The stress of travelling Air India does not end once your ticket is in your hand. Because having bought a ticket 3 days before you are due to fly is apparently not good enough. You have to ‘reconfirm’. Only thing, the numbers on itinerary are in Mumbai and Delhi and the reservation number I now know by heart is – you guessed it – not being picked up.
I then decide to reconfirm online. This manages to go through but though they ask for an email ID, there is no mail waiting to say that your flight has indeed been reconfirmed. So it’s all up in the air. I decide to try and re-reconfirm but then the ‘server is busy’. I am in a state of stress for 24 hours until the server frees up and the system confirms that I am indeed reconfirmed. Yes yes, this is all sounding like absurd drama, I know.
By now I am paranoid so decide to be three hours early for my flight at the very least. To ensure this, I check in in-town. I have only one small bag, which I was hoping could go into cabin baggage but at the last minute decide not to take a chance and check it in. Very boldly, the bag sails in without any form of lock. The system at the check-in is as slow as everything else connected with the airline and it takes me 20 minutes to be checked in while the BA passengers behind me ho-hum.
The Air India gate is one of the farthest and the aircraft is some ancient Czech plane. Before boarding we have to go through another round of security, where I am told to consume the bottle of sealed water I bought after security. The French lady behind me is instructed to finish the bowl of soup noodle she bought for fear of the food in flight – or at least to finish the soup. Our hand luggage is checked manually and every single passenger is frisked again. A lighter is found on the guy in front of me and discarded.
It turns out that while my ticket said ‘snacks’ would be served, actually they are serving a meal. This means that the Burger King I bought to eat turns out to be useless. The flight is full of Indians but I am seated next to a Chinese whose ears are red with fear. He starts talking to me and I make sure that he fills his immigration slip correctly and that he has a ride to his hotel. I fear for foreigners in India – and this is his first time abroad, poor thing.
The service on Air India can be best described as homely. For example, there is one largish TV screen and rudimentary headphones that work dimly. If you want water you have to help yourself. The air hostess goes around like a monitor says ‘do you want coffee?”.
One of the flight attendants is a girl I went to school with. It’s always shocking to meet people ten years down the line – this girl was one of the hotties in school, I would have thought she would be doing better than Air India. Then again, she sounded shocked to hear I was living in HK. Regardless, I did not get upgraded to business class hmph!
I wish I had not checked in my bag because I end up waiting half an hour for it to come through. All the while I am biting my nails expecting it to be lost. The upside though is that customs disbelievingly looks at my bag and tells me not to bother with the green channel.
Customs guy: Only one bag madam?
Customs: Only one?
Me: yes yes
Customs: Ok ok go through.
Thank god tank tops weight next to nothing.