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Travelling travails !!!

In India, the peak tourist season is said to be winters. Rajasthan, Goa, Kerela, etc are considered to the most popular tourist destinations in India. Places like Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Jaiselmer and Agra are a big attraction, especially with the foreign tourists.  The royal splendours of these places can be best enjoyed in winters only. Unfortunately, these are all in North India.

Traveling in north India in winters can be an ordeal – all thanks to the foggy weather conditions, which are further complimented by our ill-managed airports and domestic airlines. An ideal case is the Delhi airport where traffic congestion is as it is really bad, resulting in delays.

The train service is no better with trains being cancelled or delayed with little/ no information to the passengers. And yes, road travel is equally worse due to poor visibility on the roads due to the fog.

Words like “low cost”, “cheapest fare”, etc are often misleading – the airlines are basically hiding ill-trained staff, flight delays, mismanagement at the airport – behind such adjectives. Forget about refreshments being offered in case of delays, be grateful if the display system is reflecting the flight status – most often not!

Another date to avoid flying is around the 26th of January – republic day of India. This is when the security is “enhanced” – read – passengers are hassled more!!  Sample this:

  • Enroute to Delhi from Jammu, I was hassled by the security staff over my SLR zoom lens – apparently they had never seen one. This wasn’t the issue when I had flown in from Delhi to jammu and then further to Srinagar and back.
  • Then a gold coin gifted by my mother was a problem; I was beginning to think its going to be pocketed and I would be asked to go. Thankfully that didn’t happen.
  • My husband flew in from US to Delhi and took a flight for Bangalore; his checked-in suitcase was offloaded 30 minutes prior to departure. Reason there was something in It, which they wanted to inspect. He had to fly to Bangalore without his stuff; fax a letter of authorization to delhi for breaking of lock and then had to go the airport the next day to retrieve the case. The airlines removed a bottle of lighter fuel which was purchased in the US and came on a US flight to India but thanks to the security frenzy, we had to face the harrassement.
  • Items like creams, deodrants, etc will not be allowed in checked-in or hand baggage at times like these.

The Delhi airport is also shut down for sometime on 26th jan to accommodate the fly march at Rajpath. This also leads to staggering of flights, the fog further compounds the delay.

This winter alone, there have been delays of utpo 5-6 hours, flights and trains being cancelled in great numbers – everyday! All thanks to the fog.

Passengers are made to sit inside aircrafts for hours at stretch, simply because ATC clearance for take of is not given. Incase this is the case at landing time; then the aircraft hovers above for hours.

Mismanagement comes in the guise of little or no information given to passengers regarding any kind of change in the flight status, etc.  Sample this:

  • Jeltite offloaded the luggage of about 40 odd passengers on a delhi- Bangalore bound flight recently. The passengers were in for a rude shock at the Bangalore airport when they were kept waiting without information for 20 mts at the baggage conveyor belt. Finally some irate passengers walked up to a jetlite counter, only to be informed that their luggage will come in a later flight. No prior intimation; no one to convey the same at the conveyor belt – a sadly managed affair indeed. Their saving grace – offering refreshments to passengers and also offering to drop the luggage at their residence.
  • GoAir informs of flight delays via SMS to its passengers; 1 hour before departure; which is when you are queued up at the counter to take a boarding card. No refreshments are offered, until the passengers start demanding. And no care is taken that the flight is a late night one which is getting delayed further; simply ‘advising’ people to postpone the flight to the morning one. But no formal announcement for flight cancellation is given – this would mean giving refunds or hotel stays to the passengers. So, basically hang around at the airport till 1 at night before the flight gets officially cancelled.
  • its very common to see flight status as “delayed” on the public display board; wherein the actual boarding may have already started. No announcements over the PA systems either. Low cost carriers justify such things with “ PA system not working” or “ staff shortage”.

Furthermore, passengers are made to pay some ridiculous charges in the guise of taxes – sample this:

  • fuel surcharge tax
  • airport congestion surcharge tax
  • airport development tax

After all this, ask yourself whether its advisable to travel by air in India? But then what is the option? Train travel is no piece of cake though it is relatively cheaper. But its also dogged by various problems. Sample this:

  • Bad weather like fog leads to delays in winters in the northern grid
  • Incidents of trains ramming into another is quite a common scenario in winters
  • If a train gets delayed or cancelled, there are no proper waiting areas at the railway stations for the passengers. Moreover the platforms are open to elements which can be quite uncomfortable in winters.

I make a new resolution every winters to not to travel by air to avoid the foggy delays; but then some occasion or other warrants that I must and so I do. The curses and expletives vent out a part of the frustration; the other part remains – probably will go when we will begin to have better managed airports and train stations. And better trained security personnel too!

Till then, Happy Travelling!!

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