While packing at 10pm on Thursday, there were a flurry of messages on the Whatsapp group created for our trip. We were just hours away from our Friday morning flights on a trip for which we had barely planned anything beyond the dates we’d be in each of the 3 cities. The week in office was hectic for most of us and Vijay, one of our gang members, was still in office at this hour of the night.
Should we carry a check-in bag or just a backpack? If it’s only a backpack how will we roam around Delhi with so much weight? If we take a check-in bag, where will we leave it in Delhi? Can we take a hotel? Can we leave it at the railway station?
Hotel meant extra cost and we’d not even get to be in the hotel for long. Everyone had opinions but before we arrived at any conclusion, the next question diverted us to a different discussion!
“Is our flight starting from Chennai International Terminal” since that’s what it said on the Vistara flight tickets. Even my Jet Airways ticket mentioned the same; surely it wasn’t going to be departing from the international terminal? Our host (who was the bridegroom in Lucknow and the reason for this trip) joined the conversation, “Check with the airlines.”
The seasoned domestic flyer in our group replied that flights to Kerala would sometimes take off from the international terminal. After some googling we found that it was the domestic terminal; just that the naming convention of the terminals in Chennai are confusing.
The questions didn’t stop. “Will our flights get cancelled?”, someone asked saying flights were cancelled on Thursday due to the weather. Another person said it was raining hailstones in Delhi. Google said light showers expected over the next couple of days. Our friend in Delhi (a temporary Delhiite) had warned us about the cold a couple of days earlier. I had planned for layers of clothing including a thermal top and an old sweater; now i added a thin jacket as well to the pile of clothes stuffed in my backpack. I rued the fact that i didn’t have jeans since that is perfect for cold.
With the rise of Uber and Ola, we’ve lost good old taxi companies where you could make advance bookings (Uber/Ola also have scheduled bookings but I’ve never had success with them). I used to rely on FastTrack for such situations but off late they’d become erratic. I still made a booking with them for a 4am pickup; backup plan was to try Uber. And secondary backup to that was to take my car to the airport and leave it there.
It’s been a while since I went on a non-official trip; you end up having to pack things that you never used to bother about – towels, toothpaste, brush, soap, converters for chargers and what not. And with me it’s always been a case of packing more items than what I end up using.
Why air hostess?
FastTrack surprised me – the driver came on time. The 5 of us who were starting by the 6am flights (Jet and Air India) met at the airport. Vijay hadn’t slept – he reached home around midnight and then stayed up till 3am when he took the cab to the airport. He was going to have a super long day thanks to our crazy travel plan.
We saw the usual quirks at the airport: people trying to get ahead of others in the security screening area to drop their bags on the conveyor belt but then getting held up in the queue for physical security screening; people rushing to form a lengthy queue at the boarding counter as if they’d get a better seat. The boarding of the Jet flight was delayed but they still managed to get everyone in the flight well within time. We were surprised by our seat locations because for none of us it matched what we had selected online – i had picked an aisle but got a middle seat and that too in a different row! The flight had an in-flight entertainment system (hook into the flight wi-fi and watch movies/serials on your own mobile); but the system would be turned on only after departure.
Flight delays are a pain; it’s worse if you are at the airport when you learn of the delay but it’s even more worse when it happens while sitting inside the flight. And we sat on the tarmac for a good 30 minutes; thankfully after 30 minutes the captain made an announcement – the weather had impacted some other flights which were carrying the crew who had to be on our flight! Before takeoff Vijay told about a video he saw recently regarding stress levels of pilots during a flight; not a topic to discuss before take-off! And then he discussed about how much savings the airline has by having female flight attendants instead of men – it’s all about the weight which translates to fuel savings!
Vijay was flipping through the flight menu.
“Just 2 weeks ago they gave sandwiches on the Bangalore Chennai flight – that’s just 1 hour duration. But this one is 3 hours and they give nothing!”
In the menu I noticed a picture of the same sandwich for Rs.200.
“And that same sandwich is the free sandwich they gave on the other flight! Earlier they used to give a really good brownie with the sandwich; then they changed it to a Kitkat; and then made it a small 5-star bar and now it’s just the sandwich. And this flight doesn’t even have the sandwich!”
Thankfully water is not charged though it’s probably a matter of time before that also changes.
“Let’s eat in Delhi.”
Vijay caught a 30 minute nap during the flight when he dozed off watching the movie ‘Hidden Figures’ on the in-flight entertainment system (a nice movie based on a true story that also shows early mainframe programming at NASA).