Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Finally, airborne

In more ways than one. I've been out of the blogosphere for ages. And there is a reason for it. This is not where I just scribble some random thought. Those can stay in my head. When I put something here I like to be able to have thought out what I want to say and to say it with a coherent flow. I know I haven't found time to do that in months, but I have now. And the blogs have just been bursting in my head.
The first one is this:

Last Monday night I took my first-ever no-frills flight. It was a Spicejet flight from Mumbai to Delhi and I'd paid a measly 5200 bucks for it (return). The take off time was 20.10 and I left Nariman Point at 17.35 in the evening by train to rush back home to Santa Cruz to pick up my suitcase (18.45) and to then battle the peak Mumbai traffic in a cab. Bless the Indica driver, even though he ensured my heart almost came out of my rib cage several times. I have however, learnt to handle the rides in Mumbai with some cabs and autos defying gravity, traffic rules and everything else. Anyway I made it to the airport in good time (19.20) and checked in, only to be told that winter timings applied from that day (Nov 14) and now the flight would go straight to Delhi and not via Ahmedabad. Hence, it would leave at 21.10. Why wasn't I informed or smsed I asked, when Spicejet had actively been smsing me other inane details once I'd registered for this flight a month ago? He smiled sheepishly.
The excitement of a holiday loomed large so I didn't pay it much attention and wandered to the brand new lobby of the Mumbai domestic airport. It looks good with marbo granite flooring and bamboo plants glowing in the skylighting. There is a snazzy cafe from where I grabbed a coffee and a roll before browsing at The Bombay Store and at the bookstores. Finally, we boarded at 20.30 and the flight left on time.
The crowd is a real mix. Without wanting to sound snobbish, I almost feel I am at Nagpur railway station. I don't know why but the elite seems to place a premium on silence and talking in low tones but we, the middle-class, just doesn't care who's listening. So I see families around me, literally shouting out to each other; I hear conversations I'm not interested in, and I basically see the people I haven't seen on a Jet or an Air Sahara, all the while trying to read Outlook's cover on the Volcker report. Once in the flight, I forget I have prebooked a 2F seat for myself, front window seat and sit down in the seat behind, next to an old couple. When I realise my mistake I am loath to disturb them and hence give up my premium seat. The next thing I know, some young girl is shouting out to the couple next to me, 'Mummy, tum Papa ke saah yeh samosa share kar lo'. It's really like a bus ride! I forgot that food is allowed on board. Because when you pay peanuts you get peanuts. So all the airline gives is is peanuts and water. But I'm not complaining. Rather pay less and eat your own food or not eat instead of eating the greasy fare dished out by most airlines. (Air India's flight to London had food far worse than a domestic Air Sahara flight, seriously). I also notice that the instructions are in far greater detail because I think the airline fears it may be a first flight for several people.
The earth looks really pretty at night. Obviously I haven't taken such a late flight in a long, long time. I was wondering if this is what star gazing is to the people who live up in the sky? Because we look up at the stars but when you look down from that height, the lights (yellow and white) from houses and hotels etc look just the same. Like twinkling stars, and I'm thinking 'so this is what reverse star gazing means'.
Anyway it's now 22.30 and the captain announces that we are ready for descent. The flight looks like it's bang on time but soon it's 23.15 and still no sign of landing. The lady in front of me, to whom I graciously and stupidly gave my seat, informs her neighbour when asked, that we are taxying and have left the runway behind (incorrectly of course). Finally we land at 23.30, and a gentleman's mobile rings to everyone's horror. He has to immediately be told to switch it off and an announcement made on the perils of using a cellphone on the flight. I notice an Air Canada flight standing on the runway and wonder what's happening. Then I see large hangars with 'Customs' and 'Import Gate 1' and Export Gate 3' written on them. We have landed at the customs gate in the Indira Gandhi International Airport. I kid you not!
While I know Delhi very well and made out instantly where we were, imagine the plight of the rest! We boarded the bus and started meandering to the domestic airport. Now this ride as you can imagine took nearly 25 minutes and after the first 10 minutes of dignified silence, most people who were quite shocked started giggling and cracking jokes on how we had landed in Jaipur and were being driven back to Delhi. Nobody had ever taken such a long bus ride within an airport terminal.
We finally reached the terminal and the luggage took another 15 minutes to arrive. I reached home at quarter to 1, and the airport is not more than 25 minutes from my house.
The return was via Ahmedabad. At the Delhi airport I felt like a complete outcast because at the entry gate I was shunted to another gate which was only for Air Deccan and Spicejet. I could almost feel this distinction between the haves and the have-nots, made clear in an instant because the haves flashed their tickets to enter whereas the have-nots flashed only white sheets of paper (print outs) instead of tickets. Even the security gate is separate. I walked across to the other side of the airport to use the washroom since the one this side was locked, and the guard immediately stopped me and informed me that the security gate was different. Sheesh!
Anyhow, we boarded. The seats this time were rexine, not even cushioned. So when the hostess held up a cushioned seat to be used for floatation and I noticed our seats weren't even cushioned I seriously began to wonder what would happen in a crash. How high on safety are the no-frill airlines? I don't know. I hope I never have to find out in an adverse way. I was so tired, I nearly slept through the entire flight. We arrived at the correct terminal but again our luggage took ages to come whereas Jet and Sahara flights which landed after us had their luggage delivered faster.
My verdict: If you are not on a hurried business trip and a few minutes delay here and there don't bother you, go ahead and try a no-frills airline. But if you're one of those fidgety, short-tempered people who want premium sevice in everything, please stick to your regular airline because now with check fares the difference isn't that much. Me? I'm quite OK with it, because the price is really good but tomorrow I board a flight for Goa (for work; I know it's a juxtaposition, Goa and work) and I'm kind of happy it's Jet. Looking forward to it actually!!


Blogger writer-in-egg-style said...

No-fear, no-frills.

Simply the most irresistable flying proposition, if done with finesse n spunk.

23 November, 2005  
Blogger Jabberwock said...

"Blogosphere", not "blogspehere". Write that on the blackboard one hundred times. If you've really thought out what you want to say, spell it correctly too. Also, "loath to disturb them", not "loathe to disturb them".

More to follow...

Egg: "IRRESISTIBLE", with an I (sorry, couldn't resist!)

23 November, 2005  
Blogger writer-in-egg-style said...

Nuts. Read the book? Named after the nuts-to-eat cost formula of SouthWest Air, it is about making no-frll flying fun on inflight ingenuity (stewardess-spriings-out-of-overhead-handbag-cabin "surpriise!!" kind of thing).

I kinda like "blogspehere". It's distinctave. Ha ha: I like words with two Is, by the way, especialli when the sound-off-the-tongue is no different. Two, to get depth of field. Visionary stuff, y'know

23 November, 2005  
Anonymous fyc said...

"the first one is this" you say. and the next? your head is bursting with blogs na?

23 November, 2005  
Blogger GSB said...

Oh God, not another blog war.

JAB: Thanks Jab, jab taken and changes made. Blog... was a typo and loathe is in the dictionary, BTW. Thanks to your comment I went back and re-read the blog and there was a sentence left half way, which I have duly corrected. This is what I mean. I start writing, then some phone call happens, and some PR person comes to meet me, and pending work comes up and by the time I finish the blog it's like two hours and I have no time or inclination to re read it. But with your hawk eyes around, I'll be more careful:)

And FYC: One at a time, don't want to treat you people all at once. You'll throw up! More blogging from Goa hopefully.

23 November, 2005  
Blogger Jabberwock said...

"Loathe" and "loath" are different words entirely, and they're both in the dictionary - but you've used the wrong one.

Egg: know what you mean. like the whole jassiii jaisii koiii nahin, wot? Or GSB jaisiii koii nahin...

23 November, 2005  
Blogger GSB said...

JAB: thanks. change made. please to proof read. he he

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