Yet another Indian domestic trip report.But this was on domestic flights leaving to/from international terminals.
Indian Airlines operates two turna round MAA HYD flights a day and in addition operates a Dubai- Hyderabad- Chennai flight as well. However it was this last flight which was the most convenient for my day trip to Chennai. A 10 Am meeting downtown which looked like extending to late afternoon as well meant that I would be taking a chance with the 9 AM arrival and 1530 Departure which Jet had on its morning/evening flights to/from Chennai. Also my last experience in Jet was not too good, with the Jet Steward's need to satisfy his CaptainJis pangs of hunger taking predence over everything else resulting in the meal service being abruptly disrupted midway. Anyway due to the convenient timings (for me) more than anything else, I decided to take the Dubai Hyderabad Chennai flight which left Hyderabad at 6 Am and returned the same way at 6.20 PM from Chennai. This meant I was using the International terminals both ways (no big shake in both MAA and HYD where both are adjacent to each other)
I stay fairly close to the airport, so it meant that a 3.30 Am wake up call still meant I was at the airport at a quarter to five. Not much que at check in at that time, but then when my turn came , I had to wait 5 minutes, and had to reassure the counter clerk that my name was indeed the one showing on the ticket which I had handed over, before finally he printed out my boarding pass with a "got it" expression on his face. Got curious why mine was uch a problem case, and got the answer on glancing at my boarding pass!
The name on the boarding card had only a very faint resemblance to my name! Immediately realised what had happened. My travel agent issues handwritten tickets for Indian Airlines (as the airline has not yet provided a ticket printer to them) and subsequently the bookings have to be made first on the phone through the Indian Airlines call centre which is in DEL. Apparently the bloke there in the call centre mis heard my name as his favorite dog's (or may be cat's) name and entered it accordingly in the airline computer while my ever trusting travel agent never bothered to ask for a read back!!
Anyway -End result - I hold a boarding pass bearing somebody's favourite name - but of little resemblance to mine. Although the IC check in staff decided it was not a problem for him, I did not want to take a chance that his counterpart in Chennai would be equally maganimous on my return. Neither was I keen to have my identity hijacked by some call centre staff's notions on how peoples name should spell! With still an hour to go before the scheduled 6 AM departure, I spotted an Indian Airlines "Customer Support" counter open with no passengers waiting. Went over, explained my apprehensions about travelling on an "assumed" name to the two young gentlemen in the counter. Fortunately for me they were in agreement as well. However it was explained that since the surnames cannot be modified in their system once a booking was made, the only way out was for my orignal booking to be cancelled and a fresh booking made. Fortunately there were a few seats available on both my scheduled flights, so they went ahead, did the same, wrote my new PNR and reprinted my boarding pass with the correct name.
My dignity thus restored , I bade good bye the Indain Airlines blokes (and honestly they made a difficult problem look simple), and then went onto customs where I handed in a form which reassued them that I did not possess any goods which are normally of interest to that distinguished crowd, and after having duly received their approval in the form of a stamp on my boarding pass, proceeded to satisfy the Indian TSA(getting two more stamps in the process) that I had nothing in my person or hand baggage whicch was likely to cause harm to IC 952, my flight to Chennai. . The aircraft had about 20% of the seats already filled with passengers who had boarded in Dubai and were continuing to Chennai, who were not allowed to disembark at the transit halt. Once the flight filled up with those of us boarding from Hyderabad, there were only a few seats left.
We finally got airborne about 6.20, a 20 min delay, and landed after an hour. There was a meal , a South Indian breakfast of Dosa and Pongal and by the time the meal trays were cleared away we were in Chennai. Having landed in the international terminal, there was a complusory hand baggage x ray by customs for all passengers , just to ensure that your neighbour flying in from DXB had not requested your "small" help in smuggling out that super expensive minature camera by popping it into your bag, and after bypassing the immigration channel was waved on by a customs officer to the exit after he ascertained from my boarding pass that I had not boarded the flight at Dubai!!!
As for the return, same flight (MAA - HYD - Dubai).Checked in nice and early at 4.30 PM. The MAA international departure terminal is luxorious by Indian standards and very clean, and at that time of the day there as just my flight as well as another to Cochin-Muscat. Lounge was spacious enough, and I though the facilities provided were good (there was a kids play area as well as a net cafe in the arrival lounge).
Flight again 95% full, a substantial meal was served (thankfully not south Indian this time) and a saving of ten minutes on the flight time meant that we reached on time at Hyderabad. Everyone jumped up as usual, collected their bags, and ready to get off as if to escape the firing squad, only for the captain to announce that the APU has suddenly become unservicable and there will be a delay while the ground power unit was requistioned.
Was treated ot the rare occurence (Atleast for me it was the first time) of being stranded inside a plane with no lights (only the exit signs were illiuminated), A 3 min wait and the power came on as the GPU was connected and this time time customs was not interested as thje flight was starting from MAA (although going to Dubai).
In conclusion, I was again impressed with Indian Airlines. Compared with what they were earlier, they have improved by leaps and bounds , the inflight service was excellent and the way they sorted out the problem regarding my ticket could not have been bettered. Also on the retun I was on the row behind the emergency exit and I saw the crew memebr in charge ensuring that there were no hand baggage cluttering theexit area and insisting that such baggage be stored over head which also gave an indication of their professionalism