Here I am in India, flying from Delhi to Bangalore to Calcutta. I’m doing the research to update my India Business Checklists book, published in 2009 by John Wiley. I have the rights back, and plan an updated limited edition in 2013.
So, back to the flying. “Business class,” recommended a US-based friend. “It’s bad enough flying around India.”
It isn’t, at least so far. I flew Jetair, economy, from Delhi to Bangalore, and I have to say that economy in India is way better than business class in the US.
This was my experience:
Checking in was painless, and so was security. I didn’t have to remove my shoes or belt or go through x-rays or physical pat-downs; instead, a young woman ran a wand over me, and was done in a minute. I headed for my gate.
Delhi airport’s new terminal is enormous, with too few travelators.
(Click here for Delhi Airport: The Good, the Bad and the Mucked Up – my report from a year ago.)
Still, walking is good for you, so I grumpily trekked all the way to Gate 51, in the distant suburbs of the airport, passing some rather depressing airport art – life-size statues that looked like they were cast in cheap resin.
The gate had no shops nearby, but it did have a Pepsi vending machine. The same kind that spat out my rupee-notes the last time.
This time, it accepted the notes… but the packet stuck in the machine. I thumped the glass, nothing happened. Then I noticed the number to call blazoned on the top, so I pulled out my cellphone and called. Unlike last year, it was answered promptly. “I will send someone in five minutes,” they promised. I sat down to wait. Almost immediately, a small truck pulled up. (Yes, the airport is large enough that they have trucks trundling through the corridors.) Two men jumped out. One handed me the stuck package, the other checked the stacking so it wouldn’t happen again. Elapsed time, maybe 4 minutes. Kudos!
Significantly less grumpy, I boarded the flight. I had the window seat I’d requested. The middle seat was empty, and the gentleman in the aisle seat courteous. There was actual leg-room; even though the passenger in front of me had reclined his seat, I had space to move.
The flight was only a little over two hours, but they served a snack, with choices of vegetarian and non. It was catered by the Taj inflight kitchen. Given the Taj’s reputation, I expected the food to by hygienic and tasty, and I wasn’t disappointed. The flight attendants were solicitous, as though they actually wanted passengers to be pleased with the service.
At Bangalore airport, they didn’t have an air-bridge, but three coaches arrived in quick succession to ferry us to the terminal. My suitcase arrived soon after I did. I was approached by a number of people going “taxi, ma’am?” but I ignored them and made my way to a taxi queue being ably managed by a young man in uniform. The taxi knew where to find my address, and 90 minutes later, I was home. (Bangalore airport seems to have been inspired by Narita or something… it’s practically in another city.)
So: I get the impression that India’s rebooted air travel to version 2.0, the better one than the current US version 3.0 that includes intrusive security, junk-food for purchase on-board, harried attendants, and overbooked flights.
Yes. Flying economy in India is way better than flying business in the US.