Your palace on the ground

An Air India flight Monday from L.A. to Delhi turned into a comedy of errors which delayed the passengers by two whole days (thanks, Saheli). First day, a tire blew out on takeoff:

As the plane took off, Gursharan said, it shook after a tire burst, startling passengers. The Boeing 747-400 flew over the ocean and circled, dumped fuel and then returned for a bumpy emergency landing. The landing gear dug into the runway, leaving a 7,000-foot-long field of debris that took 40 employees hours to clean up… [Link]

And the Concorde proved that runway debris is murderous.

… the teenager and his family turned on the news to see footage of their plane landing amid a shower of sparks… Airport officials said the pilots made a wise choice to take off, explaining that, if they had aborted, they might not have had enough runway to stop the heavy, fully fueled aircraft. [Link]

<

p>Next day, different plane, an engine problem led to a minor passenger revolt:

Flight 136 pushed back from the gate… 2 1/2 hours late… one of the four engines was malfunctioning… the flight crew didn’t provide more detailed information, passengers said, leaving them trapped on the packed jumbo jet for about five hours… Finally, Wenz, the professor, said he just walked through a door that attendants had opened. He climbed down the stairs and off the plane to wait on the tarmac. Other passengers, he said, followed. [Link]

Taking a Delhi-to-Chennai train would’ve been faster than this flight. Last year, an Air India crew forgot to drop landing gear. So if you’re flying Air India, here’s a cheery thought: it may not be Jet Airways, but it sure beats Aeroflot.

Related posts: Air India more efficient than ever, Open skies and Air India

43 thoughts on “Your palace on the ground

  1. you snob you. what’s wrong with aeroflot…
    and the flight to india is always a rich experience…
    my last trip – this older gentleman pulled out abottle of scotch and started putting it down – his wife joined in with a peg or two – and then they started cussing each other out in punjabi so rural I couldnt make out what they were saying – then the guy started badmouthing his wife to the guy seated in front and the wife started seeding the ear of their granddaughter on his right – they were all a happy family by the end of the flight
    then, this was the first time i saw it – everyone claps – a ritual or just relief at arriving safely? I dont know. I clapped as well… and nodded and cheered quite enthusiastically too in accompaniment. Woohoo!!

  2. you snob you. what’s wrong with aeroflot… and the flight to india is always a rich experience…

    plus it is cheaper by about $600, you rich moneybags oppressor of the common people you.

  3. Has anyone flown the Continental direct flight from EWR to DEL yet? Any reviews?

    A friend did, and he said the fare was reasonable, but the service and space for an international flight was OK. Nothing great, but nothing bad either. Aeroflot did have the cheapest prices, but I’m not too keen on flying through Moscow in the winter. Anyone fly Virgin Atlantic to India yet?

    I refuse to fly Air India now. Maybe it was the little trail of urine trickling out of the bathroom, or the seats that had a huge aunty/uncle’s ass imprint in it creating an “ass crater too large” situation, or the little kids who kept kicking a fellow passenger’s (IIT international student) and my seat until the both of us got up and threatened to flog the kid, or the fact that…

    What the hell, I give up.

  4. My uncle just flew the American Airlines nonstop from Chicago to New Delhi. He really liked it, but then again, his frequent flier status got him upgraded to First Class, where they have the sleeper seats. The coach experience mmay be different. But he (and pretty much the entire family) is opposed to flying Air India.

  5. Going at the root of the issue, AI is govt. funded (which is hardly enough) and operated with crew hired from reservation quota rather than by merit. What else do you expect?

    Indian communists need to let go man…

  6. Hmm..for whatever its faults, Air India engineering and pilots have an enviable record compared to other airlines and have received many awards from Boeing and Airbus. Planes do go “tech” at times, but it makes news everytime AI plane goes “tech” because ground handling is inefficient.

    Planes are old and for that we can thank Communists who are holding Indian govt hostage.

  7. A quick note on Aeroflot.

    Aeroflot may have been a notorious airline during USSR days, but boy you will be mistaken to consider them “bad” if you have flown them recently.

    For North American routes they use modern Boeing 777 planes. I flew them last Seattle – Moscow which was operated by Boeing 777. Moscow – Delhi however was operated by Illuyshin aircraft, the plane was old but at no point I felt unsafe. Being a plane nut I actually like flying on Russian airline. (Cubana still has few Illuyshins)

    It is very wrong to equate Aeroflot of USSR days to Aeroflot (managed and run by Russia) of today. However I can’t say the same for other CIS country airlines – like Turkmenistan Airlines, Kyrgistan Airlines which fly to Amritsar from London.

  8. This is going to make me sound like a bourgeois pig, but I just flew first class AI from Chicago – Frankfurt – Mumbai and back and it was awesome. (Of course, it is first class.) I’ve flown first class from NYC to Mumbai on Kuwait Airlines and that was like 10x better, though. It was just small stuff that was different, though: The bathroom was kind of nasty, random things are broken, there was duct tape holding shit together on the inside of the plane, the magazines they give out are stolen from previous passengers, etc. AI just feels … sloppier than some of the other airlines, excellent safety record etc notwithstanding.

    My flight was delayed for 5 hours this past Saturday in Mumbai for vague “unexplainable technical difficulties”, and we spent 3 of those hours actually sitting on the plane. The crew really doesn’t keep you very informed of what’s going on. Having just read this though, 5 hours was nothing.

    I refuse to fly Air India now. Maybe it was the little trail of urine trickling out of the bathroom, or the seats that had a huge aunty/uncle’s ass imprint in it creating an “ass crater too large” situation, or the little kids who kept kicking a fellow passenger’s (IIT international student) and my seat until the both of us got up and threatened to flog the kid, or the fact that…

    This is hilarious, but isn’t this the experience on any long flight? We’ve done that flight trapped in the 3′x3′ prison of economy class many times and it’s the same on any airline.

  9. but isn’t this the experience on any long flight? We’ve done that flight trapped in the 3′x3′ prison of economy class many times and it’s the same on any airline

    To a certain degree, yes. Problem with Air India is that the passengers AND flight crew seem hellbent on abusing each other. Why? I have no idea.

    Other Airlines I’ve flown (my experience is limited to economy, on that note, are you single? CHA-CHING!!!) the crew, despite the antics of the passengers, are very professional, pro-active, and seem to enjoy their job. Even if the bathroom resembles a frat house commode, the crew rolls their sleeves up and dives in as many times as it takes to keep it shining. Singapore Airlines would make Mr.Clean feel proud.

    Another incident: While the food trays were being removed after a meal, the flight attendant dropped the little yogurt cup. I didn’t eat too much of it, so it was relatively full. It landed upside down, so the yogurt was contained as long as the cup wasn’t lifted off the ground next to me. What does the lady do? Before I could say, “Slide it on the foil and flip it”, she picks it up. Obviously the yogurt oozes all over the floor. “Oh, it spilled”. NO SHIT LADY. I was wiping my hand with an extra napkin and I handed it to her. She cleaned it up, left a white blob on the floor, and never returned with clean a towel. Seriously. I got up to wash my hands. The scent of steadily souring yogurt wafted to my nostrils often for the next 6 hours.

    Like you said, the work is sloppy. The effort isn’t 110%, but 90%. An almost done job is not a job done. Air India is what it is. They aren’t the worst, but not the best either. For my money (cough Alms for the poor cough Tis the season to be giving cough), I’d rather spend an extra 50-100 bucks and travel in some peace.

  10. Let us admit it – no business folks fly Air India and Air India is surviving on American routes solely because desi families can save a TON of money if they fly Air India. AI offers rock bottom price and if a family of 4-5 is flying the savings can translate to almost $2000-$3000 bucks. So even in the LA times article you see most of the passengers are Punjabi (the Khalistani asylum seeking folks who became legal = not much money to spare because they spent all the money on Asylum attornies) families.

  11. Has anyone flown the Continental direct flight from EWR to DEL yet? Any reviews?

    I did last month – most terrific flight ever! Especially for people from NYC with day jobs for whom vacation days is a factor – you can come to work with your luggage get out by 5 and go straight to the airport and catch the flight at 9 pm. Coming back is great too – you arrive at 5 in the morning and you can go straight to work. And there are no lousy 6 hr halts in Europe where you are boarded into a cattle trip for the remainder of the journey. Also causes less jet-lagg because of the timing.

    Seriously, it is well and truely an awesome flight – at IGI in Delhi i saw lots of people thanking the crew for a wonderful flight.

  12. I refuse to fly Air India now. Maybe it was the little trail of urine trickling out of the bathroom, or the seats that had a huge aunty/uncle’s ass imprint in it creating an “ass crater too large” situation, or the little kids who kept kicking a fellow passenger’s (IIT international student) and my seat until the both of us got up and threatened to flog the kid, or the fact that… The scent of steadily souring yogurt wafted to my nostrils often for the next 6 hours.

    GujuDude, sounds like you had some “wonderful” experiences. Ever thought of blogging them?

  13. i saw lots of people thanking the crew for a wonderful flight

    Awesome. The human race has lost its innocence and its manners. I used to love it when people CLAPPED at the end of a flight. Nobody claps the frikking bus driver. Man I dreamt of being a pilot so I could get clapped for doing my job. And do that turbulence gag from The Far Side. And make inappropriate advances to my cabin crew.

    Can someone very kindly give me a run down of in-flight goodness factor out of 10 for Deccan, Spice, Jet, Go, Sahara and Kingfisher s’il te plait? Are they all pretty similar?

  14. ..and Air India is surviving on American routes solely because desi families can save a TON of money if they fly Air India.

    sometimes AI isn’t exactly the cheapest. and believe it or not, it has its own niche market and people pay a premium for it. there a tons of uncles and aunties who don’t really sepak english and are more comfortable flying AI. not having to change planes and avoid getting lost in a European transit hub also seems to be another selling point for these passengers.

  15. I flew PIA(Pakistan airlines) on one segment a long time ago. The pilot announces: “We will be taking off shortly. The flight to XYZ will take N hours and M minutes. We will be serving dinner shortly, which will be followed by a movie. Relax and enjoy the flight. Insha-Allah, we will reach our destination safely.”

    Verrry re-assuring! Goes to show that Islamic fundamentalism has seeped into all, I mean ALL, sections of Pakistani society.

    M. Nam

  16. there a tons of uncles and aunties who don’t really sepak english and are more comfortable flying AI.

    Agreed. I have relatives that prefer Air India for the familiarity factor. Bad service doesn’t really get to them as much. My cousins and I prefer British, Singapore, Cathay Pacific, etc.

    I thought Swiss Air had great service, too. Alitalia was crap.

  17. Can someone very kindly give me a run down of in-flight goodness factor out of 10 for Deccan, Spice, Jet, Go, Sahara and Kingfisher s’il te plait? Are they all pretty similar?

    I have flown Deccan and Jet, and they were actually pretty good. A small observation I made – Jet probably uses one of the finest cutlery/silverware in economy class that i have ever seen. they pay a lot of attention to detail. Kingfisher I hear, has all the hot babes and wannabe models :)

  18. Reincarnation asks: >Oh, but why?

    AirIndia had technical difficulties! And they put me on PIA for one segment.

    M. Nam

  19. “..Goes to show that Islamic fundamentalism has seeped into all, I mean ALL, sections of Pakistani society.”

    I don’t mean to hijack the thread. but, is it really fundamentalism, if someone says – god willing, we will reach there safely. do you feel offended the same way when Americans say – God bless America.

  20. I don’t mean to hijack the thread. but, is it really fundamentalism, if someone says – god willing, we will reach there safely. do you feel offended the same way when Americans say – God bless America

    Insha-allah has worked its way into Urdu and people … well just say it without thinking about it one way or the other. God bless America – on the other hand sounds to me like a very contrived phrase with very specific connotations — so in that sense maybe that is more “fundamentalist” that insha allah.

  21. Moor, that was a rhetorical question

    Stupid stupid me… smacking myself on the head

    najeeb:

    is it really fundamentalism, if someone says – god willing, we will reach there safely. do you feel offended the same way when Americans say – God bless America.

    They are completely different scenarios.

    Saying “God bless America” or “God bless you” when someone sneezes or wishing “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Diwali” come under what I call as “Passive religious fundamentalism”. It’s mostly harmless, slightly irritating, but can be tolerated with a smile and a nod.

    However, the pilot’s act of bringing God into a completely secular situation, and making the outcome of a human action as God’s responsibility reeks of “Active religious fundamentalism.” It’s as though if the flight has problems, it’s God’s responsibility. It’s mullah-speak, whichever way you see it.

    M. Nam

  22. “Relax and enjoy the flight. Insha-Allah, we will reach our destination safely.”

    I guess PIA’s motto is “On a wing and a prayer”…

  23. My gf’s parents both worked for airlines at some point, so she knows all sorts of random things. Apparently the nickname for PIA amongst other airlines was ‘Please Inform Allah’. I’m not entirely sure why! Did they have a poor safety record?

    Thanks OYBBB. Kingfisher it is! Good ol’ Vijay, he’s a man after my own heart.

  24. I remember flying on Air India several times throughout the 80s. There were a few interesting incidents on some of the flights: 1. Once, from JFK our AI flight was in line preparing for takeoff when its wing had an electrical failure. They compensated us by giving us a room at the Plaza that night. (Not too shabby…that was an awesome childhood memory, I tell ya. My eyes were larger than saucers staring at the sheer opulence of the place.)The next day our flight went as planned. Cool. 2. Another AI flight we had what seemed like a long layover in Frankfurt (9 hours). But after reading about these people’s flight it all puts the experience into perspective for me.

    I guess no matter how crappy the flight delays might be with inconveniencing passengers I’m glad that they got to their destinations safely and in one piece. Just have to realise what’s more important in the long run.They got to share stories/their lives with other passengers, which there seems to be a void in today’s world. (I can’t remember the last time I actually spoke at length to the person sitting next to me on a flight, except to glare at him/her and tell him/her accusingly that he/she was sitting in MY window seat,then plop down and tune them out with my music.) While I may not have taken any more AI flights since then, I’m sure I might again. The British Airways/Lufthansa/KLM/etc. flights are nice, efficient, cleaner in a lot of ways but there’s something about a feeling/emotion that you’re closer to your desh on an AI flight. (Maybe it’s the twinkling glow in the eyes of all the maggis & dadas who may not speak a slick of angrezi, but are happy to connect back with their land/home. Or the fact that even the curry smells resonating from the flights bring you back to the familiar reminders of India.)

    I don’t write this with any negative context, mind you. Just that it’s interesting how much I miss all those incidents/reminders of India after living/being away from it for so long. The blog made me laugh, but more than anything it’s given me a wistful reminiscence. It may have even made me grow up a bit and accept that I like the chaos/”typical desi” things and find them kind of endearing now.

  25. “Can someone very kindly give me a run down of in-flight goodness factor out of 10 for Deccan, Spice, Jet, Go, Sahara and Kingfisher s’il te plait? Are they all pretty similar?”

    I think Jet Airways is pretty cool.

  26. So even in the LA times article you see most of the passengers are Punjabi (the Khalistani asylum seeking folks who became legal = not much money to spare because they spent all the money on Asylum attornies) families.

    Yeah – most Punjabis are former asylum seekers.

    Think-you-are-a-smartarse-bollocks speech for the day.

  27. Argh! I hit the post button too fast before I was finished (trigger finger)..grr…

    The skinny on the privates:

    Deccan: 8/10 attentive crew, quite nice Spice: 0/10 (never flew it) Jet: 9/10 very decent, clean, good crew Go: 0/10 (never flew it) Sahara: 7/10 okay flight, not too memorable, but it was clean Kingfisher:0/10 (never flew it)

    Anyway, that’s what I have. Although I’m assuming that the ‘hot babes on kingfisher’ would be an eye candy draw for some of you…

  28. Goes to show that Islamic fundamentalism has seeped into all, I mean ALL, sections of Pakistani society.

    It’s just a phrase dude. Muslims say it as an impulse. I think its rather lovely. If it is an indicator of fundamentalism practically every Pakistani I know is a fundamentalist, which they’re not, but by your reckoning, who has flown once on PIA and is suddenly an expert on Pakistani society, they probably are.

    Inshallah, one day you will understand that and lay off the snide Sulekha Hinutvaisms masquerading as insight. Mashallah.

  29. Najeeb

    Your response to MoorNam was absolutely spot on – its amazing how out of the most innocuous thing a Sulekha Hindutvadi’s Islam bashing receptors turn on, isnt it?

  30. It’s amazing how much we try to differentiate or separate ourselves from each other whether it be religious, or by other means. The pilot was just doing his job and offering a blessing/peace of mind in his own manner. We all do it in other ways every day. When you spend money (I’m assuming you’re in the US, but I could be wrong) you barter a piece of paper or metals for goods and services, right? Look at what’s written on the currency — “In God we trust.”

    How connected are we if we can’t evoke some reason for our existences? How fundamental is that?

    The news media has been hyper sensitive to separative thought lately. How much of it has affected and effected us in thought and our own words?

    Be more open minded and aware.

  31. Wenz, the professor, surely does not follow the news or he is amazingly brave to walk out off the plane and wait on the tarmac…! :)

  32. Jay Singh:>>It’s just a phrase dude. Muslims say it as an impulse.

    No – Pakistani muslims say it as an impulse. I’ve rarely encountered Indian muslims use religious greetings in secular situations where non-muslims may be present. One one occassion an Indian woman greeted me with SalaamAlaikum, and I returned it with “Ram-Ram“. I don’t know why, but throughout the rest of the party she avoided me. Not that I’m complaining…

    Inshallah, one day you will understand that and lay off the snide Sulekha Hinutvaisms masquerading as insight. Mashallah.

    I love mashed potatoes!

    M. Nam

  33. MoorNam

    Oh Lord – your response was as lame as a RSS wallah’s khaki-shorts and knobbly knees and insecurity complex – get over your obsession dude. One thing you have proved is that bigots tell the worst jokes – your wisecracks are so embrassing.

  34. For the benefit of Mutineers unfamiliar with participants from the (British) Pickled Politics blog, can I just clarify that “Jay Singh”, who has posted a few messages on this thread, is not actually me. (The different spelling of the first name is therefore not a typo).

    However, I do also think that Moornam is perhaps reading a little too much into the whole “Inshallah” thing.

  35. Jay (with a why) says:>>One thing you have proved is that bigots tell the worst jokes

    If you have written some good jokes, please post or direct me to the web site. I’m always looking out for good comedians… I mean, humourous people.

    M. nam

  36. My Brother, and new sister in Law who is black and I were flying from London to NYC. As I’m eager to sell her on Indian culture through the lens that we see it….something of course went wrong. We were delayed for two hours. (The emergency floor lights of a certain section weren’t functioning). This is a pretty minor complaint mind you – much better to have caught it before than after.

    I am happy to say however, that the lamb curry was very tasty.

    Note: I realize two hours isn’t a big deal (we were once delayed 12 hours), but when with someone from the outside community, I’m always concerned if they have a negative impression.

    The moral of the story is: We’re all willing to risk flying on aging airplanes if it means we can save some cash!

  37. I have just posted on a related post to this one – http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/000865.html – but I only realised after I wrote this post that the last contributor was in September this year, so rather than have my post potentially be left unread I have included it on this one. Some of you may be uninterested in my post, other may be curious enough to check out the rest of the posts that prompted my response.

    Regardless, here it is:

    As a New Zealander that has Indian Origins that has worked and lived in India, and also worked and lived with Indians in several situations and locations (Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philipines, Bangalore, New Delhi, Gurgaon)I can relate to many of the issues raised by Chris Prabhu and also those mentioned by those that were refuted his posts so passionately.

    I consider myself a proud New Zealander (as well as proud of my Indian background and Indians generally) and certainly do find myself getting feeling defensive about comments/impressions that others have about the more negative aspects of my country and origins, but when I flick off the chip that has lodged itself on my shoulder more often than not their comments are intelligent observations that I myself have made of other countries I have been to and I can see that there is significant truth in what they have said.

    Whereas, it could have been put more diplomatically, I agree in principle with Chris’s main points (or at least what I perceive were his main points) and I also agree with alot of what many others have said in response to his comments.

    Newflash: Being proud of India and achievements by Indians (Modern industries/technology parks, long and distinguished history, strong community bonds, top class education etc…), and still accepting that India has serious ongoing social issues; third world levels of poverty, corruption and a growing gap between the have’s and the have nots that has many poorer Indians being exploited by local businesses/fellow Indians and not just foreign Multinationals – is not a case of having to choose sides on a battlefield as these two points are not mutally exclusive.

    All countries have negative aspects to them and it is not being disloyal, unpatriotic or even unkind to acknowledge the bad alongside the good.

    My experiences of India (first in 1999, my most recent experiences being in the last year or so) have very clearly shown two very different India’s – one is high tech, affluent and has most, if not all, modern conveniences that any first world country can offer, and the other India is definitely way down the other end of he spectrum with people living hand to mouth and not sharing in the India’s successes, vast wealth and resources. Instead they are largely treated as second class citizens and whereas the middle/upper class levels of wealth are steadily increasing I do not see any of this flowing down to the less fortunate within India. Millions of families living in unhygenic conditions and suffering from malnutrition is something no country can be proud of, and to deny that this is a reality in India is a clear a case of ignorance that I can think of.

    For me, success for India to be truly proud of will be when a more even distribution of wealth is to be seen across all sections of Indian society. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect India to eliminate the rich/poor divide – no country in the world has succesfully acheived this – but if India is truly going to be considered as a first world country then it has to get to the point where there is capacious bridge that joins the world of the haves and the have-nots so that those with the motivation, ability and determination can follow a clear path from their villages to a good education and ultimately a well paid job. At the moment if this path even exists it is fraught with too many barriers and dead-ends and few if any ever make it to the bridge let alone cross and make it to the side of the “haves”.

    To achieve this goal is not to conform to “western standards” it is basic humanity.