I travel on the DXB-BOM-DXB route frequently and have a strong preference for Jet Airways flight 9W558. The standard departure time is 8:50 pm and it arrives in Dubai by 10:45 pm
The timings work great – I can finish my meetings by 6:00 pm, reach the airport by 7:30 pm and comfortably take the flight.
I don’t usually carry a check-in bag on this route and Mumbai airport really speeds up things if you are travelling Business or First.
Moreover, I can skip the immigration queues at DXB airport using the smart-gates and reach home by 11:30 pm.
I had redeemed my Etihad Guest miles for this flight. The booking process was simple – I logged into my Jet privilege account and confirmed availability on this flight. Then I called up Etihad Guest and booked it. The total time taken was less than 10 minutes.
The typical fare for this flight (booked 2 weeks in advance) is $500+. Round-trip fares (DXB-BOM-DXB) are typically $800+.
I had booked this using 21,000 Etihad Guest miles + $20 as other charges. This means, I got a value of 2.3 cents per mile which I consider to be good.
The best thing about flying short-haul from Mumbai on business is not the flight but the airport. No, I do not mean the museum look of the airport (which I feel is overdone). Here are some of the perks I appreciate:
Dedicated Boarding Area
Most airlines have a separate boarding queue for their premium and loyal passengers. Mumbai airport – in all its glory – goes a step further. It has a separate boarding zone for business/first class passengers. There were a lot of people at the airport but very few in this zone. Check-in took me less than 5 minutes.
Exclusive Immigration Access
Perhaps the most important incentive for me. I always feel like Pacman when I am travelling international economy from Mumbai. It is not because the lines are long, it is expected. However, there is utter chaos at the best of times – people cutting lines, new immigration counters opening up and the ones you are waiting closing down.
If you are travelling business, you have your own dedicated immigration queue. As expected, there will not be many people here and it is way more organized.
I take back what I said earlier. Dedicated immigration counters are good, but nothing compares to the grandeur, service and delectable food at GVK Lounge. There are two lounges – East & West wing and they can only be accessed if you are travelling Business / First (or you pay for it). The usual access methods – Priority Pass, LoungeKey, Diners club etc do not work here.
The food & drink choices are incredible. I think of it like a premium brunch with drinks. You will find a dedicated bar, live food stations, great Indian delicacies and a dessert station to die for. I was running late on this journey so didn’t get time to click pictures of the lounge (except for the dessert station 🙂 )
I would strongly recommend you have your meal in the lounge and take a nap in the flight.
Seats & Seatmates
Jet Airways usually flies a Boeing 737-800 on this route.
The premiere cabin has 12 seats in 3 rows of 2-2 configuration. The upholstery is in Jet Airways’ blue color and a white cushion. I had reserved myself on seat 2A. The seats were sufficiently wide and there was more than enough leg-room even for a well-built person like me. The seat had various buttons for adjustments but required much power to operate.
There are pockets behind the front-seat which apart from the safety instructions and magazines, could accommodate a tablet but probably not a big laptop. There was no USB socket or a TV screen. However, Jet Airways encourages you do connect to their on-board wifi (no internet yet) and watch content from their entertainment portal. I was too tired and wanted to conserve battery on my devices so I skipped it.
The business-class had 3 seats empty till 7:50 pm (the boarding time). There were a couple of kids (age around 5 and 8) seated on Row 1 who were delightful. Anyone who things kids should not be allowed on business class should have been on this flight. The crew were very friendly with the kids and I felt I am in my living room watching my kids play.
And then the ‘real’ kids walked in. About 5 minutes after the scheduled departure time. There were 3 of them – all minor celebrities (it is not uncommon on this route). The fun started
Air Hostess: Madam, would you like watermelon juice or fresh lime or just water?
Celebrity A: You don’t have coconut water eh? Just water then.
Me (in my head): If she had coconut water, she would have offered you, eh?
After a few moments …
Air Hostess: Madam, we are out of Murgh Biryani so it’s either vegetarian or Lal Maas (a lamb delicacy from Rajasthan)
Celebrity B: I don’t know what Lal Maas is. How can you be out of Biryani?
Me (in my head): She was out because you came 5 minutes after departure time. She already took orders from the rest of us.
Although, I have to admit, the biggest celebrity of them all (a famous tennis player) was a thorough gentleman. Come to think of it, its always the minor ones who fuss more.
Fortunately, I slept as soon as I had my food so couldn’t listen to any more of their conversation.
Food & Beverages
Champagne was offered even on this short-haul route. It was a Taittinger Brut Reserve. There was a decent enough wine selection along with other drinks.
Popped lotus seeds (called Makhanas in Hindi) were offered on the side. I think it complemented the champagne really well.
For the main course, I chose the aforementioned Lal Maas which came with steamed rice, okra and papadum. Indian naan bread was also provided.
There was chocolate moose and phirni for dessert but I skipped it (had more than my share of desserts at GVK lounge)
The soft-product was great and the crew was really at the top of their game. They were cheerful, attentive and, most importantly, pro-active without being intrusive.
The hard-product was above average. The seats looked a little worn-out and the recliner buttons will test your fitness levels. There was no screen or USB port which could be an issue for some. However, the food was delicious.