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Mumbai: We make a return to India’s commercial centre

By: Dave Gunner

November 6, 2019

After a four-year gap, we’re delighted to return to Mumbai, India’s commercial centre, complementing our long-running service between London and Delhi

The first flight on our relaunched route to Mumbai left Heathrow in a riot of colourful Diwali celebrations last week. Indian folk dancers entertained customers at check-in, goody bags were waiting at the boarding gate and our onboard crew looked magnificent in garlands and bindis.

Two landmark flights take place whenever we launch a new route (or a restart in the case of Mumbai). The first flight is usually a low-key affair: there’s a bit of local celebration on departure and arrival, but mostly it’s a coming-together of all the preparation and training that goes into the start-up, and a chance to make sure everything’s running smoothly. A few weeks later there’s usually a press trip, where we showcase the route to the media and travel industry. It’s a glitzy affair that often includes Richard and a generous helping of razzmatazz.

Indian dancers welcome customers to Heathrow

Seamless connections

This time around, we tagged along on the first flight to see how it went. The new Mumbai route will be operating daily, departing London Heathrow on a Boeing 787 at 10.30 in the morning which means you’ll arrive refreshed even if it’s at the slightly odd hour of 01:00. The return flight leaves Mumbai at 03:00 and gets into Heathrow at 07:15 the same day, and while those flight times might seem strange, in practice they work very well, allowing you to seamlessly connect to and from the United States.

Senior first officer Hiru Bathija taxis G-VCRU, Olivia Rae, to the gate after landing in Mumbai. Photo © VT Aviation.

In India, a coconut – said to be the favourite food of Hindu deity Ganesha – is broken to mark auspicious occasions. Our 787 was welcomed to Mumbai with a garland and coconut breaking ritual.

Awaiting the arrival of our first flight into Mumbai

Fresh off the plane: Our first customers land in Mumbai

Once through the modern and stylish airport, it’s time to step out into the humidity and frenzy of this fascinating city, where your senses are permanently dialled up to the max. Sounds, sights, smells and flavours are more vivid. There’s something new at every turn, and every alleyway tells its own story. Mumbai is exciting, vibrant, chaotic. The home of Bollywood is a city of dreams, where your big break could be just around the corner.

“What makes it so special is the cosmopolitan yet contradictory nature of the place,” says our senior first officer Hiru Bathija. Though born and raised in London, Hiru’s family were originally from Mumbai, and he volunteered to take the controls for this first flight into the city he loves so much.

Hiru steps off the 787 he’s just landed in Mumbai

“The sights and sounds of 20 million residents hit you like nothing you’ve experienced before. People from all over India come to the entertainment capital to ‘make it’ which makes Mumbai such an exciting and interesting place to visit. Colonial-era architecture stands alongside 20th-century slums and modern high rise skyscrapers. Conservative Indian culture separates male and female rail carriages, yet they ride under billboards showing bikini-clad Bollywood starlets. Delicious street food stalls manned by people from all across India are parked up next to five-star establishments. This eclectic mix of people, culture, music, food and economics makes Mumbai one of a kind and it reserves a special place in my heart.”

The Gateway of India, Mumbai. Photo by Steve Brookwell. See more of Steve’s photos on Flickr and instagram @brookerspic

Looking forward

Many thanks to Viren at Zamorin of Bombay for his excellent tour of the city and deep knowledge of its culture and history.

Our new Mumbai flights are our 27th daily service from London Heathrow and our third new route announcement in 2019. Last month we launched our London to Tel Aviv service, and we’ll be flying from Heathrow to São Paulo from 2020, marking our first venture into South America. Tickets for all three routes are available to book now on our website.

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Dave Gunner

Dave is the co-editor of Ruby, the Virgin Atlantic Blog. He has worked at Virgin Atlantic for over two decades. In that time he has amassed some truly epic memories but never lost his fascination with the airline world. Dave's on a mission to bring you some great insights into our people, planes and planet.

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