My Return To India – Part 7: The Voyage Home Begins
As I type this, I am at Indira Gandhi Airport waiting for my flight home. I left my hotel at 10:30 PM for a flight that leaves at 5:25 AM. You might think I am nuts, but here’s why I did this.
First of all, it should only take you about 20 minutes to get from Gurgaon to the airport. It took me over 50 minutes because of three traffic jams which are par for the course around these parts.
When I arrived at the airport, I had to stand in line at the door so that I could present my passport and my itinerary (Hint: Always print out your itinerary before you leave for the airport) to an Indian solider who was armed with an assault rifle just so that I could enter the airport. Behind him was another solider with an assault rifle scanning the crowd. While they didn’t exactly look happy to be there, they did deem me worthy enough to enter the airport. That was ten minutes to do.
Now let’s talk about checking in. Check in’s from what I can tell start about 3.5 hours before your flight at this airport. There’s no ability to self check in using a self serve kiosk at this airport. So you have to line up and the lines tend to be long. Not only that, when they do start checking passengers in, there’s a mad rush for the line. Because of that, I’d rather get here early so I can deal with that and move on painlessly. But I had one extra surprise: I experienced the worst check in process in my many years of flying. I lined up at the right Air India counter, and was told by the person managing the line to go to a specific agent to check in. When I walked to that agent, I was told rather rudely to get back in line because she didn’t check people in.
So I walked back to the line and I then had to wait 10 minutes before I could get to a an agent so that I could actually check in. When I did, the agent was with a trainee who did not know what he was doing. That meant that the check in process took way longer than it should have as he constantly had to ask for help from the guy who was training him who appeared not to know much more than he did.
This didn’t put me in a good mood. But to Air India’s credit, they sensed that I was
pissed not a happy camper and gave me a pass to their executive lounge. Here’s what I got access to:
Not bad I have to admit. This place has everything including shower facilities. Very cool. Seeing as I had a fair amount of time to kill, here’s what I did:
As you can see, I was able to set up shop and type up this blog entry while having a black coffee and some complementary food that was pretty good. Now one thing that was sort of cool was the fact that I could leverage the Vodafone SIM card that I have this week to get access to WiFi in the airport. The speed isn’t Earth shattering, and unlike the last time I was here, I didn’t have to hop through hoops to get online. However, like the last time I was here it is anything but stable. But it was still better than it was the last time I was here, which means they made some improvements to the WiFi. Though they need to do more on that front to reach the stability, ease of access, and quality that you get in an airport like Pearson Airport in Toronto. Thus it enabled me to post this story with minimal pain. Plus I could wait for my flight
without interacting excessively with the lowly riff raff in comfort. I should point out that there’s a monitor that you can’t see in this picture that has the departures on it. In this airport you need to keep an eye on it because there are minimal PA announcements as to when planes begin to board. Thus you might miss your flight if you are not paying attention. But to be fair, the Air India staff that work in this lounge will let people know when flights are about to board. Of course I only got to hang out in this lounge after going through passport control which is in the “International Departures” hall, and then you get screened by security. Combined time for that was 30 minutes.
Suddenly, arriving to the airport this early seems perfectly reasonable.
As Now I am doing the trip back to Toronto in two parts. I am flying Air India to London Heathrow Airport. Then after a 2 hour layover, I will be flying on Air Canada to Toronto. Now, this might be a very interesting trip because when I told people I was flying on Air India, they suggested that I could do better from an airline perspective. In fact, one person said “may God help you.”
Here’s how I see it. I have never flown Air India before, and the flight that I am on is using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner which is a wonderful aircraft. So it cannot possibly be that bad. Right? Ok, I will admit that my experience with Air India didn’t get off to the best start with the check in process. But I personally think that the negativity about Air India is being overblown. But I’ll let you know when I land in London what my experience is like.