Saturday, April 26, 2008

Shut up and simplifly

I have a complicated life and am all for using easy means to simplify it. So when I had to travel to Hyderabad there was no need to worry about making a choice about how to get there, since you could not get a train reservation and only one airline was simpliplying between Goa and Hyderabad - Deccan. I will always be grateful to Deccan for their slogan “Simplifly”. It taught me, and several other passengers, important life-lessons.

The first lesson was: Take Nothing for Granted. The flight was to leave at 3.00pm and the efficient Deccan staff sent SMS reminders about when and where you are flying. Just after you make arrangements to get transport to the airport you get an SMS which says your flight has been postponed by three-and-a-half hours.

You have made meticulous arrangements in Hyderabad; you hope the Deccan message sender made a mistake and call up their office in Panjim. A pleasant voice tells you there must have been a problem with the aircraft.

You are not really bothered about the aircraft’s problems because you are deeply engaged with your own. You ask the pleasant voice what to do. It says, hey there’s a Hyderabad flight by Kingfisher which is leaving at 3.00 pm but it will stopover at Bangalore; call the airport office of Deccan and tell them to put you on the Kingfisher flight to Hyderabad; it won’t cost you extra. I dialed the airport office of Deccan and dialed and dialed for two hours, before a Deccan employee realized a ringing telephone had to be answered. They told me to speak to the Deccan airport manager, who was not quite clear about changing over.

You better come now, he said. I went now. He said I should get hold of the Kingfisher airport manager. I got hold of her. She said we don’t do that. So I sat for four hours at Dabolim airport with no airconditioning and two wall fans that weakly stirred hot air thinking about Life Lesson Number Two: People Lie.

Two acquaintances helped pass the time for an hour and a half, then I got into a brief fight with another passenger. We had words. Words are my business – of course she was reduced to tears. That was a life lesson to her not to step on large people’s little toes. She’s only three her mother said.

Lesson Number Four: History Repeats Itself. The return trip was also delayed by three-and-a-half hours. But the wait was bearable due to efficient air-conditioning of a brand new airport and Hyderabadi passengers with a whacky sense of humour.

Lesson Number Five: Humans Can Adapt To Anything. Deccan offered free lunch only to those angry passengers who actually asked them the reason for the delay. It turned out the aircraft both times was utilized for another destination, and the Goa bound passengers had to just put up and shut up. After lunch the anger dissipated and the passengers found they could laugh at almost anything, including the fact that not once did Deccan apologise for the three-and-a-half hour delay on the public address system.

The final lesson? The dream of Deccan’s founder Capt. Gopinath was to enable “every Indian to fly at least once in his or her lifetime.” I have flown in the past and will fly again, but if the choice is Deccan or nothing, be sure of this: I will walk.

1 comment:

phil said...

The article is no doubt in a humorous vein but there are some grains of truth which need to be highlighted. My hunch is that passengers to and from Goa are being taken for granted by the airlines perhaps because it is a holiday station and as a result their operations here are not up to scratch. Besides Deccan, there are other low cost carriers like SpiceJet which have displayed similar problems. Its hopping flight via Bombay required a change of aircraft on the city side there after a 3 hour halt. Since then this flight has been discontinued.Even JetLite changes aircraft and schedules at its whims and fancy. Once, a flight was cancelled at the last minute and one had to re-book on the flight the next day. Another time, the passengers on a direct flight were put on another plane and had to change planes in Bombay though only on the airside. But a third time, the direct flight arrived at Dabolim on the dot. Civil aviation is a serious blindspot of the Goa government which is least bothered about passengers problems at Dabolim. The author should be complimented for indirectly highlighting this vital service function.