Disclaimer: I’m simply sharing my experience that I had and I don’t mean to offend anyone. I started my YouTube channel and subsequently this blog, in order to be able to share my experiences, and I wouldn’t be doing it justice if I didn’t share authentic experiences.
Hello there and welcome to my second blog. This is a topic that I’ve been wanting to talk about ever since my flights with Air India earlier this year. Initially I thought of doing a video on the topic, however I feel that would be too long and audiences don’t prefer long videos. So a blog is the next best alternative. Here’s how the story goes.
December 2014, it was time for us to take a flight and visit India to catch up with our extended family, close friends and look over the status of our current projects. Flying from Auckland, New Zealand to New Delhi, India is no easy feat. Prior to Air India starting their services to and from Australia, we’d either have to take Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Thai Airways or Malaysian Airlines and make our way there. The flight paths of these flights were AKL-SIN/HKG/BKK/KUL-DEL. Flying to any of these cities in Asia takes between 10-12 hours. Once you arrive in these cities, depending on which flights you’ve chosen, there might be a halting period in transit or if you are lucky a connecting flight is waiting for you and then flights to New Delhi from there on is between 4-5 hours.
We had gone prepared to the travel agents to book us onto Singapore Airlines, but oh my what is this, Air India flies to Sydney and Melbourne now. This might be a better option for our travels. On top of that, the aircraft? – The new Dreamliner. Sign us up!
Soon the day arrived when we were taking off for our adventures to India. Fast forward to when we board our aircraft. This flight begins from Sydney, flies to Melbourne and then it’s 12 hours to New Delhi. We board this flight in Melbourne and are directed to our seats.
Now commences the frustrations. To begin with, whilst the flight was still on the ground, a young mother with her 2 or 3 year old son goes to the loo. They use the loo and then make their way back to their seats. Following them another lady goes to use the loo, and comes rushing out and lets the air hostess know that the flush is not working. What does the air hostess do? Give a blank, confused look and doesn’t process a word the passenger has just told her. Just as this passenger (who informed the airhostess) was heading back to her seat, another passenger was heading towards the loo, and no, the air hostess did not bother letting her know. The flight was still on ground for a good 30-45 minutes after this and no the air hostess did not contact the ground staff who could have potentially got some maintenance crew on board to have a look at it. What was the solution you ask, why, putting a tape on the flush of course. Before the flight took off, my dad went to the other loo and to his surprise, there were tapes on the sink as well.
The next frustration, well it wasn’t really frustrating for me, but it would have been for the passengers who were seated in the exit row seats. Some of the other passengers, knew each other on the flight, and thought well the flight is still on ground, why not catch up. So this man comes and literally stands right in front of the passengers sitting at the exit row seats and leans over to talk to a passenger sitting two rows behind them. Now the passengers sitting at the exit row seats can’t really say anything, because this person just wouldn’t stop talking. The cabin crew, saw it all, but said nothing. I suppose no one complained, so it’s all good right? Wrong!
Finally, the time came when we were about to take off. The pilot takes the airplane on to the runway to prepare for take off. On aircrafts these days, as the plane is positioning itself on the runway to prepare for take off, the passengers are given safety instructions. The most popular method of doing so is via the television for each passenger. In such cases, the only thing that the air hostess demonstrates, is point out the nearest exits on the aircraft. However on Air India, to this day, these safety instructions (all of it) are still demonstrated by the cabin crew. The air hostess, yes the same one, with a blank look on her face, got a bit enthusiastic during the demonstration. The way she pointed the nearest exits, resembled a dance form. Continuing on, I don’t remember who the pilots were, or how many hours flying experience they had but trust me they struggled to get the plane in the air.
The take off was longer than usual, but none the less once the seat belt signs were off, the cabin crew began serving drinks. My dad has a routine, his first drink on a plane is always a Bloody Mary. So as per routine, when the air hostess in charge of our section was serving drinks, he asked for a Bloody Mary. Her response, “Sir, do you want it with Vodka?” My dad gives a confused look, as he’s not sure if that’s a trick question, and replies “yes”. This air hostess, turns to her cart and pretends to look for the ingredients, and catches the attention of the colleague helping her and whispers and gestures to ask her whether she knew how to make a Bloody Mary. Unfortunately her colleague didn’t know either. She then turns to the cabin crew on the other aisle and whispers and gestures to ask if they know how to make it, and unfortunately for her they didn’t either. How does she get out of this situation? She quickly takes out a glass with tomato juice poured in it, a small bottle of vodka and says that she’s going to get a stirrer for dad and runs off to get one. In the mean time her assistant is serving other passengers and so has moved the cart forward a little bit so by the time she gets back, she’s no longer standing next to dad, and passes the stirrer to him.
Soon it was time for dinner. On any flights that is an Indian carrier, for your meals, you usually have two options – vegetarian or non vegetarian. Being the chicken loving family that we are, we all requested non vegetarian food. To our surprise, the chicken meal that I got was different to the ones my folks got. I’m glad I got that onebecause the one my parents got was just, I have no words for it. Their tray came with the main dish, and the chicken came in a separate side container. My dad takes the lid of the chicken container off, and his hand is dripping with oil. Now most airlines along with dinner, serve a small piece of bread and a small container of butter. However, what they don’t do, is put the container of butter on top of the hot food resulting in the butter to melt.
This was one of those flights, where regardless of how tired you actually are, you cannot sleep. Because of this, the flight time feels like it’s dragging on. Usually on other flights, after you’ve had your meal, the lights are turned off and the passengers get some rest and when you wake up, an hour or two has passed. Yeah, that did not happen on this flight. Not only for me, but for most other passengers too, because everyone was complaining.
Shortly before landing, we were given a snack. I investigated the snack and immediately decided to not eat it because of the expiry date which, was the 23rd of December. We were flying on the 21st. Yes I know, that when food is taken out of cold storage the expiry date is usually within two days for hygenic reasons and has to be consumed within this time. However, the aircraft being Air India I was skeptic.
When I travelled with Air India in the past, on a domestic flight in India, I had eaten something which was going to expire in a short while, and I ended up with acute food poisoning and no I did not want to take that risk again. Now I’ll get some comments where people will say, food poisoning isn’t immediate it takes time etc, it could have been something else. To clarify that, my cousin who was also on the same domestic flight, had a high fever by the time we landed and he was healthy and hearty before that and showed no symptoms of any illness. The only thing common between us was the food on the plane. Therefore I rest my case.
Any way, back to this flight, the snack they had served was a sandwich made with ciabatta bun. If you haven’t eaten a ciabatta bun before, it is quite a tough bread, so it’s best to consume when it’s nice and hot/warm. This sandwich was cold and rock solid. My mum took a bite and gave up, and so did majority of the passengers in our peripheral vision.
Finally, the moment came, which felt eternities away, when the pilot announces that we are going to land. I have never felt such intense turns on a plane, when it’s circling to gear for landing. The turns started when we were quite close to the ground as well. The final touchdown happened when the airplane was in between a turn and the landing was bad. It gave everyone a fright and if we weren’t awake before, we definitely were now. The plane comes to a halt, and all the passengers unanimously say, “never again”.
Our adventures began and we were all dreading the day we had to fly back. Even though we were prepared for the worst case, we just didn’t want to go through with it.
On the day we were supposed to be flying back, President Obama was headed to India. He was scheduled to land at 10am and our flight was at 1pm. We arrive at the airport and partly check in (we received our boarding cards), when we are told that there is an airport closure because of the President’s visit and so our flight, which was to depart at 1pm was now going to depart 8.45pm. The Air India crew, sent all the passengers to IBIS hotel, which is a hotel at very close vicinity to Indira Gandhi International Airport. Thank you for that Air India.
Unfortunately, Air India staff had not given the staff at IBIS hotel enough notice before hand and so by the time we got to the hotel, it took us over an hour to check in and get a room. I’m not blaming anyone for this, situations like this can occur and it is what it is. I am, however, building you up for what’s about to come next.
Let’s head back to the airport first. There were numerous rescheduled flights for Air India and not enough counters, and a separate counter was made for passengers on our flight, which well, there were no signs to indicate. We got sent to the counter that is situated next to the Cabin Crew check in counter. Some people were also sent to that cabin crew counter. The crew of one of the flights arrive to check-in. They are on their brand spanking new smart phones, and are completely unaware of the situation or what’s happening or has happened. So what happens, you may ask, well one of the crew, who thought it was up to him to educate passengers who have paid to fly on Air India, says, “Excuse me, this is for cabin crew check-in only”. The frustrated passenger, flying on our flight, had had enough. First the delay, then the long lines, there’s only so much a person can handle. She responds,”Well, we were told to come to this line as our flight was delayed, and we are all partly checked in and just need to drop our luggage”. Oh no, the cabin crew, was hurt, she’d given him an answer right back to his face. His so called authority didn’t work. So what does he respond with? “Well, the cabin crew has to go first, only then can the passengers go”. Oh Air India, your staff just keep getting better don’t they.
Moving on, an airport closure, and delay in our flight by a significant number of hours, meant that we would not be able to make it on time for our connecting, hence missing that too. We get to the airport in the evening, once it had re opened. We explain the situation to Air India, who’s job it is, to ensure that if there’s any delays that’s caused by them they look after their passengers who are supposed to be on connecting flights. The beautiful response we get is,” We are only liable for you, till you get to Melbourne, after that you’re on your own”. Dear Air India staff, this is coming from someone who doesn’t work in the airline industry, but her father has, if the Airline delays the flight they are responsible for passengers, who are supposed to make it on connecting flights. Long story short, after a lot of hassle, we were ensured that we’d be looked after.
Let’s start boarding the flight. We are given exit row seats, thank god for the extra space. However, it is a little uncomfortable when the air hostess and a ground staff member break out into an argument right in front of you, and you try your utter best to avoid the situation and act oblivious to it. The ground staff member, had accidentally, seated amother with her few months old baby a few seats down, when he should have seated her at the bulk head seats. He’s called on board, and explained what he’s done wrong and as soon as he’s about to respond he’s cut short and the air hostess says,”Are you going to talk back to me, do you realise how many years senior I am”. There we go with the authority again. But finally, just an hour after the scheduled departing time, we take off and draw this chapter to a close.
I know off late there have been a lot of videos, articles etc that have popped up on the internet in regards to Air India and their service. Whilst the experience I’ve had with them, was minor compared to what I’ve come across, I still felt that it needed to be shared. Again, I repeat it is not my intention to offend anyone, in fact my father has worked for Air India in the past. I want to be able to share all my experiences, good or bad, via my YouTube channel and this blog site. If you’ve had any experience with Air India, good or bad, tell me, I’d love to hear about it!
Until next time,