Friday, February 23, 2007

Air India: Oh Maharaja, when will you respect my time? - Part I

I like traveling by Air India. The food is usually good. On second thoughts, the first sentence may need a rethink given my experiences in this week!

I was supposed to catch the Air India flight AI 127 leaving Bombay for Frankfurt (direct) scheduled for departure from Bombay at 08:05 am. In spite of the sleepless nights that I had endured, I managed to make it to the airport at the check-in counter on time.

On this counter, I was number 2 in the queue. It seemed strange but the queue wasn't moving. Slowly, it grew as a few more passengers came in - but the queue was obliviously still.

On probing, the staff manning my counter gingerly told me that the system did not take check-in requests and claimed that AI people were working on 'it'! Around 07:30 am, the lady manning my check-in counter happily announced that her shift was done, left the place and us all high and dry.

People were getting impatient and there was no officer of any authority who would come and tell us what the problem was! Around 08:00, 5 minutes before the scheduled departure, some passengers got their boarding passes - but this time not me, for I was flying to Frankfurt. The flight went to Chicago via Frankfurt and passengers bound for Chicago were on a priority!

More than 90 minutes had now passed with me (and another guy) standing in the queue all the while. Finally, around 08:20, I was told that the flight was full and that there was no place for me. Period. I was asked to board the next flight AI 131 bound for London (not direct anymore) at 12:25 and catch an onward Lufthansa Flight from London to Frankfurt that would bring me to FRA by 21:30 (instead of 13:00 hours CET as originally scheduled). A journey that would normally last 8 hours was not only delayed by 4:30 hours, but I was expected to travel a minimum of 14, hours not including the wait!

A voucher that entitled me to 200 €s cash was some compensation (should I count the chickens before the eggs hatch?) for all the fiasco - but actually barely did commiserate with my day of work lost and the meetings canceled.

I still wonder why none of the AI Customer support staff ever asked us to sit down rather than make me wait in the queue for 90 minutes, or offer a tea - for it was all too apparent that they could have never put me on the flight!

Anyways, I kind-of thanked my stars that AI 131 scheduled to leave BOM at 12:25 would still help me reach Germany on that day! Little did I know then that my troubles had just started...

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