Tagged: Delhi

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: Plaza Premium Lounge, New Delhi (Lounge B, International Departures, Terminal 3)

In the last week of December 2014, I traveled to Colombo, Sri Lanka for business purposes. Naturally SriLankan became the airline of choice, my thirty third airline, more on that in the following trip reports. Once I completed my check-in formalities at the New Delhi Airport, Terminal 3, it was time to spend the next hour or so before boarding the aircraft. I had decided I would be using the Plaza Premium Lounge B before hand and thus made my way towards it, past the Duty Free area.

The entire airport was decked in festive spirit, complete with a massive Santa overlooking everyone and spreading cheer.

Santa Claus at Delhi Airport

Santa Claus at Delhi Airport Terminal 3

There are a total of 7 Plaza Premium Lounges at the Delhi Airport, spread across Terminal 1D & Terminal 3 (International & Domestic areas). T3 specifically has 2 Plaza Premium departure lounges for international travel. Lounge A is the smaller lounge of the two, located near the food court, and Lounge B is the bigger lounge with more facilities and a dedicated area.

One needs to take the lift up to Level 4 of the airport, where the Plaza Premium Lounge B is located. These lifts also take passengers to Lufthansa, Emirates & Singapore Lounges on Level 3, and the Eaton Transit Hotel on Level 5.

Delhi T3 Airport Lounge Lift

Delhi T3 Airport Lounge Lift

Depending on the which of the three lifts you take, you will have to turn left or right, once you reach Level 4. You will find the “infamous” T3 carpeting here as well 🙂

Plaza Premium Lounge - Delhi T3 Entryway

Plaza Premium Lounge – Delhi T3 Entryway

At the reception I was met by an efficient agent, who quickly checked me in after verifying my ICICI Sapphiro Jet Airways Visa card. This lounge is part of the Visa Lounge Access program, which earlier used to have Delhi Daredevils Bar at Terminal 3. I was also asked if I required the Wi-Fi password, which I turned down.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi T3 Entrance

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi T3 – Reception

One can also get in to this lounge through a Priority Pass Membership (the standard derivative of which comes complimentary with most airline affiliated credit cards). For the uninitiated, Priority Pass is the largest independent airport lounge access program in the world, with over 700 locations in 123 countries. The greatest advantage of the program is that you don’t need to be flying with a specific airline or in a specific class to access these lounges.

Priority_Pass_Screenshot

There are three membership plans:

  • Standard Membership: $99 annual fee, plus $27 for each lounge visit
  • Standard Plus Membership: $249 annual fee with 10 free visits; additional visits are $27
  • Prestige Membership: $399 annual fee with unlimited visits

At this point, I must also mention that this lounge is the contract lounge of choice for most international airlines out of Delhi Airport, and thus has been quite busy most of the times I have been there. As this visit was during an off-peak late afternoon hour, the lounge was fairly empty. Keep in mind, this is open 24 hours.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Seating

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Seating

One thing this lounge is not short of, is comfortable seating. There are plenty of sofas, in the forward section of the lounge, as well at the back, near to the bar and food area. The Lounge also has a flight display board near the entrance.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Sofa Seating

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Sofa Seating by the Bar

Apart from comfortable sofas, there are also tall chairs by the bar side, next to the snack section.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Seating by the Bar

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Seating by the Bar

The bar itself looks pretty stocked up, but for a beer lover like me is a big dud. The only beer they serve here is Kingfisher, although there is nothing wrong with Kingfisher, I would like to see at least one more option to be served.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Bar

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Bar

The other side of the bar counter is the food section, having soups, mains, fruits, sandwiches and sweet options.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Food Counter

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Food Counter

I was at the bar during late lunch hours and the staff was regularly filling up dishes. There were about 4 main options including chicken, mutton and vegetarian, accompanied by Rice.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Main Dishes

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Main Dishes

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Vegeterian Mains

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Vegetarian Mains

The vegetarian options included Matar Paneer gravy (Peas & Cottage Cheese, cooked Indian spicy style), and Chinese Manchurian gravy, neither of which I tried.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Beverage Fridge

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Beverage Fridge (PS: Pardon my photography skills)

Just behind the bar, there was a wooden cabinet stocked with water bottles, and a refrigerator next to it, which was stocked with aerated drinks.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Snacks

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Snacks

To its right, a coffee/tea machine was placed, along with some cookies and tea flavours.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Juices

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Juices

The juice dispenser was next, serving orange and apple juice.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Breads

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Breads

Which was followed by a bread basket, containing 5 different varieties.

Chilly Chicken with Rice and Beer

Chilly Chicken with Rice and Beer

I was feeling slightly hungry, and wanted to have a quick meal before boarding so I got myself Chilly Chicken, on top of Rice. I gulped that down with a beer. I can’t say much about the dish except the fact that it was typical contract lounge food, devoid of any flavour, with a average chicken quality. Thank god for the beer.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Dessert & Sandwich

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Dessert & Sandwich

After a while, I thought about trying a paneer sandwich, along with Shahi Tukda as a dessert. Wrong move, as the sandwich was filled with paneer (cottage cheese) only on the sides, with the insides completely empty. As far as Shahi Tukda is concerned, I would like to describe it in two words: Sweet Rubber.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Magazine Stand

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Magazine Stand

The lounge had couple of magazine/newspaper racks with a variety of publications. As a magazine/newspaper aficionado, I was quiet impressed with that offering.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Massage Room Entrance Way

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Massage Room Entrance Way

Just behind the bar side sofas, there is a small entryway which leads to restrooms, as well as couple of enclosed VIP Rooms, Massage & Shower Area

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Massage Room

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Massage Room

During my stay at the lounge, the masseur was unavailable. There were two massage sofas and two neck and shoulder massage chairs in the room.

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Massage Room Chair

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Massage Room Chair

The massage service is not complimentary, and is chargeable at the following rates:

Shower Package  INR
Deluxe Shower (with full amenities) 600
Shower with 30 minutes Seated Massage 1300
Massage and Beauty Service  INR
15 minutes Seated Massage (head, neck, shoulder and back) 500
30 minutes Seated Massage (head, neck, shoulder and back) 900
15 minutes Foot Reflexology 500
30 minutes Foot Reflexology 900

 

 

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi -  Business Centre

Plaza Premium Lounge Delhi – Business Centre

There is also a business area, which features 4 Windows OS based laptops, and a Printer/Copier.

During my stay I found the staff to be attentive, polite and not overbearing, which is my preferable option. Ideally I’m not fond of lounge staff trying hard to please, after all, passengers are in the lounge to escape from the noise and find some down time.

To sum up, it is certainly a worthy alternative to sitting in a crowded and noisy terminal, and for Visa card holders, certainly a big upgrade from the environs of the Delhi Daredevils Bar at the ground floor. Would I pay $27 to gain access as a Priority Pass holder? I’m not sure. The food & drink selection have never enthused me too much and this lounge is certainly not in the category of Plaza Premium lounges at Hong Kong, Jamaica or London. However, if you hold an eligible Visa credit card, this lounge should be a no-brainer for you.

 

Have you been to the Premium Plaza Lounge B at New Delhi, Terminal 3, what you thought of its services?

 

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A380 finally flies into New Delhi T3

On Friday, 30th of May 2014, New Delhi’s Terminal 3 became the first airport in India to officially welcome daily scheduled operations of the world’s largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380. Although T3 has received an Emirates A380 in 2010, that was just a one-off flight to celebrate opening of the terminal.

As part of their celebrations, the Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) had invited me to be a part of this historic occasion. It was an overall interesting experience (minus the hardships endured to enter initially, that’s a story for another post). It was also nice to catch up with Marcel Hungerbuehler, the COO of DIAL. One of the interesting things Marcel mentioned was that he does not see Emirates operating a A380 to Delhi in the near future, though he was quite confident of welcoming Lufthansa’s A380 to/from Frankfurt in the coming winter schedule.

I also had a chat with Karma Paljor, from CNN-IBN about the A380 itself during the event and you can watch a clip from that interview on the link below.Airbus A380 Event in New Delhi T3 - Vishal Mehra

If you are keen to check out first landing videos and photographs of the SuperJumbo, I highly recommend Bangalore Aviation’s coverage here.

Related Post: Which Airlines will fly their Airbus A380s in to India?

 

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New Delhi : Gang Rapped

India Gate. Delhi

FEEDBACK UPDATE: “Rapped” is used intentionally as part of headline, it’s not a mistake.

Over the last few days I have been extremely saddened by the turn of events in my city, in my Delhi.

A student (Jyoti Singh Pandey, as revealed later by her father) was gang raped, brutally, she is fighting for her life everyday at a hospital. (Update: Unfortunately, the victim was not able to survive) This crime was committed in Delhi city main, not in the fringes of city, which makes it even more appalling & shocking.

I have been disgusted & depressed but right now I want to talk about none of that. Mainly because people from all walks of life have written, tweeted, protested, shouted about it & I have nothing more or new to add.

Make no mistake, I’m in no way defending the culprits, for I personally think that mix of chemical castration & life imprisonment should be meted out to them without much delay. But I want to share my thoughts about how I feel when due to handiwork of few illiterate idiots the entire city & its inhabitants get branded. & Viciously at that.

In fact a digital “creative” agency came out with a microsite, www.thingstodoindelhi.com which had just 1 word written across, “RAPE”. So much for callous creativity.

Of course, after all the outrage & realizing their insensitive piece of crass work it was taken down, but my city got branded as RAPE city. Nobody denies or overlooks the fact that numerous sexual assaults (rape, gang rape, domestic violence) happen in Delhi NCR. Also for every one’s better understanding Delhi NCR is not just Delhi but Delhi + Gurgaon + Faridabad + Noida + Ghaziabad + Jhajjar + Alwar, among 13 regions as metropolitan area ringing around Delhi. I won’t delve too much into the concept of Delhi NCR but surely that doesn’t help the stats concerning law & order. In fact, as per Wikipedia, NCR is India‘s largest and world’s second largest agglomeration with a population of 22,157,000. Rapes & crime against women don’t just happen in Delhi, unfortunately they happen all across our country, the only difference being that crime registration rate in Delhi is way higher than other areas of the country.

Among all the states, Madhya Pradesh actually emerged as the rape capital of India with 3406 cases involving this heinous crime – the highest in the country. West Bengal, the state known more for its rich literary heritage, ranked second with 2363 rape cases. Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan followed next with 2042 and 1800 cases.

Delhi had 507 cases of Rape in the year 2011.

I have always felt that people from other cities have been resentful of New Delhi, whether that’s world class infrastructure, dual climate advantage, stable political leadership, food or even the title of “Capital”. I wish they could realize that all capitals of the world do get some preferential treatment & Delhi is not the only one figuring in that list.

Delhi’s citizens get classified as brash, loud, snobbish, show-offs etc. etc., I have been to my fair share of cities around the world & I have come across far too many arrogant & snobbish people not hailing from Delhi. Even if some of my fellow citizens are loud, brash & all that, what gives anybody any right to question anyone’s way of living or attitude?

And again, branding the entire city that because somebody called you “Madrasan” or has a fat diamond on her finger is pure ignorance. But feel free to write an entire blog post about the classy fictional incident.

Delhi also suffers from a problem, which is widely talked about, that of Migration, rather illiterate migrants. I was born in this city but my grand folks came from Lahore, so in essence my roots may be of an outsider itself but the problem as I typed above is that of illiterate migration. Read here for more on that. Most People who come to Delhi from other parts of the country possess no education or basic sense of living, they mostly try to find odd jobs & ultimately veer off to the world of crime for a quick buck.

We are not the only city in the country facing this issue; Bombay or Mumbai (depending on which part of the city/town/suburb your from) suffers from it as well. But unlike their political goons (thankfully we don’t have that breed of politicians here) people in Delhi don’t go around destroying their source of livelihoods in the name of “Maratha Power” or “Marathi Manoos”. Much more details here.

I also want to remind all of you kindly about couple of incidents in recent past where the efforts of Delhi Citizens were appreciated & accounted for all around the country.

1) Remember we hosted Commonwealth Games in 2010, games went off really well, athletes were happy, none of their flats were flooded (as was reported days before the event), all in all a world class event happened but I want to divert your attention towards the grand opening day of the event.

An individual by the name of Suresh Kalmadi was booed & jeered in front of the world, & then again during the closing ceremony of the CWG. These might seem like little events in isolation but once you realize what people of Delhi actually tried to convey through those emotions you would appreciate it more. In fact my twitter timeline was filled with personalities, usually not big fans of Delhi, praising the crowd & so on.

2) During the heyday of Janlokpal revolution, people of Delhi turned up everyday in large numbers to support the anti-corruption legislation, which was not meant only for Delhi but for the entire country. Delhi & its people were enthused by it till the time the event got politically motivated & left it’s social foundations.

Delhi had again sent a message out to organizers of the movement to put their house in order.

These are couple of recent examples, which I wanted to mention, I’m sure their must be countless others too, some got the limelight & some did not. Not to mention the ongoing wave of peaceful protests which Citizens of Delhi are holding everyday despite the threat of political heavy handedness. I must add that Delhi has also been joined by fellow states across the country, doing their bit.

To conclude I would like to appeal to all my fellow citizens to stop branding not just Delhi but any city a derogatory term & branding its citizens as specific type of people. Cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai have had plenty of unwanted incidents recently too. Our nation is at cross roads & all of us face challenges in different forms, highlighting & harping on just one will improve my city but may lead your beloved city down the wrong path.

After all, Ignorance is the root of all evil.

JAI HIND (on second thought, would JAI DELHI work? Nah!!!)