Hey guys and girls, it's been a while since my last trip! I've been working regionally recently, and doing a lot of work in the North Sea, but nobody wants to read about constant delayed British Rail and Flybe services
I have just returned from a recent trip which took me to an oil rig in India, followed by a few in The U.S.
So for the first part of the trip, I would find myself travelling to Mumbai, India. The wonderful people in the travel department were kind enough to book me on a direct flight from my hometown of Manchester.Airline: Jet Airways
Route: Manchester, UK to Mumbai, India
Scheduled Departure: 09:35
Actual Departure: 10:09
Scheduled Arrival: 00:40+1
Actual Arrival: 00:28+1
Flight Duration: 8 hours 49 minutes
Aircraft Type/Reg: Airbus A330-200 (VT-JWW)
I arrived at T2 at around 8am, in plenty of time for the 9:35 departure. The 9W check-in in full swing with the expected chaotic crowds.
It was pretty depressing walking into T2 since ZB have departed and in my opinion it was noticeable that the atmosphere was different.
Thankfully, 9W host a dedicated desk complete with a dirty red carpet for it's Premiere customers, and I was checked in right away.
No priority security screening unfortunately, but the process took no more than 10 minutes.
9W Customers from MAN have the luxury (used loosely) of the Aspire lounge in Terminal 2. I entered the Aspire Lounge and was welcomed by a very overly-happy for this time of morning young girl who allowed me access to the lounge, the lounge itself was quite full with a UA flight and a TUI Long haul flight departing around the same time, thankfully there was plenty of free seating.
I found myself a free space with a table, and decided to get some breakfast. The options were a few yoghurts, pastries, cereals and some juices. Personally I wasn't overly bothered, but if I had paid £25 to come in i'd probably want a bit more. I was more offended that the coffee tastes like dirty water
Boarding for the flight started at around 09:05, the boarding process was pretty mad, there was even a point when some Greater Manchester police bobby's had to be called to pull apart 2 passengers who seemed like they were about to give each other a good shoeing
Thankfully, I was one of the first to finally get onboard. I was greeted at 1L by 2 very serious cabin crew, very robotic and it appeared there was a strictly no smiling policy. I took my seat at 4A, and the "Guest Services Executive" approached me, which im guessing is a fancy name for cabin manager, she introduced herself, and wished me a pleasant flight, all the while sticking to this no smiling, no happiness, we-really-dont-want-to-be-here attitude policy which the crew had. Following this, before I had time to catch a breath, the "Cabin Supervisor" approached me and said EXACTLY the same thing, and offered me either Orange Juice or Water, he also asked if I would like some pyjamas which I declined. He was somewhat happier than the rest of the crew.
The seats on this 11-year old Airbus were very worn and in clear need of an update. They were relatively comfortable, however the reclining feature was very temperamental, sometimes it would work, other times i'm stuck in the current position. I mentioned this to the crew who said they'd make a note of it, gee thanks
Menus were distributed alongside hot towels on the ground, and meal orders were taken a few minutes later.
The menus are split into "western" and "indian" sections. Helpful for somebody who is quite clueless when it comes to Indian food and quite happy to stick to a western option.
Breakfast was either a "Chives and Masala Omelette" or a "Tropical Fruit Pancake". On the Indian side of the menu was "Pongal Keerai Vada, Mulagapodi Idli" or "Hara Moong Masala; Gobhi Paratha; Palak Pyaz Ki Tikki".
I asked for the Omelette. Does that surprise you?
One of the only good things I could think of about this Business class is that the beds are configured 1-1-1 much like Upper Class on VS which is great. 9W also offer a very handy "Dine Anytime" service.
Departure was pretty smooth, and we rocketed into the rainy, grey cloudy skies of Manchester, the 330's chunky wings flapping in the turbulence like an overweight pigeon.
To give credit to the crew, they were incredibly efficient, service started very quickly after departure, the downside being that they were very robotic, rude, and quite clearly didn't enjoy their jobs. At least European crews put on a fake smile when they talk to you before they go and talk about you in the galley.
Around 40 minutes after departure, Breakfast was served.
Chives and Masala Omelette, served with Potato wedges and spinach, I got a coke with ice. I hoped I could trust the ice since the aircraft was re-catered in MAN
The food was pretty bang average to be honest, it tasted exactly like any meal you'd get on a UK Charter airline. Imagine a Thomas Cook or TUI breakfast and you'd not be far off this international business class breakfast.
The coke was cold though, and the ice didn't have me leaking from any orifices so there was nothing major to complain about.
I had quite a bit of work to do, so I didn't pay much attention to the IFE, "JetScreen", but from the little experience I had with it, the touchscreen is pretty unresponsive and the selection was relatively poor, the selection of, films and TV Shows was very old. These old birds need a major refurb.
After the Breakfast services, the crew were pretty much nowhere to be seen, they could certainly be heard in the galley though, they hosting a chat show or radio show through those curtains?? A steel pan band perhaps?
I forgot to mention, the load in "Premiere" was around 50%, I had row 4 to myself.
With the dine anytime feature, the second service, a "Light snack" could be requested anytime. The only "western" dish on the menu was a Gourmet Chicken Burger, which I was told would take just a few minutes. Around 20 minutes later, one of the crew slapped a very soggy, badly presented burger, which was like any microwave burger you'd find in the supermarket. It was served with 4, yes FOUR, potato wedges, and a chocolate brownie.
Again the food was quite disappointing, but my hopes weren't exactly high after the first meal. The brownie was pretty good
I should also note I wasn't offered a drink with the meal, nor were any other drink offers made throughout the flight.
I went to the galley to ask for a second drink. MY GOD, the reaction I got, you'd think I was asking for a quick go in the left seat for landing.
With every huff and puff they could muster, they got me a can of coke out of the trolley, and handed it to me. I daren't ask for a glass incase they tried to get me banged up in a Mumbai jail.
Thankfully, they hadn't cleared away my coke glass from 7 hours previous, so I re-used that.
To my delight, we started our descent shortly after, and the seatbelt sign was swiftly turned on.
The night sky of Mumbai didn't provide much scenery as our approach was mostly over water it seemed, however the approach and landing was pretty smooth, and soon we found ourselves docked at the gate.
After a chaotic customs, I collected my bag, and was taken to the Hilton at Mumbai Airport.
A short but sweet sleep, and 9am rolled around. I was then taken to Madh, where I boarded a somewhat questionable Mil Mi-17 operated by Pawan Hans Helicopter services. I saw actual rust on the fuselage. No immersion suits here, I strolled straight onto the helicopter, alongside 4 rig workers returning to work after being hospitalised.
The destination was Rig S3, in the Panna-Mukta oilfield, a 40 minute flight from the mainland.
Not going to lie to you, I will hold my hands up and admit I was absolutely petrified, been to Iraq & Afghanistan with the Royal Marines countless times, but this, this is up there with one of the scariest situations of my life
Finally, the ride of death was over, and we slammed onto S3 so hard the wheels squeaked and my arse almost went through the seat.
We jumped off, and the helicopter took off pretty quickly afterwards and faded into the distance.
A little info on S3, there are around 9 or 10 oil rigs in the Panna-Mutka oil field, however S3 is the only rig "operated" by us. I say "Operated", because its not really us, it's actually a third-party contractor, however since the oil comes to us, we have the duty of care and hence my visit to the rig.
S3 has around 300-350 men and women on it, it's managed by the local indian head office however the majority of the workforce are American, Mexican or Filipino. The last inspection by an HSE Inspector was in 2016.
To sum it up, I was appalled. The conditions these hard working men and women were living and working in were atrocious, I wouldn't let my dog live here, the food was far below the set standard, and the safety procedures and equipment were either failing or already failed. The derrick, an essential part of the rig, was out of bounds due to "loose" platforms, which quite literally would swing in the wind, if you stood on it, it would 100% collapse and you'd soon find yourself in the shark infested Arabian Sea.
Despite the lack of hot running water and reliable electricity, the wi-fi was absolute brilliant.
The conditions were so bad, I didn't wait to write up reports, I immediately conference called the headquarters in London and Houston and made them aware that this rig was ticking no boxes. To no surprise, the management team on the rig soon got a call ordering the immediate termination of all drilling pending further investigation. My 2-day trip to Mumbai turned into 5, I had to take photos as evidence, take statements and write reports, and deliver them to members of management from both my employer, and the third-party contractor in Mumbai.
I won't bore you with that stuff, but after 5 days of pretty long nights I was ready to head home. Unfortunately for me, I had a next leg of the trip taking me to the Gulf of Mexico.Airline: ANA
Route: Mumbai, India to Tokyo-Narita, Japan
Scheduled Departure: 20:00
Actual Departure: 20:34
Scheduled Arrival: 07:15+1
Actual Arrival: 06:54+1
Flight Duration: 6 hours 51 minutes
Aircraft Type/Reg: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (JA813A)
Mumbai is a wonderfully designed airport, inside anyway, parts of it looks like generic lighted areas, meanwhile other parts of the airport are wonderfully decorated.
Select ANA Passengers departing from BOM have access to the GVK Lounge. The lounge has a grand entrance, with the reception desk located immediately inside the entrance, the young man at the desk welcomed me warmly, and escorted me into the lounge, he also gave me a brief overview of all the services available.
The decor inside the lounge is wonderful and adds a very luxurious feel, seating is ample, good views of the tarmac and there are lots of partitions within the lounge to increase privacy. Seating inside the lounge is incredibly comfortable and luxurious, the whole feel of the lounge is very elegant.
There is a marble bar where they serve fresh coffee, and alcoholic drinks. There are also shower facilities in the lounge.
In terms of food the selection on offer was pretty solid, plenty of hot local dishes as well as a selection of "Safer" (for me anyway), sandwiches and cold foods, pastries and fruits.
This lounge even offers champers which is a +1 in my books.
After a quick bevvy, I headed to gate 74, where I was first in line in the Business queue for boarding.
Boarding was orderly and efficient. ANA has a flat bed config in 1-2-1 however some rows are 1-1-1.
The beds have quite a bit of privacy and an incredible amount of storage space and legroom.
The controls for the bed are very simple, simple push buttons which allow you to recline to any angle you wish.
ANA Also offer noise cancelling Panasonic headphones and slippers, I was surprised to learn that ANA does not offer an amenity kit.
Shortly after boarding completed we were offered a selection of newspapers and magazines, I was also disappointed there is no pre-departure beverage.
The Cabin crew were generally very happy and attentive, one thing I noticed is that these crew move at lightning pace up and down the aisles, unlike any other airline i've seen, they power walk, it's quite odd, like cabin crew in general walk pretty quickly but they took this to a whole new level.
After joining the queue of traffic for departure we were soon in the air, leaving a chaotic BOM.
Shortly after departure, menus were handed out. Much like on 9W, the menu was split in two, "International" and "Japanese". I am a big fan of Japanese food, however the "Japanese" menu was a bit too expert for me
A round of Champagne and Orange Juice was offered with the menu, I took a champers.
This was followed by a full drinks round.
Having made my choices for dinner, the crew gradually bought food out course by course.
First off, an Amuse bouche: Foie Gras and Chicken pate, pineapple confiture, quinoa salad and marinated Seabass.
Next up, appetizer: chicken and prune roll with yellow pepper sauce and marinated prawn wasabi mayo.
Next, main, butter poached lobster with Japanese steamed rice.
This food, was absolutely spectacular. Between every course the crew would also top up drinks and swap cutlery, serviettes and tablecloths.
I've always heard the food from BOM is inedible, so either ANA do an amazing job or this food is imported, or catered in NRT for both legs, regardless this dinner was 10/10.
Finally the crew came around with a dessert cart, however the main had killed me off so I just got some fresh fruit.
The crew were very attentive when it came to clearing in and topping up drinks.
After dinner I reclined to a fully flat bed, and decided to watch some TV. The IFE is simple to use however the selection isn't very good which was disappointing.
Before I fell asleep the crew kindly reminded me that a snack menu is available all night and if I want something to press the call bell, and asked if I would like anything before I fall asleep. The cabin lights were swiftly turned off and I managed to get 3 hours of pretty good sleep.
I was kind of grateful for there not being a second service, I appreciate the opportunity to sleep without having the cabin lights turned on full and the crew banging around with carts and passengers banging knives and forks etc. I think nearly the entire cabin remained asleep until around 50 minutes before arrival when we were woken by a PA from the flight deck.
The cabin was secured for landing, the crew kindly offered some last minute coffee to folks who looked like they needed it. Any airline that serves decent coffee is doing something right in my books, and ANA definitely did.
A few short minutes later we were on the ground in Narita, and I headed for my connecting flight.Airline: ANA
Route: Tokyo-Narita, Japan to Houston, Texas
Scheduled Departure: 10:50
Actual Departure: 11:06
Scheduled Arrival: 07:45+1
Actual Arrival: 07:28+1
Flight Duration: 11 hours 22 minutes
Aircraft Type/Reg: Boeing 777-300ER (JA783A)
I was able to make a quick stop in the famous ANA Suites lounge. I placed myself in one of those neat cubicles to catch up on some work.
A member of staff approached me and offered me a cold towel and a drink, I got a coffee.
I managed to complete all the work I needed too which meant I could fully enjoy the next flight, which I was quite excited for.
We boarded from gate 56, a few seconds from the Suites lounge.
Boarding started around 10:10, I loved how civilized the whole process was, there were several staff and monitors clearly showing in different languages what stage of boarding we were at and who could board and people stuck to it.
Now this is where it got odd.
I approached the desk, the ticket agent knew my name before she scanned my boarding pass. She then certside, like I was royalty, and I proceeded down the airbridge. In the airbridge were several more ANA Ground staff all lined up, who bowed as myself and the other first passenger walked down, we were then directed down the First only airbridge leading to 1L.
3 Cabin Crew greeted us at the door, myself and one other First passenger made up the load today. I was escorted to my seat by a lovely member of crew, who took my bag, coat, and even put my phone on charge for me, she asked if I would like some pyjamas, which I again thought I might as well since I would like to get some good sleep. She escorted me to the toilet at the front, and once I was changed, took my clothes and hung them for me and told me she would have them ready for me in the morning.
I was offered an amenity kit, which ANA provide for First pax. It comes in a very cool hard-shell samsonite case.
The lovely member of crew said she would be personally looking after me on todays flight, she told me since the cabin was empty, after departure she would make 2D, across the aisle, into a bed, so I can jump in and go to sleep whenever I wish without the hassle.
A pair of Sony headphones on this flight, which were actually very good as the crew made PA's in incredibly soft, quiet voices which were very hard to hear, so the headphones drowned out all cabin noise.
The crew offered Champagne or OJ on the ground, I took an OJ since it was before 12
Shortly after departure the crew got to work preparing Lunch.
The wonderful young lady who was looking after me offered me a beverage and handed me a menu. She said she highly recommended the Japanese cuisine. Again the very extensive menu was split into "International" and "Japanese" cuisine.
I felt almost bad going for International, so I followed her advice and I selected several options from the Japanese menu.
Amuse: Roasted Duck with Orange, Vegetable and Cream Cheese Brochette & Cheese Pepper Bar.
Appetizer: "Otsukuri"; A selection of Sashimi; Poached Lobster, Poached Squid, Salmon Rice and Seared Tuna.
Main: "Shusai"; Salted Rice, Malt-Grilled Chilean Seabass.
My goodness, the food was sublime, I would pay 3 figures for this on the ground.
Since the cabin was empty, the wonderful lady looking after me said all the desserts were available and asked if I would like one from Japanese or International. I asked her to surprise me, and surprise me she did, she bought me every available dessert.
Toraya Yokan - A traditional Japanese Confectionery.
Chocolate, Vanilla & Strawberry ice cream
Espresso tart with vanilla ice cream
Selection of fresh fruit.
Now this is service
By this stage, my bed in 2D was ready and waiting and calling my name, so after sampling a little of each dessert, and by sample I mean finishing them completely, the crew cleared everything in and the lights quickly went off.
I slid across the aisle and into the bed which was very comfortable, and managed to get to sleep pretty quickly!
Nearly 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep I managed to get, which is pretty good, and I didn't wake up with back or shoulder ache.
The lights were switched on, and I slowly came too. I wasn't very hungry, but the lovely crew were ready and waiting with hot coffee and a selection of biscuits. They asked if I would like a quick bite to eat, as we were landing soon, but the crew had been so wonderful I didn't feel like troubling them, and the lunch had filled me up anyway so I politely declined.
The sun shone through the window and the cabin filled with natural light and shadows as we made our approach to IAH.
Touchdown was smooth and we were soon enough, parked up at the gate.
Honestly, I have to say this is one of the best, if not the best flight i've ever had on my travels, it will certainly be hard to beat. If ANA upgrade their IFE they will have an incredibly tough to beat product, it makes BA and most other European carriers seem like a lo-co.
I made my way through another chaotic customs, got my bag and headed for the Marriott at IAH. A day of rest before I head back to work tomorrow on the rigs of the Gulf.
I hope you enjoyed this part of the trip, I will try and get Part 2 up tomorrow.
Comments and questions always welcome!
*Sidenote - In case you were wondering, as of the day I wrote this, 26/01/19, the oil rig S3 in India is still closed.