India Travel Diaries: The IndiGo Nightmare

“The bus was a carcass of a vehicle, a mere tin box with faded paint and prison bars that housed an entire crowd of perspiring strangers. Each grasped on to any available solace as the driver took frivolous turns on the rocky, uneven roads ahead. I stood there, balancing my luggage and child with hands and legs, praying the next swirl will not deplete my balance, lest I end up crashing out of the glass door behind me.”

I flew to India this week. We are revisiting our roots, and spending a leisurely month in the North Eastern states of Assam and Meghalaya. We flew with IndiGo, one of India’s most rapidly growing airlines that provides very competitive rates.

We bought a ticket from Dubai to Guwahati (the capital city of Assam), which involves a 5 hour transit in New Delhi. I was travelling alone with my 5 year-old, and was a little wary of the 5 hour wait. Delhi, the capital city of India, has earned a tainted reputation in the past couple of years, especially with regards to the safety of women. I was landing in Delhi in the eerie hours of 3 am, and needed to get myself to the domestic terminal for my onward flight to Guwahati.

When an airline sells a ticket directly to a destination, you would think they’d offer some kind of assistance during the transit. However, I still had to unload my luggage off the carousal in Delhi, and wheel it to my domestic flight, but here’s the bigger shocker: The domestic airport is about a 10 minutes’ drive away from Indira Gandhi International Airport, and passengers have to fend for themselves figuring out how to get there. No IndiGo help whatsoever.

Sure they have taxis waiting right at the exit of the airport, but the skies were still in slumber, and the prospect of getting into a car alone at this early hour in Delhi with a complete stranger perturbed me.

An airport personnel informed me there was a free airport shuttle at Platform 10, and I just needed to show them my boarding pass to get the complimentary coupon. Great news! I reassured myself there is always more safety in numbers.

Wheeling my luggage out of the exit doors with my 5 year-old in tow, the heat and humidity of the capital hit us with a vengeance. My glasses fogged up, and trickles of sweat ran down my brow. Platform 10 was crowded with shabbily dressed bachelors, with the exception of a couple of approachable-looking families with young children. The crowd looked depleted and weary, like they’ve been stuck in this stagnant moment of waiting for a lifetime. The buses are supposed to come every 15 minutes, but even that can prove to be a long wait in this heat.

A few minutes down, the man who had issued my bus coupon came running up to me suggesting I make a run down to Platform 18 as a bus had arrived there. I made a sprint down the lane, luggage and child in tow, and just made it in time to signal the bus conductor to a halt.

A man in a faded amber overall signaled me to enter the bus. I foolishly grinned, assuming he will come down to help me load the luggage. The man did not budge. The next thing I knew I was huffing and panting, and pushing a 32 kilo box into the bus door. Next, I shoved in the comparatively smaller load of 20 kilos, wore my backpack of 7, clasped on to my handbag with another arm, and dragged my bewildered little girl into the bus with me. It’s amazing where all that strength came from! The sliding doors closed behind me, with my boxes pushing me onto them. No one offered assistance, lest of all a seat for the little one. I balanced her on the smaller box, staring directly at the driver infront of us.

The bus was a carcass of a vehicle, a mere tin box with faded paint and prison bars that housed an entire crowd of perspiring strangers. Each grasped on to any available solace as the driver took frivolous turns on the rocky, uneven roads ahead. I stood there, balancing my luggage and child with hands and legs, praying the next swirl will not deplete my balance, lest I end up crashing out of the glass door behind me.

This journey of 10 minutes has to be one of the longest in my life. We bumped, we swirled, we cussed under our breaths, and halfway through the journey the doors behind me were suddenly flung open for more passengers. In India, they make full use of every inch of space available.

I was rather thankful for being right at the door when we disembarked. Atleast I didn’t have to fight the manic crowd for the short few minutes the driver allows everyone to leave with all the luggage. Out went the first box, then the second, then me and my little one.

An enthusiastic set of porters approached us to carry our luggage. I have been warned to be careful with these men, and promptly asked them to leave. No trolleys were to be found near the bus, and I dragged the boxes and child a few meters before I found one.

After this nightmare of a journey, stepping into the otherwise simplistic domestic airport was like a celestial retreat. This 10 minute bus ride had me questioning a whole array of things. With something as basic as a transfer to a domestic airport, how could an award-winning Indira Gandhi International Airport fail so terribly? If IndiGo is selling us tickets to Guwahati, surely it is the airline’s responsibility that their passengers reach the domestic terminal safely? And how has basic courtesy faltered so badly in the capital? Not one person came forward to help with the luggage, despite seeing I was travelling alone with a child, no one offered us a seat on that bus either. This nightmare of an ordeal has been a very disappointing start to the holiday, and I really do hope that Delhi airport and IndiGo take a second look at upping the customer experience.

Apologies this post is sans any images, I was far too preoccupied to reach out for the camera.

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