Apr 19, 2006

Low cost flying

Logo courtesy Air DeccanWe wanted to go to a wedding near Kolkata, and being miserly and nearly bankrupt, the wife and I decided to take the plunge and purchase Air Deccan tickets. For the record, when we bought them (at roughly Rs 12500 return for two from Mumbai), they were about four and half grand cheaper than Kingfisher, with Jet being another grand dearer. Had we made the right decision?

This can turn into a story of epic proportion, so I'll just bullet point the experience, okay?

  • The first Air Deccan counter we saw said, 'SYSTEMS DOWN.' Uh oh!
  • The Air Deccan check-in luggage scan chaps were slow to the point of being useless. And I don't blame them one bit. With that many first time flyers, most of them too nervous to understand what the hell's going on, to be expected. Still, while Air Sahara and Jet scanners sported three person queues, with about six flights between them flashing security check signs, Air Deccan, with three flights was a mess
  • Two locks on the bag will completely throw Air Deccan's baggage handlers. They'll not spot the dirty 'security checked' tag on the main lock and point out that the bag needs to be scanned to be checked-in. That many first-timers, eh?
  • We asked: 'Why not give people seat numbers?'
    Answer: 'Systems are down.'
  • We went through sec check and found that Air Deccan had the only queues at the gates. Why? Everybody wanted the best seats. Why? Because they seem to be the only airline who believe in chaos. Why give seat numbers when you can have them queue up?
  • The queues, in fact, stopped Air Deccan ground staff from locating their own passengers. So while the Kolkata flight queues grew like a mutant centipede, they just could not find their Goa or Delhi passengers.
  • Cost cutting measures include a strict three announcements per flight only.
    At least I think so. I counted.
  • Sometimes, the Air Deccan announcer will want to finish his quota and actually break into an ongoing Jet/Sahara announcement. These, for the record, are not pre-recorded announcements.
  • After the dodge, push and shove that befits a state transport bus, we finally boarded the flight and noted the utter lack of crew. Just four?
  • We have to pay for water? Outraged yes, but not entirely sure one way or another.
  • On the return flight, things went better. Until we found ourselves standing in the aircraft at Mumbai. We waited almost fifteen minutes for a bus to take us to the terminal. In the meantime, new crew arrived, old crew departed, pilots were exchanged.
  • Finally, we were bunged into a bus half-full of Bangalore passengers heading back to the terminal.
Wife summed it, 'We're never flying this again. It takes all the charm and fun out of flying. The bus is cheaper and takes twenty times as long. But it'll feel EXACTLY the same.' I say, 'Good for all the first timers who can finally fly. Me? I think I've evolved past this rudimentary stage of aviation, thank you very much.' My vote for the Indian airline goes to: Jet Airways. And a word of advice for Jet. Kingfisher's damn good. Watch out, you lot.

To protect the identity of the completely innocent crew, yes totally, they had no idea what they were up to, I am not revealing the date or flight number. Kindly adjust. And all usual disclaimers apply, of course.

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