Last month, I was on my way to a meeting to Kuwait, and I did my standard drill. I usually arrive there on one of the two evening flights with Jet Airways, stay the night at a hotel, do the meeting, and wait for the flight back which only happens the next evening. Perhaps I need to optimize these a bit, but anyhow, this time I was back on my old warhorse, Jet Airways, which was going to take me from Mumbai to Kuwait International Airport on the early departure flight.
For the 17:55 flight, I arrived at the new Mumbai Terminal 2 at about 15:00, which was an early arrival by all standards. I was joined by a colleague, who was also coming along. Jet Airways had advised me to use aisle M for check-in, but there was no one at this aisle and the counters were closed.
Instead I headed to aisle N where economy check-in was taking place, and ran into humungous queues.
Oy! I was a little flummoxed since I had to either go through this queue for an hour or wait at the other counter where no one was present. There were no elite check-in queues, and usually elites are allowed to check-in at the Business Class queues. I asked the Manager on Duty, who took us to a counter and asked someone to attend to us. Everything was unorganised. Maybe Jet Airways finds it does not have to keep to its high standards because this sector is usually frequented by the workers who travel between India and Kuwait, as I was going to witness later.
I got my Boarding Pass very quickly, but no lounge access card. My colleague decided he wanted to upgrade his trip using his miles, and he requested for an upgrade. He was ready, and he came prepared with the forms and everything required. Jet Airways was not. It took them 25 minutes and 2-3 people and a zillion calls to the office to process the upgrade. Me, I did not upgrade because I find their upgrade requirements with vouchers very stupid on this route. You can upgrade with one voucher for flying upto 1500 miles. This route is a shade above at 1715 miles of flying. So you can fly to Muscat and Dubai from Mumbai in an upgraded seat with one voucher. But for Kuwait, they expect you to shell out two vouchers. Sorry, not my cup of tea.
I asked the check-in agent on the counter for my lounge card, and I was given an invitation to the Clipper Lounge. My colleague, who was now in Premiere, should have been sent to the MIAL lounge, but he was handed an invitation to the Clipper Lounge as well.
Fortunately, we did not take much longer to get through security and immigration. We headed to the lounge and spent all our waiting time there. You can see an earlier review of the Clipper Lounge at Terminal 2 here. The snack menu in the afternoon was exactly the same as the midnight hours. You can also access this lounge with MasterCard or Priority Pass.
We headed to the gates at about 16:50 because we wanted to board the flight early. However, there were no signs of boarding being started all the way till 17:15. I was afraid, that like the last time around, my flight would be sitting on the tarmac for over an hour with no explanation and no airconditioning. Once started, we were few of the first to board the flight.
Mumbai(BOM) – Kuwait (KWI)
Monday, April 21 2014
Distance flown: 1715 miles
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Seat: 10C (Economy)
Meal Service: Dinner
This flight is operated by a regional Boeing 737-800, which travels to Singapore and Middle East amongst other places. I was going to be seated in the front row aisle seat, which was good enough to keep away from the crowds at the back.
Boarding was quick, and we pushed back from the gate only 5 minutes later than the scheduled time. The flight was pretty much full. I had someone who was sozzled sitting next to me, and I was not sure how the flight was going to work out for me. I just needed some food and calm of mind, and when you fly so much, you try not to judge people around you. But here, there was the vapour of alcohol maybe going till two rows back, and I had to sit with this guy for the next four hours. I informed the purser, she said she’d see what she could do, and went away, only to tell me later, “Sorry, we can’t be of much help since the flight is so full.” I saw that they did not want to deal with this situation.
We climbed to cruise altitude pretty quickly, and once cruising, drink service started. Oh, before that, they gave away a quick snack to everyone. And while I’d have expected Jet Airways to have served 9W branded packaging, that was not the case. I’ve received murukus in the past which had yellow packaging which said specially packed for Jet Airways. But here, it was just some packets they picked off the shelf. No problem with that either, but the way it was done I thought I was in a train for a few minutes.
The snacks were not presented along with the drink. Rather, a young flight attendant carried a big 2 feet tall polybag full of these snack bags and gave it to everyone. I’ve never seen that happen before. When the drinks came around, I went with a soda, while my neighbour who was in armrest war with me took a break to get himself some Johnny Walker Red Label I presume.
Anyhow, I thought I’d stick to watching some movies and kill time. But this was not going to happen either. Anytime I wanted to see a movie or the episode of a series, I’d get a blank screen. I tried a few times and then went back to watching the airshow. The crew told me that this was a glitch on the whole plane, and they announced they’d reboot the IFE system. After a few tries, nothing worked, and they just kept the airshow on. Unlike other carriers who offer some sort of compensation if the IFE does not work (Cathay Pacific and BA have), Jet Airways just apologised.
Meals were served shortly, and I was actually very happy with the catering this time around. See, Jet Airways operates their flights to Kuwait under the full-fare garb, but offers low-fares and low-fare services altogether. The food, in the past, has been below par. So I was very happy to receive a vegetarian meal which was substantial enough to fill up one person.
The pasta salad was nice, so was the Dal. The Alu-Gobhi subzi was however, all Alu and one sampler of Gobhi inserted. The roti was cooked for a change as well.
After a meal, I went back to reading a book since there was nothing else to do. Towards the last half hour of the flight, however we hit some massive turbulence, and that too while we were descending into Kuwait. Lets just say, I’ve experienced rough weather in the skies earlier, but this was the worst I’ve seen ever. I wasn’t very sure how the captain was handling the flight, however, after a brief spell of some very bad turbulence, we stabilized again and made an uneventful landing. The landing was with a bus gate, which was a first for us at this airport.
At the Airport, I had a meet & greet service waiting to meet me and my colleague, and they helped us collect our Visas and hand us over to the chauffeur of the car from our hotel which was waiting for us.
For me, while for the longest time I’ve stuck with Jet Airways on this route, because the only other direct option is Kuwait Airways, I might just shake up things a bit the next time around since I don’t like how Jet Airways crew handled this flight.