Saturday, November 29, 2008

Freaky Friday… Chaotic Airport!!!

It was not just another Friday in my life. I still can’t decide that it was a good day or a bad day. But yes, I can say that I will never forget this day in my life.

It was the last working day of the week, yes it was a Friday. I was scheduled for training in Mumbai on coming Monday & Tuesday. As my wife was not there in Bangalore, I thought of going to Mumbai on Friday evening itself and meet some friends and have a good time over the weekend.

But the problem was I was booked on a flight for Monday morning. On Thursday I called up the customer care of the Indian Airlines (IC) and got it rescheduled. The agent on the other end told me that he has blocked a seat for me on Friday evening 5 pm flight, but it is not confirmed. I need to go to the airport, pay the rescheduling charges of Rs. 500 and board the flight.

Now MY Friday begins!!!

I got up early in the morning, packed my bags for the Mumbai trip and got out. I decided that I’ll go directly to the airport from my office, and so did not take my car; instead, I asked one of my colleagues to pick me up on his way to the office. Reached office, worked till about 12:45pm. Hey guys!!! Its time for lunch! And as it was a Friday, it was time for our team lunch. We all reached the Pizza Hut near our office and had a nice lunch. We reached back to the office by 2:15. I and another colleague of mine (Ram) who is also taking the same flight to Mumbai with me were ready to leave for the airport.

We reached the nearest bus stand by 2:30. Called up the BMTC customer care and were informed that a Volvo bus will pick us at 3. We waited for the bus and met 1 more guy who was travelling on the same flight as ours to Mumbai. We all boarded the bus at 3 pm sharp and reached the airport at 3:55. We directly went to the IC ticketing counter, and when I asked them to give me my changed ticket, and take the required money; we were informed that the 5pm flight has been CANCELLED.

Now, my colleague was having the ticket for 5pm flight and I was with no valid ticket. We went inside and enquired at the check-in counter, we were told that IC is trying to put us on some other flight and asked us to wait. We were some 146 passengers (145 of 5 pm flight and 1 was ME, who is not having a valid ticket also). The real chaos was ON. Everyone was running from one counter to another.

Everyone had a different story, some had a pooja at their relative’s home, some had to catch the connecting international flight, some had to reach back home on time, some planned a surprise for their family, and many more. BUT, my story was very different, and a complicated one. I met one of the senior airline officers, tried explaining the story and was told that I will not be endorsed on any of the flights as I am not a valid passenger of the 5pm flight. The only chance that I have is I should make a fresh booking and get this ticket cancelled. Logically I was convinced about the idea, but still did not go for it. I joined all other stranded passengers.

Some 20 passengers got their tickets cancelled and took other airlines to reach Mumbai. Some 40 guys were accommodated on Jet Airways flight. Rest were promised that they will be going by 8:45 pm flight, which is Air India (AI) flight (their International arm). The passengers should start check in by 5:30. It was 5pm on the watch and to calm down everyone, IC guys gave the refreshment coupons of Café Coffee Day to the passengers. The passengers were kind of cooled and everyone went to eat. After all, they needed some energy to yell and shout again. [:D]

The line was long for the check in for 8:45 flight. And no one knew what was coming up. Some 60 guys were given the boarding passes and guess what??? This flight is full. Another chaotic session was on. Some people went inside the check-in counters and did not allow the airline staff to work. No one was able to handle the situation. During all this time I was under the tension, confusion, anger and many such emotions. But now, I was just laughing. I was the only person laughing and enjoying the drama.

During all this, I met 2 families. One old couple, based in Bangalore was going to meet their relatives in Mumbai. They were very sweet. The lady was taking a good care of me, asking me to eat. Another family was of a lady and her child (8-9 year old boy), they were returning to their home after attending a wedding in Bangalore. The boy was talking way too much and the lady was good. We all made a good group and enjoyed chatting. After some time we found out that some more passengers have fled by I don’t know what means and we are now some 18 guys left.

The airlines people took all our names and told us that he will accommodate us on 1 am flight which is again the international flight to Chicago via Mumbai. We had no other option and somehow within all this confusion and chaos, my name was also added to the passenger’s list without having a valid ticket. At around 9:30 we were issued the boarding passes and asked to go for security check. I was under a fear of not being allowed to board the plane, as I was the only one not having the ticket. But without a ticket, I was having a boarding pass. I had nothing to lose, so I also proceeded without telling anyone the actual situation.

At 10 we were inside, in between the duty free shops and yet another coupon in our hands for dinner. The 3 hours of wait was way too much, especially after the time spent rushing from one counter to another. My new ipod helped me passing sometime, but I am thankful to the families who treated me like their son and took care of me. They were shocked to know that I am working and am not a student, and I can’t forget their expressions when I told them that I am married. [:D]

We finally boarded the plane at 1:15 am and found ourselves at Mumbai’s international terminal at 3 in the morning waiting for our luggage. I just can’t imagine that I have travelled from Bangalore to Mumbai on a flight without even paying a penny. While I was thinking about this and laughing around with others, I saw a lady, and felt that I have seen her somewhere. To my surprise, she was Gauri Khan. Others in her group were easier to be recognized, as she was followed by Arjun Rampal & his wife, Suzanne Roshan and Yash Chopra & his wife. For some 15 min I became a college going boy, stared at Suzanne and other beautiful women around, and left the airport.

As I was unaware of the geography of Mumbai, the Mumbai based family was kind enough to take me along and drop me to a place where my friend was picking me. The lady even gave me a call after 10 min to check if I have reached safely. After all this, I still feel that there are good people in our India, who care about others and make all of us proud of our culture.

Still, I cannot decide that what I should call this, a good or a bad day (would expect the reader’s views on this), but yes despite all the trouble that I went through; it was not at all a bad experience. I will never forget this Freaky Friday!!!