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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Expensive drivers

I have very recently travelled with Air India, (formerly Indian Airlines and briefly Indian). While going out, I was upgraded to executive class and was seated in the cabin in two by two seats along with my wife and the five-year-old son. The hostess was aged, repulsive if not ugly, overweight and not at all smiling. It looked as if she had a fight with somebody and will pick up another fight with anybody who would talk to her. I was feeling totally unwanted even if I had paid close to eight thousand rupees each of the three of us for the privilege of flying with our own domestic government airline. The same day other airline were offering seats at Rs. 2600!
The Indian Airline is in crisis, i read in newspapers. What I could gather from the news is that there is not enough patronage from travellers and the cost of running the airline is too high. Air India now needs close to Rs. 5000 crores to give it a new leash of life. Government is apparently ready to give the money which actually it will get from our pockets.
Just before we were supposed to come back, the pilots of Air India went on a strike demanding more pay. Hundreds of people were either stranded or had to cancel their travel plans. What we hear from the media was that there was no co-ordination among the staff of the airline and they paid little or no attention to the plight of the passengers.
We had the opportunity to experience what we read and heard from the media on our way back home. At the check in counter the clerk demanded money for 5 kgs of excess baggage. I was surprised because among the three of us we had allowance for 6o kgs of luggage and we were carrying hardly 35 kgs. Then I realised that he had not even looked at my ticket properly. He thought that I have only one ticket which had a baggage allowance of 20 kgs. It occurred to me much later that even by that count his excess baggage claim should have been for 15 kgs and not 5 kgs. I still do not know what spectacular arithmetic did he use to arrived at that ridiculous figure! And he was not even apologetic when pointed out the mistake. The second surprise came when he handed over me my boarding passes. Me and my wife were given adjacent seats on both side of the isle and my five-year-old son was given a seat five rows ahead of us! When I pointed that out to him he did not respond but a baggage handler, who thought that the universal language spoken in this country is Bengali, told me that I should have come at least two hours earlier to the departure of the flight. Two hours ahead for a domestic flight? Can you believe that? So nothing was done and I took the seat of my son five rows ahead of my wife and son.
The cabin crew were shouting at the passengers, were very rude and were deliberate to make the travelers feel unwanted. There was no co-ordination among themselves and with the ground staff. They were hardly bothered about passengers comfort. The food was lousy. And they want us to travel by Air India!
When pilots strike work demanding more pay why do we forget that they are not very special class of people who have any kind of contribution towards society to deserve special treatment. They are only catering to the need of a minuscule part of the society. They are just a few very expensive drivers driving a very expensive vehicle to the eventual destination of doom.

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