After nearly 6 years, I decided to go back home to India for a 3-week vacation. I had been hearing that things had changed a lot in those years. How naive of me to think that they had changed for the better!
Upon arriving in Mumbai International airport 3 hours late from Newark, NJ due to weather problems, we were surprised to see that the original connecting flight from Mumbai to Bangalore was still waiting for us. It had also been delayed by 3 hours, giving us about 2 hours to collect our baggage and finish customs.
Oh, and we were casually told by the Air India staff that due to “computer problems”, we were no longer checked in right through to Bangalore. We had to check out at Mumbai, and go through customs right there.
It took more than an hour to collect our luggage from the baggage pickup area – and we found out later why it took that long.
With 2 cranky children, one even crankier spouse, 6 huge suitcases and 4 large carry-ons, we went towards the so-called “Green Channel” in customs, where we were harassed for more than an hour, and were asked to list the cost of each and every item we had, right down to my underwear.
Finally, after coughing up a $50 bribe, we were let go. But by then we had missed our connecting flight. The staff at Air India were utterly clueless, and even more helpless. Their “Information” counter could give us absolutely no information – one man said the connecting flight had been cancelled, seconds later another one sitting right next to him said that the flight had left as scheduled at 2:30, another “positively” confirmed that the flight had left at 4:30 AM, and yet another at the customs gate informed a co-passenger that the flight was at 6:30 AM!
After screaming and threatening to kill people, they finally set us up with Jet Airways at 10:20 AM. After lugging all luggage and family from the International terminal to the national one (I still don’t understand the concept of two different airports miles apart), we were informed by the Jet Airways crew that they had received no communication from Air India about our transfers, and that all flights were fully booked, and they had no available seats on any flight for that entire day!
After more threatening and screaming and almost getting a heart-attack due to rage, Jet Airways suddenly made a few seats available out of thin air, and we finally reached Bangalore happily, though 10 hours later than we were originally scheduled to.
Just about when we were ready to give up on the trip, Jet Airways turned things around within minutes of our boarding the flight – they gave us warm hand towels to wash up, mini bottles of clean water, the flight attendants even smiled at us genuinely as if they were happy to see us on board and even offered to load our carry-on luggages on to the space above our seats!
Then they whipped out neat little colorful bags with cryons, color pencils and sketch pads for my two children – and suddenly we couldn’t hear them any more – they had gotten deep into doodling, and we tried to get deep into slumberland.
And just like that, our entire vacation was salvaged, thanks to the most amazing Jet Airways crew.
Bottom line is, unless you are a glutton for punishment, don’t travel Air India or Indian Airlines. They reek of what happens when the government gets involved in a commercial business in India.
Be it telecom, airways, roadways or the railways, the Indian government couldn’t mismanage it more, or be more corrupt.
Avoid Air India, Indian Airlines, and just about anything run by the Indian government. Avoid them like the plague.
Travel with Jet Airways, because they really want your business, and mine, and they care.
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