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Chennai-Pune Kingfisher 0411

Chennai airport is much cleaner than E@L remembers it. The walls seems recently painted, the floor definitely resurfaced with shiny tiles, the roof is essentially intact as are most* of the walls.

This pleasant if specious refurbishing doesn't mitigate the underlying chaos of flying in India of course. Queue jumping is common, the customer flow is rather random and minimally signed. As a white face E@L was grabbed straight from his car by an official of Kingfisher Airlines who guided him as a "VIP" smoothly across the turbulence. Firstly the check-in bag screening; over there is an x-ray machine and a bag-bander than is currently under service. Some other "VIP" is trying to jump the queue so E@L blocks his passage. For checking-in he must come back here, squeeze through the long queues heading to pre-boarding security screening and attempt to prevent usurpers taking his place in the line.

"Yes, an aisle seat, please."

"What part of Australia are you living?" asks the smiling clerk, as he looks through E@L's passport.

"The Singapore part. But I am from Melbourne."

"Oh, I have family there!"

The clerk keeps flipping through the pages as if there is something he can't find. The thick centre micro-chip page keeps flipping open by default. He goes a couple of pages around it then comes back to the centre again.

"Where is your photograph, sir?" He looks at E@L, rather bewildered.

"At the front. The second page." The one you keep flipping past without opening, fucking muppet. E@L's passport is an IQ test this guy fails. Like, E@L has a passport with no photo or what?

"Ah!" As if, you hid it, yeah?

Security - the queue you just wove through, now go back to the end of it and watch for those "VIP" queue jumpers. E@L gets to the front and places his bag on the conveyor with no request to extract his laptop, and he move to the body screening metal-detector. Some other "VIP" thinks he can jump in front and go through the scanner holding his briefcase! Get out of here! A good hip and shoulder from E@L and he reads the body language easily enough, over to the x-ray machine for your briefcase mister! When E@L passes through the metal detector the buzzer goes off. Some coins in his wallet. The security guard pats him down and takes his passport. He smiles.

"What part of Australia are you from?"

"Melbourne. But I live in Singapore."

He nods and smiles, stamps E@L's boarding card, says, "I like Australia: enjoy your flight," and lets him go through.

The departure lounge is crowded with Indian business men, aging western hippy types (or maybe they're unshaven, dusty and exhausted for other reasons), noisy children, creaking grannies in purple and gold saris, milling and looking lost. There are no free seats available.

Ever on the look out for a minor victory against fate, E@L notices that there is an upper level that services several of the gates. He takes the escalator up and hey, hey, a veritable plethora of empty seats...

"Hmm," he wonders. "Is karma watching?"


An announcement declares that the flight to Pune is delayed by 30 mins.

Sigh. E@L opens his computer to check the name of his Hotel and start to type the first paragraph of this post (since greatly revised, against all sacred precepts of the GOBS).

The flight information displays on the TVs at this upper level do not mention anything useful, like the Gate No. or the revised flight times. After twenty minutes with no further announcements, E@L goes down the steps (there is only an UP escalator). His flight is displayed on the top level of the screen down there, indicating it is the next scheduled flight, but the column for Gate number is still blank.

A new long queue has formed at Gate 4 and the portable Kingfisher booth has been moved into position. Several uniformed staff are behind the counter. The large flight display over the Gate door is still blank.

E@L (not jumping the queue but going up for a query) asks one of the Kingfisher staff what this flight is.

"Bangalore," he says.

E@L points to the sign. "Why is the display blank?"

"Oh, a malfunction. Sorry sir."

E@L wanders back and considers going upstairs again, but the escalator has stopped working. The queue to Gate 4 gets longer. People in that queue seem to have similar boarding passes to his. E@L, the cogs working slowly, notices that there is no mention of a flight to Bangalore on the display TV. Just then the Gate Display flickers to life (what fucking malfunction?) and announces that this indeed is the gate for his Flight 411 to Pune.

Pune or Bangalore, who to believe? He joins the now exceedingly long queue. The three business men in front of him have boarding passes they are waving around as they talk and E@L can make out "Chennai-Bangalore" typed on them. He decides to stay in queue as the people are being fed through quickly towards a bevy of buses waiting outside the door. Soon E@L plonks his ticket exasperatingly on the bench in front of the woman checking tickets...

"I'm going to Pune. Does this flight go to Pune or to Bangalore?"

"Yes, sir," head wobbling affirmitavely. "This flight will indeed be going to Pune but is also touching down at Bangalore as a interplaced transit location. Please to be climbing onto the bus for the comfortable transportation to your luxury airplane."

Sigh. There's a stop-over... You probably got this straight away, but not E@L - exquisitiely exasperated for no reason except want of a proper excursion explanation!


* A rather disturbing gap in the fascia by the escalator reveals a too-deep view into the inner machinery of the airport.

p.s. it was a nice plane too. A brand new Airbus 320.


Posted by: expat@large on Dec 15, 07 | 5:43 pm | Profile


They should have a separate screening system for the white man's burden.

Posted by: Dick on Dec 17, 07 | 12:53 am

Absolutely. So long as it is sign-posted properly.

Did I come across as being a colonialist in this post? Apologies. I have similar complaints about Italian airports as well. That makes it OK, right?


The problem with India (he said, sipping his gin and tonic in the club, with punkah generating such a nice breeze he is happy to divest himself of his pith helmet) is as soon as you move into a public service organization of any description (and no doubt lots of private ones), function glues up in a sticky and cruelly synergistic mix of corruption and indifference. No-one seems to be able to get anything done. No-one seems to care. Nothing seems to be able to be completed. Unless there is a short-term baksheesh payout. Before you know it, whatever money was set aside for the project has been swallowed up and it wallows in a dusty pile by the road-side. (This is of course also true to a remarkable degree in Indonesia and the Philippines as well. Stories to tell.)

I read of the case of several million US dollars being allocated for the digging of 20 wells in dry areas of the Punjab/wherever. After two years the money was gone and only three/four/six/whatever- certainly nowhere half - of the wells had been dug.


Also in the Pune area, where we sell ultrasound machines, the female to male ratio in 0-6year olds has dropped to 0.91:1. Nearly 10% of females are not being born.

Posted by: expat@large on Dec 17, 07 | 11:12 am

Isn't that the whole point of ultrasound...so you know which ones to throw away?

Posted by: Dick on Dec 17, 07 | 11:53 am

Yes, certainly it is. No argiement there. Having a serious ultrasound is like playing abortion roulette with 1-3% of the chambers loaded.

Posted by: expat@large on Dec 17, 07 | 12:28 pm

More than sad really, isn't it?

Posted by: Sister on Dec 18, 07 | 11:49 pm

Aren't ultrasounds illegal in India? Or at least, sex determination?

Posted by: knobby on Jan 01, 08 | 5:17 am


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