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The fun has gone out of flying
January 04, 2007
The tarmacs of our airports these days burst over with a rainbow of aircraft of umpteen private airlines.
And in holiday season it looks like virtually half of India is out flying.
We have reason to be proud of our 'open skies'.
But what about a few open airports, please?
Or some better behaved passengers?
And less callous ground staff?
Our airports are mowed over by ever-expanding crowds of passengers. If you happened to take a peek at either Delhi or Mumbai or Kolkata airport this month or last month you would have been shocked, like I was.
Delhi airport's domestic terminal, for instance, had serpentine queues of pushy passengers winding into any available space and then out the door. Every chair was occupied. Every dustbin overflowed. There were not enough airline counters, helpful airport personnel or restaurants to catch a bite. The solitary high-priced bookstall was run by a bunch of cheats. Passengers waiting for obscenely delayed flights were hemmed into a few feet of space by bureaucratic security regulations.
The airport flaunted poor management!
Like every other passenger this season my journey -- planned meticulously two months before -- was a tale of cancelled flights, delayed aircraft (we clocked seven hours in Delhi airport courtesy the utterly inefficient Air Sahara and not fog), lost luggage and third-rate, careless ground staff.
But neither delayed flights nor lousy airports is news. Is it? We all know about dreary state of affairs with regard to the management of our airports. India has always had the honour of showcasing some of the ugliest and least functional airports in the world. Hats off to the Airports Authority of India.
And while I have a huge axe to grind with Air Sahara and the management of Delhi airport, I have even more ire for the poorly-behaved passengers one is forced to travel thousands of kilometers with.
I lost my cool a dozen times with airline staff but at least two dozen more times with fellow passengers.
We may be proud of our thriving economy and prosperity or our increasingly successful race to join the gallery of the top nations of the world. But it is really high time all of us became responsible citizens with some civic sense and courtesy.
Air travel is a nightmare when you have to deal with:
Hordes of passengers that cannot respect a queue: Every few minutes someone attempts to cut in front of you to check in, board an aircraft, buy a drink or collect luggage, without a qualm. One can expect this kind of behaviour in a bus station. But in an airport too?
Utter lack of courtesy: Passengers are in a selfish rush to get into their seats or get boarding cards and not one person can stop to assist a pregnant woman struggling to get on a bus or offer a seat to a half-asleep child or help an elderly citizen. And have you heard them talking to the air-hostesses? 'Get water'. 'Want tea'. Ugh.
The poorest civic values on earth: No one acknowledges the existence of a dustbin. I saw a snazzily dressed first-class passenger rip his priority tags off his luggage and throw it on the terminal floor in front of me in Mumbai. Aircraft aisles were littered with dropped packets of empty sugar, bottles of water and used spoons. And on every flight a handful of passengers insisted on using their cellphones right through the flight.
While we need to continue to lobby our government to completely abandon managing our airports. And not tolerate poor service from airlines. We also need to work towards expecting accountability from our fellow citizens.
I have no wish to travel next December with a similar unruly lot of people I am utterly embarrassed to label as my fellow citizens.