Tried & Tested

Jet Airways B737-800, economy

1 Jan 2006 by intern22

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: I arrived at Mumbai’s points, domestic terminal (Jet Airways uses a brand-new facility) at 1625 by transfer from the nearby Leela Palace hotel for my 1750 departure. My bags were security screened and I was checked in by e-ticket in a matter of minutes.

Using the terminal was great. It is compact, bright, clean and utilitarian, being designed to process passengers swiftly and at minimal cost. It’s something that would go down a treat with Europe’s budget carriers. Jet Airways flies this route nine times daily, in competition with several other airlines.

BOARDING: I sat in one of several large seating areas (where passengers are entertained by a giant flat-screen TV) to while away the 20 minutes before the flight was called at 1710. There are no airbridges; passengers are marshalled behind boarding points, then ushered onto air-conditioned buses (these leave every minute or so) which shuttle you to the plane.After one final boarding pass check, it was up the steps and into the Boeing B737-800.

The young, smart and enthusiastic cabin staff provided a warm welcome. The plane was newish but appeared slightly tired. My fellow passengers were almost all members of India’s emerging middle classes – hardly surprising as air travel is aspirational in this part of the world.

THE SEAT: I sat in 27E, the middle seat of three (seating configuration is 3-3). Legroom is 74cm (similar to Ryanair) and felt cramped on this fully booked 530-mile flight. I was sitting a few rows from the back.

THE FLIGHT: There was a delay in boarding all passengers so we left the stand 10 minutes late at 1750 and taxied down to the far end of the runway for take-off. Once airborne, staff wheeled out packed trolleys of soft drinks and hot meals, and handed out cold towels. I accepted a lime juice drink and declined the meal as I was heading for a dinner engagement in Bangalore. Later, when the passenger in front reclined his seat, I had no space at all and it would have been impossible to eat, let alone enjoy,my meal.

ARRIVAL: It was dark by the time we reached Bangalore at 1920 (five minutes late).We had a smooth landing and parked on the apron for a short bus transfer to the terminal.My bag quickly appeared on the carousel. Bangalore was cool and relaxed after the frenetic energy and heat of Mumbai. The Leela Palace’s meet and greet service was waiting and whisked me by BMW to the hotel in a matter of minutes.

VERDICT: This was a top service from India’s largest airline still largely unknown in the West. The seat was the only minus point.

PRICE: A return flight from Mumbai to Bangalore costs US$321.

Alex McWhirter

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