Shame on you, Air India…

Yesterday from early morning, the new posh state of the art terminal T3 of Delhi was to be used for domestic operations of Air India. Like many people, I too looked forward to my trip back to Mumbai in the evening, intending to get a feel of the terminal – of which so much has been written. But it was a disgustingly painful day, with the usual pathetic attitude of Air India dominating any excitement we may have had for the new terminal.

The problems were, of course, multiple making the impact more exciting!

Firstly, there was utter confusion at the check-in. Despite good monitors at the check in counters, they only displayed Air India logo and ‘economy class’, leading one to believe ‘any counter any flight’.  After you stand in the queue for 10-15 min, you may be told that this is not the queue for your flight! There were a bunch of young kids, who were left to themselves handling the check-in counter, with no one even to support them for handling the bags. So the checkin process was painfully slow. And when they have a doubt, they have to run half a mile, to find a supervisor to answer it. If the system has some trouble, or they dont understand, they can only experiment or ask their neighbour, disturbing their work also. Complete lack of concern and planning.

Then we ventured into the security check area – given the large number of counters, and that only Indian Airlines have shifted to T3 as of now, there was no queue at all. That was something nice – but, dont know, what the state will be once all airlines shift here.

The shopping malls are slowly coming up. Not my territory, so nothing much to comment. We then, went to the gate — a non-trivial walk. But with the travelator and with the ‘newness’ of the airport, the distance seemed much shorter than the 11 minutes estimate displayed. And then the torture started…

Near the gate, we found a couple of colleagues who were to catch the 4.00pm. Pune flight. It is now 6.15pm! It seems to be 8.30 or something STD. But no refreshments. In the entire set of gates with AI flights to board, there was not a single airline or airport staff, minus one or two security fellows. So, apart from the display — which are, quite good, by the way — there was no one to ask or check the status.

The time was nearing 7.00pm – past our scheduled departure time. Then someone came up with the observation – the display shows our flight as rescheduled to 10.00pm! 3 hours delay!! No announcement for another 30 minutes or so. Not a single AI staff in the vicinity. We decided to get back to the food court area and see if we can find something to eat. Most joints are beginning to be ready – so, most have nothing to eat! At 8.00pm, they announced (word of mouth, largely!) dinner. With about 6 flights delayed, the dinner queue was really big – easily a 500-700 people! Motimahal served north Indian thali, and McDonald offered some combo. Most people went for Motimahal.

The dinner quietened the mood for a while. But as 10.00pm neared and no activity was seen near the gate, discomfort began to rise. People started shouting at whoever staff was seen by (by itself  a rare sight to see some staff, still). Slowly the news spread that all aircrafts are available, but no crew. No one knew where all the crew disappeared – mass leave, mass resignation, whatever! No one offered any explanation. You ask anyone, they claim ignorance.

Finally, frustration led people to action! Demand for airport manager, etc started happening. Finally, 10.15 or so, the pilot appeared. But not enough. No cabin crew. Some passengers offered to volunteer to be the cabin crew! Placards with ‘cabin crew wanted’ were put up!  About 10.45 or so, they arrived. Never in their life, they would have received such a grand welcome, with clapping and the like.

11.15 boarding was announced, and 11.45 or so, the flight began to move. Till the doors were closed, there were ‘crew scheduling’ taking place, with some asked to go to some other flight, etc.

One nice thing to end the ordeal was the lack of the customary ‘aerial survey’ while landing in Mumbai at night. No circling and messages of 45 min to 1 hr waiting in the air.

Looking back, problems do happen everywhere. May be there was some genuine problem with crew – the paper today says, there was some major traffic enroute to the airport. A little hard to believe, since most of the passengers seemed to have reached – our flight was quite full. So, which magic route was the crew coming by – or they were coming too late? Anyway, why not a proper announcement of the problem, and say we are making effort to release the flights asap? At least, we know the nature of the problem, and hence the nature of the delay. Staff should be at the departure gate at the scheduled time or earlier.

We have a grand terminal, with word class look and facilities – but with the same third rate attitude in the people managing it. This need to change. Air India does not need mandating people to fly by the airline – but the staff need to be made more human. There has to be a sense of ownership and belonging – heavily lacking in most of the AI staff. May be there are a hundred excuses – but they are your own internal problems. For the passenger, there is only one face – and you need to represent the face.

So, it was a day for AI to feel some shame – not for the crew problem, but for the way, the crisis was aggravated unnecessarily, but for the attitude and approach. But will AI feel any shame, beyond the emotionless spiritless ‘any inconvenience caused is deeply regretted’?

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3 Responses to “Shame on you, Air India…”

  1. Prakash pimpale Says:

    They (AI) are shameless and Adsense seems more shameless than them, it still shows Air India tickets advertise 🙂

    ” Ads by Google
    Air India Flight Tickets
    Air India Tickets At Rs. 99 Only Offer Limited. Book Today, Hurry!
    MakeMyTrip.com/Air-India-Flights “

  2. Sawani Says:

    Awful… And imagine someone from AI calling up at 12:30 AM (Night previous to the day they made this glorious transition to T3) and saying “We are extremely happy to inform you that your AI flight will be landing on the new T3 terminal” WTH!@!

  3. Tweets that mention Shame on you, Air India… « Little Sasi's Little Blog -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Prashant More, Archana. Archana said: "Shame on you Air India" A blog post on yesterday's Air India mess at IGI Airport Delhi by @thelittlesasi-> http://tinyurl.com/33kyqrt […]

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