Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I like leeaving onnnnn a JET plane!

Take any usual service experience in modern India - getting a cell phone connection, traveling, a flight, a hair cut, anything. What are your typical reactions at the end of the service? I have always either ended up being angry or just plain indifferent! There are very few instances in modern day India, where you end up being genuinely happy after going through a 'service experience'. That, despite the fact that we are a service-driven economy, with everyone trying to differentiate themselves from the herd via their 'service-model'. So, when a happy ending comes along, you're tempted to talk about it! At least I am, or well I don't really need a reason to talk about anything anyway. But that is beside the point.

So, this has to do with a certain airline. And I know that someone upon reading this would be very happy, albeit for a completely different reason. That Jet Airways is very sweet to its flyers is known. But the fact that they've been sweet to me, despite my being a chronic offender, landing really late at the check-in counter, is additionally sweet. So, last year, I had the dubious honor of running to the boarding gates at an airport, flanked by 2 uniformed ground personnel of Jet Airways. I was appalled at my gross lack of exercise, when I noticed that those perfectly well groomed, prim and propah ladies on pointy high heels managed to go from the main airport terminal, down the escalator, into a connector train that sped on for a few minutes before depositing us in another building, and from thereon, up another escalator and a few more hundred meters really swiftly, without breaking into a sweat, while I could feel my ankle scream out in agony in just half that time despite my sneakers! And why was I involved in such an intense running exercise? Because a friend and I managed to check in our luggage after which we sat with a pizza and iced teas lamenting our fates oblivious to the fact that the departure terminal for our flight was in another building, and not just down a flight of stairs! But yet, despite not showing up in spite of the umpteenth last and final call, not once were we given a dirty look, and in fact after we boarded, we were told that there were empty seats at the back, where we could comfortably offload our jackets and cabin baggage and perhaps even put our feet up and sit comfortably! OK maybe not the feet up part, but the rest, yeah!

And now, this one was grander. My domestic flight yesterday was to leave at 10 past 8 and I landed at the check in counter at 10 minutes to 8. With a ton of luggage. The lady at the check in counter was quite firm in saying I couldn't get in, with my luggage and I pleaded, very sweetly. I was sincerely stuck in a terrible traffic snarl and I literally ran into the airport. And what made Jet even sweeter this time, was the personnel's almost immediate call to the baggage handling people to hold off the shut and lock down procedure of their baggage hold, and the extremely swift handling of my luggage and almost immediate transfer to the hold. Yes, I ran again, this time in slippers, and landed at the boarding gate at 8 PM sharp, just as that employee was about to write down my name to sound out the last and final call to Ms. Sindhu Subramaniam. In an almost Mission Impossible move, I jumped into the plane, and I thought I might become Agent Hunt, when I saw at least 4 more people behind me. I hurriedly sat down, and the flight, left exactly at 10 past 8, perfectly on schedule.

They say contrast is essential to appreciate one from the other. I have had the dubious honor (wonder how many dubious honors I've had) of being disallowed a check-in on a 5.30 AM flight because I landed at the check-in counter at 5:03 AM. No pleading, reasoning, begging, helped my case. The lady at that spicy airline refused to listen to me, or realize that a police security hold-up just at the mouth of the driveway to the airport delayed me by exactly 3 minutes! I had no luggage, I just needed to walk through. But I was told to shoo, and buy myself a new ticket. What good came out of this? I made me a new friend, another companion in my moment of penury, who had been similarly prevented from boarding!

So, of all my experiences, where I've had my luggage lost, broken, where I've been disallowed boarding on a spicy airline, or shown a dirty, grim expression, with no words when I asked for water on a silky airline, yesterday's gesture sure made me a believer and a huge fan..... till a gory experience do us apart!

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