6E332 Goa Dabolim GOI – Delhi Indira Gandhi DEL
Airbus A320-200 VT-IFR
Gate 2C Seat 1B
Initially I was scheduled to fly on Jet Airways back to Delhi where I would catch an international flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Jet Airways flight was scheduled to fly via Mumbai and I found out the flight I was on was delayed and I managed to get on the earlier flight by calling the Jet Airways counter that would still let me make the connecting flight from Mumbai, scheduled to arrive in Delhi at 1835 with enough time for my international flight departing at 2125. So I was dropped off by the shuttle between the international and domestic terminal, but not knowing which terminal is which, I just head to one direction and turns out it was wrong. Anyway Air India does use the international terminal in Goa, while all other airlines uses the domestic terminal.
Passengers need to show their tickets before entering the terminal and there was different security screening for different flights, so the queue can get quite long since afternoon is a busy period for flights out of Goa. Flights to North India was a mess that day due to fog or so according to Jet Airways, whose flights to Mumbai are all delayed.
With a connection to Delhi, I had to cancel and buy another ticket on IndiGo where one of the staff actually helped me find a seat on. The service by Jet Airways staff was commendable at first but he had to leave me halfway as he had to return to his desk which is a busy period for Goa airport. So after purchasing my ticket, I needed to get the refund for my Jet Airways ticket but somehow the system is taking a long time and I am approaching the time cut off for check-in for the IndiGo flight. This meant I had to make the refund in Delhi instead. Again, I was forced to re-join the queue which is much longer now and the security screening was also very long for the IndiGo flight.
During the check-in, I was fortunate to meet another solo traveller who actually paid for my ‘upgrade’ to the bulkhead seats. But being a low cost carrier, it also meant I needed to pay for my checked luggage. After getting my boarding pass, I now had to rejoin the super long queue for another security screening to enter the departure hall. There was a Korean family with 2 kids behind me that was also quite frustrated with how the airport functions but I think they still made it in time.
Fortunately I got past the chaos and into the terminal which is no better as it was noisy with really nothing else to do but wait. The saving grace was that I could see the tarmac from the second floor of the waiting hall which IndiGo uses. Oh and to get to the second floor, there was only the elevators as the escalators are not working. Goa really needs the new airport terminal fast!
As it got close to boarding time, I was getting impatient to board, partly due to the anxiety and wondering if the IndiGo flight will even depart on time. Anyway the boarding was slightly delayed but at least there was some sense of order and queue. Amongst the other Indian airlines, IndiGo perhaps stand out with the way they used new buses that have lower platforms making it easier to get on board with luggage. Another surprise awaited when I arrived in front of the plane. Passengers seated in the front could get onboard via this ramp which allow cabin baggage to be carried up with ease. Now all airlines should have these in place especially if they frequently need to do remote stand embarkation and disembarkation!
Once onboard, I was also pleasantly surprised with the well-maintained cabin that sparkles in comparison to the cabin onboard Air India or Jet Airways. This really got me excited as I thought to myself what a blessing in disguise this whole turn of events has been. Well I guess this far in my trip, IndiGo seems to perform better than either 9W or AI.
The blue theme of the airline is carried onto the cabin and it reminds me of Jet Blue in the United States. IndiGo operates an all-economy class seating though charges extra for preferred seats and it also features transparent plastic divider on the bulkhead which ‘opens’ out the cabin a bit. Boarding took some time as there was a break in between the buses arriving to drop off passengers. I took this chance to take photos from the still relatively empty cabin.
With the boarding process completed, the tone of the flight set by the crew was a stark difference from Air India or JetKonnect. The crew seems more upbeat about the flight and definitely lifted our spirits along during take-off. The seats in the Airbus A320 fleet were slightly less comfortable though due to the thin seat back materials but the whole cabin experience and legroom was a vast improvement over other Indian airlines. Even though I was in the middle seat, it was still the best domestic flight I had in India!
My newly-made friend came onboard later as he had lounge access from his credit cards and thus boarded much later. Originally seated across the aisle from me, he was able to change seats with my original seat-mate and thus we just started chatting the flight away. Turns out he was in Goa for business the whole week and is heading back to Delhi where he lives. When I mentioned Bangkok would be my next destination, I learned more since he is a frequent visitor to Bangkok and the city is also a favourite destination amongst many Indians as I had recently read in a magazine at the Park Hyatt.
Having a seat mate as a conversation partner made the flight seems faster and about half an hour after take-off, the crew offered buy-on-board snacks and beverages. My seat-mate got some sandwiches while I bought a Masala flavoured potato stick snack that I shared with my seat mate. However as I was not even hungry, I did not finish it at all, even if I did enjoy the snack. I also got myself some water from the crew which they serve complimentary to passengers.
After offering the inflight meal service to passengers, the cabin crew came around to conduct duty free retail, and the items being sold could actually be seen from the Hello 6E inflight magazine. I was originally interested to purchase an IndiGo t-shirt as a memento of this flight but the airline was not able to accept any credit card as payment and thus I had to abandon that plan.
Anyway during the flight my seat-mate did not pay the server for the buy-on-board as his wallet was left in his bag on the overhead compartment but he did so after the completion and service and it seems the cabin crew was fine with that. I had some short rest during the flight as I knew I had a long night ahead and before long it was already sunset and the captain announced out descent into foggy Delhi.
Disembarking at Delhi, there was the ramp once again which made IndiGo such a great airline to fly within India but the funny thing was the bureaucracy was at work again. We disembarked right outside the terminal door, but passengers were directed to take the bus which had to drive some distance, made a U-turn and drop us off at a few steps from where we started. The whole thing just left me wordless on what to say…
Inside the terminal, it was just left to waiting for my luggage which once again took some time. It seems the domestic terminal is less efficient than the international terminal. Even though my IndiGo flight arrived late, it still arrived earlier than my scheduled flight and definitely earlier than my much-delayed flight. So I still had time to just take the free shuttle bus to the International Terminal after collecting my luggage. However, the bus just did not come even after waiting for around 20-30 minutes. There was no timetable of the schedule and just a lot of touts around the waiting area that just irks me a little bit such that I made my decision to take a cab to the new International Terminal.
Now comes the interesting part, it was originally stated the taxi fare would be around 300 Rupees or so, and that was more or less what I had left since I was on the tail end of my Indian trip and I did not have much cash left on me. The taxi should have switched the meter but my driver said his meter was faulty and wanted to ask for the additional airport parking fee. Somehow I insisted on just 300 Rupees and not a single more as I think it was a good rate for a 5 minute drive. The whole incident just left a bad impression of India on me as I believe in sticking to a price negotiated and not give extra surprises to passengers. The whole infrastructure problem even with such a nice international airport seems like a half-hearted effort that just spoils my day. Practically the flight with IndiGo was the only high point of my day so far and I was hoping that the flight on Malaysia Airlines might be a new high.