Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Not again!!!

Crossing the Bangalore City Railway Station in the morning of 6th Dec 2008 at about 7 am sitting in the plush Tata Indigo; seeing the rush and the pushing of people trying to get into the station, I somehow felt nostalgic. Eighteen months ago, I was one of them when I was studying at my University. I too had to push and shove in the lines in order to get ahead and catch the train at the earliest. But now! Now the situation was different. I was being chauffeur-driven to the Bengaluru International Airport to catch the Jet Airways flight to Kolkata as a guest of Jet Airways itself. Wondering why? Lets go back one day.

It was 5th of December 2008. I was supposed to catch the JetLite evening flight to Kolkata. The flight was to depart at 8:10 pm. As the new airport is very far away from the city, taking about 2 hrs to reach, I planned to take the BMTC BIAL shuttle BIAS11. I reached the airport shuttle bus stop at about 4:45 pm. The bus came at 5:15. No issues. I was on my way home. But fate had some other plans. The bus had some suspension problems because of which it stopped at Mekhri Circle. The time was 6:50 pm and I still had more than 20 kms to cover to reach the airport. The conductor put us up into some other BIAL bound bus BIAS3. But I had lost some vital time. It was this loss of time which proved costly to me.

When I finally reached the airport, it was already 7:40 pm. I was wondering whether my flight was on time or not. But before that, I had to put up with the extra level of security checking at the airport. This time, at the entry point itself, the security guards were checking the tickets along with a valid identity proof. A huge line to get in. But since it was being serviced by 4 entry points, it didn't take time. Alas! It was of no use. When I finally entered the airport, I looked up at the digital display board showing up the schedules of the departing flights. Jetlite flight to Kolkata was on time and that made me happy that I would reach home in time for dinner. But the Jetlite personnel at the check-in counter had other news. According to them, the flight was overbooked by 2 persons. This meant that there were no seats left in the flight. All the passengers had checked-in. I was shocked! Overbooking in flights was not new information to me, but now I was actually a victim of it. I had no idea what to do. According to the officials, all flights departing from Bangalore were already overbooked. This meant they couldn't put me up into any connecting flight via Mumbai, Chennai or Hyderabad. I called up mom who was furious. According to her, flight officials couldn't allocate tickets more than the seats. I made her understand that they don't provide us final seats at the time of booking. So this kind of situation could arise. The only way to avoid this was to arrive early which unfortunately, I could not that day.

Coming back to my situation, the officials offered me a compensation. They said they will put me up onto the next morning's Jet Airways flight to Kolkata at 9:20 am. They would check-in me and provide a boarding pass so that I would surely board the flight the next day. What more, they would provide me a pick up from home in the morning. I was kind of smiling at the thought of it and decided to take it ( I had no other option anyways ). So I picked up my bags and again caught the BIAS11, taking the tedious trip back to my flat in Bangalore. It was already 11 pm. I was hungry, disgusted and sad. Somehow, I got back home; ate something ( I was weak because of fever anyways so couldn't eat too much ) and slept.

Next morning getting up at 6 am, the first thought that crossed my mind was whether I would need to buy breakfast for the trip. I couldn't stay hungry for too long and eatables at the airport were simply priced over the roof. It was then that I realized my boarding pass was for the Jet Airways flight ( The kinda ones my dad used to go when travelling on official visits ), not for Jetlite. So I was getting to go in a full service aircraft at the price of a low cost ticket. Awesome! The cab driver called me up at 6:20 and I was off to the airport by 6:45 am. I could not help but laugh on my fate that I was taking the same route of journey to the airport thrice in the span of 14 hours. But somehow, the trip was different. Apart from the fact that I was going in a car and not in a bus, it was also daytime while I was travelling. This meant I was actually able to see the 'Route' to the airport. This time the journey took just 45 mins and I was at my destination by 7:30 am. Excited, I checked-in my luggage at the counter but then lazily went up to the cabin luggage check. There was too much time to kill. This time though, I was in for more. The scan of my cabin luggage showed some suspicious item on the screen of the personnel manning the x-ray scanner. So the security guy asked me to open the bag. Alas, it was my deoderant. Apparently, due to some idiocracy by some British Airways customer, they were not allowing deoderants to the cabin; they had to be in the check-in luggage. Obviously, I couldn't go to the check-in counter at that time. So I simply submitted it to them. The guy took it, brought out a tray and kept my Axe deoderant in it. And the entire process left just enough time to reveal that there were atleast 20 more deoderants in the tray. What an idea, sirjee! They would not register these; so could simply take them home. Awesome!

Hanging around the lounge of the departure area, I just could help admire the beauty of it. Some place! Beautiful shops and restaurants. Most of them were of international brands and befitted the culture of the new airport. I spent my rest of the waiting time for the flight in there and finally boarded the flight at 9. And from then, the khatirdari started. First, the towels to clean off your faces. Then the juice. And finally, the breakfast which was not too much in quantity, but marvellous in quality and taste. Satisfied, I took a small nap and thus spent my rest of the journey to Kolkata.

Now, you may have heard of lightning striking twice। But have you ever experienced it? I am not talking of that happennig to you literally ( You would not be in here to narrate that experience anyways) but figuratively, has it? Well, this time it did for me. My return flight was on Sunday 14th Dec 2008, again in JetLite. This time, the flight being from Kolkata (which I was very familiar of), I decided to reach the airport an hour before the scheduled departure time of 5:20 pm. I had been doing that most of the times I had been flying out of Kolkata ( which is just 4 times apart from this, but who cares! Its more than one na! ); so was pretty confident I would not face any issues. But alas, that was not to be! Whoever had advised me to read the paper and see the news everyday had did it for a good purpose, but this time I had not followed him. I had forgotten about the new security cover at the airports. So when I reached at about 4:20 pm, there was a huge line to enter the airport. Also, since it was the Kolkata Airport, where passenger concern is given least priority, they had just one entry gate. So by the time I entered the airport, it was already 4:50 pm. Add to that the baggage check, and I was at the JetLite counter only at 5 pm. At that moment, the lady in front of me was being given the boarding pass for the flight. So I was relieved that I would also get mine. But not to be! When my turn came, the guy at the counter coolly told me that the flight was full. No seats. I was like - not again! I was stranded again. And this time, they didn't offer me any flight straight away. Instead, the Jetlite personnel was scolding me for being late. I told him that I was well ahead of time and early too. But he was in not buying my explanation.

For the next 30 mins, I was simply standing there, knowing nothing as to what would happen next. Whether I would be able to go to Bangalore that day or not? Whether I would have to wait for another day? No idea. It was only at 5:30 that he informed me that there was a Kingfisher Class flight to Bangalore at 5:55 pm and he would try to put me up in it. But it was via Hyderabad. I was overwhelmed! No issues about the extended journey. For the first time, I was actually thanking Mr. Mallaya and Mr. Goyal for the tie-up of their respective airlines. I got my boarding pass at the Kingfisher counter after being informed that I was a guest of Jet Airways ( What a feeling! ) and off I was to board my Kingfisher flight. Security checks done. Nothing taken this time from my cabin luggage ( I had been careful this time ), and I was at my seat. TV in the front and KF airhostesses passing by my side. Amazing! The Air Premiere of Singh is Kinng was playing and I decided to watch that during my flight. An airhostess came by and provided me with a pair of earphones and the menu card. The menu card informed me that apart from the dessert, we had chicken tikka, veg kati roll and a corn and spinach dish for evening snacks to Hyderabad. Amazing! Too good! I enjoyed the movie and the food and for the first time did not sleep during my flight. Hats off to Mr. Mallaya! No wonder Kingfisher has been voted the Most Admired Airlines in India. So when I finally reached Bangalore Airport at 10 pm, a full 2 hours 20 mins behind schedule, I was actually thoroughly satisfied with my experience and ready to take that same monotonous trip back to my flat from the Bengaluru International Airport.

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Abhishek Saha
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
A NRB (Non Resident Bengali) or rather a 'Probashi Bangali'; born in Kolkata, brought up in Jamshedpur and now trying to make his mark at IIM Lucknow.
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