soon after, since I did not have any checked in baggage. Arrival in COK early in the evening had some advantages - One can use public transportation to get to their destination instead of depending on the overpriced airport taxi.
Overflying Idukki.. this is a real photograph, its not been edited except for resizing
After landing at COK: Thats the terminal building seen across
VT-SLA.. I love winglets!
The Aircraft - taken from the tarmac coach.
Check-in: 4.5/5 (App check-in wasn't great. Experience at the terminal was no-nonsense)
Cleanliness: 5/5 (the aircraft was in great shape - clean and well kept interiors)
Punctuality: 5/5 (Before time at both ends)
Crew: 5/5 (Great service)
Catering: 5/5 (Awesome food. Very filling as well)
Overall: 4.95/5
The FR24 track..
SpiceJet is one of my favorite airlines. My experience with them has been generally great - this was my fourth flight with them on the same sector, but only the second time being on time. Even at the peak of their turmoil, SpiceJet gave great service, and their flight staff continued the good job this time as well. Calls were attended to very quickly and very politely - not the mechanical service one finds on some airlines. I've always been a fan of SpiceJet's catering - and the experience this time bowled me over completely. Another great flight with SpiceJet this time, with awesome food on board. SpiceJet's food options should, perhaps, be a model for another LCC. Food goes a long way in enhancing the flying experience - and its quite important for me.