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Old 15th August 2007, 10:27   #16
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Default Airport Reviews - MUMBAI!

If I was to cover every airport in India, this thread would take weeks to read. I am going to cover the 3 metros and a single post covering a few airports.


Mumbai CSIA:

Yetimeter:


If there was a domestic airport that would show the signs of India's new age, it would be the CSIA. Post privatization, I would place this Airport higher than most domestic airports in the world. It is efficient, pleasing and still a WIP. here is the airport that all other Indian airports should aspire to be.

Terminal 1A
This used to be the new Indian Airlines terminal when Jet and Sahara were stuck with the old 1B. While still impressive, it now looks dated and weather worn.
It hosts KF, IA, and Go.
Also has Aero Bridges leading straight into the aircraft, whenever possible, which means faster times and less bussing around the tarmac.

Oddly, there are few or no passenger facilities here. A lounge, for business class passengers, turns out to be disappointing at best. The shops are old and boring and look more like stalls than shops.
The security check is crowded and bustled. Get past sec check and you are surprised by the massive expanse that greets you. Multilevel boarding, high ceilings, open spaces.
There are places with long lounge chairs, plug points everywhere and free wi-fi.
This works well for me.

Terminal 1B:

This is the one to look out for. Construction has been going on a while. Walk in and you suddenly realise what progress is all about. 1B hosts Jet, JetLite, Spice and Indigo. The entire airport is built with a post modern neo-industrial look. Like a cross between Frankfurt domestic and Bangkok Suvarnabhoomi. I love it.
Walk in and the massive expanse that greets you can be intimidating.
At the check in area, there is a Crossword and Cafe Coffee day and a Airline restaurant that is well maintained.

(Tip: When you opt for a credit card next time, try and get a gold or higher MasterCard. MasterCard has lounges at many domestic and international airports, where you are treated well in 5 star comfort and there is no charge for coffee, tea or snacks. Look for the mastercard lounge signs at the airports)

Get past the well designed open spaces and you have various sec check gates. To the immediate left of the first gate is a small entrance with some steps and a lift. The sign only says "restaurant"
Go up to the first floor and turn left. You will be hugely surprised to see 2 massive 5 star "Clipper" lounges. The one straight ahead is for Jet Airways Biz Class passengers.
The one to the left of it is for any MasterCard Holder, Gold, Platinum and Titanium.
A bar overlooks the runway and you can have a few snacks and coffee while you watch the planes take off.
There is no charge for the snacks or coffee, obviously the beer you must pay for.

Downstairs, the shopping complex is nice, with Shoppers' stop and Croma having stores there and more will be joining in soon.

I always arrive early when I fly out of Mumbai and take my time to enjoy the new terminal 1B.

Last edited by Sam Kapasi : 15th August 2007 at 10:32.
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Old 15th August 2007, 10:44   #17
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Default Airport Reviews - New Delhi!

New Delhi Palam:
I am told that New Delhi will be getting a new domestic terminal by 2008. It will be situated between terminals 1A and 1B. I look forward to it.
Yetimeter:



Like Mumbai, Delhi too has 2 different terminals.
Terminal 1A:
This terminal hosts KF and Indian. Everything else goes to 1B.
1A is well laid lout, fairly clean and systematic. Expect a long walk between counters and is is faily expansive.
The Airport itself is OK at best. There is a 5 star lounge on the right, but they have a snack buffet (chicken tikka, sandwiches and salad) for about 500 bucks a head. No MasterCard benefits.

Post sec check there is a large waiting room with a few mini-shops scattered around. High ceiling and comfortable chairs that can be a little tattered. A few salt water fish tanks around with tropical fish and sponges. It's not bad, but sure as hell doesn't feel like the country's capital.

Terminal 1B:
Hosts everyone else and frankly is a many rungs lower than 1A.
It's crowded and busy and dirty. Ceilings are low and patchy, too many flights, everything is overworked.
Look for the Himachal Pradesh counter at 1B. They sell glasses of outstanding apple juice and some great tomato soup, very reasonably priced.

One visit to this terminal and you'll know why New Delhi needs a new terminal.
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Old 15th August 2007, 11:03   #18
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Default Airport review - Bengaluru

Bangalore HAL:

Yetimeter:

This is supposed to be the airport of the new generation, the IT generation and the expats. Rather disappointing to say the least.

A poorly maintained airport, that wasn't even designed to be used for civilian transport, it belongs to HAL that make and repair planes for the IAF.
There are poor facilities and crazy queues for everything, right from check in to Xray machines. A very unpleasant experience from start to finish. Chaotic at best.
I believe Bangalore International will be ready in 2008, but it will be about 40 kms away from the city centre. I will review it when it's ready I guess.

The ONLY reason HAL gets 2 stars is because of the courteous manner in which the security address you and my 2 favourite places. CCD and Sankar's book shop. beyond this I have nothing nice to say about HAL.
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Old 15th August 2007, 11:13   #19
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Default Airport Review - general

As you can imagine, it is not possible to review every airport I've been to in India. One could write a whole book on this.

But here are a few highlights:

Ahmedabad: Brilliant little Airport with brand new JBL speakers everywhere. Look for the Le Royal Meridien lounge on the first floor. Great lounge, massive view and good food. I always go there a little early.

Cochin: A cute little shopping centre where you can buy Cashews, spices, spice drops, pearls and many more things.

Bagdogra:Fantastic bar on the first floor, old school english Bengali style, serving fish and chips and cheap tibet beer. overlooks the solitary runway and is my favourite Airport bar.

Goa: The new terminal is well made, large and systematic.

Jaipur: One of the prettiest little tourist airports.

You may notice that I have not reviewed many airports. This is probably because they are similar to other airports and/ or I found nothing remarkable in them. Of course you are welcome to post your own airport and airline experiences and reviews on this thread.

If you have any questions, I will be glad to answer them.

Remember, these posts are just my opinions and observations. You don't have to agree with them and I'm perfectly OK with that.

And I hope you enjoy reading these many posts and find them useful, the next time you fly.

HAPPY TRAVELLING!!
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Old 15th August 2007, 11:33   #20
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Cochin CIAL (review covers International Terminal only)

4 stars

FOR:

1. Neat, Clean, well lit and well organized. The only private airport in the country and it shows.

2. Separate International and Domestic terminals with enough parking space to host autocross events.

3. Very well stocked Duty Free, probably the best in India. Run by the same chaps that operate Dubai Duty Free.

4. 20 immigration counters on Arrival. Departure was makeshift while the new departure terminal was being built, but has now been upgraded to take 20 counters as well.

5. The only A380-compatible terminal with a dual aerobridge and parkway wide enough.

6. Plenty of connections to the east of west of India through ALL the middle-eastern airlines to the west and Singapore Airlines, Silk Air and Sri Lankan to the east. BA expected to be added before the end of the year.

7. Relatively unknown Fourth largest international airport in the country, third largest in terms of International Traffic handled.

8. Excellent, clean and efficient prepaid taxi service operated by the Airport Authorities and run by people who were displaced by the airport project.

AGAINST:

1. Dining options were limited while both arrival and departure was being handled through a single structure (building). Departure now handled by a separate terminal entirely, hopefully facilities will improve.

2. Limited amenities for meeters and greeters. Its another matter that there are too many meeters and greeters!

3. Immigration is manned by Kerala Police personnel and not Bureau of Immigration Services. Takes far too long and they ask far too many questions, leading to a queue.

4. Airport Services handling (including check-in counters) was given to Air India. Not the best of services, though all airlines ensure that one of their personnel is at the counter WITH the Air India staff. Will hopefully change at the end of the year when the Air India contract runs out and Dubai's DNATA takes over.

Last edited by Steeroid : 15th August 2007 at 11:34.
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Old 15th August 2007, 12:28   #21
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Some tips for International Travel

1. Baggage Rules are there for a purpose. Respect them - dont land up at the airport with 45 kg of luggage when your ticket says 30 kg. And if you do, be polite and tell the counter staff that you are AWARE that you have excess and are ready to pay, can you please show some concession when you bill me for it? Invariably they will knock off about 5kg from the excess if you're polite - if you stand there and argue you'll be charged for the full excess.

As far as possible try and send stuff through unaccompanied baggage - if you're returning to India with some "dutiable" stuff, make sure you carry the stuff subject to customs WITH YOU. This will help you avail of the duty-free allowance per ticket (25k). You can send your clothes unaccompanied - after all you're coming back home.


2. Alcohol - firstly, dont drink on the flight just because the hooch is free. Alcohol causes dehydration, as does the dry air in the cabin. Together, you'll end up with a HUGE hangover pretty fast. A glass of wine or a couple of chottas are fine as long as you eat well.

3. If you're travelling Economy and are vertically impaired (too tall), make sure you're at the airport as soon as the counters open (usually 4 hours before the flight), and request for the seats next to the emergency exit. These seats are meant to be allotted only to HEALTHY MALE PASSENGERS - people who are capable of helping others in the event of an emergency.

4. Smile a lot at the staff, learn some airline terminology and speak to them in their lingo (they use IATA terminology) and you might end up with a business class upgrade for free if the flight is a bit full.

5. This works inside the aircraft too - if you're good to the cabin crew, you might end up being offered a seat in Business. This has worked for me on many of my economy flights.

6. If you're travelling abroad for the first time (to certain countries that do require an emigration clearance), please ensure ECNR (Emigration Clearance Not Required) is stamped on your passport. This has happened to the Yeti.

If you're travelling with your children, please make sure that any of your kids that have just turned 18 has the same done on his or her passport. Else the whole family can miss the flight. This has happened to a cousin of mine.

7. If you're travelling on budget airlines abroad (or flying budget airlines out of India) PLEASE CHECK YOUR TICKET TO THE BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE. They have lower limits, and each airline seems to have their own limits. NOTE: Budget airlines also have weight limits on the hand baggage, and WILL WEIGH YOUR HAND BAGGAGE IF YOU LOOK LIKE YOU'RE OVER LIMITS.

8. CUSTOMS - Oh that pain in the backside! If you're carrying duty-able stuff, its best to fly in through Mumbai, Delhi or Cochin. The other airports are filled with crooks in the name of customs officials. Look the customs officer in the eye and walk confidently through the green channel and you will normally have no issue. Try to pack your valuable stuff into suitcases and AVOID carrying cartons that cry out SONY/HITACHI, or expensive brands. Unpack all the stuff you have from their cartons (yes, gifts included) and pack them into your suitcases.

You can normally walk through customs if you have just 2 large pieces of checked in and 1 normal cabin baggage. Do not carry plastic or paper bags with famous brands on them.

If you have to buy liquor, buy it from the airport that you arrive at. The Customs chaps seem to appreciate it if you buy locally - this works wonders in Cochin where they dont even bother asking you "how many bottles?" if your duty free bag says "Cochin Duty Free". Invariably we are able to bring in more than the regulation 2 litres.

ON THE OTHER HAND - if you're carrying some really expensive duty-able stuff, you should be upfront about it. You dont have to give them the specifics - if you're carrying a Marantz amp, just say you have an amplifier in your bag. The rest of it depends on the mood of the chap.
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Old 15th August 2007, 13:30   #22
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Airline Experiences

#1 - Virgin Atlantic (& Jet Airways)

The brash Branson's airline takes the title for my best airline experience, without any doubts. The customer experience it great from the moment you check in, the girls are pretty, the cabin is spacious, the in-flight stress massage is fantastic, the food is great, the Virgin lounges are excellent (the one at Heathrow features a swimming pool, a health club, jacuzzi, the works) and you dont get snooty behaviour from any of their staff. All in all, terrific - I only wish they flew more destinations.

I havent flown Jet internationally, but even from my experiences in India I think they're right up their with the best internationally. A feeling that has been shared by those of my colleagues abroad that have visited India with me.

#2 - KLM

Okay, the name conjures up visions of a stodgy old airline with ageing crew and a bureaucratic setup. For me, the experience has been quite the opposite. Okay the crew arent good looking and the women are generally more than healthy, but the service is good. On the one occassion that they seem to have overlooked my VGML/AVML (Vegetarian / Asian Vegetarian Meal) request, one of the cabin crew actually offered her meal instead.

My experiences with KLM have been great and so their Flying Blue is my favourite Frequent Flyer program - thanks to their wide network of affiliates that I use - Air France (who now own KLM), Kenya Airways and Alitalia amongst others I am now platinum.

Only ONE instance of delayed baggage in about 10 years of flying. Thats more than I can say for those snooty !!##)*& at Emirates with whom I thankfully have had to endure very few flying hours.

#3 - Kenya Airways & Thai

Surprise, Surprise! "The Pride of Africa" ranks very highly in my list, probably because I used to fly across Africa quite often and they have the best network there + the best service. I could therefore be biased, especially because they were my only source of good food in some places. While my experiences have been on business class, I believe they are as good on Economy. They had flat beds in Business before any other airline I can remember, their cabin service and food used to be great, and the service was always very good. They can occassionally be a bit late, though.

Thai - need one say anything about this airline? Somehow service with a smile seems to come naturally to the Thais, whether it is with Thai Airways or the Dusit Hotel Chain. Everything's great about the airline except when they heat up Thai meals inside the cabin - I cant stand the smell of blachaan (sic? - I mean the fish paste with oyster/squid extract) and thats the only negative about this airline.

#4 - Singapore Airlines
The most professional of the lot. The most efficient. The most timely. The one with the best connections. Should've been #1 except for the rather detached professionalism they display. Its a characterless airline, much like the city of Singapore. Everything is perfect and professional about both, but somehow they both leave you cold and untouched.

#5 - Cathay Pacific & BMI
I somehow prefer Cathay to Singapore Airlines. I prefer Malaysian to Singpore Airlines too. However Malaysian simply doesnt make the cut, while Cathay is quite nice. More involving than Singapore, probably a bit less efficient.

British Midland's international service, particularly in the Middle-East sector, has been a revelation. Nobody expected a stodgy little brit airline to come up so well.

NOTE: I have flown Luftansa just once, so wont comment. Most of my euro travel goes through KLM or their affiliates (Air France or Alitalia) anyway.


The Donkey Club - my worst airline experiences:

1. British Airways. Snooty B*&#$@*s, enough said.

2. Emirates - Following BA's steps in snootiness rapidly.

3. Air Deccan - NEVER again.

4. Ethiopian Airlines - NEVER again.

5. Tarom (Romania) - NEVER again.

6. Saudi Arabian - Great food and good legroom even in economy, but SCARY AS HELL! Wonder who flies the plane because they seem to be flying on god's grace and little else.


NOTE: A lot of people complain about Air India, but other than the airport services at Cochin Airport, I've had very little to complain about Air India in several years of travel. True the aircraft are old, the seats are bad, the cabin badly lit and you feel like saying 'Thank you, uncle' to the cabin crew that brings you your drink, but I really have had no complaints as such. I could've been lucky because I've heard some bad horror stories - so bad that I sometimes think they're made up, but that hasnt been my experience.

I believe they do the best under the circumstances. For instance, I flew Air India on the last leg of one of my long winded trips, and I was flying from Kuwait to Cochin. The flight was over 3 hours late and it screwed up whatever sleep I had left in me. So when it finally arrived, everyone crashed and went to sleep while I went into the galley to have a drink with the cabin crew. Spoke to them for a while and gently inquired why this was so late, only to be told that this one aircraft had flown BOM-DEL-SINGAPORE-DEL-MAS-COLOMBO-MAS-COK-KWT so far TODAY. This crew had joined at DEL, and they were drained out already.

Phew thats long! More later.

The
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Old 15th August 2007, 14:32   #23
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lovely write-ups sam and steer.
i'm sure we could all benefit from your experiences.
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Old 15th August 2007, 15:12   #24
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Some great inputs there Steer,

Actually my best Flying experience to date has been the business class of Emirates. When she woke me with a smile and asked me how I'd like my eggs done, I knew I'd arrived.

I'd vouch for Singapore. Rocking crew and great service.

I fly Lufthansa often. It's professional and unremarkable. Actually I did not include international experiences as I thought I'd make a domestic flying guide.
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Old 15th August 2007, 15:34   #25
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Great article!

In addition to whats already been said one more point to add regarding the Dutiable items. I specifically had issues when returning to India with my old camera and some other stuff.

They were adamant that I had to pay duty for my camera which I had taken from India. So as a proof you'd need to provide the original bills from India.

If you do not have that, its best to take an "Export Certificate" from India before leaving the country. The process is pretty straight forward and simple. And of course its free. This certificate is the proof that you have taken ABCZ items from India having XYZ value with serial number or equivalent for matching.

This can be obtained at the customs desk which would be right after the Emigration counters. Get all the expensive stuff that you think may be taxed listed in there. That also means that you will have to carry it in along as cabin baggage.

Few customs officers may insist that its not required and you can do without it. A smile on the face and persistence will get you through (they are supposed to give it anyway, thats their job).

For the first time traveler's reference the process in short for going abroad is:

Baggage scan -> Check in -> Emigration process -> Customs declaration (if needed) -> Boarding into plane

On arrival at destination

Disembark from plane -> Emigration process -> Baggage collection -> Customs declaration (if needed)
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Old 15th August 2007, 19:36   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steeroid View Post
Airline Experiences

I havent flown Jet internationally, but even from my experiences in India I think they're right up their with the best internationally. A feeling that has been shared by those of my colleagues abroad that have visited India with me.

Jet is probably my favourite airline, I was a little dissapointed when my travel agent booked me on Jet for the first time, but I was pleasantly surprised, Extremely friendly and helpful staff, Not jsut inflight but the ground staff too, Excellent food especially in first class, AWESOME in flight entertainment, brand new aircrafts, the list goes on, I try to fly by Jet whenever I can.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steeroid View Post
The Donkey Club - my worst airline experiences:
7. United - Really Bad Food, Worse In flight entertainment, Stuck up (and OOLLDD airhostesses and to top it all off they lost my bag. They seated me at the back of the aircraft and my seat was in the middle of two seats in front. Im not too sure if I should blame them for this but it meant I had to watch the inflight movie with my head twisted.
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Old 15th August 2007, 21:20   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by khanak View Post
7. United - Really Bad Food, Worse In flight entertainment, Stuck up (and OOLLDD airhostesses and to top it all off they lost my bag. They seated me at the back of the aircraft and my seat was in the middle of two seats in front.
Thankfully I have not had to sample the legendary hospitality of the famous American carriers. Or EasyJet

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sks_Biker View Post
I specifically had issues when returning to India with my old camera and some other stuff.

They were adamant that I had to pay duty for my camera which I had taken from India. So as a proof you'd need to provide the original bills from India.
Which airport was this at? They dont bother about NEW cameras these days, let alone the older ones. Also, did you have the camera slung on you?

The smaller airports can be a real pain because the customs counters are manned by the state Police and not by Customs personnel. I famously sat down at the Trivandrum airport once with my family after they insisted on levying duty on my laptop - we all sat down on whatever furniture we could find and said ok we're staying here. You can charge us if we dont want to leave the airport, right? So I'll stay here till you show me the customs rules relating to laptops, or till my lawyer reaches Tvm from Cochin, whichever is later. 20 mins after all other passengers had left the buggers had enough as my 2-year old son started running around in the airpot, happy to see so much space! They let us go.

Last edited by Steeroid : 15th August 2007 at 21:28.
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Old 15th August 2007, 22:02   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steeroid View Post
Thankfully I have not had to sample the legendary hospitality of the famous American carriers. Or EasyJet
Lol, I'll be posting an EasyJet review very soon. Flying from Berlin to Budapest on EJ. I hear it's awful. heh heh.
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Old 15th August 2007, 22:35   #29
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Great Post Sam!!!

Really informative and helpful, thanks!!
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Old 15th August 2007, 22:53   #30
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Superb review Steer and Sam!

I in particular found it very useful because I'm travelling to the US for the first time. Infact It is my first time abroad.

Moreover I will be travelling alone (in 8 days). Hence if there is anything specific to that leg of the journey it would be gratly appreciated, since I'm travelling alone and a little nervous.

Could you guys throw some light on how to handle electronic stuffs we buy from there- like laptops cameras etc.. Do we have to pay extra in our customs?
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