Tagged: New Delhi

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.

 

 

If you liked this post, why don’t you join many other amazing readers who have followed this blog to receive blog posts via email. No spamming guaranteed 🙂 

Advertisements

Review: Turkish Airlines A321-200 Stockholm to Istanbul

As we exited the SAS Business Lounge, there were still 15 minutes to go before the scheduled boarding start of our flight to Istanbul. I figured that even considering the long walk to the gate, we would do just fine. Stockholm Arlanda has passport control counters just before international gates, which should not have been a problem per say, but when you have just one agent manning an entire plane load of mostly non-EU citizens, that is a big problem indeed.

Stockholm Arlanda Airport - Passport Control Que

Stockholm Arlanda Airport – Passport Control Queue

 

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

Seeing the way our queue was moving, I decided to make a quick run to the famous Swedish hamburger chain, MAX. Now, if you know me, you know I love my hamburgers and I love trying out all of them, so I was pretty certain of letting this opportunity go. After asking airport staff, I was finally able to track a MAX & ordered a classic takeaway meal for myself.

Stockholm Arlanda - Max Restaurant

Stockholm Arlanda – Max Restaurant

I ran back across the terminal to find my family and some other passengers in a new side-queue that ultimately was merging, into the original queue itself, started after last calls of our TK1794 flight by the Turkish Airlines staff themselves. Oh crap! Another surprising element to this entire mis-management was absence of any dedicated section for passengers travelling in business. Ultimately after lots of hustle, and nasty stares, we made through the mess and were one of the last ones to board the aircraft. This experience at Arlanda was probably one of the least convenient bits of our entire Scandinavian trip and something the airport management definitely needs to re-think.

Turkish Airlines 1794

Stockholm Arlanda (STO) – Istanbul Ataturk (IST)

Sunday, July 27th

Departure: 1152 hours (7 minutes late)

Arrival: 1604 hours local time (6 minutes before time)

Aircraft: Airbus A321-200

Seat: 10A

We were among the last group of passengers to board the aircraft. The business class consisted of the traditional 2-2 layout, with approximately 50% occupancy in the front. Interestingly, it had no seat-back IFE, rather passengers were supposed to get their screen out of arm rests, which I always find more tedious and inconvenient for many reasons. I also found most seats in business class were clearly worn out and in quick need of a thorough makeover. There were tears and smudges across the cabin seats. I moved to my seat 10A, in the bulkhead row. Who doesn’t like extra legroom, right?

Economy had much better loads on this flight with occupancy of almost 80%. The legroom for a short haul flight was perfectly acceptable although I missed having a footrest on this aircraft, which was on our flight from Istanbul to Zurich. That could also be due to the fact that I was in Bulkhead row of course.

Turkish Airlines A321 - Economy Legroom

Turkish Airlines A321 – Economy Legroom

Our scheduled departure was at 1145 hours, but we started pushing back around 1152 hours, which I thought was pretty acceptable considering the mess at the Passport control. Soon we lined up and were up and airborne by 1201 hours. The view from the window looked serene and peaceful, perfectly matching with my overall view of Scandinavia.

Taking off - Stockholm Arlanda

Taking off – Stockholm Arlanda

Unlike Business, all economy seats featured seat-back IFE. I’m a firm believer of looking out of the window for the perfect IFE, but for whatever its worth, I do enjoy my constant dose of moving map. Based on my little interactions with the IFE system, I found it to be having a good enough mix of entertainment across the board. However, one of the weird things was which got my attention were various cracks near the bottom right of the screen, where the USB port should have been. This was consistent across the cabin, wonder why!

Another thing I want to note here is almost a complete lack of English language on the map screen, which mentioned outside temperature, ground speed, estimate time to arrival etc. Of course Guesstimates started working pretty well after a while, but being an international airline, Turkish Airlines should have sorted this silly issue a long time ago.

Turkish Airlines A321 - Economy IFE Screen

Turkish Airlines A321 – Economy IFE Screen

Service on all our Turkish Airlines flight was perfectly efficient without being overbearing and this flight was no different. Within seven minutes of being airborne, the crew started servicing the legendary Turkish delight. Have I mentioned in the past that I can never get enough of that terrific treat? Lunch menus were distributed in the cabin after 5 minutes, always a good touch rather than making the cabin crew utter names of dishes and explain them at every seat.

Turkish Airlines A321 Lunch Menu

Turkish Airlines A321 Lunch Menu

For this flight, I chose to order “Billur Kebap” as my main selection, accompanied by a cold can of Efes Beer. Lunch was served an hour into the flight, and my tray came with Smoked Salmon, Warm Bread (served in the second meal round), cheese cake, crackers, cheese and some butter. Thanks to my Max hamburger meal earlier I wasn’t really hungry, which also meant I could judge the taste of the food objectively, without getting lost in my hunger emotions.

Turkish Airlines A321 - Economy Lunch Meal

Turkish Airlines A321 – Economy Lunch Meal

As I have said before, I appreciate Turkish Airline cutlery in Economy class, which is faux-steel, but not cheap like regular plastic. I enjoyed my meal, even though the presentation wasn’t of the highest quality. The chicken was tasty, the salmon was well smoked and prepared, and so was the cheesecake.

The crew served Tea/Coffee post meal, which was of little interest to me. I used that time for some shut-eye before our descent into Istanbul started.

Turkish Airlines A321 - Landing at Istanbul

Turkish Airlines A321 – Landing at Istanbul

We landed at Istanbul Ataturk Airport around 1604 hours local time, and parked remotely at our stand by 1614 hours.

Turkish Airlines A321 at Istanbul

Turkish Airlines A321, Remote Parking at Istanbul

The cabin crew on our flight was respectful and courteous and I thought they were attentive to passenger needs. We got into our Turkish Airlines bus to enter the terminal and the driver drove the bus like his a$$ was on fire. I frankly thought his driving skills were unacceptable for an European airline, which may or may not have been borderline acceptable in South Asia. We entered the terminal around 1629 hours and I immediately realised I had left one of my shopping bags in the aircraft overhead bin. The customer service teams in Istanbul airport were clueless how to retrieve it and after spending 25 minutes on it, I decided to let it go.

Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge at Istanbul

Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge at Istanbul

And decided to take the refuge of Turkish Airlines Lounge at Istanbul, before my flight home to New Delhi in roughly three hours. There’s no review of the lounge on this blog, as there are plenty of detailed reviews for this excellent lounge already, which has now become even better with an addition of a lower floor and more space.

 

If you liked this post, why don’t you join many other amazing readers who have followed this blog to receive blog posts via email. No spamming guaranteed 🙂 

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

Train on a Ferry!

Turkish Airlines A320-200 Istanbul to Zurich

SAS Business Lounge, Stockholm Arlanda

Turkish Airlines A321-200 Stockholm to Istanbul

 

If you liked this post, why don’t you join many other amazing readers who have followed this blog to receive blog posts via email. No spamming guaranteed 🙂 

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?

 

If you liked this post, why don’t you join many other amazing readers who have followed this blog to receive blog posts via email. No spamming guaranteed 🙂 

Lemp Incident Highlights Social Media as the Answer

Indian like in Social Media

It’s been over 2 days “Lemp” has been a top trending topic for over 20 million users of Twitter in India. Surprisingly Lemp is not the name of a champion Indian cricketer, a famous Bollywood actor or a corrupt politician caught in yet another scandal.

Lemp is a name of a brewery-restaurant located in the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon, caught in the eye of a social media storm after a group of youngsters were cheated and mentally harassed by the management and owners of the property.

Due to whatever reason the original blog post has been removed, but thanks to Google cache it will forever live on. I would strongly suggest you to read more about the incident here before proceeding further. Scribd also has a copy of the deleted post.

It is yet another example of how a young, educated & web savvy population in India is making sure their voice is not muzzled & their rights not being taken for granted by people in power.

A visit to a restaurant for a ‘Hawaiian Sunday Brunch’ turned out to be too ghastly for a group of youngsters this Sunday, after they had checked out Sunday brunch events listed in the review site, Zomato. Apart from not being served any advertised Hawaiian food, they were overcharged when they wished to leave and threatened with police arrest when they protested about the bill. Besides, the Haryana/Gurgaon police instead of coming to their rescue, chose to side with the owner and manager of the restaurant. The youngsters were just short of being detained for not paying the ‘overcharged’ bill.

The youngsters decided to blog about their experience and since then the Indian twitterverse has been enraged to the say the least. The news is even picked up by the biggest newspaper of the country, Times of India besides other major publications and one of the biggest online news publishers, FirstPost.

Zomato has even come out with a blog post on it’s website supporting the youngsters.

Incidentally, the user rating for Lemp Brewpub & Kitchen on Zomato has had a huge fall to 1.2 from its earlier 3 point something, after the blog post went viral on Social Media.

Lemp opted for a rebuttal by a fake customer, who incidentally has access to all of their CCTV footage. They also threatened the diners with a defamation suit in a very cocky reply to their review, although the unrelenting attack has also forced them to change their name to PurpleBar. So much for transparency.

There were two possible options for Lemp:

1)   Brazen this out, offer their version and prove that those diners were indeed trying to fleece the restaurant. One of the better ways could have been to show CCTV footage of the altercation, without obvious editing of the same. Their press release mentions the same but even after 4 days of the incident, nothing has been released yet.

2)   Apologize. Admit that they messed up, a spur-of-the-hour moment for them, which shall never be repeated, with sincere apologies on video by the management and the owner. Convince those youngsters to visit the restaurant once more and actually organize a Hawaiian Sunday brunch, on the house for them. Considering the egos involved, this certainly seems like a definite no-go and I’m not surprised that Lemp has decided to go ahead with option 1.

After much hullabaloo, Lemp issued a statement last night (on Scribd) offering their version of events, including insights from their social media agency, as to who could be behind all of this, clearly going on the offensive.

In a country where consumer rights are always taken for granted, our proud history of free speech and the opportunities provided by the power of social media is making sure that the voice of the common man can be heard loud and clear.

It’s a welcome change and one that the common Indian hopes will make the “high and mighty” think twice before taking him for a ride.

This blog post has also been featured by The WALL here, one of the world’s leading blog on Digital and Social Media.

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

Real Time Marketing in India

RTM in India

Real Time Marketing in India

Few weeks back when I wrote about the top digital marketing trends for India, RTM (Real Time Marketing) did not figure in the list. But then February 3rd, also known as Super Bowl Blackout day happened & the world of marketing promised not to be the same ever again.

I started thinking about RTM scenarios for the Indian market & how our marketers could take advantage of those opportunities. But what really drove me to write this post was a session during ad:tech new delhi 2013.

RTM is not a new phenomena which spawned one fine evening when Oreo & it’s agency partner decided to dunk in the dark, & in the process became a lifelong case study for this marketing genre. Instead Real Time Marketing techniques were developed in 1990s with initial deployments of CRM solutions in major sectors, but it wasn’t so glamorous & thus not thought about much during that time.

Marketing has altered radically in the last few years — perhaps more than any other business role — and the progression will absolutely continue as marketers become more single-minded, swift and supple.

Oreo Super Bowl Blackout Tweet

Oreo Super Bowl Blackout Tweet

With over 150 million internet users, & 100 million social network user base, India as a market is ripe for some RTM action but this form of marketing goes far beyond simply posting a timely tweet (see Oreo/Tide during blackout), a status update or even a vine posting (see Calvin Klein). Brands have to expand the use of real time social analytics, create great content to drive engagement & make on-the-fly decisions around trending relevant topics. That certainly is hard to fathom in current Indian marketing culture.

Current culture being the key statement in the last paragraph.

Because Indian consumers have moved on & so must the marketing techniques employed to entertain & engage them. A recent study in fact did say, “Engaging customers through content & other outreach techniques is getting increased attention from marketers in India”.

Tide Super Bowl Blackout Tweet

Tide Super Bowl Blackout Tweet

But most Indian marketers still find it challenging to cut through the information clutter today to resonate. Mostly because they are not used to customers driving interactions (after all it was one way shouting till a while back) & taking control of the relationship they share.

Marketing strategies still rely heavily on arranging everything, to the T. That practice has to give way. Marketers can plan, but can’t choreograph consumer behavior.

With the sixth edition of Indian Premier League starting in April, Indian brands have a grand stage to get daring with their consumers & in the process get embraced.

The biggest opportunity out of all brands clearly lies with Pepsi. Pepsi is not just the official presenting sponsor for IPL 6; it is a youth driven brand urging its TA to “Live for Now”. In India its latest brand tagline “Oh Yes, Abhi” conveys the same spirit of Now, Instant & Dynamism to the impatient Indian youth.

Although my views about Pepsi not introducing the new logo in the Indian market even after 4+ years is widely known on twitter, I still believe being a challenger cola brand a new approach can have a positive impact for them.

That new approach is not just premiering new TVCs on YouTube, because that is passé, it is not just dumb tweets asking who your favorite cricketer is, it is making custom content for its online consumers which needs to be fun & useful.

& If some of that can be made at twitter speed, it would be Quaker oats on the milk (let me know if you have a better suggestion for this?)

I should also note that the instant Oreo Super Bowl ad followed a 100-day program called “Daily Twist” that began in June 2012 and ended on October 2nd, 2012. It was 100 days of real-time posting of Oreo’s responses to what was happening in the news, such as the Mars Rover landing and the anniversary of the ATM. So in no way it was a fluke or a creative that popped out of nowhere.

Another extensively acknowledged case study has been the work done on Old Spice campaign through YouTube, “The man your man could smell like”. Here’s a helpful link to take you back to 2010.

Real Time Marketing is clearly not cut out for every brand, nor it can be done without extensive resources on a continuous basis. Probably the easiest way to implement it would be to start using it in select functions & not across the marketing department off the bat.

I firmly believe that RTM has few unique principles:

1)   Focus on individual interactions

2)   Need for adaptive campaigns

3)   Strong alignment with other key departments like sales

4)   Customer collaboration

That certainly is not a comprehensive list & just like it’s core, these principles are ever changing & dynamic in nature.

In today’s aggressive and rapidly fluid economy, brands are determined to remain at the vanguard of their industries, which gives Real time marketing its spotlight. By allowing marketing to be “better, faster, and cheaper,” and be more flexible in the face of change, RTM 24/7 can help brands in their efforts to create a competitive advantage.

Brands can also expect RTM to benefit their offerings by increasing WOM (Word of Mouth), Media Receptivity, Social Media Presence and increased chances of consideration by the consumer.

Let me conclude with one of my key learning’s from ad:tech new delhi 2013 about marketing “Don’t wait to be perfect, just start”, after all Brands can afford to be “flawsome”

This piece has also appeared on India Digital Review as a Guest Article

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!!!)