Atlanta to India on 4 airlines

I invariably find a shortage of clean clothes when packing for a trip and this time was no exception. Faced with the prospect of either doing laundry at 1am or managing with 2 sets of clean underwear for an entire week, I wisely chose the former and decided to pass up on the chance to grab any sleep before departing. Since I had to be at the airport early to get my CX ticket reissued by AA and also had luggage to check, I figured I would splurge for a cab rather than go with MARTA. Accordingly, I ordered one for 5am which would leave plenty of time for a 7am flight departure - or so I thought.

Of course, as invariably happens on days when time is of the essence, I got delayed chatting with a friend on the phone and wound up having to scramble to get everything together by the time the cab arrived. He was very amused by Checker Cab's automated dial-a-cab system which informed me that my ride would be operated by "Cab 42" and that it was running on schedule, with an estimated travel time of 17 minutes down to Hartsfield. Damn, I love technology!

The drive down to Hartsfield was quick enough and I was deposited by the AA counters just before 530am. Their early morning MIA flight had cancelled, so there was a horrible line that stretched all the way to the Alabama border and back. I mentally berated myself for not having the foresight to acquire oneworld elite status in advance of this trip, but fortunately the line for us proles seemed to be moving pretty quick.

Sure enough, I was at the front within 15 minutes and presented my itinerary to the poor agent with a brief explanation of what I needed done. A look of utter horror stared back at me, getting progressively more horrific as I continued with my request. For the benefit of the readers (and to explain just how complicated this was), I had a partially used AAdvantage award ticket from Atlanta to Hong Kong to Bombay that I now needed reissued on Cathay Pacific from Los Angeles to Delhi returning to Atlanta via Toronto. Confused yet? She sure was.

We spent over 30 minutes working on the itinerary, but she could not for the life of her figure out what to do, let alone how to do it. Finally, around 620am I decided to end her misery (and catch my flight), so I got her to note in the record that I would complete the ticketing during my layover in Memphis and headed towards the Northwest counters to check in. Just another manic Monday....

The lengthy lines at NW rivalled those at AA, but fortunately this was somewhere that I DID have status so I marched right up to Ted at the Elite/First Class counter and proceeded to check in. Ted remembered me from one of my mileage runs last year (who wouldnt remember a 10 segment RT to Seattle after all), so he didn't even bat an eyelid when I asked him to check my bag through to DEL via MEM, LAX and HKG. I collected my boarding card for 8D on the ATL-MEM leg and 5F for MEM-LAX, and was informed that I was #3 on the standby list for the upgrade on the first segment, but there were only 12 pax checked in so far. I kept my fingers crossed and headed out to Concourse D.

Alas, when I arrived at the gate I immediately noticed that the expected DC9-30 had been downgraded to a smaller DC9-10 for this sector, meaning among other things that there were only 14 First Class seats instead of the usual 16. However, it also meant that they would be needing volunteers so I immediately had my name added to the list. Sadly enough, I missed BOTH positive outcomes by the slimmest of margins. The flight closed out exactly full and First Class filled up without me. I trundled dejectedly down the jetway to take my coach seat, only to find that the overhead bins were now full and that I would have to check my rollaboard. Just f***ing great. I collected my tag for Memphis and took my seat after glaring at the folks in First Class who had stolen my upgrade.

There was a sweet elderly couple in 8EF next to me and the wife was trying to make polite conversation as we taxied out. She remarked that they were heading to Seattle from Memphis and that they wouldn't get there until 5pm! I rather rudely retorted that I wouldn't reach my final destination until Wednesday evening. That shut her up for a while and I was asleep before we even reached the runway. I guess she wasn't too annoyed though, because the next thing I remember was her gently shaking me awake saying "we're almost there dear" as we taxied to the gate in Memphis.

I headed directly down to baggage claim to reclaim my rollaboard, but after impatiently pacing for all of 5 minutes, I decided to head back up to the AA desks and get my ticket taken care of. It was right after 730am and my next flight wasn't till 9am.

The agent at the AA counter was named Dwight Crenshaw and had the patience of Job coupled with the tolerance of Gandhi (or is it the other way around?). He poked and prodded and called and typed and did whatever he had to do, but finally after just about an hour he proudly handed me my stack of reissued ticket coupons. I thanked him profusely, promised to sacrifice my first born child in his honor and dashed back down to baggage claim praying that someone hadn't helped themselves to a free rollaboard with a gate check tag.

My heart sank as I failed to spot my baby either on the conveyors or among the line of temporarily orphaned bags patiently awaiting adoption outside the baggage services office. My eyes misting up with tears, I stumbled into the office and sobbingly described it to the sympathetic agent (ok, maybe it wasn't exactly like that but its called dramatic license!). To my amazement, she seemed familiar with it (black rollaboard? NW and DL Elite tags? going to LAX?). Evidently, one of the agents had spotted it lying on its lonesome ownsome, cross referenced my elite tags to my itinerary and had retagged it to LAX. Viva Northwest baggage services!

I headed back up to the gate, stopping at McDonalds along the way to pick up some Sausage McMuffins. I arrived just as the final set of pax was boarding. Once again, First Class was full, but the bulkhead window 5F provided me with plenty of legroom. We pushed back immediately, but the captain announced a 45 minute ground hold before we would be airborne, so I proceeded to devour my breakfast before heading off to dreamland yet again. Announced flight time was exactly 4 hours.

I woke up about 30 minutes out of LAX and headed back to freshen up and grab a soda before landing. It was a lovely sunny day in Southern California and I could see the poppies swaying gently in the jet exhaust as we touched down. We taxied in to Terminal 2 between the pair of 747s headed for Japan and I dialled up my voicemail system as soon as the door was opened.

I exited onto the jetway to the sound of "you have 4 new messages" through my earpiece. Voicemail #1 was a telemarketer - delete, #2 and #3 were colleagues, and #4 was Cathay Pacific calling to say that my flight was running 3 hours late and I would misconnect in Hong Kong. I cussed like a sailor all the way to baggage claim, drawing very curious looks from the assorted Hare Krishnas who were doing their usual proselytizing.

I collected my bag soon enough and walked over to the Bradley Terminal to talk to Cathay about the major problem that had just cropped up. The supervisor was very sympathetic and offered to rebook me on any flight to Hong Kong that would get me there in time to make my DEL connection. Unfortunately, United had already departed which left me with no alternatives to HKG. Since my ticket had been issued by AA, I was asked to go talk to them about a direct reroute to DEL.

So I trudged off to Terminal 4, making some calls along the way. I was able to reach Patrick on his cellphone and he very kindly began to look for alternatives. The AA people were much less helpful. I spent almost an hour there, but all they could offer me was SR to ZRH and then standby on ZRH-DEL. Thanks but no thanks. They finally told me that my HKG-DEL flight may be running late as well, so I should stick with CX and take my chances there. I could tell they were desperate by now, so I thanked them for their time and headed back to Bradley.

Suddenly, right as I was about to enter the terminal, my eye spotted an attractive blonde standing by the curb smoking a cigarette. It was my friend Diana! What an amazing coincidence! She had come down to LAX to take care of some ticketing work for her trip to LHR this week and decided to swing by Bradley to see if she could spot me waiting for the CX flight. By an absolute coincidence our paths happened to cross!

She came in with me to the CX desk and I discussed flight options with the supervisor while Di played with her brand new Sony Vaio. We finally decided that I would head out to HKG as scheduled and work on rebookings over there. They sent a message down to pull my luggage and have it retagged, checked me in for 55H (bulkhead aisle) and sent me on my way.

Diana and I then headed up to the food court where we grabbed a quick bite at the Mexican place. The quesadillas were excellent and we savored them as we watched the Alitalia MD-11 load up for its evening flight. She headed out around 415pm and I proceeded to browse the duty free selections, before heading to the gate around 5pm for a rescheduled flight time of 530pm.

The aircraft assigned for today's flight was B-HOV and she looked rather ratty from the outside as I wandered towards gate 105. They were nowhere near ready to board when I arrived there, so I made a quick detour to the bookshop and picked up some reading materials for the flight. I got back to the gate to discover that a whole bunch of Asians had lined up in a very orderly fashion during my absence. I figured that I would inevitably disrupt their activity, so I stood stoically off to a side until they had all passed before heading on board.

There were only 143 of us on the flight, so everyone got to spread out nicely. I had all three seats of the bulkhead row (55HJK) which was a tradeoff between movable armrests (negative) and adjustable PTVs (positive). I made some more phonecalls until we started to push back and then occupied myself with perusing the inflight entertainment selections. As we rotated off 25L, I made a mental note that the RB211 engines had a much deeper throated roar compared to the PW4056s that I was used to. This was an immediately followed by a mental reprimand for being such a tool that I actually noticed it. There was no announcement of the expected flying time. Well, there may have been but it was either done in Chinese or with an indecipherable accent.

Immediately after we levelled out, the crew came around first with menu cards and then with the drink service. I decided on a vodka orange and after one sip realized that these guys mix their drinks a lot less potent than their American counterparts. The first entertainment program screened was an infomercial type piece featuring a rather scantily clad Chinese couple performing calisthenics while captions such as "Deep Vein Thrombosis" flashed on the screen. I used this time to figure out how the games worked and soon enough I was busy playing Reversi against the box of wires under my seat. The box won.

I flipped back to the Television and realized that the Chinese couple had yielded to the opening titles of a film starring Mel Gibson, so I settled back to watch. The movie was "What Women Want" and featured a scene where Gibson is discovered trying on women's lingerie. Hey dude, whatever floats your boat! Towards the end of the movie, I realized that the meal cart was now trolling the aisles and had reached my seat. The sweet flight attendant asked me for my choice and my reflex answer (can you tell I have non-rev roots?) was "Whatever you have more of". She looked visibly confused and upset and proceeded to assure me that everything was available. I gave her a wide grin and said "Ok, then YOU pick for me!". This tact seemed to work better and she giggled as she handed me a tray of the Pork Stew with stir fried Pak Choy.

I gobbled down the food, pausing briefly to dream of a utopia where North American airlines served anything remotely in the same class. Once the trays were cleared, I settled down for a nap, awakening 4.5 hrs later. Of course, this meant that we were barely halfway through the flight but I decided that enough was enough and headed to the lav to freshen up. They had a tray of tuna sandwiches set up in the galley and I grabbed a few along with a cup of water and headed back to my seat for the Reversi rematch. Now I'm no Grand Master at Reversi, but I have won more than my fair share of games over the years. However, that darn box gets to practice day in and day out and whipped my butt yet again. I sulkingly shut it down and turned my attentions back to channel surfing.

The next movie I picked was "Billy Elliott" and this was significantly better than its predesessor, but the rather disturbing trend of men wearing women's lingerie continued. I wondered if this was some sort of sublime message from Cathay Pacific, but dismissed it as paranoia. My mind began to wander toward the end of the movie and I began plotting strategy to beat the box. As soon as the credits began to roll, I switched back to the game and this time my steely determination paid off. The box was vanquished by a score of 42-22 and I celebrated with another tuna sandwich.

The cinematic experience continued with George Clooney in "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" which didn't feature any cross dressing. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and selected "The Family Man" for my next feature presentation. I was too busy ogling Téa Leoni during this one though, so any weird gender-underwear combinations may have slipped my notice. Midway through the movie we finally made landfall around Northern Japan and the second meal service began. This time the flight attendant was prepared for me and didn't even hesitate to hand me the lasagna when I replied "Anything!" to her solicitation of my meal preference.

Once the movie was done, I headed to the lav to freshen up and then settled back for the last few minutes of our approach into Chep Lap Kok. I tell you, Hong Kong just isn't the same without dear old Kai Tak. We touched down smoothly right around midnight after a flight time of 14:21 and taxied to gate 3. It was already Wednesday by now - my entire Tuesday had failed to exist! As soon as the doors opened, a Cathay agent came over the PA system reading off a whole list of badly mangled passenger names (including mine) who had misconnected. It felt nice to be back in a country where the residents cannot figure out that "Sean" is pronounced "SHAWN" and not "SEEN"!

I headed down the jetway only to find a rather stern looking Matron standing with a sign directing Delhi, Manila and Taipei passengers to a corner where we were made to stand single file and had color coded stickers applied to our jackets. I thought this was rather amusing, but another Indian gentleman seemed to take offense to the whole process and began shouting, much to the chagrin of the very timid Sticker Girl. Since the Indian man spoke no Chinese and Sticker Girl spoke no Hindi and neither could understand each other's accented English, I figured I would step in and play translator cum peacemaker. Sure enough, a few choice Hindi words later everything was hunky dory and Sticker Girl proceeded to march us down the corridor to the transit area.

One thing I noticed about the Cathay staff was that they had the most intricate contingency plans set up for the situation, but if anyone so much as strayed a single step from the norm they got all flustered. They sat us down in a corner again with Sticker Girl assigned to guard us while Matron went away to get our flight coupons endorsed and our hotel vouchers issued. I chatted for a while with Sticker Girl, who turned out to be named Maggie Tam, and explained that a simple endorsement of my ticket to another carrier would NOT suffice because it was an Award ticket issued on American Airlines stock. She seemed to realize what I was saying and spoke rapidly into her walkie talkie in Chinese. Matron returned soon after with a stack of our coupons endorsed to AI or UA, hotel vouchers and departure tax exemption vouchers.

I tried desperately to explain to Matron that a simple endorsement of an award ticket WOULD NOT work, but she insisted that it would and that CX would call me in the morning to confirm. It was getting late now so I just let it slide and figured I would sort it out the next day. I proceeded through passport control and arrived at baggage claim, only to find that Maggie had already retrieved my bags and was waiting for me at the customs desks. Talk about customer service! She then proceeded to lead the entire entourage over to the Regal Airport Hotel where CX had arranged for us to spend the night.

I checked in right behind the Manila misconnects and collected my keycard for room 5103, my vouchers for breakfast and lunch and a printed sheet outlining the facilities available at the hotel. The business center was allegedly open 24 hours, but on inquiry that was only to "receive faxes" - otherwise it was a 7am to 10pm thing. Whatever.

The room itself was decent with the usual hotel accoutrements. Unfortunately, the telephone had a ridiculous surcharge for every calling card call made, so I decided to wander back to the airport and use a payphone. I explored the airport for a while under the watchful eyes of the night security folks and finally headed back to my room where I proceeded to shower and crash around 2am.

At 530am my phone rang and I groggily answered. Evidently someone at CX had mixed me up with the MNL pax and had asked the hotel to set my wakeup call accordingly. Ugh. Back to sleep. At 615am, the phone rang again. This time it was CX staff at the counter calling to confirm that I wasn't headed to Manila. Once again, I replied in the negative. Back to sleep. At 830am, the phone rang yet again. This was the CX ticket office asking me to stop by their counter during the morning so they could confirm my rebooking. I just gave up on sleep now and decided to head down for breakfast. A wise decision in retrospect.

The CX vouchers I received for meals entitled me to the breakfast and lunch buffets in the coffee shop on the lowest level. I was pleasantly surprised to find an amazingly lavish spread laid out there. It made me realize that I hadn't eaten a REAL meal since I left Atlanta almost 48 hours earlier. Accordingly, I pigged out on the smoked salmon and the dim sum with a little bit of everything else as well. I headed back to the room around 10am and grabbed a couple more hours of shuteye.

At 1245pm, I headed out to the CX service desk at the airport. The supervisor there was very polite, but was also adamant that the ticket endorsement would be enough for UA. I asked her to call over and check, which she reluctantly proceeded to do. Unfortunately, the conversation was conducted in rapid fire Chinese so I had to take her word that UA had approved it.

Back to the hotel around 130pm and headed back down for lunch this time. The spread was not quite as lavish as breakfast, but featured an interesting seafood bar with oysters, shrimp and crabs. I partook of the repast and then decided to head to the business center and check my email.

The business center was quite efficient and quoted me HK$25 per 10 minutes of internet use. I spent 30 minutes checking various things, noting with interest an email from my mom telling me that my dad's flight had changed and that he would now be flying DEL-BOM on AI 754 which left 45 minutes after the UA flight got into DEL. A perfect connection!

I checked out of the hotel around 6pm and headed over to the UA counters where I tried to check-in for the 930pm flight to DEL. The agent took one look at my endorsed award ticket and immediately told me that it would not be acceptable. I was livid at this point and stormed back over to Cathay and demanded a supervisor. The supervisor was very apologetic and immediately wrote out a manual FIM. Finally! What was so hard about getting this done last night?

Headed back to UA and this time my documents met the scrutiny of the check-in agent. I asked about the possibility of using miles to upgrade to Business Class since the FIM is ticketed as a full Y class fare, but she said that upgrades were not available. I figured that maybe the flight was full, so I didn't press the issue. I WAS assigned seat 35H, which is the exit row seat in Economy Plus, so I figured it wouldn't be too bad for the 6 hour hop over to DEL.

I headed through passport control, then security and finally emerged by the Reuters and Samsung Internet lounges. I spent a happy hour or so there and then headed down to the concourse level. The place was bustling with a variety of flights to places whose names I could barely pronounce and I watched in amazement as airlines ranging from Qantas to DragonAir took to the skies. I decided to pass on the train and walk down to gate 67 which took me a solid 20 minutes.

I arrived at the gate right before 9pm and was surprised to find only a handful of folks waiting for the flight. I asked the agent what was up and she replied that there were only 53 passengers booked and this was typical of the loads so far. I now thought back to my denied upgrade and enquired why it was denied, since Business Class was obviously not full. Evidently, the route restrictions do not allow upgrades for HKG-DEL standalone segments unless they are either purchased in the United States or have an additional international tag segment. Since I did not qualify on either count, I was banished behind the curtain. C'est la vie.

Boarding commenced on time and everyone was seated within minutes. Once again, my row had no movable armrests, but the ample legroom more than made up for it. The aircraft was ship 8197 and she was fresh out of a "C" check, equipped with the new Economy Plus seating in D zone, but no Personal TVs in coach. Our crew today were HKG based with a few DEL crew who are Indian nationals that are technically HKG based but fly the DEL route exclusively.

As soon as we pushed back, the live safety demos were conducted although the crew seemed kinda distracted while going through the motions. Announcements were in English, Hindi (which was excellent) and Chinese. As we taxied out, I chatted with one of the FAs on the jumpseat in front of me. Somehow the topic of the merger came up and we wound up discussing union matters. She seemed disturbed at my apparent familiarity with the situation and repeatedly asked me if I was associated with management. I denied it, but she said that she would rather not take the chance and steered the conversation elsewhere.

We were airborne soon enough and the announced flying time was 5:41. I tried to find channel 9, but was informed that it was temporarily deactivated for flights through Chinese airspace as a result of the Hainan incident. Menu cards were handed out and I was extremely disappointed by the choices. The Indian selection was downright insulting - "Dal Maharani with Lentil Pulao" - which is great as an accompaniment to the meal, but not as the entree itself. It is the cultural equivalent of offering a Peanut Butter sandwich as the main course. Very inappropriate and someone at UA needs to take note of this because I noticed that other Indian passengers were similarly perturbed.

The first movie screened was "Men of Honor" and I watched it as I picked my way through the rubber textured chicken. The poor flight attendant apologized for the bad food but I shrugged it off and settled down for a nap after the movie. I awakened around 3 hrs later over Calcutta due to extremely severe turbulence. The lavatory door kept swinging back and forth and I had to latch it down. A few passengers were using their barf bags, but fortunately the inedible dinner saved me from going that same route.

We descended rapidly and found a smoother cruise at lower altitude, but soon enough we were on final approach. Once again the Hindi announcements were excellent, but the poor girl doing the English messed up the local time by 30 minutes. We touched down smooth enough on runway 28 and taxied to gate 11 at the international terminal. I was rather perturbed to only see a single Air India A310 parked there rather than the expected 747 that I was due to fly down to Mumbai on.

Sure enough, as soon as the doors were opened a ground agent asked "passenger Sean Mendis please contact a United agent". They even got my name right - thats a first for India! Dual jetbridges were used for deplaning and I exited from door 1L and identified myself to the agent. He in turn sent me up to the mouth of the jetway where another agent was waiting with a sign displaying my name. Once again I identified myself and was told that my flight was delayed.

I thanked her and headed down the escalator towards passport control and baggage claim. Both immigration and customs at DEL are usually a lot more laid back than BOM, so I was surprised when my passport was given more than a cursory inspection. Anyway, after a few minutes he probably realized that I wasn't public enemy number one and stamped me into the country. My bag was already on the belt, so I loaded it onto a cart and strolled through the green channel into the great wide open.

I was immediately accosted by a multitude of cab drivers offering me ridiculously high rates for a ride into town in their beaten up jalopies. I politely ignored them and took the elevator up to the departures level and tried to locate the Air India duty manager. The flight departure boards were in a total state of disarray. Of the three that I looked at, one showed AI 754 rescheduled to 730am, another showed it delayed till 10am and a third said it was NOW BOARDING for a 130am departure complete with flashing green lights. Welcome to India!

I finally located the manager and he informed me that the aircraft assigned for the flight was still on the ground in BOM and would operate AI 755 BOM-DXB to return as AI 754 DXB-DEL-BOM. With three hours flight time each way to Dubai, the earliest we could be leaving was 9am. However, AI 852 would be arriving from Muscat around 4am with a 5am departure to BOM - and I could take that if I preferred. I called my dad at his hotel and he told me to grab a cab and go crash with him. That made sense, so I headed back down to arrivals and made my way to the prepaid taxi counter.

The prepaid taxi counter is the only way to leave an Indian airport using public transportation with most of your limbs intact and without a second mortgage on your house. The system is very logical - you pay a flat rate to your destination plus a small service charge to the counter and they give you a voucher to pay the driver. The driver then takes the voucher to a counter (there are several around the city) and collects his fare. This ensures that the drivers use the quickest way to get you to your destination rather than the traditional detour via Nepal.

My fare to the hotel came to Rs.180 (US$4) and my assigned cab was a very rickety 1960s vintage Hindustan Ambassador with a sleepy driver and an odometer that had died an early death if its frozen readout of 00324 was to be believed. We rattled away in the general direction of downtown and the twin Airbuses of Austrian Airlines and Swissair taxied out with us. There was no traffic on the roads and we reached the hotel in Chanakyapuri within 20 minutes and I headed right up to my dad's suite.

He greeted me and chatted for a while, but then headed back to sleep while I sat in the living room and watched a really crappy movie on HBO. Around 3am, the hotel concierge slipped a note under the door advising that the flight had now been rescheduled for a 905pm departure from DEL. I passed the message on to my dad and then curled up on the couch for some shuteye.

Lunch was at my favorite restaurant in Delhi called "Frontier", which is fortunately located on the first floor of the hotel itself. They serve the most amazing Pathani cuisine and their Raan (roasted lamb marinated in wine) is to die for. We stuffed our faces and headed back up around 130pm. The roles were now reversed as I proceeded to nap while he watched TV. I must've slept really soundly 'cos the next thing I remember it was 530pm.

Just as we arrived at the airport, the heavens opened up and began dumping buckets of unseasonal rain upon the grateful Delhi-ites. This also affected operations at the airport since conditions deteriorated well below CAT II levels. As a result one AI Airbus flight diverted to Ahmedabad, but fortunately AMD cannot handle 747s so our aircraft just kept circling.

The boards at departures were still in the state of disarray from the morning. One of them was showing AI 754 to DUBAI as being indefinitely delayed, another failed to show anything at all and the third had frozen with only the Druk Air flight to Kathmandu and Paro on every line. At the counter, I was informed that the flight was now being designated as AI 754A, with the Alpha designation so as not to confuse it with the next day's flight since it was now running over 20 hrs late. I received my boarding pass for Executive Class to get me through into the sterile departures area (it was booked to only 4 out of 36 seats), but was not given a seat assignment yet.

I completed my customs form (all AI passengers need to complete a customs declaration since AI domestic flights are only tags to international sectors) and handed it over to the customs officer accompanying the flight down to BOM. I had an invitation to the Maharaja Lounge, so I headed up there to wait for the weather to clear and our aircraft to land. The lounge is a poor cousin to the exceptional one in BOM, but it had basic facilities so I relaxed for about an hour with a Coke while I watched the BBC News. Finally, the aircraft touched down about 930pm and our new departure time was set for 1020pm.

I headed out to gate 10 at 945pm and was waved aboard with the request to take any seat I wanted. As I walked down the jetway, I ran into the co-pilot who had just operated the flight in from Dubai trying to console his crying daughter in BOM over a cellphone. Just another day in the life of an airline crew member.

The aircraft today was VT-EFU named "Emperor Krishna Deva Raya". She is the oldest 747 still flying the line for Air India (VT-EDU is older, but she is held in reserve and for charters) but was in remarkably good shape inside. She had been fitted with the new business class seats during her last C check, and I settled in to 5A. The flight attendants immediately fussed all over me, but fortunately the cabin was empty enough that it wasn't too embarrassing.

We taxied out at 1030pm and I managed to spot the Druk Air Bae146 on the tarmac, struggling to control my giggles. We held short of runway 10 for a few minutes as the Singapore Airlines 777 came in and then we were on our way. The announced flying time was 1:36.

Right after takeoff, a standard airline video magazine was screened consisting of the obligatory Frazier episode and some music videos. There was also a full meal service for passengers joining at Delhi. I picked the Seafood Medley with potatoes and it was excellent. After the meal, I headed upstairs to the cockpit and spent a while chatting there until we began our descent.

We touched down on runway 27 at BOM a few minutes after midnight which is the busiest time of day at the international terminal. In addition to us, there were 2 Air India A310s, an A300, two 747-400s and another 747-200. There were also MD11s from Alitalia and Swissair, 767s from Delta, Air Mauritius and South African Airways, 747s from Singapore Airlines and British Airways, an A340 from Air France and a Northwest DC-10. We taxied past the domestic terminals where 20 odd 737s of Jet Airways were parked for the night and then pulled into remote bay 61 since all the jetways were occupied. The stairs rolled up and I was the first one off through 1L.

Fortunately, the buses to take us back to the terminal hadn't yet arrived, so I had a chance to take a small stroll on the tarmac around the massive 747. The security guys were pretty cool about it as long as I didn't touch anything other than the engine cowlings. It never ceases to amaze me just how breathtaking the aircraft are. Alas, the buses finally arrived and we piled on board and headed to the terminal. My bag was already on the belt thanks to its priority tags and I loaded it onto a cart. As I headed out into the teeming masses of Mumbai, I reflected on the 5 days it had taken me to come halfway around the world. What a wild ride! Home       Trip Reports Index       Whine And Cheez Index       Discussion Forums

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