Thursday, May 24, 2007

Flight Delayed. Inconvenience Regretted.

Spending several hours at assorted airports – reading statutory national security guidelines and browsing through out-of-date magazines – is certainly not good for mental stability. Long before deep vein thrombosis sets in, I will probably be in a padded cell somewhere with Jack Nicholson for company…

Some of the random thoughts I have...

Every airline brushes off delays with a callous ‘… due to late arrival of incoming aircraft’ as if it was not them and some other jerk operating that flight. Get real, guys – if your pilot was on strike (Indian), poached by other airlines (Deccan), too drunk to fly (Kingfisher) or still learning English (Spicejet) – then we have a right to know. Don’t bloody gloss over the details!

Nowadays, they make you take out all pocket stuff when you are manually frisked. Earlier it was just the cell phone, but now it has extended to all items remotely metallic (including metal bodied pens and chocolate wrappers with a foil base). So, what do they do with Bappi Lahiri? He has now graduated from wearing jewelry to wearing gold studded clothing. Do they realize Bappi Lahiri taking off his clothes in a public place means a bigger hazard than a mere bomb on a plane?

Air Deccan is hell-bent on attributing each one of their actions to cutting costs. It started with not allocating seats, which meant a sprint across the tarmac to avoid sitting in a non-reclining seat next to the toilet.
Now it is their request to passengers to not take away the life jacket from under the seats! Even to this perfectly legitimate request, they appended a squeaky cost rationale. “If you take away the jackets, then we will not be able to keep our fares low…”
It should have been “Bugger, that snazzy orange jacket was not brought from Palika Bazaar for a hundred bucks. It is a mandatory security requirement and anybody touching it will have their balls chopped off – low fare or not!”

On a related note, most of the low-cost airlines sing some sorry tune of cost-cutting. IndiGo requests the passengers to dump their garbage into the bag which the stewardess would bring around.
How much longer before standing passengers are allowed?

Indian’s congenital distrust for computers does not come across any clearer than at airports. If you have a ticket jacket printed on airline stationery, you are waved in. However, if you have an e-ticket, then ID proof is asked for. How does a ticket-jacket prove I am the person who the ticket claims me to be? And how does having an ID matching the name on a ticket preclude threats to national security. It is very unlikely that the next hijacker will travel by the name of O.B. Laden.

The placards with which people wait outside the airport make for interesting reading. The latest I remember was – COLD MAZUMDAR. Bongs do have a penchant for unusual names but this one took the bakery, I thought. He probably has a twin brother who is HOT! But when I came closer, two full stops indicated it was Col. D. Mazumdar who was being expected!
Bhudev Bhutalia was another one I remember… wonder how they teased him in college?

If you are a Sudoku buff, then the most irritating thing on a flight is clearly the half-done puzzle in the in-flight newspaper. Some idiot before you would have started to solve and given up mid-way leaving the area in a mess of crossed out numbers and doodles. So you are left with the task of asking for another Hindustan Times while holding a copy of the HT in your hand.
Jet stewardesses give you the ‘oh-you-poor-dyslexic-dear’ look while Indian head mistresses give you the ‘be-eccentric-in-your-own-home’ stare – both of which are equally distressing!

Indians (countrymen, not the airline) always ask. Even the most obvious questions (“Bhai-saab, yeh gaadi Kanpur jaa rahi hain na?”) – if not for the sake of confirmation, but for the comfort that one more bloke is making the same mistake as oneself!
So, you will have uncles and aunties always asking, “Is this Seat 13C?” before settling down in the seat which has been numbered in Arial font 24, Bold, Lit Up right at their eye level!
My excuse is that at a very early age, I was subjected to the story of how an uncle got into the wrong flight and only realized when the announcements were being made during the taxiing of the aircraft. If the flight number and destination are not written anywhere, I politely ask the gent who collects the boarding pass stubs… “This is for Lucknow, right?” Just in case…

Most international airlines have three classes – Economy, Business and First. In India, Economy is translated in Hindi as ‘Sadharan’, which actually means ‘General’. It should ideally be ‘Kifaayati’ – just to make us plebeians feel good that we are saving our companies lots of money by seating 3x3 and eating jeera-rice-and-crow-curry!
Kingfisher claimed for a while that they don’t need a First Class because their normal service is better than the business class of other airlines. But then, the lure of the CEO fare was too high and they started Kingfisher First, which promises to be extremely decadent. A friend – after seeing the figures of their stewardesses and the length of their skirts – has remarked the Kingfisher should rename their classes to ‘Family’ and ‘Adult’! The stewardesses in the ‘Adult’ class will wear bikinis… Mr Mallya, are you listening?

Travel from a small town to Delhi almost always means a celebrity co-passenger. My experiences include the following: Laloo Prasad Yadav (from Patna), Mohammed Kaif and the UP Ranji team, Amar Singh, Akhilesh Yadav (all from Lucknow) and Pranab Mukherjee (Calcutta).
In one tremendously lucky break, I had sat right behind Katrina Kaif on a flight to Bombay and even kicked her seat in excitement! She complained in a too-cute-to-be-true voice and I repeatedly assured her it would not happen again so she should not report me to Sallu!

Ahh... my flight has been announced.


Daniel said...

Any idea how many of these low-budget airlines have policies on oversized passengers?

Just one of the headaches of air travel.

(btw, that video can be embedded on any site free of charge - there's a ton of great news content on that site).

Surya said...

I fly almost every week on work in the US, and believe me it's worse. I have never had an evening on time flight. The "no seat assignment" in budget airlines has been on for a while. The only thing you get to eat is a packet of peanuts. If you want anything else, you pay with exact change.
New proposals for this summer include charges for selecting a seat, getting pillows and blankets. I kid you not.
Atleast kingfisher gives you hot flight attendants... you guys are still better off.

nilendu said...

Warren Buffet has shown that in the last 75 years or so not a single airline stock has given positive returns! i.e., if you had bought ANY airline stock at IPO -- United, Delta, Jetblue whatever -- you would be in RED today, still waiting to take off! No airline -- solely on flying -- can ever make a profit year after year. Virgin's profits come not from the Airbuses, but from the Virgin megastores selling CDs.

Ten easy innovative ways airlines can mark profits (not exactly from Warren Buffet, but he may just well approve) -

(1) Fly from nearby small dilapidated "airports" (Ryanair and likes do). So near to each other that the aircraft can just taxi to the destination - entirely avoiding flying!

(2) Employ (more) ex-convicts as porters and baggage screener. Have a contract so that whatever they steal the company gets 45%.

(3) Enough of paying to watch movie. Have them pay to NOT watch movies! Once airborne, just show violent air-crash movies like "Final Destination 2" or "Flight 93" -- then have the Captain announce, "We are at 38,000 ft now. If you want to switch the movie off - pay $5."

(4) Once business class passengers keep the coats, have an air-hostess steal it. There goes the uniform of the Captain.

(5) Have $5 "Bud Light" cans mandatory. If someone does not want to buy - threaten that the Pilot gets to drink anything that would remain unsold!

(6) Start charging full-fare for baby strollers.

(7) Employ ex lap-dancers as air-hostesses. Allow tipping. Have a contract similar to #2 above.

(8) Charge extra for the ones who would prefer tying the seat-belts anytime during the flight. Fine the ones who don't!

(9) Have 15 minute "flying lessons" that anyone can take for $250 once airborne. $1000 for landing or take-off practice.

(10) Charge for using toilet. It would be even more fun to follow San Francisco public toilet model. Here, you pay a quarter for 5 minute increments. If you did not purchase enough minutes, the doors would automatically wide open -- no matter what state or disposition you're in the middle of inside.

Anonymous said...

Hi Guys !

I just happened to stumble across this blog and beleive me as an insider in this industry i just couldnt resist laugh out loud at the kichdi of fact and humor !

Kudos , Dipta and Nilendu ! am actually reading out this to my folks in the office


Diligent Candy said...

Brilliant post - loved the "due to late arrival of incoming aircraft" - it is amazing how many times I have heard that!

The Mad Momma said...

you've had a couple of bad flights havent u?! in future take a train. you will get exciting travel companions like my last one!

Lavs said...

Hilarious post. I heard from my friends about their travel experiences in AirDeccan, SpiceJet and IndiGo hence never ventured to book tickets in them. Kingfisher was okay though my hubby was happy traveling with so many beautiful babes:-)

arnab said...

Dude... you are the man for the time and place. Brilliant...! Wage on! Not knowing whether you lived in Kolkata, am tempted to ask...shouldn't there be a place for the Mahayan somewhere(the original one)or at least a mere mention? All of your posts remind me so much of those good old Presi days!!!