My Return To India – Part 8: A Very Long Day
Well, my return home from India was a bit of a mess. And that mess starts with Air India. In my last post about my trip, I said this:
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.
Well, my optimism was not justified. First of all, the plane was an hour late in leaving New Delhi because it was late getting to New Dehhi. Seeing as I had a two hour window to connect with my Air Canada flight at London Heathrow Airport which is one of the biggest and busiest airports in the world, that was not good. Then there was the service. I witnessed the flight attendants ignore people who used the call buttons at times, and at other times it would take several presses of the call button before someone might show up. That’s not good. then there was the plane itself. While the 787 is one of the world’s most advanced planes, the interior was straight out of a plane from 10 or 15 years ago. There was more than adequate leg room. But the seats were far from comfortable and the interior was very unappealing. Plus the entertainment system would have been considered to be state of the art 5 years ago. But these days it could be considered to be just average. If I compare the Air India 787 to the Air Canada one, Air Canada wins on comfort, entertainment, quality of the interior, and most importantly service. To top things off, by the time we landed at London Heathrow Airport, I had a grand total of 40 minutes to catch my next flight.
That’s where the fun began.
We landed at Terminal Four which is in the middle of nowhere. I needed to get to Terminal Two. I asked the cabin crew and they said to talk to the ground staff as they had arranged transport for those who needed to connect to the Air Canada fight to Toronto. They also said that to others who were in the same boat. But that turned out to be a complete lie when we made contact with the ground staff and found that no such transport was arranged for us. Nor was it even possible for the flight crew to make such arrangements.
Not cool Air India. Not cool.
Fortunately, I have been in this airport numerous times and I knew my way around the place. Following the signs for connections I sprinted down to the lower level of Terminal Four which had buses to all the other terminals. As luck would have it, the one for Terminal Two was waiting for me. I boarded it and took the eight minute trip to Terminal Two. I then sprinted from the bus to the security checkpoint. Because I was the first one there, I cleared security quickly and then sprinted to my gate. I made it to the plane with two minutes to spare and I was the only one to do so. Twenty people were left behind. They ended up coming on a later Air Canada flight. More on that flight in a second.
Now I was pretty sure that Air India wasn’t going to be able to get my luggage onto the Air Canada flight, but I would deal with that once I got to Toronto. As for the flight itself, it was on a 787 Dreamliner which reinforced my perceptions about the quality of the Air India 787 as I got great service and I was comfortable all the way home on the Air Canada flight. The only negatives had nothing to do with Air Canada. First, we were an hour late in landing because of thunderstorms in the area of Pearson Airport. The second was a constantly crying baby on the flight. Other than that, I had the chance to recover and relax.
Now, once I was off the plane and I cleared customs, I had to deal with the bag issue. Now, when I travel, I put a Tile in my checked luggage so that I can find it easily. I can often get an alert from the Tile app if it is within 25 feet, but no alert ever came. Thus I walked over to the Air Canada kiosk and sure enough, my luggage did not make the flight. It was on the flight that the twenty people who couldn’t run as fast as I did were on. That flight was going to land three hours after mine. So I got comfortable in the corner of the baggage hall in Pearson’s Terminal One for three hours. That turned into three and a half hours as that flight was late. But when it did arrive, I saw many of the faces that were left behind. All of them were surprised that I had made the flight and they had less than complementary things to say about Air India. But they all said that you have to expect that from Air India and if you want better service, you have to fly another airline and pay for it accordingly. That’s food for thought. Now once the bags started to appear in the baggage carousel, I used the Tile app to alert me to when it was near. I was relieved when an alert popped up that it was nearby and within a couple of minutes I saw it. Because I had shared the Tile in my suitcase with my wife, she got the same alert and left immediately to drive the fifteen minutes to the airport to come and get me.
So that brings an end to my trip to India. I learned a bunch of things this week. First, I saw one of the wonders of the world, but I really want to come back and see more as this country has a lot to offer. I also got to see how the India people open a new office and I got to go to an event with business people and politicians that was a very eye opening experience. I also now know not to fly Air India to India. You can expect that the next time I go to India, it will be on Air Canada.
And there will be a next time. Count on it.