There are times when we fly in early morning, finish review/meetings/presentations (you can’t possibly do field work in a day’s time, at least in the kind of work I do) and head back home in the last flight. That I call as a one day haul. The last word “haul” is an apt word to describe it.
As a kid watching my dad do one day hauls fascinated me as he used to go to the airport like for taking a walk with no luggage. Those were the times before laptop bags were weighing down on your shoulders or following you like a bogey.
Everything on the one day haul works to increase your stress – from the artificial smile and welcome when you board the aircraft to the tired yet enthusiastic sounding artificial goodbyes when you get off the last flight. I experienced one such one day haul yesterday.
I got tickets only on low cost flights operated by high cost airline companies in the wake of recession. I had the privilege of experiencing the low cost “benefits” of two different airlines in one day. I will look lucky to the non-fliers. I entered deep sleep when I boarded the onward flight, trying to catch up on 2-3 hours of morning sleep that I had lost only to be woken up by the stewardess asking whether I want to buy a sandwich and water. Even in sleep I could picturize a stale tasteless sandwich and a small bottle of water. I subconsciously said no and drifted away to dreamland. I dream’t that my co-passenger was discussing with me Israeli AWACS which India had acquired or planning to acquire (don’t remember clearly). The landing was very smooth or maybe in my sleepy state I didn’t feel a thing. Refreshed I got out and boarded the bus to freedom.
Work was light but the early start showed its toll on me.
The return flight’s frustration started from the airport itself. Hyderabad international airport appeared swanky and tried to international standards. But the similarity ends with the name, facilities and potential. The check in staff at the premier counter was happily chatting away to glory with every passenger before me in the queue, well when my turn came I wasn’t in a chatty mood. We got a lounge invite for two and I was looking forward to stretching my legs a bit before boarding the cramped ATR. India’s finest international airline gave a lounge card which we had to take to one of the many counters lined up on a half kilometer stretch of airport to encash or rather to exchange for a meal of our choice. Of all the usual outlets we choose to try out the new idli shop which boasted of some 7-10 varieties of delicious sounding idli combinations. The shop guy was not pleased to see us with a lounge card, maybe we appeared to him as refugees or disaster hit homeless people carrying vouchers from UN mobbing his shop for idlis which were priced at atrocious rates keeping up with the “international” standards. I think if they had served idli in frankfurt they would have charged the same rate considering the transport of materials and expertise in making such idlis. Anyways who cares about that as long as its free, I didn’t want the coffee or the yummy looking god-knows-when-it-was-made pudding/lassi/milkshakes displayed in a glass box like dresses on a mannequin with bright lighting to enhance the colours. The slightly expensive aqua bottle was more tempting but the shop guy refused to give it free. The lounge card entitled me to only either an espresso or the stale looking drinks which as per his menu card was more expensive than the water bottle. If I wanted water then I needed to pay for it – he said sternly. I sarcastically commented on the logic of his statement which obviously infuriated him. He asked me to discuss it with India’s finest international airlines (period). I had my quota of stress for the day, paid and drank the water and imagined how much more lower can these guys dive in customer service standards. Its better I don’t discuss the sad idlis.
Same routine as the onward flight followed, snoozing-stale sandwich sale…. but yeah the pilot decided to add some thrill and kept rolling gently during the descent. I had the same feeling as I got when I started playing IL2 – Sturmovik Birds of prey on my PS3 – the world war 2 flight game. You know trying to get a hang of the new joystick and the game controls. The plane skimmed over the runway for a while and landed smoothly – contrary to what I expected which was something close to a roller coaster ride coming to an end.
Returning back home in a car I felt like kissing the ground, nothing like being grounded firmly on mother earth or was it home, sweet home? 🙂