As it turned out, I was slated to travel from Bombay to Hyderabad just one day after the commencement of an impromptu strike by the employees of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) which threatened to bring major Indian airports to a standstill, unless their demands were met. Their demands? Basically, they were opposing the move by the Government (pending for two decades!) to privatize the airports of Mumbai and Delhi!
My day job is with a large enterprise that can afford, among other things, a Travel Desk. One of the benefits of having one in-house is that the Travel Desk notifies you of important developments pertaining to your travel. Now, as it turned out, I was slated to travel from Bombay to Hyderabad just one day after the commencement of an impromptu strike by the employees of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) which threatened to bring major Indian airports to a standstill, unless their demands were met. Their demands? Basically, they were opposing the move by the Government (pending for two decades!) to privatize the airports of Mumbai and Delhi!
If you’ve ever flown (from almost any where in the world) to Mumbai, you will agree that our pride and joy – Mumbai International Airport – is just a notch better than an airconditioned toilet! Yes, over the years, there have been some improvements. But, by and large, it’s still decades behind some of the more progressive airports of the world. When, finally, our able Government did decide to do something about it, the stakeholders felt threatened and opposed the move vehemently. But, I digress. That’s the subject of another post.
I was saying that one of the benefits of a travel desk is that you get notified of important developments. The evening before my flight was due, I got this email :
The situation at the airport is chaotic. Passengers are not able to take their cars to the terminals and due to this they have to walk a long distance. The baggage trolleys are not available. The hygiene factor is completely missing at the airports. Passengers are advised to carry hand luggage and shall also reach well in time. All the flights are leaving on time. There could also be traffic jam on the way to the airport therefore we advice you all to leave early for the airport. The situation is almost the same at Mumbai and Delhi Airport.
Not that there was an information blackout or any thing like that. Newspapers were full of coverage on the rapidly deteriorating situation at Mumbai and Delhi airports. Thanks to advancements in modern technology, news channels were actually showing live footage of the terminals, every half hour or so. So much so that families of travellers started to panic, like all sensible families in India do: It’s better to avoid travelling in such times… You never know how long you’ll be stranded… etc. etc.
Me? I decided to venture out any way. I was eager to see the reality for myself. And, I had an important meeting planned several days in advance.
Imagine my surprise when I landed at Mumbai airport at 8.30 that morning, it looked like a perfectly normal day, with no sign of any thing wrong except that the electronic signboards were not working.
Announcements were being made on the intercom, periodically. A couple of flights (during morning rush hour) got delayed by half an hour, and then again, by half an hour, my own flight included. For want of adequate personnel to man the check-in traffic, Indian Airlines decided to route all traffic of their morning flights through one gate. Naturally, the waiting hall at this gate had more-than-the-usual crowd and more-than-the-usual noise levels.
Yes, a few dustbins were overflowing with trash and there were some unclean toilets to contend with. But volunteers were shouting themselves hoarse trying to make sure no one was left behind on account of not hearing the periodic announcements. And, those who had reported to work, were making sure they did more than their fair share of work to ensure that things run smoothly at their terminal.
The point I’m trying to make is that, sometimes, we tend to make a mountain out of a molehill. And, nowhere is its impact felt more severely than when the media indulges in irresponsible journalism.
Even two days after that, I could hardly find a mention of the good samaritans who made sure that things stayed under control. And, a nation full of educated and literated folks fed on the frenzy that was served to them on a platter – compounding the belief that India is a good-for-nothing nation, with a bleak future.
It’s sad to think about the efforts made by those nameless, faceless, airport employees. Sometimes, one ends up doing a lot of good… for nothing.