Thursday, December 2, 2010

A diary entry from the airport

It’s an interesting view from where I am sitting – the 4th chair in the third row right across the donut shop at Delhi’s international terminal T3. A Sardar ji is gliding across on a segway and there’s a bunch of kids chasing after him. In the last 12 weeks I have made a total of 11 visits to Jharkhand and Bihar - That takes the total count of my flights to 22 - I am a buddy to the security guards at the terminal and the coffee shop serves me my ‘regular’ even before I have asked for it.  Almost all of my flights have been have been with Air India and the air aunties and air uncles - yup, am talking about the in-flight crew – also know me well. While a lot has been written about the hostility offered by the AI crew, I am kinda comfortable with them or let’s just say I have made my peace with them. So it doesn’t really bother me now when the coffee is thrown on my face if am not quick enough to grab it with my hands or the food is shoved into my lap when I have failed to open my tray fast enough. In fact, I am almost apologetic when I have to ask for some water. After all how much patience does it take to hold on to your thirst on a 1.5 hrs flight? It’s definitely not worth giving ol’ aunty the trouble of maneuvering herself across the aisle while avoiding getting stuck in between the seats. Their waistline is clearly not the airline’s business.

What’s even better is that the DNA runs throughout the organization.  Last evening as I was rushing through my office work to prepare for the early morning flight today, I got a call from the AI call centre:

Call centre aunty: Hello..
Me: Hello..
CCA: Sir, I am calling from Air India. I wanted to inform you that your flight IC 409 is ……
Me: Hello… sorry I couldn’t get you.. please come again?
CCA: Sir your flight ……
Me: I am sorry, there’s a lot of disturbance, can you please…
CCA: Click.

Something had happened to my flight. No clue what it was. I should have had the ears to hear what she wanted to say ..after all she had made 2 attempts. I am sure she was a strong contender for the outstanding performer award .
Anyway, I took the logical next step and called the AI helpline – Surprise surprise, there’s a helpline!
Me: Hello, I wanted to find out about the schedule of my flight please
CCA2: Sir, please tell me your flight details
Me: ya.. it’s IC 409.. to Patna
Me: Sorry?
CCA2: Sir, please check at the website. It is for you all only no?
Me: hain?.. well…
CCA2: Click.

I had never felt so small and insignificant in my life. I swallowed my pride and self respect and typed the web address in my browser. The damn site didn’t exist.

Breaking News:
Indira Gandhi International Airport- T3, 10:00 am
The strike at the airport
Three AI employees have been cornered by around a dozen agitated passengers. The flight to Patna which was supposed to take off at 6:45 am hasn’t taken off yet. The gentleman in the front row of the rabble rousers claims to be a ‘Gold member’ or something and is demanding that he be taken to Patna anyhow for it’s a matter of national urgency. A Dubai returned gentleman is enquiring about the technical specifications of the AI aircraft, questioning why it can’t take off in the current weather conditions. Apparently he faced similar problems with AI in Dubai and wants to know if it’s the same aircraft.  In the meantime, one of the passengers has started shouting slogans of – Air India hai hai.. He has taken his seat comfortably on the carpeted floor and is inviting other passengers to join.

I walked up to the elderly AI staff to figure out if other airlines were taking off. He assured me – “Sir, Jet waale jaa rahe hain, magar unse pehle apni flight nikaal dunga. By God.”
Ladies and Gentlemen,this is fantastic stuff. I could spend the whole day here; Patna can wait. The Sardar ji on the segway just passed by again. The bunch of kids is much bigger now. It sure looks like fun to me; guess I would join the chase.

The last bit: It’s 40 past 10 and I have boarded the flight. There is absolute chaos as almost half the passengers are unable to locate their seats .Mr. Dubai is helping everyone out- “ Plij go aage bhai”, “Flight is full, Pilot ji -chaliye bhai”. I can tell the man has a sense of humor or at least he thinks he has one while he advises a fellow passenger looking for a place to put his luggage – “ Anywhere place kar dijiye.. it ij not BUM (bomb) hai na.. hahaha”.

As he turned his laptop on to entertain his newly acquired friends with ‘Munni Badnaam Hui’, one of the air aunties yelled at him to shut it down. Not to be outdone, Mr. Dubai got into an argument with her and asked her to figure out the technical reason behind the rule if she wanted him to turn it off. As aunty left in disgust, he turned to me and said- “ Telling me..! This is all AI problem, In Dubai you can do anything” I smiled and obliged.

The lady seated next to me wants IC’s in-flight magazine. She has been declined since the month’s issue isn’t in.  She then asks for the last month’s issue instead and is given a fitting reply – “Pichle mahine ka abhi tak kyoon nahi padha?, ab nahi hai” .Unbelievable.
Signing off now (before air aunty snatches my laptop and smashes it to pieces)


  1. “Sir, Jet waale jaa rahe hain, magar unse pehle apni flight nikaal dunga. By God.”

    Fantastic reply.. they fly airplanes like private buses in my town!

  2. My absolute favourite is, "please check the website, it's for you all only no?"

  3. This is a brilliant ode to Air India! Have they made you the Brand Ambassador yet!

    Absolutely LOVED it.

  4. Thanks all :) Glad you liked it.
    @Purba: AI hasn't approached me yet.. guess they are waiting for me to be as old as the Air Uncles to fit in with the brand :D

  5. Awesome post! I laughed my heart out instead of purely agonizing about the situation :D You have put it so well.Keep scribbling. :)

  6. Brilliant stuff! A reasonably regular air traveler myself. But have never been at the receiving end of AI's amazing service ever since I stopped flying AI in 2003. Back then it was amazing! Now I just make do with being regaled by stories from other people. Super stuff :)

    1. Thanks Anil ! The experience was heart felt :D


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