Jet Airways can have some very unbalanced rotations and flights. For years they had unbalanced numbers of flights on Delhi – Mumbai! The airline started something similar on the Pune – Chennai sector when it launched the Abu Dhabi connector from Pune. The airline made news when it said that it could park on the taxiway for the lack of bay at their desired timings. This immature statement had made it to the local newspapers. Since the flights are changing again from September, I would not be explaining the current operations. This trip was a quick extended weekend gateway to Pondicherry.
While Pondy, as it is popularly known, is now back on the air map with flights from Bengaluru by Air India Regional, Chennai remains the best gateway considering the cost from Bengaluru and the inconvenient timings. IndiGo, Jet Airways, Spicejet, Go Air are the operators on the sector with ex-Pune convenient timings available on IndiGo and Jet Airways. At the time of booking, Jet Airways was cheaper by over 1000rs per person and the return IndiGo flight was late, which led us to book with Jet Airways. The booking was done on their website and was very efficient.
Depart on Friday/26th June by 9W 494 at 0535 & Return on Sunday/28th June by 9W 493 at 1740.
I had not been to Chennai for a very long time and with the new airport, I was obviously keen to see what changes have come up and also why it gets criticized as much!
A little scare on the taxi front, my stars are not aligned to having the taxi come on time in this city! We reached the airport very early for the 0535 departure. While the aircraft night parks in Pune, the flight had been getting delayed quite regularly. As we quickly went past the regular entry checks and baggage screening, we were welcomed by short lines at check-in counters but long wait times at this early hour. Jet Airways had counters open for Delhi – Lucknow and Chennai, IndiGo counters were open for Kolkata & Chennai. When our turn came, the ticket, ID check, boarding card, baggage tag was quick as we made our way to another quick security and settled on the first floor. VT-JBC our bird to Chennai was parked on Bay 4.
Boarding was announced at 0453 hours and we settled on our seats by 0500 hours. Departure time came and went, but there was no announcement from the cabin crew or the flight deck. I asked one of the crew if the flight is delayed and I was told it is not delayed! And this conversation was after the standard time of departure. The crew informed me that we were waiting for connecting passengers. Jet Airways sells Abu Dhabi – Pune – Chennai connection and that’s the reason for the delay.
Doors closed and we pushed back at 0545 and waited for few more minutes before a long taxi to runway 28 to align and take off in westerly direction before banking left and setting course in South Easterly direction towards Chennai. First Officer Reddy came on PA to announce details about our flight and blamed the delay on Air Traffic Congestion! Very unfortunate on part of the pilot to put the blame on ATC when it was due to connecting passengers which arrived late from Abu Dhabi. We would cruise at FL 350 ( 35000 feet) and at 900 kmph and make a before-time arrival in Chennai.
Service started soon and on offer was Veg Sandwich or a Non Veg Sandwich – which I opted. This came in a box, with a muffin and that’s it! The box did not have “Imli” or the skymart AVA booklet which generally comes along. After I landed, I tweeted to Jet Airways asking if “Imli” is provided on select flights only. Till date there is no response.
In these times when airlines are winning awards for quick reaction on social media, this is certainly a JetFail. We started descending about 200 kms from Chennai as informed by the pilot and had a very bumpy landing at 0710 on runway 25 after having a nice approach over the sea.
Baggage was to come on belt 4, which was not a long walk. The initial impression of Chennai airport was not bad.
We then made our way to Pondy and a separate blog post would be published under Travel section soon.
With considerable buffer in hand, we left early from Pondy and reached Chennai airport early too. With just two of the four entry points open, had to make a long walk to Gate 1 from where passengers flying with Air Costa, Spicejet and Jet Airways had entry. The baggage screening was neatly done as we made our way to empty Jet Airways counters where it took a long time to get our boarding passes. The check-in agent was slow and needed help from somebody at the neighboring counter who wasn’t very keen to extend help.
Security was quick as we made our way to Chennai food express for a good Veg and Non Veg combo. This section of the airport does not have air conditioning and I wonder why! The departure section had horrible toilets! However the airport as a whole is not as bad as I had read in the media. VT-JFM arrived before time from Port Blair and docked at Gate 3. Gate 4 inoperative and Gate 5 had an Air India double Bogey (VT-ESL) plane which had gone tech and was towed away after a while.
Row wise boarding started at 1705, but the agent did not announce the next set of rows for boarding, which led to people joining the queue when the queue became smaller. At 1713, we were seated in a not so full flight. A lady cabin crew gave us the safety demo since we were seated in the emergency exit and all we could hear was some murmuring about the emergency exit. The handling of passenger baggage in the overhead bins by the crew was also rough. With no passengers coming in, and the over head bin empty, I have no clue why the crew wanted to rearrange our bag and camera.
Boarding was over by 1718, doors closed at 1727 and we pushed back at 1729 to take off from runway 07. We did not even fly over the sea before we banked left, flew level for a minute or two before starting the climb again to our assigned altitude of 40000feet (FL400) The sky interior is refreshing – especially the white light over the older yellow light, but due to the design of the overhead bins, luggage moves a lot. This aircraft also did not have head rest like the one in VT-JBC, which was our aircraft inbound. Another inconsistent offering!
Capt. Trivedi came on PA to inform us about leaving Chennai 10 minutes ahead of schedule and a flight time of 1 hour and 15 minutes. Service started 15 minutes after takeoff and on offer was Veg and Non Veg Meal. I asked what would be part of a Veg meal and a non veg meal and I got cryptic answers – Veg Puff and Chicken. Ideally my next question should have been – Chicken: Dead or alive? But I refrained and requested for chicken meal, which was a horrible tasting chicken puff. A quick glance around and nobody had finished their meal. All had left it after a few bites. Interestingly this meal came in a tray and had creamer and sugar, giving an indication that there could be a tea/coffee service. Imli had made a comeback too.
This is where the “Inconsistences Galore” heading comes from. The tea/ coffee service indeed started and we got less than half a cup of coffee – some severe austerity measures. The descent started at 1830 hours and the pilot came on PA again to let us know that we are expecting touchdown at 1855 hours and the visibility was a good 6000 meters. We made another bumpy touchdown on runway 28 and made our way to Bay 6.
The crew did not make the mandatory announcement of Pune being a defense airfield and Indian government rules state that photography is not permitted. There was also no announcement of baggage belt and in the terminal no staff to guide people to the right baggage belt or announce or the display showing the flight number. Baggage eventually came on Belt 2 which had AI 849 mentioned on it. Complete disappointment.
VT-JBC B737-800 / MSN 36847 / Delivered September 2007
VT-JFM B737-800 (Sky Interiors) / MSN 39067 / Delivered September 2013
Views on Jet Airways
The airline has a long way to go. For me it’s a lucky draw, a flight could range from worst to great. On the same sector, one gets a meal box without tea/coffee service on the outbound and meal tray with tea/coffee service on the inbound. The coffee is served as if austerity measures are in place – less than half a cup. I would prefer to explore Spicejet – when the operations improve and the OTP increases to acceptable levels and IndiGo for its OTP – except for last two months, and service.
I would not mind buying a coffee, but get a full glass of hot coffee assured rather than being in a lucky draw. Besides, if I have to eat a cold sandwich, there are better options available in both Spicejet and IndiGo and IndiGo has a very quick and responsive Twitter handle unlike my experience with Jet Airways.
The feedback email which Jet Airways sends is a joke! One cannot type in additional details and they tell how all the things which they do not offer and ask you for your feedback on it.This includes Tea/Coffee, Newspapers, Magazines and IFE. I am not counting the drinks side of the feedback which is applicable only to international flights.
How difficult is it to have separate surveys for Domestic and International and send the right questions! What was a very standard announcement in my trip to Ahmedabad about the flight being an Etihad Code share was missing completely on these flights.
From a very good flight on the ATRs last week to these two experiences where the service levels were at extreme ends of the spectrum, I agree with some frequent business travelers who keep telling me why they avoid Jet Airways!