CHECK-IN Despite being on a connecting flight from London to Hong Kong – both legs operated by Jet Airways – I was required to check-in once again at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Terminal 2. The personnel at Heathrow were unable to issue the Mumbai-Hong Kong ticket since it was “restricted”.
So upon arrival in Mumbai at 0015, I made my way to the transit hall. Surprisingly, the lone staff member was unaware that none of the passengers connecting to Hong Kong had received plane tickets. This resulted in some angry passengers.
Eventually a single staff member was tasked with the check-in process. With over 30 passengers to process, this took some time.
I passed through security quickly and efficiently, but something I did notice was that males and females had separate queues.
TRANSIT The flight was supposed to depart Mumbai at 0205, but was delayed until 0550. With an over four-hour wait until departure, I resolved to grab a bite along with some rest at the airport.
I wandered around the area looking for a place to relax, and found some snooze pods. Available for Rs 650 (US$10) per hour, these are little rooms with a bed, soundproof doors and an air-conditioning unit. I booked the room for two hours and slept soundly. The bed and linens seemed fresh.
BOARDING This began at 0450, one hour before departure. This is typical for all Jet Airways flights, and is perhaps one of the key reasons the carrier is well known for its excellent on-time record. By the time I reached the gate at 0520, nearly all passengers had boarded.
THE SEAT I was assigned aisle seat 29G, which was located just behind the business class cabin (branded as Premiere). Something to note is that Jet Airways maintains two different configurations for its Boeing B777-300ER aircraft, with one featuring 274 economy class seats, and the other 308. I was on the latter. Both configurations have eight seats in first, and 30 in business.
This means the B777-300ER with 308 economy class seats sports the controversial 10 across, 3-4-3 layout. Thankfully, the two seats beside me were unoccupied, meaning that I could stretch my legs quite comfortably.
Each economy class seat featured a 32-inch pitch, and measured 17 inches in width. There is also a foldable tray table, as well as a 10.6-inch personal touch screen television set.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Seats closer to the front of the economy cabin that offer direct aisle access are comfortable, offer convenience, and slightly more legroom. Seats C, D, G, and H on row 26 are recommended.
Passengers looking for some peace and quiet may want to keep away from row 30, which offers a bassinet for babies. Moreover, these seats are located just behind the toilets, which means those sat at on that row may be distracted regularly.
THE FLIGHT As everybody had boarded the aircraft early, we were able to push back at 0545 – about five minutes ahead of schedule. We took off shortly after at 0558.
Upon reaching cruising altitude, the seatbelt sign was turned off, and the captain issued his opening address to inform us that the flight from Mumbai to Hong Kong was expected to take a mere five and a half hours – significantly shorter than the typical six-hour journey.
Having most of the entire middle row to myself, I lifted the armrests of the next two seats so that I could stretch my legs out on the seats, all the while being careful not to hit the person who was sat at the far left. I took a short nap, before being awoken approximately an hour into the flight by a stewardess who was serving breakfast. The choice was omelette or a vegetable sandwich – I chose the former.
The food was pleasant, if a touch bland. The fruit salad was the standout for me – extremely sweet and juicy.
Jet Airways offers an excellent range of audio visual on demand content through its inflight entertainment system, JetScreen. Many of the latest Hollywood offerings were available, and I’d imagine the same holds true for its Bollywood offerings. I watched the new Superman movie, Man of Steel.
ARRIVAL Quite remarkably, our descent was well ahead of schedule at 1300 (Hong Kong time), and the plane touched down at 1325 – 15 minutes earlier than expected.
VERDICT A comfortable and highly efficient flight, though my experience at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport is one that I was quite prepared to leave behind.
Departure time: 0545
Flight length: 5 hours
Internet rates for a return economy class flight from Mumbai to Hong Kong in April start from Rs 136,058 (US$2,185).