(With due apologies to Capt Gopinath, who has made flying possible at our personal expense. Put in plain English, we don’t have to fly only when on an official trip, or when the NRI techie sends in a ticket for his parents. Simplifly!)
When I went to Chennai airport this afternoon to receive some personal guests, the Air Deccan flight was still in the air. As per the notice board, it was five minutes past the scheduled arrival time, and the flight was reportedly on time, but has still not landed. Mysteriously so. No sweat.
Very few people were at the gate to receive the Deccan flight passengers, forcing me to infer, either, Air Deccan passengers do not get folks to receive them, or, no one expects a Deccan flight to land on time, so maybe the folks will turn up after some time to receive their near and dear ones. Meaning, they will come when they realistically think the flight would be landing. They only have to guess, since the flight status on the Air Deccan website was ‘unavailable’. Stupid me, I was only five minutes late.
So my post lunch yawning status forced me to get gravitated towards the Café Coffee Day counter, located strategically next to the arrival exit of Chennai’s domestic airport. I cross it two times, looking sneakingly at the menu board, looking for the cheapest coffee that I should ask for. You see, I want to appear very discerning when I approach the counter, and not ask for the cheapest coffee, but for my favourite coffee. There is something called prestige, even if your relatives are traveling by Deccan and you are looking for cheap coffee!
I locate one that costs the least, Rs 40 or USD 1 as you please, and commandingly order for that one.The guy on the counter helpfully explains that one is black, and not full cup. Grudgingly, I order for one that costs Rs 61. In my urge to extract the maximum value, I tear-pour two sachets of sugar, and mix only half-heartedly so that the coffee does not become extra sweet. Simple formula. Pour double quantity, but mix only half. I start doing some calculations, especially since I just finished reading Who Pays for your coffee in Tim Harford’s the Undercover Economist. But unlike Tim, I did not arrive at any new theory. Sadly, and against my hardest attempts. Nope.
The Air Deccan flight has landed. The green light next to DN 719 is blinking green. I can see some passengers near the belt 3, waiting for the baggage to arrive.
A fairly handsome looking guy wearing Air Deccan uniform comes out. I mean he was the handsome stuff that generally pilots are made off. And they are usually the first ones to exit the gate. He had a two wheeler helmet in his hand. Could he be heading for his hotel in an Egmore area on a two wheeler? I dismiss the thought. He could not be the Captain of the Air Deccan flight that just landed. I mean they are a budget airline who sell cookies in the air, but this just did not add up. But the thought was fairly amusing, if they actually started lodging their pilots in Egmore area and giving them a scooter for local conveyance, they would give save them a lot of money to give some real competition to inter state buses.
That reminded me of a colleague, who upon reaching the airport discovered the airport for a flight to Kerala, found it has been canceled. “It is my brother’s marriage”, he screamed and continued, "You got to give me an alternate ticket, not return my fare”. The guy at Deccan counter informed him that this could not be done. “Please look at the terms and conditions”, he points. My colleague screams,”You should be ashamed of working for such an airline”. “If you have a better job for me, please let me know”, came the reply. My friend backed off and made his own arrangements, and had so much sympathy for the staffer, that he repeated the story to all of us, once he came back.
Back to real life at Chennai airport where I am..
The guy next to me, dials a number and gets talking to a passenger who is inside the hall, waiting for his bags to arrive. He is talking loudly, so I do not have to try very hard to understand the conversation.
“It is on national roaming ..If you call it will be local…yes, I have the car. Please check if the bags are all there. Count them and match with the tags. Okay it is almost one minute so I am disconnecting“. He was looking at his wrist watch the entire duration of this call. Some folks are so data oriented.
In sight, after about fifteen minutes is one bunch of exiting passengers. I can see from the tags on their baggage. One guy starts tearing off the Deccan tag from his bags as soon as he comes out. Maybe he does not want his hosts to know that he flew Air Deccan. I wish I could offer him Jet Airways baggage tags to make the process complete. But nothing I could do. Prestige and convenience do not always perfectly match.
Another bunch of passengers exit the gate. They are young guys, maybe early twenties. They have a person waiting to receive them. They laugh and giggle as they meet, and one of them yells,
“500 bucks and we are in Chennai”.
“Yes we made it!”
“Paid 160 for the inflight snacks”
“The water was free this time”
“Kingfisher water- half litre”
“Yes, they have bought Air Deccan”
“Maybe they will also transfer some of Kingfisher airhostesses after some time”
He had such shine in his eyes as he uttered the last line.
By this time, my guests are out of the gate. As I move to help them with the trolley, another Air Deccan flight has landed. The drama continues. We leave.