Saturday, May 26, 2012

India Tried to Keep Me!

Okay, so not India the country. Air India tried to keep me. I purchased my ticket at the beginning of January so I had no way of knowing they would screw things up so bad and I've never had trouble with the airline before. I know, people talk trash about them but you hear that about every company and I chose to go with personal experience. From personal experience, I've never had a single problem with Air India but every trip to Indira Ghandi International Airport (IGI) has been a horrific experience. I do not have any love or good feelings toward that airport. It's cursed I swear - someone put the evil eye on it! So let me tell you how the trip home went.

I arrived at IGI almost 4 hours before my flight. I walked through looking for the Air India counters and found the first class and executive class lines. Neither of which was labeled with a flight number. So I asked the orange jacketed ladies behind the counter which line I needed to get into and she directed me to go "down there" and pointed me to another row of counters. So I walked that way and there were no labeled Air India counters. So I asked someone at another airline and they told me where to go.  I went, asked the orange jacketed ladies again and finally found my line.

It had about 50 people in it already. More piled in behind me. The line moved really, really slow which I wasn't used to. I've never spent more than 30 minutes in line at an Air India counter ever, even if I was further back in line. After about 2 hours in line, all the employees left the counter for a 15 minute break. As you can imagine, there were a LOT of pissed off people in line by then. The flight holds 485 passengers. When they came back, the line again moved slow.

As things started progressing closer to flight time, they called in for special passengers going to Frankfurt and Paris and took care of their details. Some people got out of line an went to different counters. The Uncle in front of me left his wife with two heavy carts to push by herself (I only mention it because he didn't come back until the end of this mess that I'm about to tell you about and I thought that was just rude. His wife was pissed - can you tell I was bored in line?)

The line kept moving slow and everyone was getting restless. So finally 45 minutes before the flight several of us, me included, forced our way to the counter. There we discovered that those Frankfurt and Paris customers had been given our seats and the plane had been rerouted. I was given a ticket for the next day's flight.

Not satisfied with that I went to a manager. I had to wait a while for my turn but I got one. Two other women had waited with me and we lit into the manager. I had connecting flights and if I was getting rebooked, they had to fix everything. Instead, the manager purchased us all three tickets on Etihad and I was due to be in the states in time for my connecting flights. I didn't have a lot of time, but it should have been enough.

As us three girls walked through the airport to catch our flight, we heard the announcemen that our Air India flight had been cancelled. This was almost 2 hours after they had loaded the plane with all those people. So now they were disembarking passengers. We were all glad we had not been on that flight after all.

We got on our flight and got settled. Our first stop was in Abu Dhabi. The airport there was nice. I know because they landed us the opposite side from our flight out. Just like IGI, this airport also made sure everyone who was entering had to walk all the way through the duty free shop lol. We get back to the gate though and it was closed off. You couldn't even go back and sit. Our flight was suppos to leave in 45 minutes and not a sole was in sight at that gate. Not a good sign right?

So our flight time passed and still the gate was closed. No announcement, in any language and no emlpoyees were around. We checked online, the flight status had not been changed. So we just waited. Finally, someone came over to the gate to open it. We were going to have to go through security again and we even had to remove our shoes. I just found this odd because there had already been one other checkpoint in order to gain entry to the airport to begin with and the 34 gates we passed to get to this one had no second set of security.

Anyway, after getting through we sat down and waited. Almost an hour after our flight was supposed to depart they finally started calling for boarding. We got on the plane where the pilot announced we had been waiting on two pieces of luggage. Now, I understand someone would want their luggage but seriously, who holds a plane an hour for a late passenger? (Keep that in mind okay.)

We got on the flight and got settled in and I was lucky enough there was an empy seat beside me. I got curled up and ready to sleep. I was worn out from all that airport running and lack of sleep getting to this point. I did get to sleep but woke up for dinner when it was served. I had the Arabic spiced dory fish and it was surprisingly good. Then I went back to sleep.

I woke up a couple hours later with food poisoning. Of course, that's my luck right? The stewardesses were wonderful through the whole ordeal I will say. Between being sick, I slept more. I ended up sleeping most of the 14 hour flight, but only in short spurts and never a deep sleep. By the time I got off the plane I was sore, tired and weak. But, I was in the states finally!

I got through the fast track line for immigration because I had less than 2 hours to get on my next flight and that was not nearly enough time to stand in line with two other flights full of people. By the time I got through immigration and customs I only had an hour to my flight and I had to get to another airport to get to my plane.

I didn't make it and there were no other flights out for the night. US Airways decided that Air India had to rebook me because it was their original booking. So I contacted them, even went to their counter. There was no one working. I used another airlines phone to call them. Almost 3 hours on the phone and I had yet to get to speak to anyone about the problem. I had been transferred twice though. I gave up.

I purchased a new ticket for the next morning on my own and filed a claim against Air India for a refund. Then I went and waited at the airport overnight for my next flight. Yes, I was too cheap to spend $200 for a cheap room when there was a perfectly good chair and a really nice woman to talk to there at the airport with me. We had some fun conversations. Only problem is, the entire terminal was without water. WTF was up with that? Even the security guards didn't know what was going on and why all the bathrooms were closed and why there was no water in the building or why the was no one there to fix it.

It finally came time to check in I got all that settled and we got on our flight a little late. I was seated next to a Jamaican woman on the plane. From being up all night, I fell asleep and we didn't get to talk much but, since we were running late landing, her and I teamed up to run to the next terminal and try to catch the flight. She was to save me a spot if she got there first, etc. Hold the plane, tie up the departure, that sort of thing.

Of course, neither of us made it. The airline (United) landed us at 12:12 (late) and assured us our connection was late which it was not. It left at 12:15 and we didn't get to the gate until 12:19. Apparently United has no qualms about lying to their customers. (I don't say this lightly, it wasn't the only time throughout this story, keep following lol.) So we got rebooked - on the 10 PM flight. Well, at least I had an airport buddy.

By the time 10 PM rolled around the employees were giggling at us because we had been cutting up all day long. The Jamaican woman, Karen, was awesome. She wasn't American, she lived here on a visa and worked with some really fascinating Africans and we had some of the best talks about different cultures. I'll post a blog on that because it was really awesome.

9:30 PM came and it was almost our boarding time. We had been told to check and make sure there was no gate change before loading and I did. The woman told us they were just waiting for permission to board and we would be going soon. Karen and I were both happy about that. Then the woman made the announcement so everyone would know. 10 minutes later she came over the speaker again and said that our flight was just now leaving Columbia, SC and would be 2 hours late. Excuse me? Lie much then? We were pissed, right along with several other passengers who then stormed the counter.

Our plane finally arrived just before midnight. We were all swearing at the airline and commenting about how it was 'about time' they showed up. We were put on this little plane, the kind that sound more like rattle traps and you hear everything around you. We took off and flew through a lightening and thunderstorm which was scary. The plane was bouncing and people were screaming. It lasted about 5 minutes which was 5 minutes too long.

We finally landed after a 45 minute flight (was supposed to be an hour) and were praising God this journey was over. I got my bags and met my mom and went home. I got in the bed at 2 AM and I only remember pulling up the covers. I was exhausted to say the least. And since this post is long enough (sorry), I'm now going to close up and start a new one. I have some pretty crazy things to tell you all, this journey has been unbelievable so far. (And I'm not just talking about the 4 days of airline journey I described above!)

6 comments:

  1. You made it! YAY!!!
    Delhi to the US is always a rough trip for me too.
    I was wondering if you'd have problems because of the Air India pilot strike.
    I always have to crash for a day after that trip, I can't sleep on airplanes. And drink lots of water. I miss Fiji bottled water in the US.

    Hasn't the service on the airlines in America gotten awful? United, Delta, and American Airlines are the worst. On US Airways I don't expect much as it's a 'bargain' 'no frills' sort of thing.

    Sigh, I have to plan a trip from Atlanta to Tulsa. That would be like a 700 mile road trip- NO WAY.
    I'm wondering if it would be better to fly or go Greyhound, apparently The US' crappy train service 'Amtrak' doesn't connect between Atlanta & Tulsa.

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  2. Oh my goodness! So glad you are at your destination though. You deserve lots of R&R!!!  During my last trip to Pakistan I had the same experiences with Etihad and Abu Dhabi except I didn't get food poisoning. After all your stomach trouble, that must have been horrible! 

    I agree, with P.  the American airlines have gotten horrible! The worst is Delta. They just cancel flights and have you hop on other flights to later be canceled. Then at 11pm they give you a $7 meal voucher to eat dinner on (and the only restaurant open is the hotel lounge and the least expensive thing is is $15) and a sub-par hotel and think they've done you a service. Grrr! 

    I am going to Pakistan again in mid-June but on Qatar Air. I'm curious how Qatar stacks up to Etihad. 

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  3. OMG! 4 days of travelling, I would have gone crazy! Air India seem to have a lot of issues at the moment, so their service has rpobably gone down because of that, but don't give up on giving them a ear full, they completely messed up your whole trip and ou need to get refunds for those tickets you had to buy.

    I'm glad you made it home and you can now start to relax, enjoy your stay home.

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  4. I hate traveling lol. I do not envy you going on that trip. I'm about to go cross country myself and I chose to fly. Driving takes too much time, is much more expensive, etc. And greyhound has got bad about stops and bus changes. Everything seems to be like that here now as far as transportation is concerned. I swear some nerd needs to invent and perfect teleportation already.

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  5. Wow Delta sounds crappy. They didn't even offer flights to where I was headed. United didn't even offer us food vouchers but they were begging people to take travel vouchers and hotel rooms to give up their seats on various flights. It was a huge mess at that airport.

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  6. I almost did go crazy! They were just lucky I was too tired and sleep deprived to do so lol. I'm not giving up on the refund. It's already in the system, we're just waiting for the money.

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