Sunday, November 27, 2005

Class wars

Living up to tradition, the night before leaving town was a non stop work-a-thon. The good thing is that I was able to (atlast) complete some book - keeping that has been pending since June !! The first journey of our tour began with an ominous sign - as we checked in our baggage and got our boarding passes at the MSP airport, we werent assigned seats for the Amsterdam to Mumbai flight - we would have to checkin (again) once we reached Schipol. As our flight approached Amsterdam, I realized that we would have just about an hour and a half in Schipol !! The ticket we originally bought for our international travel was for a Northwest Airlines flight from MSP to B'lore, via Amsterdam. NWA aborted its plans for starting flights in this segment and we were stuck at the raw end of the deal in early Nov. - either a full refund or fly in thru mumbai and out thru delhi. The decision was a no brainer, and ofcourse, this sets the context for our seatless check in. As we approached the transit desk in Schipol, the computer network went down. After a few minutes wait, we were asked to go directly to the gates and were told that the staff there should be able to assign seats as well.

One of the cool things I married into is access to the knowledge base of a seasoned traveller. In Schipol, on the level above the one in which the gates are (follow signs to Lounge 40 - 41 invitation only), there is a rest room which has a shower in it! Its just before the invitation only lounge, and yups it is free !! After a quick shower, we realized that we had less than 20 minutes left, and rushed to the gate. The chocolates I had promised my sister would have to wait for another time.

The network wasnt yet up and we were asked to wait till all the other passengers had boarded the flight. After holding off till 5 minutes after the scheduled departure time, the lady at the desk called us over and informed us that we were upgraded to First class and had seats 4J and 1 H !!! I think it was while we were checking in in MSP, in reply to Sudha's pondering on whether we would get a seat at all in the Amsterdam - Mumbai flight, I had reasoned that maybe we will be given an upgrade to first class. Well, for a change what I said had come true !

NWA cancelling flights to B'lore after we bought the tickets had brought my distaste for a floundering airline industry up close and personal. Now, stretching out on a first class seat, after a heavy meal, I am glad that the storm brewed the way it did ! We hadnt heeded to the advise of a more cautious travel agent, the Amsterdam - Bangalore flight had been cancelled just at the right time, we got our tickets for the Amsterdam Mumbai flight just at the nick of time, the network going down in Schipol, two vacant seats in the business class, quite a few factors that brought about the perfect storm ... Well, actually the other face of the storm will only be seen when my sister realizes that we did not get even a single bar of chocolate ! I hope the first class travel accessories can be the compromise goodies :-)

Even as we were settling in the lap of luxury, one thing kept striking me again and again, there's so much space here ! After a few moments of surprise at discovering the various luxuries of first class travel, invariably the contrast of the luxuries of the first class area with the cramped spaces in the economy class hit me. On our Mumbai to Bangalore flight, it was a pleasant confirmation to realize that I felt more at home in the economy class travel.

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