OK, I’ve been back for almost two weeks now, I should finish up reporting on my India trip. At a minimum, I should describe my trip back home.
My itinerary to head back home started in Hyderabad, taking a Jet Airways (an Indian carrier) flight to Mumbai, then catching Delta back to Amsterdam, Atlanta, and finally Cedar Rapids. I had three and a half hours to make the transfer in Mumbai… that should be enough, right?
When I showed up to the Hyderabad airport, I had a small heart attack when the Jet Airways ticket agent told me that my seat had not been confirmed (even though my itinerary document said ‘confirmed’!) and that the plane was nearly full. I stood there and prayed as he made a phone call to see what could be done. Finally he did get me a seat – the last seat on the plane. Crisis #1 averted.
Made it through security and back to the terminal only to find that my flight had been delayed by 20 minutes. Suddenly I started getting more concerned about my connection. My concerns would end up being valid.
We finally got to Mumbai, where the process for transferring from the domestic to the international terminal is a bit involved. First you deplane and head down to baggage claim. You’ve gotta pick up your checked bag and carry it with you. Then you stand in line for a shuttle bus to go between terminals. That shuttle only runs once every 30 minutes. To actually get on the bus you have to go through security (again), running your bags through the x-ray and getting wanded by a guard. The bus was getting full and it was looking like I wasn’t going to fit. I pushed my way down the ramp and told the guy what time my flight was. He checked his watch, threw my bags underneath in the baggage compartment, and hustled me onto the already-full bus. Phew.
The ride to the terminal seemed to take forever. For what is no more than a 1-mile distance, I think the bus took 15 minutes to get there. We must’ve covered every inch of terminal. And the bus doesn’t drop you off any place convenient; it just stops by departure terminal entrance A. I needed to get to entrance D.
I hustled off the bus, grabbed my bags, and was helped out by one of the airport guys who works for tips. He asked my airline, grabbed one of my bags, and had me hustle with him down to entrance D. He got me to the end of the line and then asked for a tip. For $10, he said, he could get me through the lines. It ended up being the best $10 I spent on the trip.
With my $10 in his hand, he pushed to the front of the initial security line and shoved my passport and itinerary under the nose of the security officer. After getting waved along, we then rushed to the Delta counter. The Delta folks were asking if I was on the Amsterdam flight even before I could get to the counter. I shoved my passport at them, threw my checked bag on the belt, and within seconds they handed me back my boarding passes and passport and told me to run to the next line. Off I ran.
A Delta agent met me at that point and ran me up to security, cutting me nearly to the front of that line. After once again putting my bags through the x-ray and getting wanded, I then hustled off to the immigration line.
Maybe I’m just a naif, but I didn’t expect hundreds of people in the immigration line at midnight on a Friday night. Fortunately I was able to cut nearly to the front of the business class immigration line, joining four other Americans trying to make the same flight that I was. We picked the wrong immigration line, though. The guy checking our forms and passports was super-slow. The guy next to him was clearing 3 passengers for every 1 that cleared our line. But finally I cleared that line as well.
At that point the Delta agent pointed me in the direction of the gate and said “go”. So there I was, at this point just past the scheduled departure time for my flight, running down the Mumbai terminal at 1:00 AM. Made it to the gate, with gate agents waiting for us 5 to make the flight. Hustled down the jetway, only to have to go through security again, this time taking off my shoes. (I think I went through that screening a grand total of 5 times that Friday night. Crazy.)
Finally I was on the airplane, in my seat. Then it was just a nine-and-a-half hour flight to Amsterdam, a (more sane) transfer there, ten hours to Atlanta, a couple hours sitting there, and then two hours home.
If I do the India trip again, at a minimum I now know to schedule at least 5 hours for transfer between flights. I might also opt to fly Emirates Air, which goes from Hyderabad -> Dubai -> Chicago. (I do love the Delta miles, though…)
So that was my excitement on the trip home from India. I’ve got one more post percolating with some final thoughts, which hopefully I can write up soon.