Last year I travelled to Almaty in Kazhakistan, one of those break-away nations when USSR crumbled. It’s a quaint place, and I quite liked it; the flight to and fro (that too from Delhi) was anything but. While going they tortured us by being extremely stingy in serving water. On return, they upped the ante. We reached around midnight, exhausted, and sanguinely looking forward to crash into the bed before catching an early morning flight to Mumbai. In between, I had planned to slip away and visit parents; after all, it would be callous and criminal to be in Delhi and not visit them.
I rushed from the duty free shop towards the baggage claim hall, in Delhi’s newly built swanky T-3 Terminal, hoping to rapidly retrieve my suitcase and exit at the earliest. That wasn’t meant to be. As the excruciating wait extended beyond the normal minutes, and the baggages dried up on the conveyor belt, panic set in, and I sensed something was amiss. There were nine of us still waiting. Approaching the ground personnel we received the horrific news that our bags had been offloaded at Almaty due to the plane being over-full. I heard the news with disbelief. How the bloody hell can you offload without informing the passenger? What ensued was a high-voltage high-volume drama, with nine of us clamoring over the harried personnel, my vocal chords stretched and my patience shredded. My plans of visiting parents suddenly melted; and a chilling realization crystallized – my Mumbai home keys were in those offloaded bags!
The hot-air pandemonium continued for another hour; we furiously hovered over the ground personnel like a tornado whirling in a compressed balloon, even as he made some desperate calls to his head office. They got about filling up forms, calling Kazhakistan to deliver in the next flight (which incidentally was not the next day, as the service is not daily) and promising to deliver it at Mumbai; in between all this, they threw in a sweet word- compensation! How much? 50 Euros a day. The fury fizzled out. While I kept an angry facade, inwardly I gleefully thought – who cares if I dont carry a bunch of dirty soiled clothes, if they pay that much daily and eventually deliver it at home? Not a bad deal, at all!
The only little irritant was the bunch of keys to my home’s main door, for which I would find a locksmith and would get a duplicate set made.
However, that hot July night I visited my parents richer by a promised Euros 200 (as they bags would reach only four days later). Though the actual monies came in after several months, with a huge amount of rigorous follow-up, and a lot of threatening to their higher ups. In between, they back-tracked on their Euro 50 promise as well, though thankfully we had it in writing from them, which (on hindsight) was a fabulous decision to have taken amidst all that airport mayhem and chaos that night. I made good use of all the customer complaint mails that I’d have ever got in regurgigating it back to Air Almaty, almost getting some vicarious pleasure in punching out emails upon emails till they relented to transfer the entire funds. Not a euro more, not a euro less.
This year we travelled to Kenya. The minute I heard about the trip, I joked tongue-in-cheek to the colleague who was making the arrangements (and who had also been one amongst the nine last year), ‘Please ensure I lose my bag on return’. He guffawed, ‘Air Kenya. Trust me, it’s a possibility’. Only, the reality of this possibility extended to something even more bizarre.
Nairobi airport’s check-in is a tedious process with a never-ending queue snaking all the way towards the entrance; there aren’t too many flights and Air Kenya opens only two counters. Even before my turn came up I sensed a commotion. On enquiry, I learntthat there were ‘a few of us not confirmed’ as the flight was over-booked. What the hell! This was a group booking, but apparantly Air Kenya had grossly mis-calculated and evidently taken in more than it could aboard its flight. Thereafter as we crawled ahead, it became a game of Russian roulette – which of us would be accepted and which not. I was not. The number was fifteen odd people, but soon with some noise and some threatening to the tour operator, it got pruned. Eventually, there were just eight of us left without a boarding pass. I was. I could have once more exercised my voice’s weight but the personnel had already surrendered with the ‘c’ word – compensation! Hotel stay and USD 200. I didn’t even bother to put up a facade this time around.
A few who had been with me in the previous trip looked at me incredulously, ‘You? Again?’ Barely concealing my grin, I remarked wryly, ‘Just upgrading myself. Last time, they left my baggage. This time, they are leaving the whole of me!’
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The airline came up with some manipulations and managed to board us, even though a few of us hurried into the airplane with the doors closing on our heels. Sadly, even the baggage reached safely; and to my dismay, mine was pretty early to arrive on the carousel.
On Holi this year, I wasted the festival flying back from Chandigarh on an incredibly uncomfortable Go Air plane. I had sworn off Go Air ever sincetheir rude behavior at Kochi two years back. But I had to swallow my pride, and had conceded flying with them since they were the only flight available at my preferred time. On reaching Mumbai, I painfully regretted the decision. I awaited at the baggage conveyor, right near the hole that spewed out the luggage (in the hope of grabbing mine early), vaguely registering the entering bags, swinging gently over the trolley, and humming some Lata Mangeshkar ditty. I was so engrossed in my thoughts and songs I didn’t even notice the dwindling quantity of bags rolling over, till the time the belt shuddered to a halt. I spun around to horrifyingly observe that that belt was virtually empty of any passenger. And my bag had not arrived. Frantic, I searched for the airline staff, and found her near the ‘Baggage Desk’ (or whatever it’s called) entwined with another harrassed passenger. ‘I am here, I am here’ she assured, ‘Just give me a minute’. But my temper had risen, she should have been near the conveyor and not here, and what had they done with my bag, ?!
Mentally I had already typed a customer complaint letter, which I never sent. Honestly, I found her very rude and uncaring, but I think I should expect that of Go Air after the Kochi experience. Worse, to my utmost dismay, she never uttered the ‘c’ word, and eventually I just gave up and left after she duly filled up her forms and noted my address. Who cares if I dont carry a bunch of dirty soiled clothes, even without any compensation, if they promise to deliver it the same night at home! Still, not a bad deal. But yes, turned out that Go Air is such a useless airline that it delivers its lost baggages the same day, and doesn’t even pay compensation per hour (tongue firmly in cheek).