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Flying Woes

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By Ranee Kumar

The pandemonium at Jolly Grant Airport on Saturday is something to write home about. All flights got unduly delayed by four to five hours, driving the fliers into a tizzy. The airport, being an hour plus drive from Dehradun, almost all travellers, including a small percentage of those reaching from Rishikesh (30 mins drive), have necessarily to arrive at the airport for their respective flights well in advance, say two hours counting the travel time! Most of the direct flights from Dehradun to metros are scheduled in the evening. This being the case, a delay of half-an-hour is maximum any flier can put up with. But, on Saturday, the situation went haywire. The messages on mobiles from the airlines went on texting the monologue ‘delayed by half-an-hour’ and this kept repeating after the promised half-an-hour elapsed with nothing happening on the airport front.

Passengers kept piling up and all the waiting area seats got occupied. There was no way anyone could courteously get up and offer his/her seat to the elderly or pregnant women or women with infants. It wasn’t quite their fault; they had been on their feet for long and any vacant seat was welcome and not to be sacrificed. The unpredictability factor loomed so large that each one was on a forecast mood while the more vociferous lot banged at the desk of the ground staff demanding an explanation. While most of us shepherded to our respective gates following the announcements that our aircraft had landed and boarding was due to start anytime, the Delhi fliers were all agog with the privilege that their flight would be the first to take off. Indeed! Going by their capital metro temperament, their swagger soon gave way to vocal, voluble (rising by the decimals as time slipped by and nothing took off) angry interrogation. The helpless Help Desk let go a most weird clarification, namely, the pilot for the Delhi flight will be coming to Dehradun by another flight. This was for the Delhi aircraft that had landed and was scheduled to take off within its limited time. Nobody questioned the logic or rationale behind this strange explanation but the oral message did the rounds.

For the rest of us who were waiting for our direct flights, the delay as usual was explained away as fog while there was no fog in Dehradun unlike Delhi at any point of the flights’ time on Saturday. The next normal reaction of the waiting exodus was to cater to their digestive system that was on the lookout for a hot cup of tea or coffee or snacks and as time went by, for a proper dinner. As luck would have it, the food courts at Jolly Grant are scant and so the supply was unable to meet the demand – a lovely case study for an economist!

As with all Indians, the volume of impatience slowly gave way to resignation, though there wasn’t a single Krishna there to coach plenty of Arjuns over the theory of Karma. But strangely there was one Krishna- actor Sarvadhaman Banerjee, who essayed the role in Ramanand Sagar’s epic in 1993 – who was also patiently waiting for his flight in a practice what you preach mode.

The ultimate is not yet over. Flights took off one after the other after the harrowing wait and there was nothing on offer even for a price as the airlines sincerely adhered to pre-booking of food on commercial ticketing. Despite all the wealth of the world with them, fliers were either starved or stoic or on Satyagraha -call it what you may- till they reached their destination way into the night.

The best part of the story is that neither the airport authorities nor the airlines offered any explanation to the passengers. The lack of transparency and accountability is rather appalling, to say the least.

It may not be out of context to mention here that all the long-distance flights directly operating from Dehradun to metros like Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and other cities barring Delhi, are run by the one and only Indigo. This is both a boon and a bane as any frequent flier can vouch. With monopoly over the skies, Indigo fliers of Dehradun are left with no choice but lay themselves bare to the whim and fancy of this airline, which prides itself with the tagline – On time, every time. Over the years (18) this seems to have turned out to be passe if travellers’ experiences are anything to go by. A very poignant issue for all to mull over.