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Smiling staff, tasty food and on-time arrival — It’s a carnival in the air

Sandhya Rao
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A BusinessLine journalist recounts her experience flying in India’s youngest airline

New bird Air Carnival’s one aircraft flies to Chennai and Madurai
New bird Air Carnival’s one aircraft flies to Chennai and Madurai

Well, the merry-go- rounds and Ferris wheels are not quite revved up, not with just one aircraft and having taken off only this July. But if my Air Carnival experience on the Chennai- Coimbatore sector is anything to go by, travellers could well have a fun choice on ‘the-air’ hands.

To begin at the beginning: When the round ticket was first booked, I was a thrown by the name of the carrier. I had not heard of it. The reaction of the resident travel expert at work was: “What? Carnival-a?” OMG. Nobody knew anything but I was too much of a wimp to question the decision, so come d-day and I was off to Kamaraj domestic airport at 10 of the am.

My spirits lifted upon seeing the cheerful pink Air Carnival logo and the short line at check-in (now, this is the passenger speaking, not the airline – see the difference?); The relaxed demeanour of the staff was a bonus. The request for a window seat was granted without ado (I had just been on another trip on another carrier and had been denied a window seat on the ground that none was available when in fact the one at the other end of my row was free). “And not on the wing, if you don’t mind,” I added. “Sure,” came the response. This was the case both ways – to and from Coimbatore. And both times, passengers were ushered up into the aircraft by a very pleasant steward (no plastic smiles here) and all the announcements were made in a warm, friendly, unassuming manner.

The best bit, though, was that meals were served on board. It was simple fare: a light pulao with mashed dal and a tasty whole aubergine-in- gravy side dish (this was the veg bit; on the to journey there was non-veg, but on the return they seemed to have run out of it), two gulab jamuns , fruit juice and water. No coffee/tea, though. But it was not missed on the short flight.

The AI bus service conveyed us across the concourse and it was only when the aircraft came into view (on the to trip) that realisation dawned: this planes had wings above the windows! When I returned to work and spoke glowingly about the service to the aforementioned travel expert, he asked what aircraft it was, and then laughed sardonically at my ignorance. Since then I’ve checked: it was an ATR-72- 500, not that that matters except for the fact that wings don’t block your view. But for the record, it is “a twin-engine turboprop short-haul” aircraft manufactured by the French-Italian ATR. It seats about 70-80 people, and offers a single class. Totally democratic, just the way I like it.

The flights were on time and the landing, silky smooth. So, here’s to the CMC group growing Air Carnival’s wings, fleet- side and route-wide.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 2, 2016)

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