Travelling at Chinese New Year is like travelling at Christmas – it’s crowded, fares are expensive and you’d best book way ahead. In perhaps not the most well thought-out travel plan, we booked our trip to Oman with a cheap one-way ticket to Dubai on Jet Airways, and figured we’d sort the rest out with Emirates miles. I won’t go into detail of the disastrous return leg from DOH-HKG on Cathay, where we got upgraded to business, only to be delayed 8 hours till the flight was cancelled and stranded in Doha. I’d rather forget that bit.
Prior to our trip, an option to upgrade to business class for a fee was featured in the ‘Manage My Booking’ page, but when I tried to do it, it said there was only 1 seat available to upgrade. Although tempted, true love trumped a flat bed and so I ‘slummed it’ in economy with my love 😉
I was so happy to finally get to the airport. The last day of school before the Chinese New Year holiday was, naturally, a Monday, and school picnic day. We were shunted to the New Territories to sit around a barbecue pit and engage in the world’s most inefficient method of cooking outdoors. Am I the only teacher who hates these non-teaching days and their forced frivolity? Admittedly, they were much more bearable back home with colleagues who shared the same sense of humour and possessed an ability and desire to converse in English. As the only gweilo in my
gulag school, my colleagues dealt with the awkwardness of my presence by pretending I wasn’t there and engaging in a Cantofest. Students, bless them, engaged in chitchat when I approached them, but I wasn’t about to crash a 14-year-old’s party, one of the few chances teenagers going through this education system have to just be kids, without the daily deluge of exams and quizzes and dictations.
So as you can imagine, I raced to the airport as soon as our frivolities had come to an end. This trip marked the first time I’d travelled with hand luggage beyond a weekend away, as I was inspired by a friend who’d visited Hong Kong on a stopover on a much longer trip who was travelling light. A whole ten days and I’d managed to whittle down all that I’d need into my trust Samonsite carry-on!
Having checked in online and travelling with carry-on, we quickly found ourselves airside. We had enough time for a glass of wine, the thought of which had kept me going throughout that godawful picnic, and then headed to Gate 62 to board our flight to Mumbai. I’d never been to India or travelled on any Indian airline, and was curious and excited about what would lay ahead.
We passed through business class on the way to our seats in economy, which was lit up with fancy mood lighting that didn’t extend to cattle class. Since we had the exit row seats, we were in for a fairly comfortable trip anyway. The crew gave a very professional safety briefing to those seated in the emergency rows.
As one might expect on a flight to India, the majority of passengers appeared to be from the subcontinent, as well as some Chinese and a few others, such as us. I wondered how many were travelling to India and how many were in transit on the way to somewhere else. It was quite a full flight, unsurprising given that it was Chinese New Year.
A blanket, pillow and headphones were placed on the seat. I always appreciate when airlines do this. However, no amenity kit was given out at all. We pushed back on time, and the safety demo was done before takeoff.
The Jet Airways crew wear a very distinctive canary yellow jacket, which is removed after takeoff. Without this, females are just dressed in black and males are in a white shirt and tie. Not so important in the grand scheme of things, I know. The crew weren’t overly friendly, but not rude either. I’d recently travelled to Indonesia on Garuda and had been impressed by their warm hospitality, so I guess that is what I was comparing it against. Unlike Garuda, however, Jet Airways know the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin, and prerecorded announcements were played in Cantonese, which is appropriate for a flight ex-HKG. Drinks were served with corn crackers about half an hour into the flight.
Be careful when taking out the personal TV from the arm rest when sitting in emergency exit rows – it fell and hit my shin. Ouch. The in-flight entertainment (IFE) was a little slow, and certainly not as good as Emirates’ ICE or even Cathay’s StudioCX. There weren’t any box sets of TV shows, only about 3 episodes of a given show. That means you get sucked in and then…
Ooh, it was going to be a bumpy flight. Mid-way through the drinks service, the seatbelt sign was illuminated. Eventually it was turned off and a nice, spicy aroma floated through the cabin, signifying the meal service would begin soon. I always pre-order the Indian Vegetarian meal option, and was looking forward to what Jet, an Indian airline, would offer.
90 minutes in, we were served dinner. It seems it was catered in HKG, as the sugary yoghurt was from Nestle Hong Kong. It was actually a disappointing meal, and Cathay and Singapore Airlines offer vastly superior Indian meal options. It featured a corn and bean curry, jeera rice and a buttery mushroom something. The rice was dry and the salad seemed like frozen vegetables had been mixed with sweet yoghurt, resembling some kind of weird coleslaw. Dessert was a sickly sweet caramel topped with strawberry syrup. I took a couple of mouthfuls and had to stop. At least there was metal cutlery.
I couldn’t finish dinner and instead fell asleep. I woke up above Mandalay. It was still bumpy, and the seatbelt sign was on. I watched a couple of episodes of “Revenge”, a show I never really got into when it was on TV. I prefer to watch TV shows over movies on planes – I never really can concentrate or stay awake long enough for films!
Even though the seatbelt sign was on for most of the flight, it wasn’t obeyed or enforced. I rang the call button to ask for water, and was impressed that my request had been pre-empted, as the crew member arrived with a bottle of water in hand. Nice one!
The lavatories were equipped with Korres hand moisturiser, which is a beautiful, niche Greek brand. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any left in the container, and the same went for soap 😦
At around 2am Hong Kong time, we prepared for landing. Crew sprayed the cabin with disinfectant – I really hate it when this is done. What am I being forced to breathe in?
My husband had been feeling unwell during the flight, and when we landed in Mumbai and prepared to disembark, he got dizzy and kind of collapsed. The crew were standing near us, and I alerted them and she said she’d come back with water. She never did. This was probably the most concerning aspect of the trip – it’s quite frightening to be in a new place and someone you love is obviously unwell, and there’s no support from people who should be there to help. Added to this was the asshole Australian couple behind us who were hitting our seats which were reclined (I don’t remember why – perhaps I’d reclined it for my husband after he had his dizzy spell?). I guess that was a passive-aggressive message, but seriously a) there’s obviously some emergency situation going on, don’t be an asshole and b) it’s economy class – if you don’t like someone reclining their seat, go business class.
Anyway, he eventually regained enough composure to want to disembark, and we stumbled to the transfer area (the crew member who ran off to ‘get water’ wasn’t seen as we left the aircraft). Transferring in India, as we found out, isn’t the simplest procedure – there are long queues for the very stringent security checks, and you’d better have the airline-issued baggage tag so security staff can date stamp it! Staff at the transfer desk are to be credited for helping my husband and fast-tracking us through transit procedures.
Our time in BOM before our next flight to DXB was, as you can imagine, sedate. After a couple of hours my husband perked up a little. I have no idea what was wrong but thankfully it wasn’t serious enough to prevent our ownward travel from a country where we had no visa!
I won’t detail the BOM-DXB flight, as it was rather non-eventful and I spent most of it asleep. This trip did, however, stir up a desire to visit India – watch this space!
What did I think of Jet Airways? Hmm, they’re really nothing special. They get you there, but don’t expect too much. I won’t be rushing to fly them again on an international route.