Friday, January 2, 2009

IGI Airport, New Delhi, 12/30/08, 5:00 pm

I found myself in front of a very stern looking Indian security officer at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, India. I couldn’t go through the security check because I had forgotten to ask for a carryon baggage tag from the Asiana personnel who checked my passport and ticket and checked in my luggage. Apparently he assumed that I knew that a certain baggage tag would be required at security check-in.

IGI airport was in chaos today because all the early morning flights had been delayed due to an untimely fog that had blanketed the city the night before. And by delay I mean anywhere from ten to fourteen hours! Passengers were pissed, tired and angry. And why shouldn’t they be? Someone was missing his/her connecting flight in Chicago, while someone was missing a wedding anniversary somewhere in England. This was not the first time in IGI’s history that fog had hit the airport so hard that none of the flights could land or take-off. This is a problem that has plagued this airport for years, and for years the Indian government has done very little about it. Apparently you need a sophisticated radar technology that can guide planes safely onto the runway, but somehow this is not completely operational yet. Now I don’t like comparing apples and oranges, but in this case I don’t think that I can resist. When developed countries can land aircrafts in a fierce blizzard, then why can’t India After all IGI airport is the airport of the capital of the second fastest growing economy in the world. The airport was in complete shambles today. The airport has always been in complete shambles. renovate and upgrade its radar systems that can guide airplanes safely during the foggy months of December and January?

Ah, but let’s get back to my earlier story. I asked the security officer what I should do about the baggage tag, and he just shrugged his shoulders and said that it wasn’t his problem. Where O where would I find an Asiana representative. I turned toward what looked like people who worked at the airport. I asked one of these people and in reply they said that they were ground staff and didn’t work for Asiana. I was flummoxed. I proceeded to go another security officer and asked him in Hindi about this baggage tag and his reply was to get any old tag from any airline. It didn’t matter! See the problem was that I couldn’t walk back to the any of the counters as I had already passed the sacred immigration walls and going back now would be breaking of the sacrosanct and unsaid rules of IGI airport. I started scanning some of the fixtures that had a slight resemblance to desks and I found an Air India tag. HA, talk about irony!

I finally realized why they needed the baggage tag. They needed to stamp it after it went through the X-ray scanner. I love how everything gets stamped when one is traveling. The immigration officer stamped three different pieces of documentation – my passport, immigration card (which you fill out), and my boarding pass. Afterward when I passed through security I got two more stamps – one on my boarding pass (yet again), and the second on the highly coveted baggage tag.

So here's my tip for anyone leaving New Delhi via the IGI airport. If you are traveling during the winter months, especially December and January, ask your travel agent about the weather conditions in New Delhi. Arrive at leaast three hours before your flight, which means that wherever you are staying in New Delhi, give yourself at least one hour of drive-time. Delhi traffic has become quite unpredictable. Once you arrive at the airport, never leave your luggage out of your sight. And I mean NEVER! IGI may be an international airport, but you are still in India!

Here's another suggestion while you are traveling through India. Be cool and have patience, lots and lots of it. A step outside your hotel room or your home in India is an adventure. What kind of an adventure? Well, that you'll have to figure out for yourself. :)

1 comment:

A K Bhatia (Akubha) said...

I and my family came back to Delhi from Germany by LH760 on 25th July 2009. Between approx 1 and 1.30 AM, we were standing in the front of a queue for Immigration officer Mr Ram Phal.

While more than 300 passengers were cleared by officers on other counters, Mr. Ram Phal could not clear three passengers Man, woman and a child about 3 to 4 yrs old in 30 minutes.

When I requested him to be quick, he rebuked back saying if one wrong person is cleared he would loose his job. He was downright insulting in his tone and tenor. The parents of that child lifted the child 3 times to show him his face.

When I took my complaint to the senior in the cabin he told me

a. Look at the age of Mr. Ram Phal he is too old to work,

b. The computer is not working properly, and

c. Which other departments work efficeintly.

We get respect from foreigners when we go abroad and here, in our own country we are insulted by inefficient people. I strongly request that these kind of people should be removed from such public dealing jobs.