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Has a travel experience ever left you less than satisfied, thanks to poor service or appalling organisational skills?
Here, Get Ahead reader Ravi Shah shares a story of travel aboard national carrier Air India!
I had a literally breath-taking experience with Air India this time, while returning to the US after a three-week vacation in India!
My return flight was from Ahmedabad to Newark on flight AI-191 on December 9, 2007. As everybody knows, Air India has a reputation for late flights. But I was in for a big surprise. The flight was scheduled to depart on time! Wow! Is this a new Air India? I began to wonder.
On this particular trip I was carrying excess baggage, so I went to the AI counter to pay $123 for the same. I gave them my VISA card, but they asked me for a cash. I said I don't have cash on me, so please charge my card. They replied that there was no person on duty who knew how to charge a card! I was shocked. What the hell! Nobody in Ahmedabad Airport knew how to make a charge on a card ? I argued with them, but it was pointless. I had to go out and ask my dad for INR for the same.
As stated, the flight indeed took off at the right time: 3:50 am. I was in a bit of a sentimental mood, as I was taking back with me lots of sweet memories about my wedding and the reception ceremony back in Ahmedabad. My sentimental musings soon changed to fright, however -- as soon as it took off, the plane began to descend at a rapid rate! Normally an aircraft does descend a bit to gain speed during the takeoff, but this time it was a little more than usual and when I saw the nervous face of the air hostess, I knew something was wrong. Luckily, the captain was able to control the plane thereafter and we were soon safely on our way to Mumbai.
We reached there at 5 am. Once I reached the terminal, it was announced that the aircraft had developed some serious technical issues and that the flight would be delayed by three hours. We wound up taking off for Newark (via Paris) from Mumbai at 10:30 am! Three hours into the flight, the captain made an announcement that the aircraft had once again developed some serious technical issues and that it was in everybody's safe interest that the flight be turned back to Mumbai!
We all became tense hearing this. The flight then took an about-turn and we were on our way back to Mumbai. The in-flight television displayed how the flight was returning to Mumbai via the shortest path, in a straight line. This indicated that the pilots had asked for emergency air space clearance. The plane began picking up speed and started dumping fuel. It was a scary sight. For the first time in my life I saw fuel being dumped mid-air. Almost all the passengers were praying for the safety of the flight. And thankfully the prayers were heard! We landed in Mumbai at 3 pm and heaved a sigh of relief.
Once on the ground, the captain made an announcement that lunch would be served on the plane and in the meantime other arrangements would be made for our flight. After lunch, we finally disembarked from the aircraft at 4:30 pm. The first thing we wanted to do is to call back home and let our family members know about all this. Can you imagine, only two local phones and one STD/ ISD phone were working at the terminal! So there were huge queues waiting to use all three!
All the passengers were so tired by then that the airline arranged to have us taken to Hotel Ajanta at Juhu. We were even more annoyed when the ride from airport to the hotel took one hour -- it was gruelling! It was not such a nice hotel, in any case -- not even a one-star! But all this faded when compared to our scary flight experience.
We were told that the new flight would be taking off at 1:30 am, so we had a nice dinner at 8:30 pm and I decided to take a nap till it was time to leave. At 2 am the airport bus arrived and it was announced that the flight would take off at 5 am. Thankfully, it was a new plane -- the 'Agra' was replacing the 'Ajanta'! The flight was still late by 40 minutes -- we took off at 5:45 am instead of 5, but from then on the flight experience till Newark was without incident. All-in-all, we were 22 hours late!
After this experience, I thank God that I am still fit and fine and alive today! But one thing is for sure, that was my last trip on Air India! I'm not saying that such incidents do not occur in other airlines. But the way in which the issues were handled post the incident, I swear -- never, never again Air India!
The ticket for this trip cost me $1000, $300 less than other airlines. But the $300 additional expense is worth it for other airlines! I now agree -- Air India is the worst! Even the food was pathetic this time around. Extremely oily food -- my throat was infected for days after that!
Travel by Air India only if you :
~ Do not have value for time and enjoy showing up late for commitments.
~ Like oily food.
~ Enjoy the continuous wailing of children throughout the flight -- it seems that irresponsible NRI parents like to boast about how mischievous their kids are (like it's a competition!).
~ Like disobeying flight safety orders. Yes, that's what all AI passengers do. If the captain asks everyone to fasten up their seatbelts for landing, you'll see passengers moving around for water, tea and free wafers. And it's not that some of them can't understand the announcement since it's made in English -- it's made in Hindi too!
~ Do not have common sense and lack manners, honesty and modesty.
As for me, I will pay any amount for other airlines, but wont travel Air India again, even if they offer me a free ticket!
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