There are only horror stories about them.
We can’t do without them, and they exploit our need.
Last week, coming back from New Delhi after a family affair, we had chosen to take the evening flight to Madras, so as to reach here before dark.
Even as we reached the Delhi airport, the flight notice board read that our flight was delayed by two hours, taking off at 6.30 pm. We comforted ourselves saying that it was only two hours, and the flight was only two and a half hours. My son, who came to drop us off asked if we would like to go back and wait, but we chose not to.
Checking in took a long time with the computer hanging, and the person in charge, maybe a novice, looking miserable as he tried to cope. So that took care of 45 minutes and I said to myself, only an hour and a bit now to wait. But by the time we finished checking in we found that the flight was delayed by yet another hour.
And then another.
And then another.
Okay, so there was some problem.
Languid announcements from the airlines, once in an hour, held no note of apology for the inconvenience, or explanations for the delay.
Another indistinct announcement was a sap to suckers who had paid money well in advance to enjoy the comfort of an air trip – they could avail themselves of ‘refreshments’ at the airlines’ cost.
My heart ached for the young couple waiting with us. On their honeymoon, they had to catch a connecting flight to Singapore from Madras at 11 pm – and it did not look like they were going to make it.
At about 7.40 pm a flight to Madras was announced – but it was not our flight.
It was the flight that was scheduled for 8 pm.
That is when the collective hackles of the passengers booked on our flight rose. They trooped to the attendant in charge at the boarding gate, and wanted to know why when they were kept waiting, the aircraft bound for Chennai could not take them. After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing , our flight was announced.
And finally we made it, boarding the aircraft at about 9 pm. I don’t even want to think what happened to the other flight!
This is not an ailment of domestic airlines alone.
My son and daughter-in-law had tickets on the 2 am KLM flight to go to New York from New Delhi; they found that the flight was overbooked by many numbers. The passengers crowded the counters; a request from my son to the attendant there to control the queue brought the response “Aap hi sambhalo” (You manage it please). Finally the passengers were distributed and accommodated on other airlines. My son and his wife travelled by Aeroflot via Moscow - from what they said I don’t think they want to repeat the experience.
These are only two isolated accounts – everyone must have an experience to relate.
There is no accountability at all on the part of airlines for any inconvenience caused. Neither apology nor compensation is offered. Early booking to avoid such problems becomes a farce in the face of such irregularities.
A recent judgement against Go Air Airlines, to recompense the passengers for inconvenience caused by cancelling a flight, should serve as a lesson.
As for lost luggage – now that is another story!