When Jet Airways launched daily non-stop flights between Mumbai and Johannesburg in April this year, the schedule most likely satisfied a demand that was stimulated by the World Cup. When our group flew to Mumbai towards the end of August, the frequency had been reduced to six times a week. This has now been lessened to five times a week, with flights on Tuesdays and Thursdays being omitted from the new schedule. Prior to this flight, I had heard good things about the airline and its business-class offering called Premiere Class, and was eager to see if it lived up to my expectations.
With a Premiere Class baggage allowance of 40 kilograms, even compulsive over-packers such as myself can relax at the dedicated check-in counter. Passengers who need to connect to other destinations in India will enjoy the ‘through check-in’ facility, whereby connecting boarding passes are issued at the first check-in, and luggage is sent straight through to the final destination. The check-in attendant at counter 97 was efficient and pleasant.
With an economy-class queue forming swiftly and intuitively shortly before the boarding call, I was grateful for the dedicated Premiere Class queue. With no jacket needing to be stowed away, I promptly found myself seated. Refreshing towels were soon offered, and I selected a few Indian magazines from a trolley with a wide range of reading matter.
Most of us have come to see long-haul flights as an awkward but inevitable space of time spent in inappropriate proximity to complete strangers. There’s none of that in Jet Airways’ Premiere Class. Configured in a so-called herringbone structure, each seat is a pod-like, walled haven. This structure also means that every passenger has direct aisle access. The Airbus 330-200 accommodates 30 Premiere Class passengers and 190 more in Economy. In addition to the privacy, the other real bonus here is that the seat reclines to 180° to form a perfectly comfortable, if slightly hard and narrow, bed. According to Jet Airways representatives, theirs are the only direct flights to India to offer the luxury of a flatbed.
With clever ergonomics clearly at work, a little ledge is perfect for your drink, while reading matter may be stowed in a compartment on your right. Standard two-prong Indian sockets are provided for laptops; I was assured that adaptors were available should I require one. The reading light is well positioned and not disturbingly bright. While manoeuvring the seat is quite easy to figure out, I needed to ask for assistance with the large private screen before I could enjoy the in-flight entertainment. As drowsiness soon got the better of me, I didn’t experience the full JetScreen offering which boasts an extensive range of movies, TV programmes and audio channels. Passengers may also create personal playlists from the vast CD library, while a selection of e-Books means you’ll never be stuck without reading matter. Apparently there is even a Berlitz language course option.
As per our tickets, the flight was airborne by 10h35. Don’t waste time searching the nooks and crannies to the side of your seat for an amenity bag; you won’t find one. And no, don’t look for a capsule with ear plugs or a pair of deliciously clunky aeroplane socks either. Toiletries, rather, are placed for your convenience in the spacious lavatories. I rather enjoyed the Bulgari cream. While it seems that amenities are being skimped on, it must equally be mentioned that a glass of Dom Perignon formed a welcome addition to the Premiere Class experience. This is, of course, in addition to a vast variety of wines and spirits. We enjoyed two meals on this daytime flight, and in both instances the menu was excellently balanced to cater for both European and Indian palates. My Indian meal was prepared to flavoursome perfection, while the sandwich I ate later was perfectly scrumptious. Gorgeous Rosenthal crockery completed what can only be described as a fine dining experience. For me, the only part of the experience that deserved less than five stars was the service. While I can’t say the service was bad, it was uncoordinated, abrupt, and stilted, even. After the first meal, my table cloth was gathered so swiftly and wordlessly that I was unable to save either the sachet of mint, or the sugar I meant to have with the after-meal tea that I was never offered. In an odd contradiction, the crew seemed both hurriedly impatient and rather slow to respond to additional requests… such as after-meal tea.
The flight arrived in Mumbai around 10 minutes ahead of the scheduled time of 23h25.
Other than the strangely unsatisfying level of service, Jet Airways gets full marks for everything, and bonus points for the cuisine and the supremely comfortable bed.