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December 24, 2008

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 Jet Airways
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JET AIRWAYS
I hadnít heard of Jet Airways until last year when they launched their North American service. Obviously, I love their name and would love it even more if it had a JOHNNY in front of it! But before I fly any foreign carrier, I like to do some research just to make sure Iím getting on a plane thatís safe. This is what I learned about Jet Airways: Theyíve been around since 1993 and are Indiaís largest domestic carrier and second-largest international airline. Currently, Jet Airways operates a fleet of 85 aircraft (10 Boeing 777s, 52 Boeing 737s, 11 Airbus A330s and 12 ATRs). The planes are so new that they have an average fleet age of 4.38 years, which is one of the youngest aircraft fleets in the world. Internationally, they fly to 64 destinations and in North America, they go to New York (both JFK and Newark), San Francisco and Toronto. All but the San Francisco flights are via Brussels and come January 13, the San Francisco-Shanghai-Mumbai flight will be halted due to the state of the economy.



NEW YORK TO BRUSSELS
I was excited to fly Jet Airways since theyíve been winning all kinds of awards as of late. In October, Condť Nast Traveler declared Jet Airways one of the worldís top three ďforeign airlines operating foreign routesĒ in its 2008 Readers Choice Awards survey. They also won 2008 Best First-Class Service in the World by Business Traveler Magazine. I arrived to JFKís Terminal 8 (itís Americanís terminal but theyíre partners) and they take up just one little section. FYI: Jet Airways recently announced a partnership with United so travelers can earn frequent flier miles in either Americanís AAdvantage program or Unitedís Mileage Plus. Just keep in mind they donít give miles for the routes their respective airline flies. That means no AA miles for JFK-BRU since American flies that route and no United miles for Shanghai (PVG) to San Francisco (SFO) since United flies that route. What you would do is put your United Airlines mileage number for the JFK-BRU flight and your American Airlines number for the PVG-SFO flight.

CHECKING A BOX
I arrived three hours early and there was no line to check in. The agent was so cool. He was wearing an American Airlines uniform and was super friendly. I asked if I needed to check my duffle bag and he said no. I said. ďWell in that case, I better check my bug spray and sunscreen since I donít think theyíd make it past the TSA twice.Ē Not to mention, I wanted to be protected from the sun and malaria when I got off the plane in India. And, it would be kind of cool to see if a tiny little package would make it through. He said we couldnít just put them in a little plastic bag so he found me a box behind the counter, packaged it up and I was on my way.

SECURITY LINE
The security lines were long and although I was flying business class and Iím an elite flier with American, the security agent said her priority line was too long and to go to the family line. (At Terminal 8, they break the lines up by Expert, Intermediate and Novice.) I went to the far Novice line like a good boy but the agent immediately said my bag was too big Ė and wouldnít listen to a word I had to say. Instead of kicking up a fuss and explaining that Iíd already been told it was alright, I pretended to go back to the counter and then made a B-line back to the first class line. I made it through no problem and I felt like sticking my tongue out at the rude agent once on the other side but I didnít want to get chased through the terminal.

ADMIRALíS CLUB
With a business class ticket comes a free pass to the Admiralís Club Lounge (AA has two and I was at the one by gate 42). Itís quite a nice haven from the crowded gate area, with its comfortable chairs, showers if needed, snacks and a bar (Jet Airways passengers receive two free drink coupons). But there wasnít any free Wi-Fi Ė good thing I have RovAir. Boarding for the two-class A330-200 began an hour before departure and it was civilized. The agent who checked me in was also one of the gate agents and remembered me; itís always nice to make friends at the airport.

ON THE PLANE
A friendly bald-headed Jet Airways purser greeted me and instructed me to take the coveted left turn into PremiŤre Class. YES! I was stoked that the seat configuration and style was similar to Air New Zealandís and Virgin Atlanticís (though I canít confirm the latter since Iíve never flown with them). I was then shocked to see that there was a roving flight attendant offering Ė almost insisting Ė on helping passengers put their bags in the overhead bins. Wow! U.S. flight attendants are instructed not to help people with their bags because if they get hurt, they wonít be covered. The entrance to the plane has a parquet-like floor that looks almost like hardwood, which Iíve never seen before on a plane. Nice touch!

THE SEATS
The seats have so much space that each passenger gets their own overhead compartment and both my bags fit perfectly in one. The seats are configured in a 1-1-1 set-up so they are all aisle seats. Gotta love that! Each seat is like your own little comfy cubicle. They each have a wall for privacy making it virtually impossible to talk to the passenger in front of or behind you Ė thatís how much privacy there is. If youíre traveling with someone, the best place for them to sit is directly across the aisle since thatís the only person you can really see -- and thatís only when the seat is in its straight up position. What makes these seats so special is that they turn into lie-flat beds at any time (besides takeoff and landing, of course). You can press the button and put it down yourself but the FAs will make it for you and cover the seats with a blanket thatís like a mattress pad. TIP: On this type of aircraft be sure to get a seat by the window because Natalie found that the middle seat shook whenever a flight attendant walked by.

AMENITIES
Most biz-class passengers eat dinner and then go into the loo to slip on their new Jet Airways pajamas; theyíre free, so take Ďem home. I never usually open the pajamas and instead give them away to the poor at the end of the year. But on one of the flights I decided to test them out. Whoa! What a difference it makes sleeping in these soft, cozy things. Each passenger also gets a his or hers toiletry bag filled with Bulgari amenities. Mine had cologne, a razor, shaving cream, mouthwash, a toothbrush and body lotion. FYI: The PremiŤre bathroom was immaculately clean and it too was stocked with Bulgari products.

ENTERTAINMENT
Each seat also has a huge 15.4-inch flat screen TV with over 100 on-demand movies, 80 TV shows, 11 audio channels, live tracking and a CD library of 130 titles. They not only have Hollywoodís latest movies and classics but Bollywoodís too! The monitors are touch-screen but come with a remote as well so you donít have to do a sit up while relaxing, when you need to change the channel. The remote also duals as a phone so you can call your friends back home (for an obscene amount, Iím sure) or even better, use it to call your seatmate, or any seat for that matter, free of charge. Thereís also a keypad so if you donít feel like chatting (itís a bit difficult to hear), you can instant message your seatmates as well. Too cool! Since I spend most of my time on flights on my computer, I appreciated the fact that each seat had an electrical outlet. The only thing that could use some improvement are the headsets. They are comfortable and look like noise canceling ones but they arenít.

SERVICE
I knew right away that the service was going to be amazing. First of all, most Asian carriers have incredible service but when I saw the flight attendant (FA) helping people with their bags, then bring the pajamas and drinks on a silver tray, I thought, Wow! This is going to be good! And it was. The FAs even opened the bathroom door for me on more than one occasion. Within seconds of taking my seat (not the toilet), the FA offered me a glass of orange juice, grapefruit juice or water. I was then handed a food and beverage menu. FYI: The plane is stocked with Dom Perignon Ė just like the good olí days. Then came the newspapers and magazines cart and this was all before takeoff! The only thing the flight attendants failed to do is teach passengers how to turn the bright TV screens off; the on/off button isnít immediately obvious. Because most passengers donít bother to read the manual to turn their lights off and since the seat option buttons are illuminated bright blue, thereís potentially a lot of light on at night; your best bet is to put on your eye mask before going night-night.

A RANDOM OBSERVATION
I never really paid much attention to what races or genders are sitting up front until one of my friends (a girl) argued with me that most premium cabins are filled with white men. Unfortunately, ever since I began paying attention, I found this to in fact be the case. For this flight Ė on an Asian airline Ė I really didnít think there would be many women in business class. However, Iím happy to report that almost half the passengers were female and they werenít wives of wealthy Indian men. They were either European or American business travelers.

FLIGHT 229 TAKEOFF
9W (Jet Airways two-letter airline code) 229 was scheduled to leave at 6pm and we pushed back from the gate at 5:59! Taxiing to the runway took 28 minutes which isnít too bad for an evening departure at JFK. The captain got on the PA system and informed everyone that the flight time was going to be a quick 6 hours and 22 minutes.

FOOD
Just after takeoff, the FAs came down the aisles with hot towels, drinks, nuts and took food orders. Main meals are served with soup (this flight had Cream of Tomato and Basil). The main entrees were a choice of lamb, sea bass or a Western or Indian vegetarian dish. Of course, I went with the Indian dish, which was called Khubanike Kofte. It consisted of cottage cheese dumplings stuffed with Arabian apricots, simmered in mace flavored cashew gravy. Dang! It was tasty! So you can whet your own appetite, hereís a scan of the rest of the menu. The presentation is awesome and I love how they wrapped the silverware in a cotton napkin. The dessert cart contained a fruit plate, cheesecake, Haagen-Dazs ice cream or fruit kheer (Indian dish), which was ďQuenelle of sweetened reduced milk and basmati rice on a bed of diced seasonal fruits, topped with crushed pistachios.Ē I went with the latter but my palate wasnít ready for the perfume-flavored rice.

ECONOMY
During the flight thereís a self-service bar stocked with drinks and snacks. I know this because I got up in the middle of the flight to stretch my legs and decided to check out what was going on in coach class. The FA looked surprised that I wanted to go beyond the curtain Ė I guess the class system I have heard about in India is really true. Coach class didnít look too bad: it was configured 2-4-2 and they had the same entertainment systems (though the screens arenít as big as those in business class). I also checked out the bathroom, which was spotless but didnít contain the Bulgari products.

BREAKFAST
In the front cabin, the lights went on an hour before landing (earlier in the back) and an announcement was made that I couldnít understand but I take it they were saying it was breakfast time Ö because within seconds, the hardworking FAs came around with fruit smoothies, juices and a basket of what they called ďsweet rollsĒ (we know them as danishes) along with tea/coffee. They didnít offer an American-style breakfast which was fine by me and the fruit cup (watermelon, papaya, mango and strawberry) and sweet roll was really good. What was also unique is that each meal tray comes with a little packet that looks like sugar but itís labeled ďAfter MintĒ. Of course, I had to rip into one and found fennel seeds and tiny colored mints. It was an eye-opening experience, just like my introduction to Jet Airways.

PRICE
I just did a search for JFK to BRU (Brusselsí airport code) flights three weeks from now. Get this: economy is just $128 one-way and PremiŤre Class (business) is $1,346! Those fares are remarkable but keep in mind they donít include taxes, surcharges and fees, which can tack on $370 for a round-trip ticket, but itís still a deal. To learn more, please visit JetAirways.com.

VIDEO
To give you an idea what my experience was like on Jet Airways, I made a video of all four of my flights. Click here to check it out! If you like it, please rate it and leave some comments so I know whatís good and whatís bad about it. Also, we have all the Johnny Jet videos ever made on YouTube.

NEXT WEEK
Brussels, Belgium. Stay tuned and Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, Happy Travels, Happy everything!

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Note: This trip was sponsored in part by Jet Airways

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Pictures From

The Trip

 

Terminal 8

 

Jet Airways Check-In

 

Checking My Box

 

Walking to the Gate

 

Jet Airways Tail

 

Jet Airways A330

 

Jet Airways Crew

 

My Seat

 

Pre-Take off Drink

 

Pajamas!

 

Flat Bed

 

EmPower

 

Entertainment Systems

 

Call or Text Your Seatmate

 

Live Tracking

 

Dom Perignon

 

Soup

 

Dinner

 

Indian Dessert

 

Western Dessert

 

Self-Serve Bar

 

Bathroom Amenities

 

Breakfast is Served

 

Smoothies

 

After Mint

 

Coach Ticket Price

 

My Package Made It!

 

NEXT WEEK

 

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