Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Missed Flight, Delayed Flights and Air Deccan

Update:
I have written about things that are wrong with South India too (2 or 3 posts at that). Please do not treat this post as some kinda "North vs South" post. No offence meant.

At the end of last post, I wrote about on a week long travel for a programming contest in IIT Kanpur and Coimbatore. The programming contest went great; we came second (lost first place by three minutes). If the documents come through, my team will go to Tokyo for world finals of the same event in March. Wish us luck :). But the journey as worse as it could get. The journey was well planned to accommodate delays with our flights and trains. If anyone even hinted on what could happen with delayed trains and flights, i would have remarked, "surely, you are joking Mr. Murphy"

The journey to Kanpur and back well planned. Flight from Chennai to Delhi, Train from Delhi to Kanpur and retrace the same route back. Chennai to Delhi flight was delayed by twenty minutes. That did not effect me at all. The flight was suppose to reach Delhi at 6:45 PM and the train was at 11:50 PM. The flight was delayed nevertheless. Took a taxi to New Delhi railway station, hunted out a decent restraunt in about 40 mins, had my dinner and went back to the railway station. The train arrived on time. I was surprised about pre-recorded messages over the public announcement system in New Delhi railway station for delayed trains. Never heard such pre-recorded announcements in Bangalore or Chennai Railway Stations. I figured, if Laloo and Nitish Kumar keep adding train from Bihar /Jharkand to Delhi, this was bound to happen. Next day, when I woke up, I was told that the train is late by about 3 hrs to Kanpur. The contest was on following day, so no harm done here either. For the record, both the train and the flight were delayed.

Return journey was eventful to say the least. The plan was simple, leave Kanpur by 9:15 pm train, reach Delhi at 4:10 am, catch the flight at 9:00 am and reach Chennai at about 11:30 am. I reached the Kanpur Station at about 9 pm. The board display the train delay by 30 minutes. After that, it become 1 hour, then 1 and a half hours and finally the train arrives at 11:30 PM because of engine failure at Laknow, it was running on Diesel Engine. It leaves Kanpur at 12:30 am. Owing to initial delays, it stops at every station to let the "on-time" trains pass by and the train is pushed back further on schedule. I wake up at 7 am and co-pasangers tell me that train wil reach Delhi only at 11:30. I grew increasingly frustrated as a train makes a stop for 1 hour to let seven Rajdhani express pass. Missing the flight was inevitable as the train is limping towards Delhi. Finally, it reaches Delhi at 12:30 PM.

I rush to Airport to find out that only the taxes in the flight ticket can be reimbursed. I made inquiries about cost to fly to Chennai. Thankfully, I had just about sufficient money to travel to Chennai. I find that Go Air has one ticket left but they do not accept Debit Cards. I rush to an ATM and by the time I get back, that ticket is taken. Yet again, I go back to ATM and withdraw some more to book flight for a little costlier Air Deccan. The flight was suppose to leave Delhi at 7:55 PM. Tired and frustrated, I wait all alone for about 4 hours in the Airport hoping nothing worse happens. But..... it does.

I wait for an Hour or more in the Lounge, waiting for Air Deccan to announce boarding. The flight is suppose to leave at 7:55 pm and at 7:50 they announce a delay of 30 mins. I wait for 10 mins more, and get on the bus. The bus goes to the Aircraft and they say that it is being cleaned, please get back. The bus comes back, I wait for 10 more minutes in the bus and then it goes to aircraft again. This time we (me and other passengers) board the air craft. Again, they announce the delay of 30 minutes to correct a technical snag. Fifteen minutes later, they annouce that they are going to abandon the aircraft. I don't know, but I have never heard of air craft being abandoned and passengers asked to change airplanes. I mean, It's not a bus. We get down, board the bus again and the driver leaves us at domestic arrival. Even before I could inquire about being dropped in domestic arrival, all the other passengers leave the bus. Having no clue, I follow them. The CISF refused the permission to go out of the same gate. Meanwhile, some other passenger start shouting at the helpless Air Deccan official without getting any work done. Left without any choice, we get out of airport and get back in through the departure gate. We were reissued boarding pass and went though security check again standing in the queue for over an hour. When the plane took off, it was 11:30 PM. It was suppose to reach Chennai at 10:30 PM. Despite asking for a complementary food after all this, the air-hostess refused. I reached Chennai at 2 am i guess, and I was in my hostel by 3 am.

I also happened to read the Air Deccan's cost cutting techniques in one of their in-flight books. I find it "ok", if they don't serve food in a 3 hour flight, or rent their spaces in the cabin for ads. But, they also claim that they keep the planes flying as much as they can to avid the rent to paid to the Airport to keep the planes. This time the technical snag was found and air deccan is fairly new, three years. What about next time? Most of disasters that happen is due to poor maintanence of the Aircrafts. I would mind paying thousand bucks more if they can assure me that the plane will not crash. I am really apprehensive about flying in a low-cost airline again. Not matter what, Air-Deccan in particular is out of question. They claim 98% flight run on time. On time is delay of up to 2 hrs. The average flying time in India is 2 hrs. People take flight to save time. These low cost carriers simply do not serve the purpose. From what I hear, this is not an isolated incident. Air Deccan has had their expertise in annoying passengers since their inception. The funniest one being a Techie who received an sms saying he missed a flight even with a boarding pass in hand. Seriously, do not even consider flying Air Deccan when you plan a journey.

Some other experiences from the travel:

In the first flight from Chennai to Delhi, I happen to sit beside a Navy guy working in Car Nicobar islands. He kept a good company. Beside him was a woman in her 40s. She was sitting up-right though out the journey. The navy guy asked her to lean back when she talked about a accident she had some years ago because of which he can't lean. If she does, she can suffer from a shooting pain in the back which last last upto a week. It was indeed a sad way to begin a journey. Then in the next train to Kanpur, I was with a family in which an elderly couple were talking about a case of cancer that one of their relatives in suffering from. Apparently, it was a cancer int he stoamch which had spread to the liver. The patient had under gone 12 operations and a chemotherapy. Though I did not speak to them, I did keep me depressed until i went to sleep.

In Kanpur, to go from railway station to IIT Kanpur, I boarded a bus. I paid 10 bucks for the ticket, and the conductors gives me a ticket for 1 buck. I asked him for a ten buck ticket. He claimed that what he gave was a ten buck ticket. I showed him "Ek Rupay" and "Re 1" written clearly there. He argued back saying that the minimum fare is 3 bucks, one rupee ticket got printed by mistake and it is worth ten bucks. I argued with him for nearly five minutes telling him that he was corrupt. He did not listen. I ended the argument saying him and i both know that he was cheating. Seriously, I have had such experience before in Bangalore but it been with 1 rupee tickets. It has never happened in Chennai. The conductors are too prompt. But here, I was cheated off 9 rupees. I may be generalizing here, but the fact that South India is more developed than the north doesn't surprise me at all after this incident.

Coming back from IIT Kanpur to railway station, i hired an auto. Mid-way two policemen stepped in and got out when their destination had arrived with paying the driver. When I asked driver about it, he replied, "Kanpur hai, kya kare? (it's kanpur, what can i do?)" I have never seen traffic cops or any other cop do this is Bangalore or in Chennai. India is lawless, but North India is way more lawless than South India.

Had been to Coimbatore (another venue) for for the same programming contest couple of days later. Then Hampi and Goa for the new years. After that to Coimbatore again for a trek. Saarang happened in my college for last 5 days. Will post pictures if possible. Till then, cya!

PS: Never travel Air Deccan

Comments:
What you said about low-cost carriers is true. This is the reason why such carriers didnt work out in the US and I have seen on TV saying that it is foolish for people to try to make air travel similar to road travel and that eventually these low cost carriers will shut down. Air travel involves a lot more dangers. True, technology has advanced, flights are safer and all, but maintanence of flights costs money, and low costs carriers just dont survive. Given a choice, ill always stay on the land.
Train delays have become a normal thing now. Indian railways is the biggest railway network in the world and with a meaningless number of trains being added, the problem has only escalated. Only solution, make trans faster. That would mean a huge investment, but may be worth it. I personally think that railways are pretty good, and have bene improving over the years.
AND LET GO OF YOUR NINE BUCKS DA!!! The poor conductor made some cash. BIG DEAL!!!
 
The experience reminds me of this experience here in US too.. man, I guess its the same everywhere... you may say, i was one of the most unlucky chaps.. but still, in US, a system that has been work with a lot of efficiency also breaks down.. I'll tell you what... just replace Air Deccan in your story with Continental Airways and you know wat exactly happened to me...

About India being lawless.. hmmm.. its just that it is observed in India.. but lemme tell you, we still manage to live.. quoting from a famous movie- "bhai.. yeh pura desh tho sirf compromise peh chalta hai"

A similar system, if it had been present here in the US... I cant imagine it....

anyways.. nice blog... :D :D
 
working*
 
Your 1 Rs ticket incident is quite common everywhere.
I had similar experience in bangalore and at that time, lady conductor took half money(of actual ticket amount) and refused to give ticket.
Poor me, not knowing kannada..felt guilty all the way..
 
"People take flight to save time. These low cost carriers simply do not serve the purpose.."

Well, with connection flights there are risks involved, but I think given the ticket costs, it is acceptable for the poorer middle class. One knows it can get delayed, so plan accordingly. Remember that one is paying about 2k for a flight that would cost about 8-9k otherwise. For those who can not afford so much inconvenience, there is Jet. I believe the low-cost airlines are here to stay, unlike US.

(My experiences with Air Deccan have been much better. Both when I traveled and also when I had to cancel the tickets.)
 
I have had numerous incidents like the one you had in the Kanpur bus. But the problem is not restricted to North India only.A number of times when I have traveled in buses in Bangalore, the conductor didn't give back the change immediately on giving the ticket.Instead he wrote the amount on the ticket and asked me to collect it later.The buses are usually overcrowded. So its extremely difficult to go the conductor and get back the change.Finally when your stop comes you try very hard to get to conductor but you can't go very far as you also have to get down.Thus, on most of the occasions the conductor ends up having the money.
Some people may think that it is unintentional but its hard to agree to that argument when you can see the requisite change right there with the conductor while taking the ticket and he still prefers to scribble the amount on the ticket.
 
Ok....Fair enough....bad experiences are part of life......and I am aware that my commenting is becoming more and more negative, but did you write this sleepy, drunk or both? Or through a ghost writer? Because the language is somewhere between terrible and abysmal, by your own high standards.
 
@mahesh, @sudeep
low cost airlines have to find other means to reduce cost. compromise of safety is no the way to go by. thats the only thing i am worried about. i wouldn't have traveled in flight if not for air deccan and other low cost airlines but they need to provide good service to survive. i hope they stay.

@ashwin (ghattu)
continental ... will remember that

@janak
it has happened to me in Bangalore too but it involved not more than a rupee.

@nikhil
i have always managed to get the change back :)

@aswin (bus)
thanks for the honest comment :) .... but seriously, what??? i haven't been writng for a while and haven't been reading either for a sem owing to gre and agre ... maybe that's the reason. will speak to you later
 
Ya I agree that we cannot risk our lives for the sake a few thousand bucks by travelling in such cheap and dangerous flights(hope u have seen that air-deccan video on LAN..SCARY !!!). But what these low-cost carriers have done is they have forced big players like IA,Jet and Sahara also to bring down their costs, which otherwise I don't think would have happenned. Still I think the Govt should ensure that each and every flight passes through sufficient security checks before it starts carrying passengers. One more outcome of these low-cost carriers that I like is that it has totally ripped air-travel off it's elite status. In a big country like India there is a lot of scope and necessity for low-cost flights. It is now upto these companies to make the most of it....I have read that Kingfisher is cupping bigtime and they are expected to break-even only by 2010+.

And as far as Blore conductors are concerned this is a common thing..... it is upto the passengers to pay the entire ticket amount and get their ticket. I personally pay a buck or two more and get the ticket.Anyway these days 90% of the travellers have some kind of a pass.

S.Manohar
 
in response to buswis comment, id say your writing hasnt changed much and it is as good as any other post. Obviously you dont campare to buswis "high standards", but for mere mortals like me, I think its a pretty good post. But, then again, Im comparing it to my "low standards", so i guess you need to consider my rating with a pinch of salt.
 
I've seen this umpteen number of times. The most recent incident being Goa... I had booked KF while my friends had tickets for Air Deccan. Their flight was supposed to leave around the same time as mine... but at the end of the day, KF just got delayed by 20 mins. After reaching home when I called my friends, they were still waiting for the Air Deccan flight to take off... and all this for just a cost difference of 1.5k. I agree that for students it may be a difference to think of, but for working profressionals, I feel the difference is megere compared to the inconvinence he / she has to face.
 
South India is more developed than the north doesn't surprise me at all after this incident.

Perfectly said! The professionalism in the behaviour is only found in South.

Congrats on your programming expeditions. Hope you get to go to Tokyo.

Cheers,
 
Perhaps you need to travel a bit more in Bangalore.

Coming from Mumbai, the lack of professionalism in Bangalore is obvious.

Chennai is much better than Bangalore in that respect.

As for the whole North South issue, cut the crap. Certain parts of the south are better developed thsn the north. Certain parts of the north are better developed than the south. Did you know that the Bangalore <-> Mumbai rail route isn't even electrified for most of it's length? As for trains being late, I have experienced that happening even in the south, it's just that you won't hear those announcements :).

Of course, the economic powerhouses of the country have been in the east and west. The South has just started growing, and hasn't yet been impacted by overcrowded cities. Give it another couple of decades, when the blue collar labour migration occurs.

That's when the south *will* break down. You need massive investment in infrastructure, and south India just doesn't have it yet (try going north of Bangalore to see when I mean).

Doing the same thing in the north would help a lot more, because you could stop the movement of people to the south.

I have seen cops travelling in rickshaws without paying in Bangalore. They actually travel by bus/train in Mumbai and buy tickets.

Though I would agree with you about not travelling by Air Deccan, but not because of safety issues. Keep in mind that aircraft cost a lot of money, and losing even one is a huge cost. Air Deccan will do it's best to keep the aircraft in the air, if only to avoid paying airport charges.

PS: Chennai autos are well known to loot travellers by overcharging. Bangalore isn't much better in that respect after 8 pm. Kolkata and Mumbai have much better systems.
 
dude ... you seem to bear some kind of a grudge against north india.

you say that you experienced pre-recorded messages for the first time in delhi and you try to explain it away by "blaming" bihari politicians.

a single incident in kanpur (which you compare with chennai btw) leads to such a sweeping statement. why dont you compare apples to apples (say delhi to chennai ?)

i have heard stories from relatives who were singled out for discrimination in chennai coz they spoke hindi. never heard of such stuff in delhi. living in bangalore, kannada nationalism is all too visible, trying to intimidate "outsiders".

please try to avoid such sweeping statements ... unless you are trying to attract some particular kind of readers to your blog.
 
@anonymous, anonmymous coward,

i have made posts before on bangalore lacking infrastructure and stuff, condemning kannada nationalism and many thing thats wrong with south india ... in this post i have talked abt what i have seen in media about s. india being more developed than n. india in general .... some of experience i had in my first visit to north for just two days have been bad .... i know i am generalising .... but, thats the experiece i have had .... as i said i have talked abt thing wrong with south india too on this blog, please dont compare me to one of those people who simply resort to saying "i am better than you" kinda crap.

please treat this post as "what could be wrong with n. india?" post and not some "north vs south" post.

abt trains being delayed .... every alternate train was delayed that day .... if trains are added without addding any tracks, what else can be expected .... in a way, that was the prime reason for me to miss the flight and lose 3k.

dont know abt mumbai.. but chennai bus conductors are much better than bangalore. auto drivers in chennai are the worse you can get. i have managed to get away in bagalore with standard rate in autos.... dont know if you have had bad experience. at leat bangalore was good place when i was there four years back .... some people tell me things have changed .. if so, i am talking about old bangalore.
 
i guess i got a bit carried away :-).

one reason which I can give for trains beings delayed in Delhi is the fog. It very is common at this point of the year.

bangalore has changed drastically in the past two years (between my last visits). while autos still follow the meter, they are often tampered. auto drivers often demand excess fare and refuse to go. if things proceed in the same way, it would go the same way as delhi, where no one uses the meter.

btw ... had you gone for an acm competition ?
 
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hey Mr. you have written about your experience in Kanpur and came to conclusion that South India is better than North India by just visiting few places. about what are you taking proud of south india? gujarat has the highest GDP growth rate, Mumbai is the industrial city of india, delhi is the capital of india. now a day many big industrialist agree that Gujarat is the best state to invest in. why air deccan is so pethetic is because it is from south india. i have no intention to divide india into south & north india. but people like you divide india. i consider india as one country. are you a follower of mohammed jinha? he already divide the country into two parts and people like you want to divide in more parts. i have not any intention to say all this things but this is the comment on what you have written about south/north india. i think you consider yourself as a south indian but i consider myself as an INDIAN.
 
@uttam

look at the comment made by me 3 comments before yours ... i have criticized south india too ... a lot actually ....if you read some of my other posts, you will know that. in this post i happen to criticize north india .... lemme tell you ... i am hardly proud of the state bangalore is in theses days ... please take any criticism constructively.
 
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