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Here's a thread about what it's like to #travel by air in India these days. First, you open up your preferred ticketing website, check for a decent fare and select it, only to find that there's a non-refundable 'convenience' fee to also be paid.
So you open up the airlines' own websites and compare the fares, and see that the sneaky gits also charge a similar fee, for reasons unknown. Thus you go with whichever website offers the lower overall fare. Tickets bought, you decide to check in online at the appropriate time.
Here, you discover that you have to pay extortionate prices to select a seat (even a middle one, sometimes), so you say "Fuck it, I'll check in at the airport." Then you book an Uber at surge pricing rates, and the guy cancels on you (but you get hit with a cancellation fee).
So you head out in the pouring rain to try and snag a regular cab or auto (of course it's raining, why would it not?). Wet as a goldfish's arse, you manage to find one and set off, hoping you'll make your flight. The driver helpfully informs you that it's raining heavily.
You arrive at the airport, having suffered whiplash from all the pump-braking and spinal compression from all the potholes. You dash to the gate, where the security guy laughs in your face and tells you that you're at the wrong terminal (the airline's shifted to the *right* one).
You fling yourself into the nearest auto and tell the driver that it's a life and death matter, so step on it all the way to the other terminal. He does, leading to further whiplash and spinal compression. At the gate, you get stuck behind a 15-member family with 87 suitcases.
Inside, you head to the self check-in machine and jab at your airline's logo on the touchscreen like you're drilling for oil. It's out of order, as is the one next to it. The one that's working has at least a dozen people queued up, none of whom appear to know how to use it.
You wait, suppressing homicidal urges as those ahead of you type their own names wrong, enter a totally irrelevant PNR number, or scan the barcode upside down. When it's finally your turn, you find the only seat left is a middle one in the last row. You collect your boarding pass
Heading to the security area, you scan the departure board and see that your flight's been delayed by an hour. You trudge to the queue, where the guard asks to see the ID that you've just deposited deep in the nethers of your cabin bag. You fish it out and hand it to him.
He waves you through, barely looking at it. Somewhat offended, you take your place in the security queue, between a person who hasn't bathed in days and one whose belly extends well into your lower back. You hope the queue will move quickly, but of course it won't, because...
...every 2nd person who is frisked has a wallet, a separate coin purse, a belt, two cellphones, keys, a watch, a matchbox and possibly a small-to-middling flamethrower on them. When your turn arrives, there is a shift change, so you wait for a new guard.
After you're *finally* through with security, you head for the F&B section, where you pay rather a lot of money for not a lot of F&B. You grab a couple of free newspapers, astonished that people still read, settle down near your departure gate and wait.
Trying to ignore the guy next to you who's playing PUBG at full volume, without headphones, you browse the headlines, all of which have to do with death, sexual assault, the tanking economy and the incredible courage of a movie star who 'went for a bald look' for his next film.
As you read, a gate change announcement is made, leading to everyone rushing for the new gate in a sort of human tsunami, sweeping up other travellers (who are on completely different flights) in its wake. You wait for the wave to break and then join the crowd.
Airline staff announce the boarding sequence, knowing that nobody will give a fuck about it. You queue up because it's your sequence, trying to make sense of the multiple directions from which passengers are squeezing into the spot where boarding passes are being checked.
You receive totally non-consensual frottage from the guy behind you, who seems to think that some light dry-humping will speed up the boarding process. Simultaneously, his cousin pats you repeatedly on the shoulder, saying "Chalo, chalo." You glare. They smile.
Meanwhile, nobody is boarding because all the people thrusting their boarding passes at the lady are from the wrong set of seats. She explains to *every one of them* that they need to make way for the correct set of passengers. They protest, saying they should be allowed through.
After an age, you reach the boarding station, where you're asked to again provide the ID that you've only just shoved back in your bag's fundament. You produce it, entertaining dark thoughts, and are let through with a perfunctory "Have a nice flight."
You join another queue to board the plane, which thankfully moves quickly. Just when you think things are looking up, you get held up mere feet from your seat because people are having a conversation about an insufferable family event, right in the aisle. They move reluctantly.
You sit in your last row middle seat, with crying children and loud adults to every side of you. Reading from a prepared script, the pilot announces a slew of reasons for the flight's inevitable further delay. You duly inform those who are receiving you at your destination.
After an eternity, you take off. You read the generic inflight magazine, or the depressing newspapers. Some overpriced, pre-digested styrofoam is offered to you by way of nutrition, which, depending on how starved you are, you either buy or physically back away from.
Mercifully, you fall asleep; you awake as you're about to land. On the approach, several people get up and wander around, ignoring desperate pleas from the crew to remain seated. You hope for severe turbulence, so that they're flung face first into the overhead bins.
The wheels haven't touched the ground and you hear the familiar 'clack-clack-clack' of seatbelts being rapidly unfastened, as though they've been burning through people's midriffs. Upon touchdown, a minimum of three passengers get up and begin reaching for their luggage.
The crew, by now having aged a few years, makes the usual arrival announcements, mispronouncing the city and the airport's names to varying degrees, depending on where in India they're from. While heading to the parking bay, more people get up and stretch lavishly.
When finally parked, everyone gets up at once and crowds the aisle. You remain seated, but the person next to you insists on crossing over, and then sort of just hangs there, with their posterior dangerously close to your nose. You hope for it all to end in one, swift blow.
You can scarcely believe it as you eventually get off the plane and head to the arrivals area. You only have hand luggage, so you make a quick exit, weaving your way past aggressive cabbies who are offering rides in the manner of pushers offering substances.
Your regular cabbie arrives and you're finally on your way. Since you give Vodafone your money, no amount of fiddling with your phone can persuade it to log on to a roaming network. You give up, try and enjoy the ride and tell yourself you should've taken the train. Fin.
Well that kind of blew up.
The saga continues. My flight back to Mumbai this evening is already delayed by 35 minutes - and when they say 35 minutes, it usually means over an hour. Plus they want Rs 99 for a middle seat in the last row. Praise be. #travel
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