Elite Economy class

Boeing_dreamliner_

The landscape of air travel in the country has changed and evolved over the past few years with a lot more people opting to fly rather than use the train especially in the domestic Indian sectors.

Even though there are concerns around the overall slump in the aviation sector, there has been a growth in the number of flyers. With more routes becoming available, and as economy class fares become more passenger-friendly, airlines have invested a lot into improving their product. This is the reason why the demand for a premium seat is becoming increasingly popular.

singapore-airlines-premium-economy-800

The trend started in the early 1990s when Taiwanese EVA Air introduced an extra class above economy, followed by Virgin Atlantic in 1992. The class made its real debut around 2007 when airlines like Qantas and Air New Zealand started offering it. The success has lead to a handful of Asian carriers launching the product like JAL, ANA, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines.

Airlines saw Premium Economy also known as the elite Economy Class ,as an opportunity to target travellers who don’t want to pay the price for a business class seat, but don’t mind forking out a wee bit more for a few extra ‘luxuries’ when flying.

Typically long haul Business Class products offer fully flat beds, and a guaranteed aisle access.  This leaves a space on the plane for Premium Economy.

Most premium economy seats have a deeper recline that gives you more comfort in-flight and a better sleep.

china airlines

Along with that in Premium Economy you’ll be able to take advantage of Business Class perks, such as priority check-ins, and access to airport lounges. Passengers are willing to splurge and at the same time enjoy the worth of every penny invested in air travel.

Some facts

  1. A Premium Economy fare is generally 65% less expensive than a business class fare. You will not have the same level of service or comfort but you will be assured a more comfortable and relaxing journey.
  2. A typical Premium Economy fare includes around 5-7 inches of extra legroom, wider seats, and more space to recline.
  3. You may also have a separate food menu and enhanced entertainment.

The winners of the the Skytrax World Airline Awards for the best Premium Economy airline seats for 2019 are

  1. Virgin Atlantic
  2. Air New Zealand
  3. Qantas Airways
  4. China Airlines
  5. Singapore Airlines
  6. Japan Airlines
  7. Aeroflot
  8. Lufthansa
  9. Azerbaijan Airlines
  10. Air France

american-airlines-premium-economy-3-680x365_c

Generally speaking, airlines price tickets based on supply and demand, so there’s no set formula to determine what price you can expect to pay for a Premium Economy class seat. Sometimes it could also be double the cost of an economy ticket

That being said, premium economy can be of good value when flying compared to economy, the question is, how much are you willing to pay for that privilege? It also depends on your personal situation. If you’re a tall person, that extra legroom could make a huge difference in your comfort. Now, if you’re traveling for business, it might be company policy that business class is not allowed, so premium economy would make an excellent alternative.

check in

Most airlines will try their best to get people to pay for the premium seats before they offer them up for free. However, it’s quite common for premium economy seats to be offered at a discount when you’re at the gate. In this case, it would be on a first come, first serve basis.

With a marginal price increase over the cost of an economy class seat and for a fraction of the cost of a business-class ticket, premium economy seat offer a significant upgrade for travellers.

Have you ever travelled Premium economy? Do share your experience via the comments. Thank you .

 

 

PC: Skyscanner;Traveller AU;China Airlines;Singapore Airlines;Phillipine Airlines;Always Mag;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A train ride on a loop and a curve

toy-trains-of-india

The crispness of the cool mountain air, traversing through the slow moving train, tranquility amidst the lap of nature with green valley’s surrounding you, the veil of clouds falling on your face kissing your cheeks and filling you with its heady intoxicating mist.

Nothing quite beats the romance of travelling on a steam train or shunting through mountains. It’s no wonder, that the whistles and sounds of a steam engine featuring the humble ‘toy train’ is a staple in many a Bollywood song, even today.

We have to acknowledge the British who not only established their cantonments into the various parts of the Indian subcontinent, but they also developed many hill resorts where they could go for breaks to beat the excruciating heat in the plains.

The rail routes that they laid to reach these hill stations still exist and function with the very same engines and carriages. The Mountain Railways of India are the best example of bold, ingenious engineering solutions for the problem of establishing an effective rail link through a rugged, mountainous terrain. A trip to the hills by rail is a real treat to the eyes, with these 5 amazing mountain rail routes showcasing India’s spectacular landscapes.

1.Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

darjeeling

Inaugurated in 1881 over the beautiful hills of Darjeeling, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, popularly known as the ‘toy train’ is an engineering marvel.

It covers a distance of 88 km in West Bengal from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling in seven-and-a-half hours. The station Ghum is India’s highest railway station having an altitude of 2,257 metres. The route has 8 major bridges, 542 minor bridges and 177 unmanned level crossings. This train has the narrowest of the regular narrow gauge rail tracks and use diesel electric or steam engines.

The Railway received the World Heritage Site status on Dec. 2, 1999.

2. Nilgiri Mountain Railway.

Nilgiri-Mountain

The first leg of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway from Mettupalayam to Coonoor was opened to traffic in June 1899 and was extended up to Ooty only by 1908. The Nilgiri toy train travels all over the Nilgiri hills aka ‘The Blue Mountains’.

The main features of this meter gauge line are the unique rack rail system, and the equally unique and complicated steam locomotives.

The delightful little train covers a distance of 46 km from Mettupalayam to Ooty in four-and-a-half hours. The real thrill of this train ride is the engine which is at the back pushing the carriages up the hills its twists and turns around the hills, passing through many tunnels, bridges, traversing forests and tea plantations.

On July 15, 2005, UNESCO recognized Nilgiri Mountain Railway as a World Heritage Site.

3. Kalka-Shimla Railway.

kalka

Shimla is a very popular destination with Indians as it was to the British. The Kalka-Shimla Railway line which opened to traffic on Nov. 9, 1903, connects the residents of the plains to the summer capital of British India.

The six-hour-long, 96 km journey, crossing with 101 tunnels, is an engineering masterpiece on narrow gauge and covers many arched bridges and several picturesque stations. The slow movement of this train enables many travellers to sit on the doorway or stick their heads out of the windows to smell the fresh mountain air and enjoy the breathtaking visual of the Himalayas.

On July 7, 2008 the Kalka-Shimla Railway was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

4. Matheran Light Railway.

matheran

The Matheran Light Railway, which connects Neral to Matheran , was opened to traffic in March 1907. The floods in 2005 forced its shut down but it was re-opened in 2007 much to the people’s delight.

This narrow gauge line takes the sharpest curves when compared to any Indian hill railway line. The view along the journey is indeed breathtaking, and the 21 km ride is covered in two hours. The unique feature of the train ride is the One Kiss Tunnel (the only tunnel on the route, which earned its nickname because the tunnel is just long enough to exchange a kiss with one’s partner).

All stations on the route have solar power and wind energy plants,and energy-efficient LED lights and fans. the train travels over forests and mountains to reveal the astounding beauty of Nature.

5. Kangra Valley Railway.

kangra

Commissioned in April 1929, the Kangra Valley Railway line starts at Pathankot (Punjab) and ends at Joginder Nagar(Himachal Pradesh), travelling on a narrow gauge for 9 hours and 20 minutes, covering 164 km.

Apart from the Kalka-Shimla railway it is the second railway that runs through the beautiful hills of Himachal Pradesh. There are only two tunnels on this stretch, which give tourists an opportunity to enjoy the mountains and valleys without any distraction. This railway line, which is famous for its 993 bridges, connects the state with its hydroelectric power house.

darjeeling-06

All the five mountain railways of India are around a hundred years old. These train trips epitomize the old saying about the journey being as memorable as the destination. There are intriguing stops along each of these lines, leaving it up to the traveller to have nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the scenery.

 

 

 

 

PC: Better India; Tripadvisor; Wikimedia; Travel Leisure India;Discover My Travel

 

 

Sustainable Tourism

queens necklace

Mumbai’s Marine Drive has a curvy, 3.6 km long boulevard and is perhaps, one of the most famous landmarks in the city.

Popularly known as the Queen’s Necklace,  when the coastline gets lit up in the evenings, is an essential on every tourist’s itinerary or for that matter even the locals as they love taking a casual stroll around the periphery of the Marine Drive or simply sitting by the Arabian sea watching the sunset.

However, the same Marine Drive is now in the news, albeit for the wrong reasons. Recently the Arabian Sea washed up more than two lakh kilograms of garbage on the shoreline after the recent high tide.

mumbai

Needless to say, it was the same litter that people tossed in the sea and other water bodies.

However, Mumbai is not the only city that has been grappling with the issue of sea pollution. In 2018, the Great Pacific Garbage, a long stretch of area in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California, created waves on the internet for the shocking amount of garbage it contains that is choking all the marine life.

pacific

All this reiterates that it is high time both tourists as well as local citizens and government bodies , take the responsibility  to maintain the sanctity of the destinations specially those that are abundant in natural resources and find ways and means to reduce the impact of ecological degradation.

The NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) is the premier policy ‘Think Tank’ of the Government of India, providing both directional and policy inputs. The Aayog supports a cooperative federal structure where the Center and the States prepare development policies together.

Under its vision documents for 2017-2024, one of the focuses is on the impacts of mass tourism in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) in particular.

NMSHE

IHR is significant for India. Stretching for about 2,400 kilometres, the IHR extends from the Indus River in the west to the Brahmaputra River in the east. It covers 10 mountain states and four hill districts of India that make up the country’s north and north-eastern borders.

Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh , Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya , Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttarakhand and West Bengal are the part of the IHR.

IHR also shares borders with six neighbouring countries (China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Bangladesh)

Springs

With its towering snow-laden peaks, majestic landscapes, rich biodiversity and cultural heritage, the Indian Himalayan Region has regularly drawn visitors and pilgrims from the Indian sub-continent and across the world. Every year an average of about 100 million tourists visit the ecologically sensitive area which is home to about 50 million people.  This number will soon be touching the 240 million mark in seven years, putting a huge pressure on the state’s natural resources.

himalayas

Some of the proposals of NITI aayog in promotion of Sustainable Tourism in IHR are:-

  • Disaster management and Pollution control (including Climate Change)
  • Visitor Control Mechanism to track the number of visitors every year.
  • Tourist Traffic Management Mechanism to forecast and manage vehicular traffic in the destination.
  • Recommended introduction of a “green cess” from consumers to increase tax revenue and assist in maintaining critical services
  • A zero waste policy to reduce, reuse, and recycle solid waste.
  • Mapping and revival of springs across the Himalayas
  • Ensuring that infrastructure such as hotels, restaurants, and road and rail networks in forest areas are ecologically friendly.
  • Controlling decibel levels (No loud talking or music in protected areas).
  • Resource and Ecology management mechanism, to conserve biology as well as, restore ecology for better management of natural resources and biodiversity.

himalayan-glacier

Tourism is a very complex industry involving numerous stakeholders and requiring significant amount of resources. As more regions and countries develop their tourism industry, it produces significant impacts on natural resources, consumption patterns, pollution and social systems.

The need for sustainable planning and management is imperative for the industry to survive as a whole.

 

 

 

 

 

Source Credits : NITI Aayog
PC;NDTV;Reddit;wwf.org.au;Countercurrents.org;NMSHE; Downtoearth.org;

What’s in a name ?

SpiceJet

Regular flyers might remember the type of aircraft they flew in; whether it was an Airbus A-320 or a Boeing 787.

But few will be able to tell if they flew on a Pretty Woman, Queen of the Skies , a Rosemary or a Turmeric?

Giving names to aircrafts is a practice that started with Viking’s ships, but the tradition is still being carried out today. Naming an aircraft is not just fun. There is history and reason to it too. Each aircraft has a name that embodies the brand value of the airline. It’s just the aspiration of flying around the world in a fun and glamorous way.

Airlines have different reasons for naming their aircraft. While some showcase aspects of the home country, others use it to highlight the places the airline flies to. Yet others want the names to be an extension of the airline’s image.

klm

Lufthansa names its planes after German cities,  Aer Lingus after Irish saints and KLM after a mix of birds, famous women and destinations. But perhaps the biggest enthusiast is Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic who has, as always made naming part of the brand strategy and the image of fun he projects for Virgin.  They call their aircraft ‘flying ladies’  with names of movies such as ‘Barbarella’ or ‘Pretty Woman’, or songs like ‘Jersey Girl’, ‘Dancing Queen’ or ‘Mustang Sally’ or fairy tales like ‘Sleeping Beauty’.

virgin

When Air India got the Boeing 747, it decided to name the aircraft after Indian emperors or Indian states while the smaller aircraft were named after rivers.

air india

It’s a very interesting story as to how the aircrafts of SpiceJet got their names.

Sitting at a luncheon at Imperial hotel in Delhi, the CEO and the promoter were going through some intense brain storming sessions on various aspects of setting up the airline in India.

Amongst the other things agreed upon, some of those that stand out are the fact that the airline must have an  ‘Indianness’  to its name. It was so ironic that they were seated at an Indian restaurant ‘Spice Route’.

And so SpiceJet was born.

spicejet 2

Keeping in tune with the bold characteristic of the airline and its “Red” livery, the management appropriately decided to christen each aircraft with a unique name of the Indian spices.

The airline today has aircraft called coriander, chilly, turmeric, red chilli, mustard, pepper and heeng.

Although the English names were there from the start of the airlines, but when they got the smaller Bombardiers for regional flights they decided to use the Indian names for spices such as Heeng, Dhania and Elaichi. In all 75 names of spices have been christened so far.

So the next time you fly SpiceJet, as you get down from the bus on the tarmac and wait to climb the steps, do remember to take a look at the front of the plane and see a name painted near the nose just under the cockpit.

In fact it’s not unusual to see the millennial flyers taking to social media, to share SpiceJet’s  quirky aircraft names on the social media platform to show which aircraft they have flown on.

spiceroute

Incidentally even the in-flight magazine of SpiceJet is called Spice Route.

 

 

Fun quiz

Identify this spice & Leave your reply in the comments.

This spice was a  precious commodity traded between Arabs and Venetians during the Middle Ages. Imparting an invaluable flavour in cooking and the preparation of drinks, it also has a strong symbolic value and even appears on the National flag of a country. There is one recipe whose secret has never been revealed: that of Coca-Cola. Well, this spice is supposed to be one of its mysterious ingredients…

 

 

PC: Air India;KLM;Virgin Atlantic; SpiceJet

TRAVEL PHOTO FRIDAY : CAPTION THIS!

lobby

It’s Friday ! Yay ! I hope you are looking forward to the weekend.

This time I thought of doing something fun for the blog post.

I was in Washington DC last year and I saw this interesting display of art in the lobby of The Ritz.

So I was thinking of getting some help from you with a catchy caption for this . What do you say? Would you like to help me with it?

Great !! So dear readers post your captions in the comments. I would love to hear from you !

 

And I hope you have a wonderfully joyful weekend!

Madhavi

Chasing the sun!

SWITZERLAND-TECHNOLOGY-AEROSPACE-ENVIRONMENT-SOLARIMPULSE

Using ‘Solar Power’ is increasing in popularity because it is versatile with many benefits to people and the environment. Every day, the sun gives off more than enough energy to meet the whole world’s energy needs. And since it is a clean source of energy there are no greenhouse gas emissions that are released into the atmosphere. Hence the environmental impact of solar power is significantly smaller than other power generation methods.

Addressing the issue of sustainable travel, Solar energy systems are increasingly being installed on the roofs of airport terminals and parking garages, as well as on the land surrounding tarmacs to harness the power of solar energy.

cochin airport
Cochin International Airport

In 2015, Cochin International Airport in Kerala set an example for the rest of the world by contributing towards the environment, and being the first ever fully solar powered airport. Handling more than 10.2 million passengers in 2018-19 the airport was selected in 2018 for the coveted Champion of the Earth award, the highest environmental honour instituted by the United Nations.

award

The airport has reduced the carbon footprint by over 3 lakh metric tonnes, which is equivalent to planting 3 million trees. Moreover, the airport is going one step ahead by generating electricity with eight small hydroelectric power projects and organic farms in the vicinity. Over the past few years, it has grown around 80 tonnes of organic vegetable in a year.

chattonoga
Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport

In the US, an airport in Tennessee is now generating enough renewable energy to meet all its energy needs—a model that is soon replicated by other airports. The airport of the future, Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, has become the first airport in the country to generate all the power it needs through a solar farm.

dubai
Terminal 2 Dubai

The trend in airports incorporating solar panels into their energy systems is taking off. –Athens International’s photovoltaic park produces more than 13 thousand MWh of emission-free electricity annually, corresponding to approximately 25% of the airport’s own electricity needs. This results in an average annual CO2 emissions reduction of 11,500 tonnes

A solar energy system made up of 15,000 solar panels was recently installed at Terminal 2 of Dubai International Airport.

A 183-acre farm at Indianapolis International Airport, which houses 87,478 solar panels, provides 22.2 megawatts of renewable energy for the region’s electric grid.

Denver International Airport has an impressive facility of a 56-acre, 10-megawatt solar farm with 42,614 solar panels.

Solar panels installed at Brisbane Airport produce an estimated 125 MWh/year of green energy, thereby saving 118 tonnes of CO2 per year

Kuala Lumpur Airport in Malaysia has the 19 megawatt plant which will help save the airport $750,000 in electricity costs and some 18,000 tonnes of CO2 each year.

Today more than 100 airports worldwide have solar plants.

And speaking of airports, I wonder how soon it will be when we see commercial aircrafts using this renewable source of energy to fly.  Although quite a few manned and unmanned solar powered aircraft have been developed and flown in the last 30 years.

When the Wright brothers made their first maiden flight in a powered aircraft on a wind- swept beach in 1903, it was a short hop, skip and jump into the record books.

More than 70 years later the 1st  solar powered aircraft, The “Sunrise 1”, an unmanned vehicle -designed by Ray Buchard, on the 4th of November 1974 made their 1st maiden flight and flew 20 minutes at an altitude of around 100 m.

sunrise1

In July 2016 with a journey that took a very long time—505 days to fly 26,000 miles (42,000 km) at an average speed of about 45 mph (70 kph) pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg successfully landed the Solar Impulse 2 aircraft in Abu Dhabi ,after flying around the world using only the power of the Sun.

Solar Impulse 2 aircraft is pulled out of its base for tests by pilot Bertrand Piccard in PayerneSelfie picture shows Swiss pioneer Bertrand Piccard during the last leg of the round the world trip with Solar Impulse 2 over the Arab peninsula
A selfie shows Swiss pioneer Bertrand Piccard during the last leg of the round the world trip with Solar Impulse 2 over the Arabian Peninsula on July 25, 2016

Although many of the solar powered aircrafts have wingspans as wide as the 737 passenger jets, but the similarities between them ends here.

Solar-powered planes present some “engineering challenges.” They are able to capture about 10 or 20 percent of the energy from the sun. That equates to a speed of only 50 miles per hour, whereas commercial passenger jets, travel at about 600 miles per hour.

So for now solar-powered aircraft are probably better suited for things like loitering over one area, collecting data for climate research, or conducting surveillance with cameras, than for moving people around.  But with technology evolving everyday it won’t be too far into the future when we see a “small seater solar powered commercial flight” taking off on its voyage. But for now that remains a dream!

solar5

 

 

PC- CIAL;GatewayMagazine;Gulf News;HistoryChannel;TheAtlantic