Let’s be honest. Indian air travel, or travel in general, is not the same as America. It took us nearly 20 hours to get from Hyderabad to Kathmandu, what in the States would have been a 3 hour flight. I thought I was prepared for an overnight layover in an Indian airport, but I have learned my lesson. Namely, never fly Air India!
Thrilled to fly Air India!
The problem is, sometimes Air India is your only reasonable option. We were supposed to arrive in Delhi around 11 pm, and so I prepared for a long, uncomfortable night at the gate. I didn’t expect to be able to get food or water, so packed snacks and extra water to get us through the night. In short, we didn’t get to our gate until 5:30 am, after a battle with Air India, 4 hours waiting to check in, and 2 hours being detained at immigration. I started to feel like Viktor Navorski in The Terminal, only I was stuck in Delhi, not JFK. Evan’s worst nightmare! When we did reach the gate at 5:30, we realized the gate was the home of every mosquito in Delhi, and I had put the bug spray in the checked baggage. I slept with a blanket as my only defense, only waking up when Evan swatted another mosquito off of me, my ever brave defender.
And so, here is the deal. In India, you can’t switch seamlessly from domestic to international flights. You have to view domestic and international as two completely different airports. Beyond that, India (and perhaps elsewhere) does not allow you to check in for a flight more than 2 hours (typically) before it leaves. And so, even though we were flying the same airline, on, to my western mind, a connecting flight, to Air India, I was a brand new passenger who showed up to the airport 8 hours before my flight left. And so, we were stranded. We did skype with Sarabeth and Andy for 40 minutes, had 2 bomb scares from baggage left by Americans who had come to India to find themselves, and a lot of checking the time. So, in way of advice, don’t fly Air India. They have absolutely no customer service, and as the manager on duty told me, “I will do nothing to help you.” At least he was honest!
If you are flying in similar parts of the world, and planning on spending the night in the airport, here are a few packing tips.
1. Head Pillow – I wrapped mine in a white pillow case so it could be cleaned when we got back and I’m not placing my head on filth the next time I use it.
2. A blanket – even though it is 108 here, the airports and planes can be shockingly cold
3. Toothbrushes and mouth wash – also remember to bring bottled water as you may not be able to find a shop open with it late at night at the airport
4. Tissues or Toilet Paper – though most airports will have this, you don’t ever want to count on it. I’ve been in as many that are stocked as I have those that aren’t.
5. Medicine – I take this with me whenever I leave the house for more than a few hours
– Pain Reliever
– First Aid Supplies
– RX Meds