Monday, 24 August 2015

Hubli to Bangalore in Air Pegasus ATR- 72 500

Hubli to Bangalore in Air Pegasus ATR- 72 500

“If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.”  ― Coco Chanel

It was a getaway I was eagerly looking for when my friend invited me to Belgaum. I accepted the offer and was eagerly looking forward for the same. Though the trip was planned almost weeks in advance, a ride back home was always on my mind and being a fan of buses a numerous operators was already striking my mind.  

A week before my travel, a huge hoarding outside my office grabbed my attention. The hoarding was advertising about Air Pegasus starting their second flight to Hubli to Bangalore. It did not take too long for me to decide my ride back home.

Air Pegasus is amongst the newest airline in India. It is a subsidiary of Decor Aviation, the largest ground handling service provider in South India. Armed with ATR 72-500 aircrafts, they commenced operations on 12 April 2015 with its inaugural flight between Bangalore and Hubli. After taking a quick look on their website, I decided to book the 16:40 flight from Hubli.

A lot of questions were on my mind about their service, load factor and the biggest and the jittery of them all- A Turboprop experience..!!

August 24th, 2015- Time to fly

Flight No: OP112
Seat: 12A
Aircraft type: ATR-72  500
Aircraft Regn: VT-APA.

Pic courtesy: Sriram Hariharan, 
After having a heavy meal, thanks to my friend Prashant it was time to head towards the Hubli Airport. The airport is located a mere 3kms from his place. After bidding adieu, I headed inside the small and cosy Hubli airport. I checked in my bag and picked up my boarding pass. The lady at the counter asked me if I had a seat of choice and I was quick to choose a window seat. While I headed towards the security checks, the final call for check in and security was announced on the PA system. A small room housed both the security as well as the waiting room for the passengers.  I cleared the security check and settled down on the seat overlooking the runway.

A quick look around revealed around 40-45passengers waiting to board the plane. The passengers were mainly localities, few tourists and few from business fraternity. Another 15minutes passed by with few more adding to the list of waiting passengers. At around 4:15pm, the aircraft from Bangalore arrived. The plane had brought around 45 passengers from Bangalore. Not bad for a weekday load.

16:21hrs- Boarding time

The PA system came alive and passengers were requested to head for boarding. I decided to stay back till the queue subsided. Finally, I decided to head towards the awaiting plane. My boarding pass was checked and I headed out towards the awaiting plane. A sheer noise of metal being cut grabbed my attention. A quick look towards my left revealed the ill-fated Bombardier Q400 which skidded off the runway upon landing in March being scrapped.

Back to my airplane, I noticed the aircraft which was in operation was VT-APA. A quick search about the history of the plane revealed that it started its operation as VT-KAA of Kingfisher almost 9 years ago. There were two crew members on the plane, while the first crew member welcomed us on board and was busy assisting the senior passengers in boarding; the second crew member was guiding the passengers to their seats. The crew had done a great job to prepare the aircraft for the return leg of the journey as they had very less time.

The cabin was very well maintained. I took my seat and waited for the take off which was now just moments away. The seat next to me was empty. Boarding finished at 16:35pm and the doors were armed. The flight wasn't full but not many seats were empty. The Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127FM engines came alive and within no time we started to taxi towards the end of the runway. The crew went ahead with safety demonstration and finally we were airborne at 16:42hrs.

The take off went very smooth and made some quick turns before heading towards South. The seatbelt sign was turned off and within minutes the cabin crew came by with trolley to offer snacks. I picked up a Paper Boat, something to keep me accompanied. The crew was very patient and served every passenger with a smile. The clear blue skies outside however was very mesmerizing and it kept me glued to the window.

View of  Hubli city

The seatbelt sign came back on at around 17:30hrs and we made some more turns and lined up for landing. We hit a small pocket of turbulence but nothing severe. We began to descend and finally touched down at 17:40hrs on Runway 27 and headed towards our parking stand. I could see a couple of Cobus 300 heading towards us. I came out of the airplane and found a Spicejet Bombardier arriving from an unknown location.

Spicejet Bombardier at KIAL

I boarded the waiting GlobeGroundIndia and headed towards the terminal. The baggage took quite some time to arrive. I was out of the airport by 18:25hrs.

Last Comments-

This was my first Turboprop experience and I must admit it was simply amazing. Yes, these planes are known to make more noise, but the sound inside the cabin was very low. The service from Air Pegasus was also outstanding. Full marks to the crew who served the passengers with a smile and never once were they angry or rude when they were repeatedly called for service. Being a short haul flight this is a definite try as it saves a lot of travel time between the two cities.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Club Class ride.. Again..!!!

Club Class ride.. Again..!!!

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Date of journey: 10/8/15
Service: KSRTC Airavat Club Class.
Departure: 15:00hrs
Distance- 1020kms(appox)

It was raining heavily without any respite. Mumbai was getting its fair share of monsoon rains. With my bags packed, it was time to say good bye to the wonderful and full of life filled city of Mumbai. With my ride home still heading towards Mumbai, I decided to bid adieu to comfortable home of my friend and headed to Sion.
Off all the times that I have traveled between these two cities, this was the first time I decided to board the bus even before it reached its destination on the onward journey. If you are a bus fan, then Sion is the place to be. Though the rains were pounding heavily, people were on the move in the ever bustling city.

9:15am- Sion

The white elephant honked his way towards me as I stood there braving the rain. The bus slowed down to pick me up. The crew greeted me and though I still had a long way to go, I knew my memorable journey had started. The bus had around 20 passengers waiting to disembark at their respective points. The city traffic was creating quite a flutter and with rains made it worse. I headed to the rear of the bus and took an empty seat as the bus made its way towards Mumbai Central.

14:45pm- Time for departure

While I took a stroll around the bus stand, the crews were busy preparing the bus for the return journey. I came back to find the bus waiting in the platform ready for departure. There were 4 passengers including myself who were boarding the bus from this place. We took a couple of more seats for Bangalore.
At the strike of 15:00pm, we honked our way out of the bus stand. The narrow lanes leading out of the bus stand, traffic and the rain made the ride a little uncomfortable but our man was up for challenge. We headed towards Sion and very soon the traffic began to thin out. The high rises of Mumbai is absolutely stunning to watch as we coasted towards our destination.

Pickup time

A quick glance at the reservation chart revealed that there were around 15passengers boarding from Mumbai. A separate chart was to be given in Kotrud for passengers boarding the bus from Swargate, Pune.
We pulled over at Sion for our first set of pickup. No sooner we picked up our passengers we headed towards Chembur. We reached there in no time, thanks to less traffic. We took few more passengers and the last sets of passengers were waiting at Panvel. Enroute to Panvel, we crossed Sion-Panvel E-way and Vashi toll which was having a fair amount of traffic. At 16:28pm the last set of passengers had boarded the bus as we floored the bus towards Pune.

Mumbai-Pune Expressway (Yashwantrao Chavan Mumbai Pune Expressway)

Well, words alone cannot describe this section of the highway. This is India's first six-lane concrete, high-speed expressway and this has certainly introduced new levels of speed and safety in automobile transportation to Indian roads. Sadly few (in)sane drivers try to push too hard and the results are devastating. Witnessing few such incidents enroute was certainly scary. We neared our first toll, Khalapur toll station. A notice was put out about maintenance being done at the Ghats.

We crossed the toll and headed towards Lonavala. Enroute to Lonavala, we crossed the Adoshi tunnel. A landslide near the same Adoshi tunnel few weeks ago had claimed the life of 2 people travelling in a car. The section was however cleared and traffic was flowing effortlessly. The scenic Lonavala ghat never failed to impress travelers along the route and to witness this sitting at the front was breathtaking. 

We finally pulled over for our first break near Lonavala.

19:30hrs- Pune.

We headed towards the city which was once the base of the prime ministers of the Maratha Empire. We exited the E-way and headed towards Kotrud. As always Pune welcomed us with a traffic jam as we slowly coasted towards Swargate. We reached swargate by 19:30hrs, 30minutes before the scheduled time.
Many passengers made a bee line while our conductor came with the new reservation sheet. The 19:00pm Bangalore bound Nasik-Bangalore was nowhere in sight. Our conductor has some hard time as there was some confusion with passengers. 

 Finally running late by 45minutes, the club class from Nasik pulled into the bus stand. He took his set of passengers and was off in a flash while we waited for a lone passenger. Finally, the lone passenger showed up with a ‘Sorry’ and boarded the bus. We immediately moved out however the damage was done. We wasted approx 40mins as we headed our way back to the highway. We tailgated the Nasik Club Class till Katraj and at the junction took a right turn towards the new Katraj tunnel while he headed straight towards the old Ghat roads.

Finally, hunger started to creep in as I looked forward for my dinner break. We pulled over in Natraj and were greeted by an empty parking lot. After enjoying a scrumptious meal, it was time to return back.

Snooze mode

We started the journey back after a crew change. All the traveling from past couple of days had taken a toll and finally it was time to rest. I sank in my seat and before I knew it, sleep consumed me. The front row ride, No honking, no swerving around ride ensure a good night sleep. I woke up once at Hubli near the toll and fell back asleep in seconds. The ride comfort ensured passengers had a comfortable sleep as the bus coasted towards its destination.

6:20am- Hiriyur

A senseless truck changing lane without indicators and a subsequent honking woke me up. The cloudy weather of Hiriyur welcomed us. I tried to sink back into sleep again however; we were heading straight to our last stop of the journey, the breakfast stop.

 A lone standing pancharangi from Hubli welcomed us in. Within minutes, we were joined by Naskik-Bangalore B9R. 15minutes into the break and it was time for the Davangere Club Class to join us in. We were the first one to move out and joined the highway quickly. We coasted along the relatively empty highway as we crossed Sira in no time. We neared Tumkur bypass and pulled over to drop off a passenger.

I knew I was home when I spotted a packed BMTC bus heading towards Nelamangala toll. My journey was now coming to an end. I sat back in my seat as the bus coasted on the Nelamangala-Yeswanthpur toll way. We dropped off few passengers in Gorguntepalya and headed towards Yeswanthpur Railway station. Since, the bus does not go via Navrang, I got down at Yeswanthpur bidding adieu to the crew and thanking them for all the memorable moments along the journey.

Will I try this service again.
Since this bus departs from Mumbai Central, I am really not sure if I will be able to travel in this bus again. But I am certainly looking forward for another journey with them.