Sunday, April 27, 2008

The brand new airport

I saw it. That brand new Hyderabad airport. As we drove closer and closer, I realized I was actually excited to see what its like on the inside.

The first thing that strikes you as you exit the road and drive towards the airport is that there is no sight of it ;) You have to drive a good 6 KMS after taking the exit to reach the airport. So much to the inside. Hmm..things look good already.

I had to collect my new ticket (as I had postponed my trip back to Bangalore twice) from the Air India counter. Everything was shiny new. Of course it will wear. And I pray hard that they maintain this place well. I would hate to see it covered with pan stains a year from now. I say, they should execute whoever spits on this building, it was really that shiny.

Surprisingly no lines anywhere. Even Air India/Indian Airlines counters were well staffed and quite efficient. I went to this glass paneled counter, and noticed there was no opening for me to speak to the person on the other side. I was wondering how she would hear me, and then I saw it. A neat black round thing which sat quietly outside the glass and said "microphone" on it. I was impressed. I don't think I've seen such counters in any government run facility earlier.

I took my ticket and went in. The carts for the luggage were also brand new and I really had to hold the handle down to prevent it from braking ;) I went to the check-in counters and was generally looking around trying to take the sights in. Hmm..every counter equipped with an LCD monitor, attendants checking people in, airline staff giving directions. Seemed pretty normal. So what is the big deal. Why did they make such a noise about this airport? WAIT...this is not Singapore. This is not Kuala Lumpur. This is Hyderabad!!!!!! This is not NORMAL for Hyderabad. Yes, then I remembered that old Begumpet airport. Although it was one of the better Indian airports I have seen, it was a FAR CRY from what was in front of me. It was as if someone transported one of those world famous airports right into the city. When you have consistently seen good, great, amazing airports for over 5 years, you begin to undervalue it when you see an equally good one. So yes, this airport was amazing that way.

Added to the splendor of the airport itself, there is the Indian convenience. As soon as I got off the cab, someone came by asking if I had any luggage and needed any help. I saw a lot of people, some coming, some going, and in general everyone making noise. Every thing was written in English, followed by Hindi, followed by Telugu. Now I'd give a hand and tooth any day to see those two languages at a world-class airport :D

I went in to clear security after check-in and guess what, I was directed to the "last counter", I was wondering what it was all about. Yeah, if you already guessed, full points to your spontaneity. Of course, it was the "ladies" security post. Just for us gals ladies! Imagine that. Of course I never beep through the detector at any airport and I have been through quite a few over Europe, South East Asia and the US. But, I beeped at the Hyderabad airport. Better security detectors? Any one's guess. The lady checked me and sent me off on my way. Wow!

Then I went to the gate. I was a full two hours ahead of time so was looking forward to getting bored. The lounges are world-class too. I mean the ones at the gate. Very spacious, very well lit. 15 ft between any row's last chair and the nearest wall/glass/partition. Yeah, that spacious. I sat down for a bit, called a lot of people, then reverted back to watching the airport and the buzz.

I decided to grab something to eat. Just for the heck of "eating at the airport", before I left for the airport, I had curd rice you see;) So I went to the nearest "Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf". Yeah, there is more US in India than I would like to see :( I don't want to see the US here at all. I wanted to go away from it. Why don't we open our own brands and not just have Subways and other things like that! Well, I guess US is still the rage here. Or maybe its just the Subways and the KFCs getting really entrepreneurial and tapping the potential of the Indian food space. Whatever it is, I don't particularly like it.

I ordered a Veggie Pie (yeah, the brands are American but the food they sell is totally desi, if you eat a Veggie Delite from an Indian SUBWAY, you will know exactly what I mean;) Its way superior to the Veggie Delite you get in the US). The Veggie Pie costs INR 120!! Man, I don't think I will ever eat at the airport again. What it costs virtually gave me a stomach ache;)

I checked out the shops and the HUGE screen showing Indian ads and cricket news and a bunch of other potpourri. Cool! Then while I was coming back to the gate I realized that the glass between the lounge and the inside of the gates actually had things etched in it. Like a picture of Birla Mandir which said "Birla Mandir | Hyderabad", a picture of Vidhan Soudha which said "Vidhan Soudha | Bangalore", other ones like "Hussain Sagar | Hyderabad", "High Court | Bangalore" etc. But the best I saw was some letters etched in the glass which said "Tamil Script". This is something I haven't seen in any airports. Of course, they do have some shady pictures of the famous symbols in that city/country etc. But etched into glass with such precision, well, as far as I remember, I haven't seen it anywhere. Hurray!!

I was so engrossed in observing everything and just lazing around that I didn't realize the time till Subhash called and said it was 9.30. And my flight was at 9.40!! And the gate I was sitting at still showed the earlier flight and which still said delayed. I hurried out of my slumbered-daze and went to the nearest LCD monitor to check my gate. I heard an announcement for our flight just then and waited to confirm that this was the right gate and hurried down to that gate. Got into an Indian Airlines bus, got off at the plane and got into it. I was reading the AI magazine, I think it was called "Namaskar" and an article in it about our seasons, I found fascinating. Greeshma, Varsha, Sharad, Hemant, Shishir and Vasant all our seasons and festivals, fruits and activities associated with each of these seasons. The pictures were bright and colourful :) The air hostesses brought out Veggie brunches and man, was it amazing. Sandwiches, Veggie Spring Rolls, something that resembled a cutlet and a Veggie filled bun. Pineapple juice and water to go with it. Did I ever mention in my blog how I fly Air India where and when I can? I simple love their food. I hear a lot of grumpy people complain about it but excepting old aircraft and hostesses (both of which I don't particularly care about), I haven't had problems with their in-flight amenities. Always good food, timely luggage delivery and on-time flights. I am not so sure I care about the rest;) Personal TV screens they do have on some of their Boeing fleet, but hey, I sleep for as much time as I can on the flight so what do I care about that. In fact 80% of the time, I've flown Air India, and when I haven't, unless its Singapore airlines, I have almost ALWAYS had a problem with misplaced luggage.

I got off at Bangalore, took a pre-paid Karnataka Government taxi and went straight to Cisco. Feeling content and happy to be back home, to be back in India. To be surrounded by its sights and sounds and smells wherever I go. Not wanting to leave it again anytime soon:)


Deepu said...

abba...kallaku kattinattu rasavu.. kewll .. HYD airport chala baagundi.. to read about. i am waiting to see it sometime soon.

by the way.. i hv no complaints too with AI.. i have always enjoyed my flight, food and all .. hehe :)

Random thots said...

Very nice...I may see it very soon

DivSu said...

Thanks Deeps! Yeah, you should see the airport ;)

Lahari, you coming to India soon?

sachin said...

Well I have seen the Hyd Airport, to say the very least I was disappointed. We need to catch up. By the way it is not maintained by Govt. It is not complete yet and I cannot even compare that to the third best terminal at Detroit airport. Yeah thats where I live now. This is not a complaint, I want Indians to compete, compete at an international level. We boast a lot, but do little to match that. As for the security, its a joke. I can go on and on.....


DivSu said...

Hi Sachin

Well, you should take into account a lot of things before you compare anything in the US with anything in India. Sorry, but I usually don't tolerate people comparing India to the US and saying roads are cleaner, airports are better, traffic rules are followed bla bla bla.. especially when India has a very severe infrastructural disadvantage when compared to the US (1/4th the area and 4x the population). I never let anyone say that in front of me and get away without having a piece of my mind.

We boast yes, its unhealthy. I agree. We do a little and then we celebrate a lot. But that aside, why don't you compare the Hyderabad airport with the older Hyderabad airport. Its a far cry and we have come a long way. I wish people would dwell on the positive end and look to the brighter side of things. But more often than not people are pessimists. They insist on pulling down every small achievement. Moderation is good, pessimism is not.

Yes, its not maintained by the Government which is all the more reason for us to hope it will continue to be better and not get worse.

We need to catch up yes. No one is saying we are all there and arrived completely. But we are at least trying to run along in the race and that is what you should appreciate. Catching up doesn't happen over-night and far less with just building a couple of squeaky airports.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy Detroit ;)

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