Air India and Heathrow
Leaving UK on Air India was a complete cockup. Firstly London Heathrow has changed so much that I barely recognised it. Only to be expected, I haven’t flown from there in more than 30 years. The information boards aren’t that informative. The instructions on them are ambiguous or plain confusing and there is little help. Good job I’m a native english speaker and God help foreigners. I eventually found a man with Heathrow Information on his T-shirt.
Tickets booked online have to be checked-in on a machine. I entered my Air India flight booking number and then scanned my passport. The machine spat out my baggage labels, which are just as confusing as the machines, and my boarding pass. Once that was done, I proceeded to the baggage drop to check my baggage. This is where my first problem arose.
Air India problems
I had had the forethought to phone the embassy before leaving about the possible necessity of needing a return flight booked. My visa is for one year and, naturally, I hadn’t a clue exactly when I’d return. Air India don’t do one year returns nor did they do an open ended return. The embassy told me that it would be OK. The Air India check in crew told me that it wouldn’t. I wouldn’t be allowed to board the flight without a ticket showing an exit date from India.
Result: an extremely apologetic Air India official took me to their office in Heathrow and got the women on the desk to find me a cheap exit flight. So £50.10 later I have a flight booked to Kathmandu, Nepal for the 29th August. Well I did want to go there anyway. But I kind of wanted to do it in my time not theirs.
On the Air India flight
The flight was one of the most uncomfortable intercontinental flights I’ve ever had. The plane was an Air India Boeing 787. For those that understand it was like being on RyanAir for 8 hours. Ok the seats did recline… a bit, and all I can say is thank goodness I’m not a fatty. The onboard entertainment was impossible. I tried to watch a film but the volume levels, even when pumped to the max, were so low that I gave up with the in flight entertainment and tried for some shut-eye. The food was good though. I opted for a vegetarian meal but they had a choice of lamb or chicken too. Mine was a dal with rice. No idea what the others were like.
Indira Gandhi Airport International
Landing at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Airport was… interesting. We were half an hour early. At landing I thought the plane was going to roll. Touch-down was accompanied by a massive jolt/roll to the left before we straightened up and made it to the disembarkation ramps. Never had a landing like it and I’ve flown frequently and all over the place.
Immigration, baggage claim and customs were a doddle. The passport check did take a while though. But everything was clear and understandable and pretty quick. No complaints there.
I found arrivals gate 6 by KFC as instructed by my CouchSurfing friend Virender easily and ten minutes later he was there to collect me. The 9 or so kilometres from the airport to the hotel took about an hour. England readers think “M25”. But it gave us a chance to talk face to face and for that and the lift I’m very grateful. So now I’m ensconced in the FabHotel writing this and then I’m going to have a siesta.