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I was recently on a short business trip and had to pass through both Hyderabad and Bangalore. I have not been to Hyderabad in quite a while. I recollect my last trip as some time in March’07. This was going to be the first time for me at their spanking new airport. The Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad started operations some time in March this year. I must say that my overall experience at this airport was great. The arrival lounge seemed very basic but it was large and clean. Baggage came out well on time and after the exit, the hunt for a taxi was trivial. There were over 600 Meru cabs just lined up and as you exited the arrival lounge you could just step into a cab and were on your way into town. The distance was quite a change from Begumpet and the drive did take over an hour. But at least it was smooth.
In contrast, my trip to Bangalore was quite a nightmare. Some of it was related to the new airport and some of it was related to Kingfisher. I’ll reserve my comments on Kingfisher for a little later, but first the airport. I happened to land on the day the airport commenced operations. It wasn’t the first flight to land at the new airport, since operations began at midnight. But still it was amongst the early flights of the morning. Clearly, Bangalore was not ready for this. Neither the Airport nor the Airlines.
After landing it took almost 20 minutes before we could get off the aircraft. The reason…Well, first of all the aircraft was not able to dock into the aero-bridge. After several attempts, they decided to abandon the aero-bridge and use the regular ladder instead. Surprisingly, even that took over three attempts before it aligned correctly and passengers could start getting off. Next came a severe shortage of buses. The coaches came at a very slow pace, it seemed to be a long drive to the terminal. it actually took more than 15 minutes to reach the terminal. On the way, a strange sight that struck me was an abandoned baggage trolley. The reason I mention this, is because after reaching the terminal, it took over an hour for the baggage to arrive. What was really irritating was the fact that all ground crew from Kingfisher was missing and there was no airport staff either. Finally, I gave up and decided to kick some butt! I grabbed one of the Kingfisher trolley boys and asked him to find me a duty manager, two people suddenly appeared and went into a bit of a tizzy trying to find both excuses and the cause for the delay. Fifteen minutes later, things started working and the baggage finally arrived. But this was by no means the end of the turmoil.
Assuming, that Bangalore would have similar arrangements as Hyderabad, I confidently stepped out in search for a taxi! Well, there were none to be found. There were several people bustling about looking busy but nobody had a clue as to where there would be any taxis. One chap with a portable hailer pointed me to the end of the airport and I happily walked all the way there only discover that there was nothing there! I came back, ticked of the chap with the hailer, grabbed a few cops (of which there were plenty, including, special forces and strike force) and demanded that I get a cab. Suddenly, there was action and I had about four people trying to arrange a cab for me.
I eventually got an un-metered Indica which charged me at the rate of Rs.15/- per kilometer. Distance was close to 37 km from the airport to home and the driver decided to add an extra few to round it off to neat Rs.600. Quite a change from what I have been used to paying in Bangalore, Rs.150/-! Later on, I discovered that it was actually not too bad. I have heard horror stories about fares as high as Rs.1200/- and that too from the heart of town.
In all for a total flight time of 50 minutes, from end to end from hotel to home, it took me over seven and a half hours. I think if I had driven the distance, I may have reached faster! Certainly with lesser grief. I wonder what people are going to do for travel between Chennai and Bangalore by air.
Considering, it was the first day of the airport, I decided to let the matter pass and was eager to see how my return would work. Three days later I was back at the chaos to catch my flight home. For a new airport, I do see some major issues here already. The first being the design, with the large pillars all over the place, they seem to hinder access to the counters. If a large group suddenly appears it would simply take hours before you could manage a successful check-in. As luck would have it, I had a really large group in front of me. The snaking queues only make things worse, you can actually see the counters with no body being served but you can’t get to them.
Once past security, things were much better, lots of choices for food and beverages and free WiFi. I was not in a mood to shop around so I settled at the Barista and checked in on some servers and mail.
When the flight was announced, I was quite horrified to see that the big pillars/planters that are placed near the “gates” were actually obstructing the flow of passengers getting on to the aircraft. If this is already the state of affairs at the airport I dread to think of what will happen when the traffic increases.
So much for the airport, now a quick note on the Kingfisher “experience” or flying the good times.
For some reason the last five flights I have taken with Kingfisher have all be delayed. Minimum delay of 45 minutes. This of course is after they have safely secured you in the cabin and sealed the doors. So you can neither get off and take another flight nor do very much else. The worst part is most of the flight commander/captain or the other crew members don’t bother to inform you of what is happening. When they finally do, its the common excuse “Air Traffic Control” its ut of our hands, we thank you for choosing the good times, sit back and enjoy the Kingfisher experience.
I do hope someone from Kingfisher reads this post.
When I landed at Bangalore and started asking about my luggage, not a single Kingsisher ground staff was available. The trolley boys were also huddled and waiting as anxiously as the passengers. When I finally got someone who turned out to be “Guest Relations” I got no help at all. I very cooly asked to speak with a duty officer, only to be told that there are eight of them, however, not one of them came forward to meet with me or any other passengers.
In case of delay at the airport, we make all effort to minimize the inconvenience. Guests are offered refreshments in case the delay is more than one hour. In case of longer delays, Guests are offered meal subject to the airport facilities and local infrastructure.
Okay, so nobody wants refreshments when waiting for baggage, but we certainly want someone to be there to keep the passengers or “guests” informed.
What shocked me the most was, when I asked the Guest Relations manager to make an announcement, he said “Sir, we are not allowed to make announcements”. I promptly asked him to show me an official notification that stated this fact, but he said “it is only with my seniors”, of course asking for his seniors to come and meet with me was totally futile.
I think its time Kingfisher started paying attention to its guests again, or it will no longer remain the ‘most favourite” airline.
In the meantime, there have been other horror stories from Bangalore Airport, but hopefully they will get sorted out and the airport will begin to function as a decent airport. I did come across a site that has much more about the airport and at various stages, do check Bangalore Aviation.
Lots more happening so will post again soon.
Well, at least closer to FOSS.IN/2007. There was much confusion on the CfP and the real role of the conference but after a CfP reboot and much discussions on the mailing lists the event is back on track. Lots of great talks have been received, the CfP closed, Project Day allocations have begun, speakers now know if their talks have been accepted etc etc. In short we are in full swing now, less than 38 days remaining, or more like we have only one month left to get it all done.
It will be bigger, and will be better. You want to be there.
See you at FOSS.IN/2007.
PS: The first shortlist of talks has now been published.