First hand experience of a passenger about various hurdles to be crossed at the airport and one of them could be the flight status board
I was going home after six months. But instead of journeying to Kolkata, I undertook a pilgrimage. I say pilgrimage because of the series of tests I was put through before I reached home.
My Indigo flight 6E 209 was scheduled for departure at 8.20 pm on Saturday night from Delhi airport. At around 6.20 pm I received a message from Indigo saying the flight has been delayed till 9 pm. I had checked in by then and was waiting at departures.
While I waited my eyes triggered a stray thought about the havoc caused by the Delhi's stormy weather. So many flights were delayed and the airport was teeming with people. As an official would tell me later that evening, "its a madhouse here today". What use is technology and weather prediction if a storm can derail the operation of an entire airport?
I deposited myself opposite a display board near the stairs which showed the flights which were in the process of boarding. It seemed convenient. I wouldnt have to cull out my flight status from all other flights. I will immediately rush when the boarding starts.
When it was close to 9 pm, seeing no boarding announcement for my flight I went to check another display board. To my horror, it showed that my flight was on final call. I rushed to the boarding gate and informed the Indigo ground staff of the confusion. I was assured that I won't miss my flight. "30 passengers are yet to board. Please relax ma'am," assured Arya (name changed). I was told to board the bus which will take me to the flight. By 9.15 pm, the bus was still static. I motioned to Arya and pleaded with him to let me go. On reaching the tarmac, I learnt that the flight had left.
Fuming and terrified I came back to departures and yelled at the groundstaff for their false assurances. They looked confused and for a long time could not figure out what to do. After consulting with each other/seniors via phone for another 15 minutes two of them including Arya asked me to follow them.
They took me through arrivals back to terminal 1D from where I had checked in. I could run around with them as I am young. Imagine what my plight would have been had I been an elderly person.
Arya kept consulting with colleagues and seniors about what to do. Finally I went up to the manager and apprised him of my position. After much cajoling, he agreed to put me to the next flight to Kolkata (6E 299) at 12.50 am.
The next step was securing my check-in luggage. As per rules, the luggage of a passenger boards the flight only after the passenger does. This is for security reasons. I figured from the conversations the staff were having among themselves that my luggage went in the missed flight. "How can you send the luggage when the passenger has not boarded," an official scolded a luggage handler over phone.
Meanwhile, on my left an elderly man was cursing the Indigo staff in pure Hindi. His daughter informed me that they were supposed to travel to Varanasi. But vexed by continuous delay, they cancelled the flight. Their luggage reached Varanasi despite the cancellation. "They are all liars here. I can't do much but I can curse," said the man.
On my right another man had missed his flight to Bengaluru due to faulty display board as well. Whose responsibility is it to ensure correct display, I asked. "That is the jurisdiction of airport authority of India," came Arya's reply. I was told not to worry about my luggage. "It is being coordinated," said Arya and asked me to proceed for security check.
Finally, I boarded the flight to Kolkata and the worrying thought about my luggage travelled with me. I was terrified of undergoing further harassment once I landed at 3 o' clock in the morning.
I waited at the conveyor belt till the last luggage trickled in. Then I proceeded to check with an Indigo ground staff. He asked to see my boarding pass and handed over my suitcase. I was washed with relief.
At home I realized that they had torn off the luggage tag to eliminate any proof of lapses on their part.
What did I learn from my harrowing experience? That display boards are not to be trusted even if they happen to be located in one of the best airports in the country. Secondly, the security lapse is unpardonable. Only the groundstaff and directorate general of civil aviation know how many lives they are playing with.