After my 1-day adventure in Bangkok, I was off to India for a couple weeks for work. My first destination was Chennai on the southeastern coast of India. There were no great Star Alliance routes from Bangkok to Chennai so I decided to fly Jet Airways, a United partner, via Mumbai. As a United partner, Jet Airways allows Mileage Plus members to earn RDMs, but you can’t get any EQMs. Also, only certain fare codes are eligible for RDMs. Read on for the report!
There was no rhyme or reason to the initial boarding process, something that I found was common between all of the Indian airlines. However, that was good for me as I was able to be one of the first ones on the plane. I was a bit nervous about flying Jet Airways, but I had nothing to be concerned about. In fact, everything was very clean! Not only was everything clean, but every seat had a pillow and a blanket on it. I found this to be really nice, considering that BKK-BOM is only just over 1800 miles, about the same distance as SFO-ORD.
I was also very pleasantly surprised by the in-flight entertainment. If you’re familiar with the touch-screen setup of a Virgin America flight, you’ll feel right at home with the Jet Airways system. The entertainment system was filled up with a variety of movies, TV shows, and music. Each type of media was also categorized culturally. For example, if you clicked on the button for movies, you could choose between Bollywood or Hollywood movies. As I was flying to India, I figured it would only be appropriate to watch a Bollywood movie. I watched “Hello,” a film about the struggles of working in a call center. I really enjoyed it :) .
While I was prepared to check out the selection of buy-on-board, a la United Airlines, I was pleasantly surprised by the free breakfast. It was actually quite good! Oddly enough, it had quite a strong resemblance to the domestic first class meals that United serves. There was an omelette, some potatoes, yogurt, and a fruit plate. It really was quite the complete breakfast.
A great meal, a great movie, and a pleasant flight to Mumbai: all included with the price of the ticket. Landing in Mumbai was an experience that I won’t forget. I wish I had a picture of the site, but it really is something amazing. Picture those tin roof huts in Slumdog Millionaire, and then have them packed so tightly, that they come all the way up to the barbed wire fence around the runway. Literally they are completely pressed up against the fence. In fact, people were hanging their laundry to dry on the fence. Really was a site to see.
And similar to the scene just outside the runway, I felt the Mumbai airport to be pretty chaotic as well. First off, rather than getting dropped off in the terminal, international passengers are dropped off in a building which is more of a holding zone than anything else. Here you pick up your bags, go through customs, make your declarations, and then head to the terminal. The only problem is that there is a bus that takes you to the terminal. The terminal is far away, and once the bus fills, you need to wait for the next one. I was just about in the front of the line, and then the bus filled up. I had to wait over THIRTY minutes for the next bus to come. When the bus finally came, there was still a fairly lengthy ride to the terminal. Then I had to transfer to the domestic terminal. I spent time in 3 different Indian airports, and I’ll just say this: domestic terminals in India suck. They look like giant bus terminals.
Everyone waits in one big room, and then when it’s time to board, instead of boarding a normal gate / jetway like you would in most countries, you just walk through a door outside and hop on a bus which takes you to your plane. It’s really annoying, and it adds one more step in the process. Also, want a bite to eat? There are no real restaurants past security in most Indian domestic terminals. People I met with there made the excuse of saying that their carriers gave you food on most flights, which is somewhat valid, but if I want to buy a snack, I should be able to do so! Also, if you’re curious what an Indian airport toilet looks like, well that’s a whole different story, and it deserves its own post ;)
I know it sounds like I’m complaining, but that’s not actually my intent. I’m just trying to describe how it feels to be an American domestic frequent flier and then step into an Indian airport for the first time. Once I got used to them, I had no issues with them. Also, there is a night and day difference between the domestic and international terminals. The international terminals are really much nicer.
So I waited for my bus to Chennai, I boarded the bus, and then I was off! Jet Airways offers two types of domestic flights for short-haul trips: JetLite and JetKonnect. These are basically their Southwest-style flights. You still get an assigned seat, but unlike my nice trip to Mumbai, there were no pillows, no in-flight entertainment of any sort, and no free meals. It was a pretty quick hop down to Chennai, and it was uneventful. I spent most of my flight playing Tony Hawk for my iPhone ;) . So that’s my quick report! I’ll work on posting the rest of the segments of my trip to India / Thailand in the near future! Have questions? Just ask in the comments!