Stained glass window - Jodhpur


Airport Chaos

My dad, who is quite experienced at travelling in India said not to worry about the flights. They had got much better lately, he said, and generally flew on the days they were supposed to and not too late at that. I am pleased to be able to report that, even if that may be so, travelling in India can still sometimes attain the unpredictability which we have come to expect.

We arrived in Delhi from London at midday local time, with the expectation of continuing to Katmandu the same evening. After spending a few hours in a nearby hotel where we took a shower and a nap, it was back to the airport. We hadn't been there long before we discovered we had a problem. Since a recent hijacking, only Royal Nepal Airlines was offering this flight, with the result that they were heavily overbooked in the first place. In addition, one of their flights had been cancelled the previous day and the result was that all of that day's passengers were taking our flight and we were being told to come back tomorrow. It took 5 hours before this decision was finally reached. In the mean time various tour reps and tour leaders argued with the RNA employees and lots of tourists milled around waiting, it was a scene of complete chaos. We sat on luggage trolleys, since Delhi International Departure Hall lacks seats, reading our books and feeling glad that our tour deal included help at the airport. Eventually failure was conceded and the tour group members were whisked off to whatever hotel the RNA chose for them while our rep. called back the hotel we had just checked out of to see if we could return. This led to us having an unexpected but extremely nice evening meal in Delhi, followed by half a day of sightseeing.

At 4 pm the next day, 3 hours before 'our' flight was due to leave we arrived at the airport to begin waiting. I had serious doubts as to our chances of success, though Mike, as ever was more optimistic. This time, the hall was almost empty but I recognised two tour guides from the previous night, whose parties were waiting elsewhere in the airport. The English-speaking tour guide, an Australian lady, seemed to share my doubts about making it to Katmandu. Soon we were sent to sit down also and thereafter, throughout the ensuing chaos, we had nothing to do but read our books again while our tour company rep. battled for our boarding passes.

Finally the miracle seemed to be achieved. An extra flight had been added that night and we got boarding passes for the 'first one'. The Australian tour rep was leaning on the counter exhausted. Apparently her group had been fighting with her - literally. We all made it through to the departure lounge by about 7.20 and Mike and I were theoretically on our own. The much sought after 'first flight' was due to take off a little before 7.30 pm and a flight to Katmandu was just boarding. This, however, turned out to be a flight that should have left earlier in the afternoon and we are not on it. We discovered that our flight may eventually take off some time after 10 pm and that the 'second flight' is expected in Katmandu at 3 am. In the mean time, in the departure lounge, the French-speaking tour rep was negotiating with the airport staff to get her group some free snacks and drinks, so Mike asked her in French is we could temporarily join her group. She agreed and snacks finally materialised for all the passengers on our plane, although to be honest, I'm not sure if they were worth the trouble.

After several more hours waiting, we got through the inevitable security measures and boarded the plane. The flight was uneventful and even included some nice and very welcome food but when we reached Katmandu Arrivals, at 1.30 am there was nobody to meet us as expected. There had been a lot of confusion in the flights that day and we could have been arriving anytime between 8 pm and 4.30 am although 3 am was apparently considered the likeliest time. The tour groups were also stranded, their expected buses were elsewhere. We eventually picked the nearest taxi driver, agreeing to pay him at least 4 times what the ride was worth and headed off into the night. Of course, when in places like India and Nepal, you should always ask to see the car when choosing a taxi driver. The poor crate we were led to had a floor that sagged when you stepped onto it and a motor that couldn't keep up a normal speed on a downhill run with a tail wind. Fortunately our hotel in Pashupatinath was a very short distance from the airport, it's just about conceivable that we could have walked there faster, were it not for our luggage. We eventually made it to our room at 2 am local time, some 10 hours after leaving for Delhi airport to take a 1 1/2 hour flight.

Airport chaos, part II - Getting back again...

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