Wishes of a frequent flyer!

23 May

A couple of flights a week is such a routine in the life of working professionals today, especially those in sales profiles like me. Kissing good-bye early morning to your sleeping daughter every few days is not easy. Even after following the same routine for years and accepting it as part of life, it never gets easy to wake up and quickly get ready for the early morning flight to reach the destination on time by the first working hour. Then comes the hassle of explaining the grumpy cab driver, usually on the first or last trip of his working day, the directions to your destination which he can easily see in his driver’s app but chooses to not start driving to the location till you call.

This brings me to the first wish, traveling to the airport especially just at daybreak would have been so much easy had there been a cheaper option to park my personal vehicle at the airport for a couple of days. Add to this the benefit of straight walking out of the airport and drive your vehicle home. Anyone who has reached Kolkata late into the evening knows the trouble of getting a cab ahead of everyone else arriving, the irritation of having to pay a fare surged by few times citing rush hour by the cab operators and eventually waiting for at least fifteen minutes for the cab to arrive when you just want to get home and sleep.

I have a few times given up on the cabs and driven to the Kolkata Airport, parked at the Covered Parking Lot and left but always unsure of the safety of the vehicle in the absence of a clearly worded policy on long term parking. And let me be true. The parking fee of INR 300 a day when applicable for a period of two to thee days pinches the pocket and is an unviable option for frequent travellers like me. The rates should be halved to make it affordable when the vehicle is specifically parked with prior information for 2 or more days at a stretch. Stamped boarding passes may be checked by the parking agencies to provide this subsidized facility. Ideally, there should be a separate designated section in the parking lot for the travellers who intend to park and fly. A request also goes out to the companies to allow for claiming reimbursement from the company for the parking and fuel on the trip to the airport using personal vehicle.

In the absence of the option to park and fly, the only choice is to go back to the cab driver arriving for the never ending 10 minutes who arrogantly asks you to first come out of the airport and reach the cab way opposite to Gate 3A (in case of the Arrival Terminal at the Kolkata Airport) and call. Otherwise, he will not enter the airport. But this is the best-case scenario here. On the not at all rare unlucky days, you will have to have to deal with those drivers who will keep on asking you gently to divulge your drop location over phone and then as soon as he hears of somewhere outside his dream route, he will either say he is too far away from the airport or he has a flat tyre. Those days, you will have to do with having dinner alone and kiss your daughter, again sleeping, before creepily and surreptitiously creeping into bed.

Once at the airport, the formalities in hand usually does not allow much which starts with getting the print-out of the boarding pass. Most business travellers will have already checked-in but not carrying the print-out which takes them to the Self Check-in Kiosks. Then, the unavoidable winding queue at the security check, taking out the laptop, keeping the phone and wallet inside the bag for the security check and the raising your hands to get cleared. All this hardly leaves you time to catch your breath as you must rush to the boarding gate which sometimes if tagged with a letter from A to D at the Kolkata Airport means you have to walk down and take the bus. It surely leaves no option but to just to glance longingly at the book store or the Traveller’s Lounge. For me, not able to visit the book store at the airport to check out the latest magazines or checking out what’s new on the Bestsellers rack is such a painful let go. Some of my colleagues have to suppress their urges of grabbing a coffee or the albeit unhealthy but irresistible urge for a quick smoke. The smoking room at the far end of the terminal does not help. Most corporate travellers have the option of using the Traveller’s Lounges but rarely find time in hand to use it.

So, I come to my second wish. Like most international airports, had there been the option to show the boarding pass on the phone for the security check, it would have saved those vital few minutes and maybe enough time for a few steamed Momos or grabbing a magazine from the book store. The CISF clears you to enter the airport with that boarding pass on the phone, one wonders why it is not enough to board the aircraft with it. Thinking of it, the IRCTC website now asks train travellers to go green and not take print-outs of train tickets. Surely, somebody is looking at it and printed boarding passes will be forgotten just like the once ubiquitous baggage tags (at most major Indian airports). Even more so for passengers who have to check-in a bag, it would have saved time at the counter if the boarding pass need not be printed. Just a quick tagging of the bag and you get moving towards security. I will wait for this.

Once in the flight, if it is just an hour’s hop, business travellers will be usually found taking a quick nap as it is that rare special time in the daily schedule when the phone will not be ringing. The phones get tucked off in the seat pockets. In my case, it is probably the only times ever, I turn off my phone, if I remember to do it. In the slightly longer flights, some serious guys will be noticed to rise as soon as the seat belts signs are turned off to take off their jackets and take out the laptop from the overhead cabins. Usually, this is the time to go through the not so priority mails which get ignored or drafting the long messages to team which need some undisturbed creative brain activity for which there is rarely time when you are on the ground. If you have a flight booked through your corporate travel desk, you will be woken up or poked out of your creative mail by the smiling air hostess wanting to serve you a junglee sandwich or some almonds with an anaar juice. Even if you are sleeping, the lady makes it a point to not let you go unfed and will make you choose something. If it is a short distance flight, then the hot items go off the list leaving you with cashew nuts and almonds. I usually, when in a happier state of mind, find peace in the caramel popcorn box but not many will have the taste for it.

I quickly come to my third and fourth wish here. Both are requests to airline companies. Most international flights and the rare domestic flights have a USB port to charge your phone. It would have helped so much had there been one to get your phone ready for the long day ahead. With all the new phones hungry on power, it will be such a welcome boon. Even if you are towing along a bulky power bank, everyone will lap up the extra power on offer. Actually, whichever Indian airlines comes up with this first can make it a differentiator and an attractive facility. Even, the regular passengers and the many younger passengers who watch movies in-flight on their phones will love getting their phones or tablets charged.

The fourth wish is actually a request to airline companies to relook at the menus. Everyone understands that no frills part of low cost airlines. But the meals served are not low cost when compared to on ground standards. A few more Indian meal options will be palatable. Not much expectations here, considering the time the costly few minutes the airlines get on ground at the airport.

I come to my last wish before walking out of the airport. This one is a request to all flyers. I do not understand the reason of everyone standing up immediately on landing ignoring the voice of the crew to sit down. I do not get the point of standing up, bumping heads and struggling to get the bags out of the overhead cabins while jostling for some extra space to stand straight all for the attempt to get out of the aircraft before others. If you are sitting at 16D, you will not get out much ahead of me sitting at 15B. Just think the next time, the flight lands!

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