Sunday morning in Delhi. I’ll be meeting a few classmates for breakfast in about 30 minutes, and then the rest of the day is unplanned. If anything like last night’s trip to the hotel bar, I expect this morning’s breakfast to be extravagantly priced. That’s what we get for staying at a five-star hotel, though. It’ll be interesting to see how prices are on the outside, and how good I am at bartering. We were warned before the trip that bartering was something that we’d be expected to do, and on the drive in our driver told us the same.
So, the big flight from Chicago to Delhi went pretty well, all things considered. For a few of us, our education on India began a bit earlier than expected, outside Gate L8 in the American Terminal at O’Hare. By chance a few of us found ourselves sitting by an Indian professor from the University of Kansas, and we ended up talking for 20 to 30 minutes on a number of aspects of Indian business, especially the airlines. “Indian people are very good at being expensive and cheap at the same time,” he said, referencing a number of examples, including the use of Jet Airways 737-900 variant, a pack-them-in airplane that I may regrettably get to experience when I head to Chennai in a few weeks. He also help guide us into the beginning of a long discussion on proper tipping, a discussion that, for all practical purposes, still continues.
Anyway, the flight was on time, and the staff on AA 292 I must say were professional and excellent. From a passenger standpoint, though, it was one of the most disorganized and misbehaved groups of passengers I’ve encountered. Now, by misbehaved I don’t mean combative or belligerent or anything like that. Instead, the passengers seemed to simply not care to follow instructions or requests from the flight attendants. (Before landing, it took over six sweeps to get people to put their chairs in an upright position. People would put them up and then recline them again.) Then there was the kids sleeping the aisles, the guys spending 15+ minutes in the bathroom, and a lot of bickering over pricing of duty free goods. Trying to keep an open and mind and not be judgmental, I started to wonder if this was par for the course for India-bound flights, but one of the attendants told me told me otherwise after I asked for coffee, but to hold the cream and sugar. “Thanks, that’s easier.”
“It seems you’re working on quite a route.”
“No! It’s never like this. This has turned into one of those flight attendant nightmares… And the flight just keeps going and going and going.”
50 minutes later, we were on the ground. Delhi was fogged in—I was on the wing, and I couldn’t see the end of it until just before we landed, but the landing itself was probably the smoothest and most expertly executed I’ve ever seen. I was dry by that point, too, which was nice. Midway through the flight—right before I was about to fall asleep—my neighbor accidentally bumped a glass of water into my lap, an incident that also somehow shorted out the flight path view on my TV screen. From that point on, I had to look over others’ shoulders to see where we were.
Anyway, the first thing that struck me getting off the plane was how bad the air was. Even inside the airport, I found myself having a bit of trouble breathing. I’ve adjusted to it now, but I’m kind of amazed at the difference in air quality compared to the US. Customs were different from the US, too. I went in expecting a lot of questions, but instead the customs officer didn’t say a single word to me. He just glanced at my documents, stamped them and sent me on my way.
The loading area of the airport was chaotic, and provided the first good taste of driving and traffic in India. From there it was a quick but foggy drive to our hotel. Our driver was friendly and gracious, and took the time to point out the sights along the way—or, at least, what would be sights if there wasn’t any fog. From there it was a quick check in, a Kingfisher with a few classmates, and sleep.
Time for breakfast. More later.