I took my first ever flight over ten years ago, and since then I’ve flown hundreds of times and never ever missed a flight.
I usually time myself well and make it a point to reach the airport in good time. I did once come very close to missing my flight from Bangkok to Mumbai on the back of Bangkok traffic. Though thankfully Jet Airways managed to get us on the plane in the nick of time.
They say there is always a first time to things and here I am sitting stranded in Delhi after missing my first ever flight today. I was booked to travel from Mumbai to Delhi and then onwards to my hometown in Gorakhpur. In Gorakhpur, there is an airstrip on the air force base and 2 propeller flights operated daily. Hardly any capacity you see.
While booking the tickets, on one of the OTAs, I scored a perfectly legal connection of 90 minutes on different carriers. Jet Airways between Mumbai and Delhi, arriving Delhi at 8:15 AM, and connecting into Air India’s flight from the same Terminal at 9:45 AM.
I wasn’t planning to check in any bags and there both my flights operated in and out of Delhi Terminal 3, so I was quite confident that I will eat lunch at home with my family today afternoon.
My Jet Airways flight in Mumbai finished boarding early and the crew managed to close doors 10 minutes early at 6:05 am. At 06:10, just in time for departure the captain comes on the PA and announces that while they have been ready to pushback they have been advised by the ATC that there is debris found on the main runway in Mumbai, hence the airport is moving operations to the secondary runway.
Mumbai runway 27 closed due to Foreign Object Debris. Flight delays expected due runway change to 14.
— Amit Singh (@flyingamit) October 8, 2017
Ten minutes… I think to myself that’s not bad, flights are usually able to make up a few minutes up in the air and the weather forecast in Mumbai and Delhi looks clear.
Another 20 minutes in, the crew comes in and asks politely if I would like some tea or coffee as they there is still sometime before we push back. That’s when I get a bit worried. It’s past 06:30 am now and we are on board waiting on the stand. My flight finally pushed back at 06:55 and then to make matters worse got into a long take off queue.
We finally take off from one hour delayed at 07:15 am. I already know that I have to make a run for my next flight as there is no way the plane will be able to cover up 45 minutes on a 2 hours flight. The plane arrives in Delhi at 09:10 am and the minute we land I’m all ready to dash out of the aircraft. Flying Business Class definitely helped get me off the aircraft first.
I ran to the transfer desk hoping that the Air India staff will issue me a boarding pass and I’ll be able to make my flight. This being an Alliance Air flight, I couldn’t have web checked in and only gotten a boarding pass at the airport. The guys at the transfer desk refused to do anything and direct me to departures Air India ticketing counter.
At this point the boarding for my next flight has already been announced and I am trying to explain AI staff that this is the only flight and I can’t afford to miss it. No dice. His reason, the plane is on gate 42 and it is too far to make it now. As an ex-airline employee, I can tell you back in my days, we’d try and process each case on their merit, not just have a standard no ready for everyone who was a victim of circumstances.
By now I know I will have missed this flight, so I asked them to re-book on the next flight which leaves tomorrow.That flight was still selling tonnes of seats on the lowest fare class. I could have gone to my Delhi home and come back tomorrow.
All is fine until the Air India person realizes that I flew on a Jet Airways flight. He says he can’t re-book and as It’s Jet’s fault for getting me late. I break my head with every Air India supervisor explaining them that this is an unforeseen situation of irregular ops. It seems they ran out of empathy today.
After struggling an hour at the airport, I was exhausted and had no choice but to give up. So here I am glued to the Indian Railways website trying to hunt down a ticket to get home on the first available train.
It wasn’t something that couldn’t have been handled better. In the end, the passenger always suffers and is made to believe that it’s their fault. Everyone from AI staff , 9W staff even the airport security passed a comment on me saying that it’s my fault that I arrived for my flight.
I am finally booked to travel by train and thank God that I can only say that it’s a miracle to find a train reservation on the same day. Even if It costed me almost an arm and a leg to get it.
Oh, and that flight took of 40 minutes or so late eventually, so not like Air India managed to get it out on time.