Bollywood does Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my hellacious travel experience to India. If you haven’t been reading from Part 1 of this epic, I highly suggest you do.

I last left you with my gracious exchange of seating assignments to help a man sit closer to his wife with their 4-month old. Good karma, right?

Wrong.

My plane is suppose to push back at 10 minutes after midnight. At 12:30, the captain jumps on the radio and makes the following announcement:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. I apologize for the delay, but the volcano that erupted in Alaska is causing us some turmoil. Apparently there is volcanic ash as high as 40,000 ft. in the air, and it’s managed to work it’s way into our flight path. We’re just waiting for a new flight plan to route us around that and we’ll be wheels up shortly. In the mean time, please feel free to move about the cabin and hang out around seat 69C.”

Okay, the last sentence I might have indulged a bit. But the passengers must have heard that. Everyone just had to stand behind my little area by the restrooms. Logically, it made sense since they wouldn’t be in the aisles, but it felt like the captain asked people to hang with me. Not cool, dude.

2:00am and we’re still at the gate. No air conditioning because that doesn’t work until they fire up the engines, which they won’t do until they get a new flight plan. I’ve had enough ass in my face to make a convicted felon look like the virgin Mary.

2:30am we finally push back from the gate. We taxi to the runway, and the air conditioning feels wonderful. Then we wait for about 15 more minutes, on the active runway. I understand that there isn’t much air traffic at 2:30 in the morning, but who the heck clears a 747 onto the runway and makes them wait for 15 minutes?!? What were we waiting for? I’ll never know.

My connecting flight in Hong Kong was a 4 hour layover. It’s going to be close, but I’m somewhat confident that I will make it. Good karma, right?

Let me explain why you should never have a thought like that cross your mind.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. With all the volcanic action from Alaska and the extremely high headwinds, we’ll be making a fuel stop in Taipei. Everyone will remain on the plane, and we’ll be changing the crew while the plane is refueled. We should only be on the ground for about an hour and then we’ll get you to Hong Kong. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

So I’ve now officially got no hope in hell making my connecting flight from Hong Kong to Delhi. Great.

From the air, Taiwan looks beautiful. Lots of gorgeous mountains and surrounded by water. I’d like to see more of it.

I land in Hong Kong, at 9:30am local time. My connecting flight departed at 8:45am. As everyone gets off the Cathay Pacific flight, I am greeted with 8 groups of passengers. I find the Delhi group of passengers and we follow our Cathay Pacific agent, Catherine, to the Cathay desk. She collects all of our boarding passes and gives every passenger a calling card and a beverage voucher. She asks that we all come back to the desk at 12:00pm and she will have all of our new boarding passes printed for our rescheduled flights. Fair enough.

I end up talking with a very friendly fellow named Suresh. Suresh was born in India, but has lived in Saratoga, CA for the last 20 years. He does this flight at least once a month, every month. I stare in disbelief and ask what horrible atrocity he was responsible for in another life to be sentenced to this life-sucking travel.

He chuckles and we strike up a friendship. He says he knows there’s a Starbucks Coffee kiosk at the north end of the terminal. Off we go to spend our vouchers. By the way, the coffee sucked. It looked like Starbucks, she had the green apron and all that crap. But, it wasn’t good coffee at all. Each sip was followed by a dry heave movement

Noon rolls around and Suresh and I are waiting at the Cathay desk with the rest of our fellow stranded passengers. It now says 12:45 and no agents are behind the desk. Finally Catherine shows up. As she starts to give out re-issued tickets, and Suresh and I are next … this crazy French lady interrupts and literally grabs Catherine by the arm and says:

“I want to go outside!! I want to go right now!”, yells the French woman.

“I am sorry ma’am, but you cannot leave the international terminal without going through customs and immigration.”

“This is outrageous!”, shouts the French woman.

To make an already long story short, Catherine ends up grabbing the French woman by the elbow and escorting her to security. But don’t fear, my readers. She’ll be back.

Since Delhi is not our final stop and Suresh and I have non-Cathay Pacific connecting flights, Catherine says they’re still working on our boarding passes and working with the connecting airlines. Fantastic.

Ah, there’s Catherine. She’s back and handing out talking with my fellow stranded passengers. Uh oh. Here comes the crazy French lady. She’s baaa-ck! She continues right where she left off, hounding poor Catherine. And, here comes Security. Buh-bye. A small round of applause breaks out amongst our brotherhood of stranded passengers.

We’re all informed that we’ll be flying Air India. Great, there go my air miles since Cathay is affiliated with American Airlines. Karma is losing it’s value in my head … exponentially. Air India, I ask myself. The fact that I’ve never heard of them before strikes two immediate questions in my head.

  1. They’re really small and don’t fly internationally.
  2. They haven’t had any accidents and therefore haven’t made CNN for all the wrong reasons.

How I pray for option 2.

Checking in at Air India is painful. There are two agents at the desk. Suresh and I are the first two and they are trying to check us both in at the same time. 10 minutes goes by and both agents keep going into a huddle, speaking in their native tongue, and pointing at their screens. Debating about something.

“Is there a problem?”, I ask inquisitively.

“No, no. Everything is okey dokey”

After 15 minutes we are checked in. Suresh and I go our separate ways and call home. We meet back at the gate and actually enjoy a very pleasant flight. The food was the best airline food I’ve ever had. Takeoff and landing? Just swell.

I guess my luck is finally turning around. Do you know what happens as soon as you think that? Do you see a pattern beginning to evolve here? Read on to Part 3 to find out.

About the author

Terry Blanchard

I'm the Vice President of Engineering at Readdle, ex-Apple, design evangelist, drummer, and gadget junkie extraordinaire.

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