Nomological Net

Stray thoughts from here and there. The occasional concern for construct validity. No more logic. Fish.

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faults in the clouds of delusion

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Helpless, Helpless, Ho-opeless

Okay, I'd typed out half a long post about my recent travails with the airline ironically known as Sahara, but I lost it. So I'm afraid you only get to see the highlights of my adventure, getting there and getting back. Next time, Pictures from A Heavenly Place in the Boondocks.

Prologue

- 3:30 am, Indira Gandhi International Airport, Arrivals Hall.
"Pyaar ke maidaan par hum kho-kho nahin khelte." -- Jackie Shroff

Getting There

- 6:30 am, inside Sahara Air plane to Calcutta
"We regret to announce we're delayed by fifteen minutes due to fog."

- 10:45 am, same plane
"We're sorry, this flight is cancelled."

- 10:47 am, milling about in mottled morning sunshine on tarmac next to plane
"Well actually the conditions are okay for flying now, but the pilot's shift is over and there are no other pilots."

- 11:00 am, Sahara desk, Domestic Arrivals hall
"The next flight is at 4:15 pm. We can put you on that, but it may be delayed. Meanwhile please collect your bag from the carousel and depart through *that* gate."

- 11:25 am, Domestic Departures entrance
"Aapki flight to chaar baje hai. Abhi kaise andar jaane de sakte hain?" (Your flight is at 4 o'clock -- how can we let you go inside now?)

- 11:26 am, Domestic Departures entrance
"HAHAHAHAHA chaar ghante pehle andar jaana chahte hain. Aap aisa kariye, kahin aur jaiye" (HAHAHAHAHA Wants to go in four hours early. Tell you what, mate, you go cool your heels elsewhere.)

... time elapse four hours spent sitting outside the departure hall -- alternately on a ledge with my back to a light pole, and in the shade on my suitcase ...

- 3:30 pm, Sahara Airlines check in counter
"Yes your seat is confirmed, sir, but the 4:30 flight is indefinitely delayed. Would you like to be put on the 7 pm flight?"

- 8:00 pm, Sahara Airlines 7 pm flight to Calcutta
"We apologise for the delay. We have not been able to take off due to overloading. We will now remove 2 tons of fuel from the aircraft. We expect to be able to take off in half an hour."

Getting Back (i.e., a Few Days Later)

- 4:45 am, Calcutta Airport, Domestic Departures, Sahara check-in counter
"Yes sir, there are three seats booked for you. 1D-1E-1F. I'll just print out your boarding passes."

- 4:55 am, Calcutta Airport, Domestic Departures, Sahara check-in counter
"Sorry sir. Just two more minutes."

- 5:05 am, Calcutta Airport, Domestic Departures, Sahara check-in counter
"Very sorry sir. Just *two* more minutes."

- 5:06 am, Calcutta Airport, Domestic Departures, Sahara check-in counter
"Well actually sir, the system is not recognising that you have an e-ticket sir."

- 5:07 am, Calcutta Airport, Domestic Departures, Sahara check-in counter
"Yes I know you flew from Delhi on the same e-ticket sir. Maybe that's because you bought the ticket in Delhi, sir."

- 5:26 am, Calcutta Airport, Domestic Departures, Sahara check-in counter
"Really sorry sir. Just *two* more minutes."

- 5:46 am, Calcutta Airport, Domestic Departures, Sahara check-in counter
"What can we do, sir? The system isn't recognising, sir."

- 5:56 am, Calcutta Airport, Domestic Departures, Sahara check-in counter
"L-PAD lagao, yaar, L-PAD!"

- 5:57 am, Calcutta Airport, Domestic Departures, Sahara check-in counter
"Hair you go, sir."

- Approximately 7 am, in-flight, inside the restroom. (The inside of the restroom looks like a chassis that one sees in a junkyard. I observe that all the signs are in two languages -- English and Portuguese. The only sign in an Indian language is in Hindi. It says:)
Taaylet flush

Coda
- Approximately 7:30 am, in-flight. The guy across the aisle from me -- looks like a kirana shop-owner dressed in an excellent grey suit -- is staring at me. I look at him. He continues to stare. I realize he's looking past me. I turn and follow his gaze. Out the window, seated on a bed of glorious white cloud, is a stunning, breathtaking panorama of the majestic Himalayas. I turn back to the man, to comment on the view. But before I can say anything, he pre-empts me:
"The view is not changing, is it? We're not moving."

14 Comments:

Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock said...

I do NOT believe that last quote. Too much like my standard excuses for delayed flights ("traffic congestion" - which has sadly come true over Delhi) or early landings ("the pilot knows a short-cut")

As for 'Be-Sahara' - you should always ask the locals before booking.

J.A.P.

3/03/2007 3:11 PM  
Blogger Rahul said...

Why Sahara? As JAP says, ask before buying.

Sahara is the airline that recently let someone fly on the wrong day -- their computers let them print out his boarding pass, he boarded and flew, though his ticket was for a week later.

I was cribbing about Kolkata airport (and most Indian airports, Chennai excepted) not letting you through security until half an hour before your flight, thereby causing a humongous queue to build up when they do announce the flight... but not letting you inside the main entrance is extreme.

Also, when were you in Kolkata? I was there for a day yesterday (Friday), could have kept myself free for an hour if you were around and I'd known.

3/03/2007 5:02 PM  
Blogger Rahul said...

BTW, as for flight delays, Sahara may have been in a similar position to the unnamed airline here:

[After a delay of 8 hours, 3 reboardings and numerous excuses] Finally the captain (who had an English accent) came clean: "Everything the airline has told you is false," he said, verging on rage and tears, which are two emotions best kept bottled up by any pilot about to fly a plane. "The reason for the delay is that too many aircraft coming over the Atlantic are backed up and we are the last in line. We are the lowest in the pecking order."

3/03/2007 5:14 PM  
Blogger progga said...

TR, this sounds more like US domestic flying than anything I've ever experienced in India. How the world turns! Try this on for size:
connecting flight from Detroit to Erie - we board the aircraft, then sit at the gate for an hour while the engineers try to take care of a "problem". They can't fix it, and, after entire lifetimes, decide to take pictures of the "problem component" and FAX them to engineers elsewhere, who will look at the faxes and provide a solution. Meanwhile, we are asked to deplane, and wait while they (fix the aircraft? find another one?) - finally, we take off in the same plane, praying to our respective spirits. Morning meetings all shot to hell. I arrive at 1:30, when I have a departing flight at 5:00.
On the way back, ditto. Again from Detroit. Inexplicable aircraft problem, looking for a new one, board, de-plane, wander around the terminal, take off 4 hours late, holding pattern at Newark for an hour before we start running out of gas, land in Philadelphia. Crew's shift over, new one will take an hour to arrive, flight can take off only after that. It is already 2:00 a.m. I take a cab home from Phila.
La Dolce Vita.

3/03/2007 10:49 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

japda:
clearly the man was also a frequent flyer from kolkata.

sahara -- only because the tickets were bought by the mother. i always try to get jet, but this time i had no say.

rahul:
this was over the cny break a couple of weeks ago.

progga:
ouch, detroit stories cut close to the bone. was it northwest?

however, yours is just a run of the mill horror story. my personal best detroit story is surreal. connecting flight, mardi gras weekend of 2003. connection delayed by a few hours due to bad weather, so it's just after dark. finally they let us board. i am, again, a denizen of the rear rows. and i'm the first person on board the plane. as i make my way to the back, i find my vision fogging up. white spots float before my eyes. was it the pressure of the conference, i wonder, or the continuous late hours? i keep motoring down the aisle. somewhere around row 25, i start feeling distinctly chilly. and the wind is getting stronger and stronger. the white spots grow in size.

i realise there's a blizzard on outside, and someone left the back door of the airplane open.

my seat was caked with snow. i spent the flight sitting on two blankets, two magazines, a safety evacuation card, and a puke doggybag.

3/04/2007 12:54 AM  
Anonymous scout said...

heehee that was funnee. i mean, i'm sure it was terrible... but you are good at making sad situations look funny (in-my-defence-sorta-statement)

and also, nothing beats the kids at BA. sahara at least has decent food. and cute-ish male stewards. :D

3/04/2007 2:26 AM  
Blogger Revealed said...

LOL! Especially at the fuel removal. Yeah, we're overloaded and it was a choice between a coupla passengers or a coupla tons of fuel, so we just chucked the fuel out. Hope you have your parachutes and lifebelts and all that ready ;).

And fabulous Detroit story (if it's true, and actually even if it isn't :D). Domestic flights here are humungously terrible. I've considered getting up from my seat, breaking open the plane door, jumping out and running all the way to Chicago instead of waiting *one* more minute on the darn thing.

3/04/2007 2:49 AM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

scout:
yes, that's what Life does to you.

revealed:
*of course* it's true!!!!

3/04/2007 10:06 AM  
Anonymous scout said...

you sound disgruntled.. not just here, but generally. kya baat hai, kuch lete kyun nahin?

3/04/2007 12:40 PM  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Crap! You had the time of your life, didn't you!

About the only reason I don't mind Sahara is that, on most of the VERY FEW occasions that I've taken one of their flights, the seat next to mine (sometimes both of them!) have not been occupied :-) That should serve as a hint!

Oh, about the last comment about the Himalayas, if I hadn't been asked a similar question recently, I might've been inclined to disbelieve you. On a Bombay flight that had been delayed by about a hour, the man in the ext seat turned to me and asked if we'd be able to make up the lost time in air!

3/04/2007 4:26 PM  
Blogger Neha said...

What?? It was just another day of air travel ...

3/04/2007 6:03 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

scout:
you guessed it -- far from gruntled. a hundred-odd pesty undergrad assignments to read and grade.

ghost:
yup, the things one has to do for a demanding readership. (btw, planes *can* make up time in-flight.)

neha:
heh, pragmatist. i've reached from delhi to cal in less time -- by rail.

3/04/2007 11:13 PM  
Blogger Revealed said...

Or even by walk!! I stick to that theory!

3/05/2007 8:49 AM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

right on.

3/05/2007 9:53 AM  

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