Tagged: A330

Review: SriLankan Airlines A320 New Delhi to Colombo

As I mentioned in my last post, the check-in for the flight was quick as there was nobody at the counter and I was off in couple of minutes. Thereafter, I visited the Plaza Premium Lounge B at Terminal 3’s International Departures area.

Related Trip Review: Reviewing Plaza Premium Lounge, Terminal 3 New Delhi

SriLankan 196 - Delhi T3 Gate

Gate 15B – New Delhi Airport

I left the lounge at 1745 hours, as the gate was a short stroll away from the lounge. I arrived to see most passengers still sitting, while the gate staff was preparing their final departure sheets. I quickly fired up FlightAware to check the status of the incoming aircraft from Colombo and it showed arrival 1708 hours. After a short wait Boarding was called and the usual gate crush rush happened. As my turn came, the agent told me that I was upgraded to Business Class (SCORE!) and he issued me a new boarding pass. I was assigned seat 2D.

SriLankan Airlines 196

New Delhi IGI (DEL) – Colombo Bandaranaike International (CMB)

Friday, December 19th

Departure: 18:53 hours (18 minutes late)

Arrival: 22:02 hours (8 minutes early)

Aircraft: Airbus A320-200

Seat: 5D

As I was glowing over the late upgrade and settling down on my seat, A SriLankan couple requested if I can move to Row 5 so they can sit together. I thought about it considering the last cabin row usually has limited recline but then I was not going to come between two lovebirds. I happily obliged and shifted my wares to 5D.

SriLankan A320 Business Class Recliner Seat

SriLankan A320 Business Class Recliner Seat

This was my first time on a SriLankan aircraft, and I was looking forward to checking out their hard and soft product. The SriLankan Business Class seat on A320s is recliner type and unfortunately has no leg support. It is a 20 seat Business Class cabin in the front, with a 2-2 layout. The seat pitch is pretty respectable for regional operations at 39-40 inches, and overall I felt comfortable while seated. Fair to say this has nothing on their new A330-300 Business class product, which features lie-flat beds along with WiFi & mobile calling, but those aircraft are used on the medium to long haul sectors, with higher yields.

The economy section at the back has about 120 seats, and is in the usual 3-3 layout. This particular flight looked completely sold out to me, in the front and back cabins.

SriLankan A320 Business Class - Pillows and Headphones

SriLankan A320 Business Class – Pillows and Headphones

The seat already had a pillow, a blanket and a pair of headphones. Pillow & Blanket looked & felt comfortable, but I must put in a quick word about the headphones provided. Quite honestly, besides looking poor (for a business class headphone), they sounded poor too, I even had to replace my first pair, as they weren’t working properly.

The captain came on the PA to tell us our flight path and apologised for the slight delay in boarding and expected departure.

SriLankan A320 Business Class - Welcome Drink

SriLankan A320 Business Class – Welcome Drink

Business class was served by two very friendly and cheerful attendants. One was a middle-aged gentleman, who probably was the cabin supervisor, and he was assisted by a young lady. Both of them were great and it showed that they enjoyed their jobs. and Did I mentioned that I absolutely loved their SriLankan accents? To me it is probably up there with the Carribean accent, smooth off the tongue and a song for the ears 🙂

I digress. As final checks for the flight were ongoing, we were offered a hot towel, followed by a welcome drink. The choice was between Apple, Orange and Mango juices, and I went with Mango.

Soon I turned my attention to the IFE screen in front of me. My first thoughts were it is too small for a Business class cabin, especially considering that economy seats these days get bigger screens than that.

SriLankan A320 Business Class - IFE Screen

SriLankan A320 Business Class – IFE Screen

As we rolled down the runway and rotated towards Colombo, I had spent approximately 12 minutes with the touch-screen system, without getting much done. The lag exhibited by the system was quite a bit, and I noticed similar experience for my seatmate as well. He was a Sri Lankan businessman and later told me that he flew SriLankan mainly for their genuine service, which was definitely hard to argue against.

SriLankan A320 Business Class - Electric Plugs

SriLankan A320 Business Class – Electric Plugs

The common area between the seats also featured two USB & two electrical plug points, which is always very useful.

SriLankan Business Class Menu

SriLankan Business Class Menu – Front

SriLankan Business Class Menu - Inside

SriLankan Business Class Menu – Inside

Few minutes after we were airborne, the cabin attendants sprung into action and distributed well-designed business class menus. Little touches like this matter a lot and it staggers me to think how few airlines, notably Air India, still are so inconsistent with this practice in their premium cabins.

Weirdly, post this we were offered a selection of newspapers, which I thought should have been offered during boarding or in the earlier stages of the flight. The crew has lots going on while preparing the cabin and serving simultaneously, so I’m prepared to overlook such matters, provided it is a rarity and not a regular practice.

After few minutes, the cabin attendant came over to ask for our orders and I requested Chicken Rogini, which was served with Saffron rice.

SriLankan A320 Business Class - Dinner

SriLankan A320 Business Class – Dinner

The meal came over with Dahi Bhalla salad and a Fruit bowl. All this was plated before hand and served together. I did enjoy the taste of meal, where the Chicken and Rice were well made and tasteful. I’m personally not an Okra fan, so did not even bother to touch it. During the meal, both attendants made frequent hot bread rounds, which was appreciated. They even had thin stuffed paranthas in aluminium foil, and which were pretty decent too.

However, I did not personally liked the presentation of the meal. Serving the meal on course basis does lengthen the process, but I think it considerably ups the ante in presentation and overall impression as well. May be SriLankan ought to consider that.

SriLankan A320 Business Class - Lion Beer

SriLankan A320 Business Class – Lion Beer

All that of course was gulped down with a hearty dose of the local favourite, Lion Beer.

Post meal, we were offered a round of coffee or tea and I politely declined. Only to ask our attendant about the champagne they had on-board 🙂

SriLankan A320 Business Class - Champagne Jacquart

SriLankan A320 Business Class – Champagne Jacquart

They had Jacquart and me & my seatmate were happy to raise a toast to our journey. I had a good conversation with him spanning politics and cricket, and realised both of our nations had many things in common. The re-fills kept coming without even asking for them 🙂

As we started our descent into Colombo, the attendants came by to offer a bottle of water, an arrival form, and most important a fast-track pass. Always useful.

SriLankan A320 Business Class - Immigration Fast Track

SriLankan A320 Business Class – Immigration Fast Track

SriLankan A320 Business Class - Water Bottle

SriLankan A320 Business Class – Water Bottle

The final round of the cabin before landing was another round of hot towels. Few minutes later, we made a smooth landing at the Bandaranaike International Airport in rainy Colombo. In the words of the late Tony Greig, “They must be playing Cricket somewhere”.

Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo

Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo

Did I enjoy my business class experience, although a short three hour flight, with SriLankan? Absolutely Yes! Was it because of their hard product? Not at all.

The fact of the matter remains that SriLankan right now is running an older product on their regional routes to India, and even markets like Singapore. That is certainly not an ideal position but keep in mind SriLankan is not running on unlimited oil money. For a carrier having a limited fleet, they are doing a phenomenal job, coupled with a great soft service proposition, one world affiliation and being the only game in town, as far as direct flights between DEL & CMB are concerned.

It is certainly more challenging for them to operate out of Mumbai and other southern states with direct competition from Jet Airways and other Indian carriers. Bottomline: Fly SriLankan for their genuine & warm hospitality but don’t expect wonders in their cabin product, unless you are on one of their latest A330-330s.

Have you ever flown on SriLankan before? What were your thoughts on their service?

I will be continuing this series with reviewing SriLankan’s flagship Serendib Lounge at Colombo International, followed by UL195.

 

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Review: Turkish Airlines A330-300 Istanbul to New Delhi

Turkish Airlines A330 - Istanbul gate

Turkish Airlines A330 – Istanbul Airport

It was hard to come out of that traveller heaven also known as Turkish Airlines Lounge, at Istanbul but the prospect of missing flight back home wasn’t so attractive either. It was a 13 minute walk from the lounge, through the maze of Istanbul’s Duty free shops to our Gate. At the gate, the scenes were pretty chaotic with no proper queues in-sight, but we were able to dodge it and the friendly agent at the gate counter helped us through quickly.

Related Trip Reviews: Tripping through Scandinavia

Train on a Ferry!

Turkish Airlines A330-300 New Delhi to Istanbul

Turkish Airlines A320-200 Istanbul to Zurich

SAS Business Lounge, Stockholm Arlanda

Turkish Airlines A321-200 Stockholm to Istanbul

 

Turkish Airlines 716

Istanbul Ataturk (IST) – New Delhi (DEL)

Sunday, July 27th

Departure: 20:06 hours (11 minutes late)

Arrival: 04:35 hours (+1 day) local time (15 minutes late)

Aircraft: Airbus A330-300

Seat: 6A

The crew greeted us warmly as we boarded the aircraft. My folks turned left and I went…  to the right. I was able to secure seat 6A on the phone with the Turkish Airlines customer service. It is certainly not Business Class but it probably is the best Economy seat in the cabin. The 2-4-2 cabin layout is a big positive and the ample leg room takes this economy seat a notch above the rest of the cabin, though some folks may find the proximity to the lavatory bit bothersome.

Turkish Airlines A330-300 Economy Seating

Turkish Airlines A330-300 Economy Cabin and Seating

Turkish Airlines A330 - Economy bulkhead Legroom

Turkish Airlines A330 – Economy bulkhead Legroom

There was a slight delay in departure, though I made good use of our extended ground time in Istanbul. The aircraft scenery out of the window was beautiful, not as scenic as a Turkish evening by the Marmara sea, but the Jets around were soothing to the #AvGeek eyes.

Turkish Airlines Aircraft at Istanbul airport ramp

Turkish Airlines Aircraft at Istanbul airport ramp

Pushback started 11 minutes behind schedule and it was a very busy time at Istanbul Ataturk Airport to say the least. I could see a long queue of Planes ahead of us, waiting to jet-off.

Istanbul Airport Ramp

Istanbul Airport Ramp

Istanbul Airport - Take off Queue

Istanbul Airport – Take off Queue

Turkish Airlines A330 - Nose Cam

Turkish Airlines A330 – Nose Cam

Heavy incoming and outgoing traffic at the airport meant plenty of opportunities to put my photography skills to test and for my aviation imagery database to increase. Somehow clicking aircraft pictures always gives me a different kind of high.

Istanbul Airport Runway - Aircraft

Istanbul Airport Runway – Aircraft

One of the disappointing aspects during this delay was no incoming information from the cockpit or the cabin crew, although I could see the “reasons” in front, I doubt if all passengers were able to figure that out. We finally rotated into Turkish skies around 2030 hours local time, the views of the city and the sea were terrific.

Turkish Airlines A330 - Istanbul Aerial View

Turkish Airlines A330 – Istanbul Aerial View

After only about 9 minutes the crew was back in action and serving “Turkish delights”, a local savory which I never seem to get enough of. and Rightfully so.

Turkish Airlines Delight

Turkish Airlines Delight

Another 9 minutes later, a crew member came by my seat to give the Economy travel kit. It consists of a pair of socks, earbuds and an eye patch. For an economy cabin, this is a pretty decent offering.

Turkish Airlines Economy Amenity Kit

Turkish Airlines Economy Amenity Kit

Another 8 minutes passed before we were handed out our Dinner menus. For Turkish Airlines to do this is indeed very thoughtful, even on a medium haul five hour and forty minutes flight. The planning for these services seemed done to the T. As a traveler, I appreciate this more because being a red-eye flight I would want the “mandatories” to be done as soon as possible to get some rest before an early morning arrival in New Delhi. Of course it also helps the crew in their time/work management as well, So its a win-win.

Turkish Airlines A330 - Economy Class Dinner menu

Turkish Airlines A330 – Economy Class Dinner menu

Dinner service started another 30 minutes after the menu distribution and I ordered a Grilled Chicken Breast from the menu, which was the only non-vegetarian choice. It was served along with sautéed vegetables and some potato purée. The selection and its presentation were very average and the taste left me un-satisfied, unfortunately I misplaced meal pictures to share here. Chana Salad and Breads were served as well but what I really liked was the Mango Panna Cotta dessert, besides the Efes Beer 🙂

The vegetarians on the flight had two options between Aloo-Gobhi and Channa Colaw Paneer as their main, and from my conversations with fellow passengers, they certainly were the better tasting dishes.

The crew were friendly and attentive throughout the flight though I had to request twice for lights to be dimmed after the meal service. Every body seemed ready for their quick naps but I guess nobody in the cabin crew thought of turning the lights down 🙂

The final service for the flight was done 3 hours into the flight and about 2:30 hours before landing as everybody was given a small bottle of water. I don’t know if the crew was waiting for this only to dim lights as they were turned down after this round. Our scheduled arrival into Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal 3 in New Delhi was 04:20 hours, and we touched down with a slight delay of 15 minutes. The Long taxi from the runway to the gate meant we could only alight after another 25 minutes, marking a happy end to my trip through Scandinavia and Northern Europe.

 

 

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Review: Turkish Airlines A330-300 New Delhi to Istanbul

You may want to read the introduction for this trip report, Tripping through Scandinavia.

Turkish Airlines A330-300 at Delhi International Airport. Photo Credit: JetPhotos.net

Turkish Airlines A330-300 at Delhi International Airport. Photo Credit: JetPhotos.net

We reached the Delhi Airport around 3:30 am, considering I was with my parents and did not want to rush them in the end. The economy counters had about 15-20 people waiting in queues whereas Business Class counters looked relatively empty. There were two counters and both of them had passenger’s checking-in. After about five minutes of wait we were attended at the counter. I requested the agent to credit our miles to JetPrivelege (Contributing to my target of next summer’s European holiday on award business class seats). Check-in process was smooth and we were all checked in to Zurich, through Istanbul. My folks were also handed their Plaza Premium lounge passes.

Security and Immigration took another 15 minutes, mainly because the Immigration officer decided to tell us the advantages of traveling to Andaman & Nicobar Islands over Switzerland for a holiday. I actually appreciated his passion for domestic tourism and promised him that we will certainly consider for the next family trip. I escorted my parents to the lounge upstairs and then came back down to the Delhi Daredevils Sports Bar. After all, where else would you get a full buffet meal and drinks for Rs.2? All thanks to my Visa Signature card.

 

Turkish Airlines 717

New Delhi (DEL) – Istanbul Ataturk (IST)

Saturday, July 12th

Departure: 0608 hrs (3 minutes late)

Arrival: 1003 hrs local time (22 minutes earlier)

Aircraft: Airbus A330-300

Seat: 6D

We arrived the boarding gate around 5:15 am and boarded the aircraft pretty soon after that. Turkish, English and Financial papers were placed on a cart just before aircraft entry and I picked couple of them. The cabin crew greeted us warmly, my parents were shown to the left and I turned right for economy “cattle” class. I was sitting in 6D, the very first bulkhead middle row.

Turkish Airlines A330 Economy Seat

Turkish Airlines A330 Economy Seat

 

There was plenty of leg space, but I was wishing for an empty next seat, which eventually turned out to be exactly that. I absolutely love the 2-4-2 seating configuration, especially if sitting next to the window seat. Even though I was in the middle row for this flight,  I wasn’t complaining. The flight was 75-80% full in economy class. The view on the left looked something like this.

Turkmenistan Airlines Boeing 737-700

Turkmenistan Airlines Boeing 737-700

 

Besides the proximity to Lavatory and resulting commotion all the time, my other gripe with Bulkhead seats is placement of the IFE screen inside arm rests, which makes it inconvenient besides reducing the seat width slightly. I guess nobody has found a better solution yet so I’ll shut my rant now.

Our flight started pushing back from the gate at exactly 0600 hrs and we were up and away within the next 8 odd minutes. Climb was smooth and soon seat belts signs were off. I also got to know that Turkish Airlines CEO, Mr. Temel Kotil was on the flight. He was in New Delhi for Air India’s induction into Star Alliance the day before and was on his way back to Istanbul.

The first service was the delicious serving of Turkish Delight. Can one ever get enough of it?

Turkish Airlines - Turkish Delight

Turkish Airlines – Turkish Delight

The meal service started with pre-booked special requests. I had requested an Indian vegetarian meal for my parents and they weren’t impressed with their South Indian upma meal, as I got to know later. Economy passengers were given couple of menus for breakfast, which I thought was a nice touch by Turkish Airlines.

Turkish Airlines Breakfast Menu (Economy)

Turkish Airlines Breakfast Menu (Economy)

 

I went with Turkey and Kasar Cheese Toast along with “No.1 Mediterranean Beer” Efes. I loved the crunch of the Borek and thought it was well made. I pretty much skipped most of the other items as they just did not appeal to me.

Turkish Airlines Economy Breakfast Meal

Turkish Airlines Economy Breakfast Meal

 

There was a round of Coffee/Tea and I politely declined the offer. After the meal, I thought of getting some shut eye and was about to press the call button for an eye patch when the attendant handed me an amenity kit pouch.

Turkish Airlines Economy Amenity Kit

Turkish Airlines Economy Amenity Kit

 

It had a pair of socks, an eye patch and some ear plugs. Not bad, TK! I treated that, as a sign that even god wanted me to have some rest. How wrong did that turn out to be? After 40 minutes of battling with various sleeping positions I gave up and thought of visiting my parents in the front, make them feel guilty how their son was cringing in the back while they lay comfortably on their flat beds, etc. Expectedly, the seat was actually quite nice and had a foot rest just below the IFE screen, which doubled up nicely as a temporary settee. While they were telling me how uninspiring their economy class upma vegetarian dish was, I started noticing the upkeep of business class cabin.

Turkish Airlines A330 - Torn Business Class Seat

Turkish Airlines A330 – Torn Business Class Seat

 

The fabric of the seat was completely torn from the seat and there were other elements of the seat, which were asking for attention. For an airline, which prides itself as Europe’s Best Airline, this was mighty underwhelming. While going back to my seat I requested the cabin attendant to please serve some vegetarian snacks to my parents, as they were quite hungry. I must add that all cabin attendants during this flight were warm, efficient and looked keen to help out. I was promised that she would look after them well. Later on I was told by my parents that they were served vegetable samosas by the In-Flight chef, which were quite delicious.

About eighty minutes before arrival, the second service of the flight was started, where economy passengers were given a choice between a cheese sandwich or a cherry cake.

Turkish Airlines Economy Snack Options

Turkish Airlines Economy Snack Options

 

If your answer was both, I’m happy to tell you, you were absolutely correct. The sandwich was just above average but I was happy with the cherry cake. It was just the right amount of sweet and tangy for me. I gulped both of them down with a small glass of Apple juice. Other options in beverages included tomato juice, orange juice, regular and diet sodas.

At no point during this flight I bothered with the IFE screen, and taking it out of the armrest. An initial overview told me it had enough content for a 6 hour flight, though definitely not for a 8-10 hour route. Usually I’m happy with the Live Route Map, and the big screen on Bulkhead exactly in front of me kept me busy.

On our final approach to Istanbul Ataturk Airport, the captain activated the bottom fuselage camera and he was thoughtful enough to turn it to the nose camera for fantastic views as we descended on the runway.

Turkish Airlines A330 Nose Camera - Istanbul Airport

Turkish Airlines A330 Nose Camera – Istanbul Airport

 

The landing was smooth and after about 8 minutes of taxi we arrived at our gate. The first flight of my trip was comfortable and efficient. The cabin crew was nice (presence of CEO on the flight?) and the food options were reasonable for a medium haul flight. Now it was time for me to do a quick hop to the Turkish Lounge, before catching my connecting flight to Zurich in 100 minutes.

Have you flown with Turkish before to Istanbul? What has been your experience?

 

Related Trip Posts:  Tripping through Scandinavia: Introduction

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Turkish Airlines A320-200 Istanbul to Zurich

SAS Business Lounge, Stockholm Arlanda

Turkish Airlines A321-200 Stockholm to Istanbul

 

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Which Airlines will fly their Airbus A380s in to India?

An Airbus A380 is greeted at London Heathrow. Image Source: Airbus

An Airbus A380 is greeted at London Heathrow, Picture Courtesy: Airbus

Last week, the Indian aviation community was abuzz with the news that the government had finally permitted operations of the Airbus A380 in to India. In its announcement, the ministry mentioned Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, and Emirates as potential candidates in operating the aircraft to India, but there are seven other present operators of the giant, all of whom, with the exception of Qantas Airways, operate to India. Three of the Five near future A380 operators, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Asiana also operate to India.

The question for many aviation enthusiasts is which airline will fly in world’s largest passenger airliner, into one of the world’s most exciting aviation markets, India?

Airline wise A380 cabin configurations

Airline-wise A380 cabin seat configurations, Source: Bangalore Aviation

Airline-wise A380 cabin seat configurations, Source:Bangalore Aviation

Before we proceed, it is important to realise the sheer size of the A380. The aircraft is classified as a VLA (very large aircraft) which includes the venerable Boeing 747 jumbo-jet. While Airbus shows the typical seating of A380 at 555 seats in a three-class configuration, most airlines have configured their aircraft from a low 407 seats at Korean Air to a maximum of 526 at Lufthansa. The info-graphic on the right shows the various cabin configurations of the A380 operators. The size of the aircraft makes it a challenge for any airline to fill.

Potential A380 airports in India

In its order, the ministry of civil aviation allowed the operations of the super-jumbo at the four major Indian gateway airports capable of handling the A380 – New Delhi, the busiest, Mumbai, the second busiest, Bangalore, the third busiest domestic and fourth internationally, and Hyderabad, the sixth. Chennai and Kolkata are excluded since they lack the airside capability to land this huge plane.

Hyderabad. For the foreseeable future (about 36 months), we believe Hyderabad lacks an adequate catchment especially in the premium classes to allow an airline to profitably operate the A380 consistently.

Bangalore. On the face of it, Bangalore is in a similar situation as Hyderabad, but the IT city is very different from the rest of India, driven by business traffic, it has a high business class demand with virtually negligible first class demand. This same business and IT profile drives demand to extreme volumes on weekends with low weekday loads. The hi-tech nature of Bangalore’s economy also ensures it has the highest percentage of air cargo of India, which airlines carry as belly-hold for additional revenues. Both British Airways and Lufthansa operate the Boeing 747 to the IT city. Given the flexibility of the large A380 fleet, there is a small possibility that Emirates may operate an A380 during the high traffic winter months and during the weekends.

Top 20 VLA Airports by 2030. Source: Airbus and Bangalore Aviation

Top 20 VLA Airports by 2030, Source: Airbus and Bangalore Aviation

New Delhi and Mumbai. In its global market forecast (GMF), Airbus rated New Delhi and Mumbai in the list of top 20 VLA (very large aircraft) airports by 2030. These two biggest airports in India have the traffic volumes in all the three classes to sustain regular A380 operations. The issue will be which airlines will choose between these two cities.

Potential airlines to operate the A380 to India

There are currently ten operators of the A380. Air France, British Airways, China Southern, Emirates, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways. Five more operators, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Air Austral, Skymark Airlines and Asiana will join the A380 family soon. Of these 15, Air AustralQantas, and Skymark don’t operate to India, and we will exclude them for now.

We next eliminate those airlines that we are reasonably sure will not operate an A380, at least in the foreseeable future to Indian airports.

Air France, focuses its bigger aircraft on north American and far east routes. It only operates its mid-sized A330s to India. Malaysia Airlines and Thai Airways focus their A380s in slot constrained high volume airports like London Heathrow, Paris Charles De Gaulle, and Frankfurt. China SouthernKorean Air, and Asiana have insufficient traffic rights to India and focus their VLAs on north American and European destinations.

Qatar and Etihad are remote possibilities for the near future as they too will initially deploy their A380s to slot congested London, Paris, Frankfurt and possibly New York. Rumours about Etihad giving one of their A380’s to their Indian partner, Jet Airways, appear to be just that for now, rumours.

This leaves us with four possible candidates.

British Airways A380.                             Photo Courtesy: Airbus

British Airways A380, Photo Courtesy: Airbus

British Airways (BA) is the most understated, yet most exciting prospect of bringing A380 to India. The whole universe conspires to make the mechanics work on the routes for BA. The stage lengths of about eight to ten hours are just right. India is an important destination for the airline, and it is demonstrating this by flying its latest aircraft, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to Hyderabad starting March. London is one of the most visited cities by Indians, not to mention the large Indian origin diaspora living in the United Kingdom, and Heathrow is the A380 capital of the world with virtually every airline flying its A380 to it. Despite a short-sighted transit immigrant visa requirement and ridiculous air passenger fees, Heathrow is a major transit point for passengers between India and North America.

While Mumbai gets the newer 777-300ER featuring the airline’s updated cabin product, New Delhi lags behind having to make do with older 747-400s and 777-200s. The intelligent fleet deployment of British Airways must be noted. During the summers, BA deploys its larger aircraft across the Atlantic catering to massive Trans-Atlantic tourist traffic, while winters sees these aircraft in traditional “home coming” destinations in South Asia, China, and ASEAN.

Despite the airline officially saying

We welcome the decision of the Indian government to allow A380s to operate in India. Our customers can already enjoy the comfort and luxury of our A380s on flights to Los Angeles and Hong Kong and we will be starting A380 services to Johannesburg in February and Washington in September. “We currently have four A380s and another four will join our fleet this year. We are assessing a range of routes for the aircraft but at this stage it is too early to speculate which cities we will add to its network.

we are fairly confident of seeing a Union Jack liveried A380 at New Delhi in 2015, if not in the winter schedule.

Emirates has the largest fleet of A380 Aircraft. Picture Courtesy:

Emirates has the largest fleet of A380 Aircraft, Picture Courtesy: Emirates

Emirates (EK) is the world’s largest operator of the A380, and is also the biggest foreign airline operating in India, with some calling it the unofficial national airline of India. The airline operates four daily flights to New Delhi and five dailies to Mumbai, almost all of them using the 777s.

Though on the surface, the short distances from Mumbai and Delhi to Dubai may not justify the A380 which is primarily designed for longer distances, Emirates has been using its A380 ingeniously on shorter routes and we feel, will be able to make Dubai to Mumbai and Delhi work.

Emirates has suffered an image of inconsistent cabin product on its India flights, and the A380 will allow the airline to repair this perception.

With over 44 A380s already in its fleet it is all but certain, the airline will commence an A380 service to both Mumbai and New Delhi. However, since the existing bi-lateral air services agreement (ASA) cap being long exhausted, Emirates will have to consolidate its flights to accommodate the large behemoth. We expect EK to steal the thunder and be the first to operate an A380 to India.

A Lufthansa A380 parked at Frankfurt Airport. Picture Courtesy: Airliners.net

A Lufthansa A380 parked at Frankfurt Airport, Picture Courtesy: Airliners.net

Lufthansa (LH) has always declared its intentions to operate the A380 to India. It was forced to bring its other VLA, the Boeing 747-8i, to New Delhi when the government held firm in its short-sighted denial of A380 operations. This past week saw Lufthansa become the first airline to publicly declare their intentions of bringing Airbus A380 to “major Indian markets”, and most likely from the winter schedule which starts in end October.

The carrier operates an A330-300 featuring its new business class product (which is not on its A380) to both Mumbai and Delhi, with Chennai starting in March 2014. The 747-8i to Delhi also has the new business class and the new first class product (which is also on their A380), while the 747-400 to Mumbai is two generations behind, which as per few trip reports on Flyer Talk, does not even have personal IFE screens in Economy, is a sure shot recipe for customer dissatisfaction, especially on Intercontinental routes.

We expect Lufthansa to operate one A380 to India. It may upgrade Delhi to an A380 and move the 747-8i to replace the 747-400 at Mumbai, or it might directly upgrade Mumbai to an A380. The Indo-German bi-lateral ASA has to be amended to include the A380. It’s an interesting possibility, one that the industry, especially Lufthansa’s MEB3 friends will be watching closely.

Singapore Airlines A380 takes off from Kingsford Smith, Sydney Airport. Picture Courtesy: Airliners.net

Singapore Airlines A380 takes off from Kingsford Smith – Sydney Airport, Picture Courtesy: Airliners.net

Singapore Airlines (SIA) was the launch customer of the A380, has 19 aircraft in their fleet, and they have just ordered another five. SIA is also in partnership with the Tatas to commence a full service airline in India.

The airline has a strategy of offering its best products to the political and commercial capitals of Asian countries. Following this, SIA has been aggressively expanding at Mumbai where it offers triple daily flights to Singapore, while Delhi is at 19 weekly flights currently and will become triple-daily from the summer schedule, all on Boeing 777s. At both cities, the pattern is a morning flight on a smaller 777-200 with two night/mid-night flights being scheduled within three hours of each other.

Delhi though still does not receive the airline’s 777-300ER flagship which features their newest cabin product, so it is very likely the airline will choose to club the two night/mid-night flights and offer Delhi the airline’s best cabin product which includes the SQ Suites. No on-board frolicking please, the airline’s rules clearly prohibit joining the ‘mile high club’.

The dilemma the airline faces is that its current A380 fleet is fully deployed. The additional five orders are relatively recent and delivery is not expected any time soon. The airline will have to sacrifice one flight from another destination to service India in the short-term, or may choose to deploy A380s later.

This piece originally appeared on Bangalore Aviation, and was co-authored with Devesh Agarwal

Related Post: A380 finally flies into New Delhi T3

 

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The Varying Consistencies of Emirates (Flight Reviews)

This post was supposed to be your typical trip report until I heard Tim Clark (President, CEO) talk about future of Emirates and his view about airline alliances among many other things within that 30 minute podcast/interview on Emirates IFE (known as ICE) channel no #1500, the default start on the home screen.

Let me take you back to where this all began. I was flying from New Delhi to Barcelona in early May and during the DXB-BCN leg this post took a life of its own.

I was completely mesmerized by the sheer beauty of this Boeing 777-300, regal on the outside & luxurious on the inside. (Barring the bone crunching 3-4-3 seating arrangement of Emirates).

Emirates Boeing 777-300 IFE ICE

The IFE on this aircraft was state of the art in its truest sense and I can safely say the best IFE I have experienced till date on all 32 airlines I have flown in. The system is based on 3000i from Panasonic Avionics Corporation.

Even the handset had a small touch screen on it, and was capable of displaying information on its own without interrupting content on the main screen. We were served breakfast and lunch on this flight by a very efficient crew, both meals were good and above par.

EUREKA! EUREKA!

& It was during this flight I had my eureka moment. Hearing Tim Clark talk about Emirates future plans, their new destinations, that even with current network they are only half done & of course why Emirates is averse to joining any Airline Alliance.

The meat of his answer revolved around the fact that Emirates was averse to joining any alliance because alliances never helped an airline much, and Emirates feared that transferring your pax from one airline to the other may give them inconsistent experiences, completely opposite to their vision of seamless, comfortable and world-class hospitality that Emirates wants its customers to feel across their network & at their home in Dubai International Airport, Terminal 3.

Fair enough I thought & agreed with his thought process in my mind as I disembarked.

The LIS-DXB flight of this trip was also on a B773.

I had an Open-jaw ticket & was returning to Delhi via Lisbon. The security and immigration was pretty painless, but the walk to the flight gate, which was actually the last of the airport, was quite a walk. Dare I say, it would have dwarfed the walk at Delhi Airport’s T3.

After an efficient boarding process I moved to my seat to see the same world-class IFE greeting me & I remember thinking to myself, “consistently world class indeed”.

Emirates Boeing 777-300 IFE ICE

But the biggest surprise of the flight was when Cabin crew armed & cross checked doors and I was sitting next to 2 empty seats.

Emirates Boeing 777-300 vacant row of seats

Suddenly the Aviation Geek in me woke up & I stood up to have a look around the cabin to check for loads. It was a Saturday evening flight, with just about 50% occupancy in economy. The guy in the next middle row had all 4 seats for himself.

Emirates 777-300 handset display for avgeeks An AVGeek’s ideal handset display

As we rose up over the balmy and beautiful evening of Lisbon, I fired up ICE and got to hear Tim Clark again. I must admit I loved hearing him speak; his voice was like a gentle massage to my eardrums with a soothing accent. He had me completely sold on Emirates vision and their reasoning for it.

Our crew for the flight was nice and chatty, and the meal service for this flight served as Dinner, was yummy. I had my first Indian meal in 8 days & the chicken tikka masala did not disappoint at all.

Emirates Economy Class Meal

The crew also served drinks just before landing into DXB. Overall a flawless flight from Emirates.

AT DXB T3

But then we landed into DXB. We arrived slightly before time & I had 5 hours & 45 minutes left for my early morning connecting flight to New Delhi. Transfer and security was much better this time compared to my outward leg.

Here’s my take on Dubai International T3 after been there 6 times now. I find DXB as one of the world’s most boring airport/terminal. DXB sadly offers nothing for the traveler but shopping. I think that’s where it should take a cue from airports like Munich, Zurich, Amsterdam, Seoul and Changi. Shopping is just ONE part of the experience, not the ENTIRE experience. Being a hub airport for one of the largest airlines in the world should carry responsibilities with it & so far DXB T3 has failed on my watch in many aspects.

With my tired limbs & stressed mind I hopped on the train towards B Gates. I reach our scheduled gate only to hear an emirates employee shouting loudly that our flight is delayed by an hour and 30 minutes, with a gate change.

Later on an Emirates employee tells me all delays at the airport were due to unseasonal fog, which enveloped DXB in the morning & has had a knock on effect on flights throughout the day. Our aircraft was scheduled to arrive from Dammam & its arrival was delayed by 2 hours due to the same problem.

But there’s another dimension to this thought. As the disruptions have been on since morning, Emirates must have known about possible delays for our flight to DEL as well, then why it decided to inform passengers at the very last minute, at their boarding gate?

Also, from my point of view, If Emirates knew about this 2 hour delay much earlier, they could have even given me a hotel accommodation at DXB. Emirates has a policy of granting all economy passengers with a layover of more than 8 hours at DXB, a complimentary hotel stay. Needless to say I was physically exhausted after almost 15 hours of travel & would have loved some shuteye, even for couple of hours. My decision of not going to the Lounge at T1 came to haunt me.

I reach the new gate as per the re-scheduled departure time only to find that the gate has been changed again. So, I reach the 3rd gate of this journey & it finally seems to be the correct one. We start boarding 15 minutes after the re-scheduled departure time, and are already running late. Again. And there is no explanation from the airline staff as well. And to top it all of, we are transferred to buses. It seems our Airbus A330-200 has chosen to park remotely.

Emirates Airbus A330-200 to Delhi, boarding through stairs

Certainly not the world-class consistent experience that Tim Clark promised.

By the time I boarded my DXB-DEL flight, I had lost all sense of time, but it would be safe to say that the flight took off at least 2 hours and 15 minutes post-scheduled departure.

The boarding for this flight was completely mismanaged by the Emirates crew/ground staff. First and Business class passengers were requested to use the front staircase understandably but the entire economy class passengers were required to board the aircraft from the rear.

Even those with early economy seats were turned away from the front door to board from rear. Naturally that had many passengers agitated, as they had to carry their hand baggage from the back of the aircraft, almost to the front.

One of the few positives about the flight I immediately noticed was the 2-4-2 seating arrangement, with a window seat It seemed ideal for me. My luck continued with this flight as well as the seat next to me remained vacant.

But as I sat down, I immediately saw this staring back at me.

Emirates A330-200 Old IFE In flight entertainment

From the best to the worst, Emirates had provided me two extreme IFE options & the voice of Tim Clark talking about consistent world-class experience for passengers started ringing in my ears. You see having a mediocre IFE system is one thing, but this was the worst.

Just as we were all set for the taxi to runway, the captain informed us of another 20-minute delay. Apparently the control tower wanted us to wait, if we hadn’t waited enough already. Meanwhile I also took notice of one of the most uncomfortable seats I have been on in an aircraft (not as bad as my Ryan Air flight but close enough) with weird lower back support settings which made a thick uncomfortable cushion pop out & the seat itself was not the best.

Tim Clark & his voice came back to my mind & ears. Shouting.

We were served lunch on this flight & the butter chicken I opted for was very well prepared. The crew of the flight, barring the initial boarding process, was also very friendly and professional.

Did I mention that the IFE on this flight was almost repulsive & I never bothered to even use it once, preferring to read FT on Sunday, provided gratis by Emirates at the boarding gate.

Nothing else of much note in the flight as we had a smooth landing at Delhi and the captain apologized in the end for multiple delays.

One big question lords over my mind after these extreme experiences

Where is the consistent world class seamless (and other adjectives) experience that Emirates loves to boast about? This is not a one-off thing as Emirates operates this very A332 daily to Delhi? I haven’t documented my first flight, DEL-DXB in detail, again on A330-200, but if it wasn’t for catching up on sleep or a chatty co-passenger, I would have been horrified about that as well.

India is supposed to be Emirates biggest market, then why this huge inconsistency? Emirates flies more Indian passengers abroad than any other Indian carrier, Why the Indian passenger is almost taken for granted? Especially considering other global players like Lufthansa fly their top the line aircraft, the Boeing 747-8, to Indian cities.

And it’s just not me pointing out their inconsistencies; plenty of others are talking about it as well. Just that nobody else has devoted such detail to it.

I won’t be surprised if the more nimble (and smaller as of now) gulf carriers like Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways attract more Indian travelers to their much superior product in time to come. For Emirates, I only wish for a consistent passenger experience, only to live up to their own promise, which should be good enough for now.

Overall I would rate my 4 flights with Emirates as the following:

DEL-DXB – 6.5/10

DXB-BCN – 8.5/10

LIS-DXB – 9.5/10

DXB-DEL – 3.5/10