Monday, October 27, 2014

The Domestic Air India Experience

Four years ago a lucky situation led to me taking my first air journey. It was a two hour Indigo flight from Bhubaneswar to New Delhi and I was travelling alone. Yes I was nervous. I had no clue how everything functioned in air travel and I made sure the entire journey was a memorable one. (Read about it here)

For Diwali this year I wanted to visit my grandparents in Bhubaneswar and got tickets booked in Air India. There were a few reasons for this:
One, I have earlier travelled in Indigo, Spicejet and Kingfisher and want to try the public carrier of the country this time.
Two, Air India serves free food and there is an in-flight entertainment system a.k.a. ‘television’.
Three, Air India goes from Delhi’s Terminal 3 and I wanted to explore the huge T3 (once again).

View from the waiting lounge of Terminal 3 Domestic Departure, Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi

So, a day before Diwali I was booked on the evening flight from Delhi. The common thing with domestic air travel in India and travelling on Delhi roads is that both take roughly the same time. If you drop somebody at the airport and return home, by the time you reach home 20-25 kms away enduring Delhi’s traffic, the other person has already reached their destination 1500 kms away. Keep this in mind, I left from home 4 hours prior to the scheduled departure of my flight.


I took an auto from home. The autowallah informed me that autos were not allowed at Terminal 3 of IGI Airport and one had to take a free shuttle bus service to reach the departure terminal. I was okay with the idea, considering I was well ahead of time. What the autowallah didn’t tell me was that his auto was going to run out of gas before we reached. So a full 20-minute delay happens for filling gas in his auto just a few kilometers before the airport. I am now in no mood to risk taking the unknown ‘shuttle bus service’ and tell the guy to drop me at the Aerocity Metro station near Mahipalpur. I take the Airport Express metro from Aerocity to Terminal 3 (just one station away) which takes me nearly 20-25 minutes due to the low frequency of the trains (One train every 15 mins).

Well, I reached on time at the airport, checked in, got through the security barriers and had two hours time to go around the terminal. That’s what I had wanted. I had a quick meal at McDonalds and then spent a good amount of time walking till both ends of the terminal. Finally at 7 PM, I was to board my flight.

It was my first Air India flight and I was probably expecting to see something different in the interiors of the flight because when I entered, apart from seeing the air-hostesses in sarees, everything else was exactly as I remembered from my last flight more than 3 years ago in July 2011. Also, I was already disappointed with the Air India guys for not being able to give me a window seat and assigning me an aisle seat instead.

So I took my seat, scanned through the interiors of the aircraft carefully, checked the magazines tucked in behind the seat, checked if the reclining part of my seat was working well or not and then waited for take-off.

The flight would make noises like a government bus, my parents had told me. I was waiting for that, but nothing of the sort happened as we prepared to take off. The security instructions seemed to be given quite casually unlike the private airlines I have travelled in earlier. I felt a little nervous. It was not my first flight, but it was a flight after over 3 years. I didn’t remember the take-off and landing sensations. I didn’t remember what it felt to be 30,000 feet above ground level. I didn’t remember what it was to feel turbulence. The take-off happened smoothly and I was fine.

That was when I realized that there was no ‘tv’! Whoaw! How? Why? Only some particular Air India flights had it? Only the ones which travelled domestically but had international operations too had it? I didn’t know. Anyways, soon the ‘free’ food was served and we landed soon after that. For the food my thoughts- IRCTC food is way better, although AI is surely more hygienic. For the landing- my ears somehow closed completely at that time while descending. There was blood rushing. And the ear refused to open completely for two days after that.

The waiting lounge of the newly inaugurated terminal at Biju Patnaik International Airport, Bhubaneswar

Right now, I am sitting in the waiting lounge of Bhubaneswar’s Biju Patnaik International Airport, waiting for my delayed Air India flight back to Delhi’s Terminal 3. The incoming flight from Delhi has just arrived and my boarding is going to be announced soon. (This time I got a window seat) I am going to make an attempt to post this entry on the blog right now if there is enough time and I can connect to the internet (there is no wifi here and Airtel 3G is still not working in roaming inside Odisha). Else, the post will go live after I reach home tonight.


Till then, wish me a happy flight! ;)

PS: Boarding announced. I have to rush. Photos and links will be updated later tonight.

Update (28th October, 16 hours after original post): It was a last minute rush to board the flight when I almost lost my boarding pass. Apparently there was no one in the two seats near mine and I had all 3 seats to myself (Not much of an advantage though) Having seats near the wings this time, the engine sound was much more loud. The food was served soon- it was much more heavy this time (with a paneer curry) in comparison to the previous flight although I would prefer the chocolate truffle cake for dessert rather than the rasogulla (:P) I was worried about getting home from the airport. I reached Delhi around 12.30 AM and within 15 minutes had my check-in luggage. I went to the Delhi Police Prepaid taxi service booth at the entrance and booked a black-yellow taxi home (Way cheaper and more reliable than the private cab operators). What I saw in front of the counter was what shocked me. Take a look:

Is this the IGI Airport or an Indian railway station? People sleeping on the floor! (IGI Airport, New Delhi)

7 comments :

  1. Good post. Did you get any discount offer? I think goibibo had announced Rs 1000 off on domestic two-way trip on this diwali.
    -Akhil @maqaam.blogspot.in

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    Replies
    1. I had booked the tickets on yatra. And yes, there was a good amount of discount. Not sure about goibibo.

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