Air travel in India is easy – based on my limited experience – and inexpensive, due to some low-cost no-frills airlines that induce competition.
Today I took my first trip outside Bangalore, flying Kingfisher Red (the former Deccan Airlines), a low-cost carrier, from Bangalore through Mumbai to Lucknow.
It was trivial to purchase e-tickets online, using cleartrip.com, the best on-line travel site I’ve ever used. Its website is clear and clean, and once my flight was booked they instantly sent me an SMS with the details as well as an email.
I arrived early at the Bangalore airport. The airport is brand new, open only a few months, and is beautiful; lots of nice shops and places to eat, clean and bright and comfortable. (It is a far cry from the icky old airport, which I used on my trip last year. Crowded, dirty, few services, and fewer chairs than passengers.)
I was caught by a few surprises. I was sent back from the security line because I needed to have put a new bag tag on each piece of hand luggage. (They stamp the bag tags when you go through security, and later check when you board the plane.) Then I made it almost through security, but they told me that my boarding pass (printed at home) had not yet been stamped. They handed me my bags and I left security again to go back to the front counter. While waiting in line there, I remembered something that made my stomach sink.
My laptop was not in my backpack. I had removed it for the xray, of course, but when the guard handed me my bags he had not thought to include the laptop.
I did a little nervous dance, thinking of my laptop sitting at the end of the conveyor, but knowing I could not get to it until I got to the front of this line and got the little stamp on my boarding pass. tick tick tick. Stamp!
I dashed back up to security, got new tags for my bags – because the guard took the other ones off for some reason – and waited in line at security. tick tick tick. Lots of people going through. People getting their laptops out. People putting their laptops back in. tick tick. I finally get through security, and there’s my laptop, sitting right in the same place, waiting to be claimed. By me. phew.
The flights were comfortable, although the seat pitch was the smallest I’ve ever seen, and everything was smooth and on-time. When the captain made an announcement, I must say I was struck by the pleasant but surprising sound of a woman’s voice, with that sing-song Indian accent. The entire crew on this plane was women, the first I’ve ever seen that.
I can’t say much about Mumbai. I never even left the plane. As we landed, I noticed large areas around the outskirts of the city that seemed polka-dot blue. That seemed odd. As we came lower, I realized that they were slums – miles of them – a hodgepodge of shacks with corrugated roofs, perhaps 1 in 10 of them covered by a blue plastic tarp. (below)
Landing in Lucknow was different. Green was the color of the day – a vast patchwork of green fields, a totally flat agricultural terrain. Areas that were slightly lower than the rest were flooded – this is the monsoon season, after all.