5/26/2009 Aiyah! What an incredible waste of a day. We made our flight to Calcutta only to be delayed due to rain in Paro. When Paro cleared a cyclone Aida hit Calcutta—the worst one to hit the area in 140 years. It poured so much that the seals on the windows in the transit lounge failed and water came flooding into the seating area. The airline was incredibly inept and kept us in the same soggy lounge for 7.5 hours.
Dom and I spent a lot of time trying to get answers with no success. I vainly tried to shadow our supposed airline liaison to see if I could get any information at all but she gave me the slip past the security guard who glowered at me from underneath bushy eyebrows while fingering his AK-47.
I think this experience is a good lesson in customer management. Set low expectations, communicate often, and if you don’t know something then say so, don’t make things up.
Did I mention the gourmet defying lunch of a tomato and cucumber sandwich with mustard?
At one point I had a heated conversation with the head of customs and immigration and this produced little fruit despite my insistence that they follow their mission statement (posted on the wall for all to see and me to wonder at) to honor and respect their customers.
Finally we were given leave to go back to the plane to get our personal belongings. It was blowing so hard that I nearly slipped on the gangway—sheets of rain assaulting us from the side.
Then they wanted us to hand over our passport. Our confidence level was at a low so Dom and I refused which caused a tremendous amount of consternation. I wanted to have a photocopied receipt. Because there were 22-odd passengers they did not like that idea at all especially when Dom and I let them know about the copies; they all started clamoring for a photocopied and notarized receipt (we really are bad). In they end they complied but not without a lot of yelling in Hindi back and forth between Mr. Mukherjee, the emasculated head man in charge, and his minions (more on Mukherjee later).
To top it all off, once we reluctantly surrendered our passports, the lackey carrying the bag had it burst open spewing passports every which way all over the floor. The wind started blowing them around from a nearby open door as the passengers oohed and ahed and tried to scramble to pick them out of puddles on the floor that had been created by the leaking roof.
We were driven to the Hyatt without our baggage, which is locked up like so much contraband in the belly of the plane. We’ll have to turn our underwear inside out for tomorrow. Wake up call is at 3:15am.