With the Gujjars not willing to relent and ensuring that the taxpayer is also affected by their “Rail Roko Andolans”, I was faced with a moral dilemma. I needed to go home to Delhi and my first choice would have been “My first Love” : The Mumbai Rajdhani. With due credit to the Gujjars, however, I was successfully weaned away from the splash of red and grey and moved to “fly the scene”.
The flight was Indigo 6E 182, scheduled at 9:35 pm. One last ditch attempt by the t(Rain) god to prevent me from boarding the mechanical bird came in the form of rain…and not just rain but the monsoon!!!
It poured cats and dogs and I soon realized that Mumbai is not all that efficient as it claims to be. Within a span of half an hour the water steadily rose on the roads. The road sides get inundated because of an inefficient drainage system which then translates into lesser moving space for vehicles and traffic Jams. Add to this vehicles getting spoilt in the rain and you know why there’s a need for Crisis/Disaster management courses.
Every city has its share of heroes and I am sure my auto guy was one. His maneuvering abilities ensured that the vehicle claimed authority to any space available and soon I was at the airport, cold but not wet, having spent 1.5 hours in the auto from Andheri to Santa Cruz.
The check in counter was empty and the lady pleasant. I soon had the boarding pass in hand with the new flight time as 9:55 pm, a delay; I was informed, due to the delayed arrival of the incoming flight.
I had over an hour to spend at the airport. On Railway Stations, you watch the trains and people go by. In airports you watch only people go by. People wearing suits and holding briefcases, people in dhotis and crumpled kurtas, people with children, children playing fighting and then scampering back to their parents, girlfriends bidding adieu to their boyfriends, people eating, people drinking, people reading….its a frenzy of activity resulting in ordered chaos.
9:35 pm and still no sign of departure apart from the periodic announcements of the flight departure shift to 9:55 pm.
9:50 pm: The boarding starts. A smaller mass of people slowly disintegrates itself from the chaos and makes its way to the departure gate. We boarded the bus and slowly made our way to the Airbus A-320 jet.
On board the flight, I was welcomed to a smiling but bored face of a flight steward. I can’t blame her…it’s a routine job. Once on my seat, I looked down the aisle to observe the flight cabin door open. Now, one of my personality traits includes a bit of paranoia and reading and watching stories of hijack and terror has only accentuated that. I kept wondering as to how easy it is for anyone to go into the cockpit and take over the plane.
As Indians, do we learn only after terror hits home? A precaution is better than cure and with India being high on the list of terror affected nations, isn’t securing the cockpit an easy enough procedure?
Anyway the flight started taxiing at around 10:05 pm and as we taxied the pilot, an able female, am sure (as displayed by the strength in her voice), introduced herself and her crew and hoped we would have a good flight with Indigo.
Now, amongst the low cost carriers, I have found Indigo’s performance to be far more superior in terms of timeliness and efficiency. Efficiency also includes professionalism by the cabin crew and I have always found Indigo’s crew to exhibit brisk professionalism.
4 flights take of and and an equal number land before we’re cleared for take off. I always look forward to this moment and have my face stuck onto the window as a 3 year old would. The take off was smooth and as we made our way above the city, turbulence caused by the first few clouds of monsoon, crept in. I have always enjoyed turbulence and with a wry smile felt the swerves and the rattles of the bird.
The rest of the flight was uneventful except for an over enthused individual who kept peeking over my shoulder to see the dark, misty outside. Halfway into the flight, we were offered sandwiches, Kerala cashew nets, water and other beverages. I would have, however appreciated it much more had they offered the water towards the start of the flight. A bit of personalization always works wonders for brands and it does so for a low frills airline as well.
Around 12:00 am, our pilot announced that we were 9th in the queue of planes landing at IGIA, Delhi and would mean an additional time of 27 minutes. 9th!!! Now I understand what they mean by traffic congestion and hence the fuel wastage. It’s a sad situation but I believe Prafful Patel and the airline executives are working towards reducing traffic delays.
We finally land at 12:30 am. While climbing the airport bus, I take one last look at the aircraft and cant help wondering as to how long airline companies would be able to sustain themselves when over 40% of their costs is fuel, how long would I be able to afford flying and whether flying would return to being a luxury for all Indians.