Top Tips for Bombay

  • Air India’s value for money Airport upgrades
  • Delhi & Bombay have long walks from the gate, so take one of the many golf carts
  • For those of Indian origin, the PIO card still works! But covert to OCI going forward
  • Cheap Duty free alcohol & chocolates (my Lindt bars were U$13 in India vs U$16 in Singapore)
  • Change your money in Singapore or Delhi, not Bombay
  • The new T2 in Bombay – also used for Non Low Cost Domestic flights, has a smoking room & a great GVK Lounge
  • Air India economy (not business) has lovely churan packets
  • Look at your ticket conditions before hitting “buy” as changes can cost a lot

Getting to Bombay, India

I was back to India after 10 days in Singapore, flying Air India again. The benefits of their recent entry to Star Alliance is super for passengers with priority check-in, lounge access & boarding. The airport upgrade for Singapore Delhi was about U$300 & was available, but I didn’t take it as I am supposed to be on a budget & it was an evening flight! Let’s see what I do when I check in tomorrow for the redeye back to Singapore.

Air India was one of the first Boeing Dreamliner customers & that has enhanced their capability & service. The 787-8’s are beginning to look a bit dated though. I had booked the exit row 11A, but as the plane was quite empty and the armrests don’t go up in this row, one of the crew showed me to a row further back where I could stretch out, and I did. I love Indian food, but I asked for Chinese style chicken, thinking it was Indian Chinese food, but it was Chinese Chinese food and not to my taste. The headsets were those difficult to use ones like one uses on mobile phones, but the helpful crew gave me one of the much nicer Bose-lookalikes. I saw Nobody Killed Jessica, the incredible story of how a politicians son first gets away with murder, and then one persons crusade gets justice.

Though I have flown extensively, I saw for the first time a doctor onboard tending to a passenger, who fortunately was soon fine. In the normal Indian style there was a gaggle of people watching from the sidelines.

We landed 30 minutes early, and there was a busy business class passenger talking loudly on his phone. I have come across many people like this – once I was in London on my blackberry at a restaurant & someone asked me if I working on a hostile takeover!

I took the long walk to immigrations, wondering whether my PIO card would still work. As a back-up I had some passport pictures to get a Visa on Arrival if needed. The PIO worked, but after a lot of questions as I had got an eVisa for my past trip.

Indian duty free is mainly alcohol, cigarettes, chocolates & cosmetics, the normal purchases of returning Indians. One will not find the huge choice as in Changi Singapore which is a large transit hub. The prices are very good though.

The money changing rates in Bombay are not though, with commissions being charged unlike before. The new terminal doesn’t have any Indian bank counters, whose rates are the best & do not charge commissions.

I took an air conditioned taxi for U$10 to Altamount Road where I was staying with friends. It was 11PM and I was disappointed not to find any of the awesome “cutting” street tea available, my first “todo” when I reach Bombay, but I more than made up the next day.

From Bombay to Delhi

I was originally booked on a 7PM departure, but changed to 10AM. Fortunately I did it 24 hours earlier, else due to my ticket conditions, would have paid U$120 extra had I not. Air India’s website is great as it requires us to scroll through the conditions before buying, but people like me do so without reading them, so don’t do what I do and read!

The relatively new International Terminal 2 also has domestic departures for non low cost airlines like Air India & Jet. I left Altamount Road at 8.15AM, and despite the rain, was at T2 in 38 minutes. The sealink & the turnoff from the highway to T2 really helps. Check-in & immigration took 12 minutes. T2 has a smoking room, located opposite the Street Food by Punjab Grill where you can pick up a masala tea. The GVK lounge was superb – large, airy, great views of the airport, quick wifi & a wide choice of Indian food. It could do with sockets for international chargers.

Once onboard, its best to ask for blankets/ pillows asap as supply is limited. I missed a great plane spotting picture as there were an Emirates 777 & 6 A320/B737s in the queue behind us. On the left side of the runway was the Air India hanger with many 747s, the Queen of the Skies as far as I am concerned. And while we waited to takeoff, a BA 777 landed.

For breakfast, the crew gave the “veg/ non-veg” options without specifying what each was. For regular Indian’s “non-veg” is a must ask as we think paying for “veg” is a waste! I took the veg option & it was super. Air India economy (not business) distributes small packets of delicious churan that one may miss. Its in the plastic packet that has the sugar/ milk for tea/coffee, so if you like this, look for it there.

I had a wonderful encounter onboard – I had dropped my glasses and one of the passengers pointed it out to me else I would not have found them.

When I landed, my mobile was dead, but I found that in the luggage carousel area they have international charger sockets, but you need your charger. One of the friendly luggage assistants allowed me to use his phone so I could connect with the home contingent that had come to pick me up. Airport to NOIDA in 3 hours with stops enroute at 2 bookshops, Nizams Kathi Kebabs in Def Col & picking up my nephew at his bus stop in Moolchand. Direct would have probably taken 1 hour.

Getting back to Singapore

I was leaving on a Friday evening, prefaced by torrential downpours in Delhi all day. For the 10pm departure, I left NOIDA at 7 & reached the airport at 8.15. Yes, I did succumb to the airport upgrade that cost U$300, but it took 30 minutes to get it done. The counter asked one of the valets to accompany me, and it was Aman, the same one we helped me with the family the previous week. He greeted me as if I was god, so maybe the U$7 tip I gave him last time was a bit much!

For the smokers, there are 2 areas – one next to food court on the upper level, the other near Gate 15.

Departure was from gate 26, the last one, so a bit of a walk. But I was greeted chirpily & with just 9 people in the 18 business seats, so we were well spread out. It’s a comfortable flatbed, with a blanket & a duvet (this is given out later as a I found out when I woke up after dinner to go to the loo when I found it draped over me). I watched Person of Interest & had chicken for dinner. I thought that packaged milk & sugar was a bit much for business.

I always feel cold onboard and had forgotten the light sweater I normally get with me, so wore the top of the white pyjamas we were given (a strange colour). In the morning I was woken up with a towel & went back to sleep after putting the seat upright. Immigration, luggage & getting a taxi was, as usual, very smooth at Changi and I was home an hour after touch-down.