A quick trip between Dubai and Madurai – Part 1

Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans. One thing I always experienced in my life is when you plan a lot, it won’t happen. Good things usually happen all of a sudden. That is what happened while I was planning my trip.

In my previous TR, I promised that I will post more photos in my next TR. I hope I have fulfilled my promise and at the same time, not boring you with lot of pictures.

As usual, my whole hearted thanks to Abhijit and Hiren for providing many information and clearing many doubt. They are the one who I always rely on when I have any doubt in Aviation.

Planning / Booking

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable, said a former US president. So even though I know that things won’t happen if I do too much planning, I never stop planning. It was months before when I decided a short trip to Madurai (IXM) from Dubai in the end of December for a family function. The direct DXB-IXM by SG is always out of my choice as it is too expensive than via flights in peak holidays. My initial plan was to burn my JP miles for DXB-BOM-DXB and revenue ticket for BOM-MAA-IXM v.v by SG or AI. But DXB-BOM award ticket was not available for my preferred dates. Tried several other combinations, but nothing worked out. Hence, decided to go for revenue ticket for onward journey and award ticket from IXM itself while returning.

Once the decision of revenue ticket for the onward journey is taken, my first choice was DXB-MAA-IXM by 6E/SG. It was cheaper with enough transit gap. By that time, I found another avgeek routing DXB-HYD-MAA-IXM by FZ/SG with the same fare. But the delay in deciding the date for the family function postponed my booking. When the day was decided just a week before the proposed date of travel, the fares were skyrocketing due to holiday and peak season. DXB-IXM was priced at 19k oneway and via flights to IXM were priced even more. So checked DXB-MAA and voila, I got a SG flight for 10k. The actual surprise is that flight is via IXM by SG. 😁😁

I had little doubt that whether they will allow me to exit at IXM skipping the onward flight. So I booked a train from Chennai Egmore to Madurai Jn as a back-up since the IXM-MAA flights reaches at 2040 and there is no flight to IXM till next day early morning.

For return, my initial plan was to book IXM-BLR-BOM-DXB by burning JP miles. But the delay in booking left me with only one choice. Burned 27500 miles on IXM-BLR-IXE-DXB.

In short, it will be DXB-IXM-MAA–(train)–IXM-BLR-IXE-DXB by SG/-IR-/9W.

Sorry for the long post on planning. I love planning more than I actually fly 😁

Flight details

Date : 16.12.2016 Friday

Sector :
DXB-IXM

Airline :
SpiceJet

Flight Number :
SG 24

Aircraft :
B73H

Registration :
TC-TJU (Corendon a/c on wet lease with SpiceJet)

The excitement day

The day came and I am so excited to fly again after one and half year. Left my house at 0810. The time to airport in Fridays takes just 25 min, which is usually more than 90 min on weekdays. Reached airport by 0835 and check-in counter by 0845.

Check-in counters at DXB

There were two counters for priority check-in and 3 counters for normal check-in. Initially, I stood in priority check-in queue assuming that there won’t be many choosing it. But to my surprise, there were a lot of people who opted for it. I was politely asked to join the other line. I thought to get a window seat while checking-in, but looking the line and where I stood, I knew chances are less. Immediately opened SG app and selected a window seat for 300 bucks. I was surprised that I was able to select a seat through app/website when counter check-in is already open. Many airlines block that when counter check-in opens I believe.

Reached the counter after 45 min. Since I had only a laptop bag and a hand luggage, both together weighed less 7 kg, I was given two tag. Just a few seconds later, a guy came and said you are allowed to have only one bag inside cabin which includes laptop bag too. I have already read their hand baggage policy and I’m not surprised. All I requested is I’m not having any check-in luggage so to allow me. The guy refused and said we will charge 60 AED per kg for second bag near the gate. So I’m forced to check-in my other bag. As I have connecting flight to Chennai from Madurai, that guy politely said, “Don’t worry, Sir. I’m adding a Priority tag with the bag, so that you will get it fast”. Let me remind you that those priority tags are chargeable and part of Add-ons. Those polite words showed that they care us in whatever way they can without overriding their policy.

Boarding Pass

Immigration and Customs were too quick even though there was moderate rush. I had only 30 min for boarding time 1010 which is 1 hr before the scheduled departure. But as you know, it will not happen before one hour and the inbound flight from DEL is 40 min away from DXB. So I didn’t take it seriously and went ahead to Marhaba Lounge.

Entrance of Marhaba Lounge

The entrance has a LED display which shows all the eligible cards and partnered airlines.

Eligible cards for complementary access
Partnered Airlines

The lounge was spacious, but I doubt it can be enough in peak hours. It has some private closed areas too. May be reserved for First Class Pax / VVIPs / Families. Not much staff around.

Inside view of Marhaba Lounge

Being a typical South Indian/Tamilian, I always want Dosa/Idli/Pongal for my breakfast. Well, the Marhaba Lounge is not in MAA/BLR. So I settled with the below choice.

My choices from Buffet at Marhaba Lounge

I must say that the choices were limited and I think it’s not worth for paid visit. Since I have complementary access through my Master Debit Card, I didn’t mind. The only minus I felt is they don’t have small water bottles. They had only 2 ltr bottles which is big for an individual.

When Abhijit notified me that the inbound a/c is just 6 min away from touch down, I prepared to leave the lounge. The assigned gate D1 is in the end of the terminal.

On the way to gate D1

Reached D3 seating area and comforted myself there since D1 area had rush.

Seating area of gate D3
Seating area of gate D2 and D1

Boarding

Boarding was commenced at 1055, 45 min behind the hand-written boarding time in BP and 15 min behind the scheduled one.

Boarding commenced at Gate D1

I was sitting in D3 area, so didn’t know whether they called seat-wise or not. Being a true LCC, the SG staffs checked weight of each and every hand luggage near the gate. Anything above 7 kg was allowed only after paying the excess baggage fees. And few baggages were moved to check-in luggage due to over size and over weight. A quick query about load says it’s a packed flight with 189 pax. Two staffs were scanning the BPs.

Staffs scanning BPs

Captured this beauty while walking through aerobridge. The bloody glasses were so dirty. Otherwise, the pic would have been a perfect shot

BA Boeing 777-200 G-ZZZB

The Aircraft

Since the recovery of SG from summer’15 schedule, they have taken a/c on wet lease on several instances to match the demand since they were unable to get a/c on dry lease. Those wet leases were mostly from Czech airline company Travel Service and Turkish airline companies Anadolu Jet, Sun Express and Corendon Airlines. For a brief period, they took couple of A320s from BHAir. Currently they are having 3 wet lease a/c TC-TJT/U/O from Corendon Airlines. Two of which is doing DXB run from DEL/IXM and IXE/JAI. The other one is doing north-east run.

The bird for me today is TC-TJU, a 8.9 year old 737-800. SG took this bird in the first week of Nov. Sadly I couldn’t take a photo of it except its door.

Door of TC-TJU

I was welcomed by a Turkish cabin crew. There were 4 cabin crews in total, out of which, two were Turkish and two were Indians. I was one of last few to board. Cabin was clean and neat. But the ad of New India Assurance behind each seat made it look too ugly.

On board TC-TJU
Ad behind the seat

Pushback / Take off

The captain came on mic with the usual announcements. I couldn’t recognize their name as they were Turkish. Journey hours will be 3 hrs and 40 min. Safety demonstration was started before?  pushback and it was done by Indian crews. Safety instructions of both Corendon Airlines and SpiceJet were kept in the seat pocket.

Safety instructions of Corendon Airlines and SpiceJet

Pushback was at 1132. The a/c taxied like a riding horse passing through the whole T1 and T3 terminal as the gate D1 was in extreme end of T1 and it was rolling take-off. Clicked few birds while taxiing.

Mahan Air – A340-600 – EP-MMQ
Flynas and Corendon TC-TJO operated for SG

Take off was at 1148, a full 38 min behind the schedule. The aerial view of Dubai is always amazing

Aerial view of Dubai
Aerial view of Dubai

On board TC-TJU

The favorite part of the TR for many TR readers is this. The food. Even though booking through their app costs only half the price that of in website, we cannot select any particular meal. It has only Veg and Non-veg meal option without naming it. We’ll be served any of Veg and Non-veg according to the availability on-board. So I pre-booked Vegetable Biriyani with Mirchi ka Salan through their website.

Crew started serving after 10 min of take-off. It was only Indian crews. Turkish crews were not seen throughout the flight except when collecting the trash. They started from row 1. It took around 50 min for them to reach row 25. I thought they are serving both pre-booked and BoB together. But she politely rejected BoB to the previous row citing pre-booked will be served first. When somebody asked her about the delay, she replied that almost all the pax have pre-booked the meal.

Finally, they reached me. The meal was served with a smile, but in a non-sealed container. The cover came off when she took it from the cart. She put it back and served me. Same happened to the next seat guy. It’s one of just two minus about the meal. The other being quantity.

Meal on-board TC-TJU
Meal on-board TC-TJU
Meal on-board TC-TJU

Veg Biryani, Salan in small container, a bread with butter and a cake. Though it tasted really really good, I can only name it. I hope that the foodie-expert Sumantra sir will help me describing with his out-of-dictionary words. 😁 I can assure that I will order it again if I get a chance to fly with them again.

It was a quiet flight apart from two turbulence which did not last for more than 10 min. Here is few snaps taken on the way.

View from TC-TJU
Entering the land side leaving Arabian sea behind
A beautiful view of Sharavati Valley Wildlife Sanctuary near Jog Falls

Had a little chat with Indian crews. The crew change usually happens at IXM as the rotation of this flight is DEL-DXB-IXM-DXB-DEL.

Landing

The captain came on mic and announced the decending at 1645. He banked sharply on the left and lined up for the runway. A little hard touch-down was at 1700, 5 min behind the schedule.

IXM runway

The apron had only one 9W ATR preparing for the return trip to MAA.

IXM Terminal and Apron
9W – ATR 72-500 – VT-JCN

Within few minutes of landing, the Corendon bird finally came to rest and docked at an aerobridge. The ground staffs were quick to start offloading the luggage.

Staffs offloading the luggages

The happy ending

While deboarding, the Turkish crew thanked me. In return, I welcomed her to Madurai 😊 and wished her good times in India. In immigration, a SG staff called transit passengers to MAA to allow them to complete immigration and customs on priority basis. There were quite a few transit passengers. I don’t want to go to MAA. So stood in normal line. 😁 Immigration was quick. Customs took around 30 min since only one scanner was working. By that time, a SG staff was escorting both the pilots and 4 cabin crews skipping the customs queue. Finished customs and went to conveyor belt. My bag was already there as it had priority tag. Came out of airport happily skipping the IXM-MAA leg and reached home in another 45 min.

Conclusion

Overall, the flight was smooth. The crews attended always with smile. The food was delicious and tasty. Quantity could have been a little more and the container should be sealed. But no complaints. Thank you Spicejet for a wonderful flight. I hope the return trip by 9W will also be a exciting one. Thank you all for reading this till the end patiently. Kindly suggest me tips and ideas to improve my TR writing.

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