We have arrived in Delhi and are waiting for our guide to take us to the Sikh temple for our first outing. We have crossed the first hurdle – getting to Delhi safely. It was an interesting experience.
We booked our trip on Air Canada’s new highly-touted 14 hour non-stop 787 dreamliner service between Toronto and Delhi. The Boeing 787 is the most advanced airliner flying from a technology perspective, with carbon fibre construction, best in class fuel economy etc. Does that translate into the best flying experience ever? Well, it’s a mixed bag. On one hand, the air seems much fresher and the ride is really smooth – even turbulence of the Atlantic didn’t seem to be as uncomfortable as on other airplanes. But, airlines have seized the opportunity to cram more passengers into the same space. The old 767 that we knew and loved (and traveled many miles on) had 2-4-2 seating, with 8 people in each row. The 787 crams 3-3-3 seating into roughly the same body width. The seats are definitely narrower. It makes for a very crowded cabin.
The route to India presents Air Canada with some unique challenges. According to one flight attendant, out of 250 people aboard, there were 150 special meal requests! Everything from vegan to kosher had to be delivered to the right person. This was complicated by people switching seats before take-off, so getting the right meal to the right person became nearly impossible. The passengers were nearly all of Indian origin and there were many elderly travelers. Our attendant said they get around 50 requests for wheelchairs for each flight. This makes it much easier for the elderly folks to find their way through the airport, but puts tremendous pressure on airport staff to get them on and off the airplane.
We took off in a driving snowstorm after a trip to the de-icer and arrived pretty much on schedule in Delhi. Wonder of wonders, our driver was there at the airport to greet us and take us the Hotel Suryaa. We took off at 9 pm Toronto time on Sunday and landed at 9 pm Delhi time on Monday. We pretty much skipped Monday January 11th.
Our first impression of Delhi was tainted (literally) by the pollution. This city smells atrocious. As you can see from the photo above, the air is smoggy. It has a petroleum flavour to it, a cross between diesel fumes and coal. The smell even permeates our hotel and lingers all night. I’m sure the locals get used to it, but we are looking forward to getting out on the road where the air is a little cleaner. Delhi has recently put in a program where they alternate vehicles with odd and even license plate numbers to cut back on pollution, so we are not seeing the worst of it.