Passed through Delhi airport a few days ago. It now classifies as the worst domestic airport in the country. One will of course continue to hunt for new benchmarks. And if anyone wishes to contribute, they are welcome.
My flight was supposed to depart at 7.40 pm. It was delayed, progressively, to 8.45 pm. It finally left at 9.05 pm. It was over Bombay at around 10.30, roughly on the fly-time schedule. The pilot announced that we were 11th in the landing sequence. And quickly added it was beyond his control. And then we circled, as always. Landed a little after 11 pm. To the airline's credit, they called twice to inform me of the scheduled delays.
The Delhi domestic terminal (for private airlines) belongs to another era. Which one that would be precisely it is not clear as yet. The awkwardly located airport lounge cum restaurant on the first floor was overflowing with people. After all its the only restaurant in the whole airport, apart from a few kiosks here and there. A few chairs were placed outside in the corridor leading upto the restaurant. And waiting passengers were sitting around drinking, eating.
No Sitting Here
There was a sudden commotion at one end of the corridor, away from the enterace where more chairs were placed. A restaurant manager (going by his uniform) began shouting, yes shouting at one of the passengers. The gist of it was that the passenger had no business sitting there. That's because the chairs were all placed there for repair and inspection and not for sitting. For a moment it appeared that the problem was that the passengers were drinking alcohol outside the restaurant's premises.
It didn't sound like that as the shouting went on. It did sound like the restaurant guy was behaving obnoxiously. After all, its not the passenger's fault there was no place inside. It's not his fault the airport looked and felt like a pigsty. One that was overflowing as well. The restaurant guy should have been apologising or speaking decently at least. If there were rules that were being broken. And trying to find out how he could make everyone comfortable. And yet, here he was, shouting.
Our flight had been called so we had to leave. I was tempted to join the fracas. At least to find out how the hell someone could speak like that. But with 20 minutes to go to take-off, you don't want to take chances. I still intend to find out why the restaurant manager was behaving like that. Making a spectacle of himself. And embarassing everyone sitting around. And I will.
Overflowing, With People
I had the good fortune of not travelling while the airport strike was on. I know the loos overflowed and garbage was strewn everywhere. But this seemed no different. The airport itself was overflowing, with people. There was not a single chair to be found.. And only four flights were delayed, from what I could see. The floors appeared clean but it didn't make the experience any better.
For any traveller, including the many foreign investors we wooed with song and dance at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, this is atrocious. Forget airport workers, its like the entire establishment has been on strike. For more than a decade. How else can one explain such inertia ? And its not like the solutions are being worked on in a huge hurry. What exists is piecemeal. That too is being challenged in the courts. After the airport workers finished, it was the business houses who took over.
Nothing that will take airport infrastructure to the next level. Or for that matter any infrastructure. Its like the half-hearted road widening projects in Bombay. A foot when you need a mile. And it gets the grand name of an Urban Transport Project. For clearing up pavements ? Which should be a routine job. We are still catching up with what we needed a few decades ago.