Looks like I am developing a thing with airport chaos.
Arrived at Delhi 7:30 PM on Saturday, to board JFK flight of Air India at 12:45, experienced a flight delay managed quite badly. Two other AI flights got cancelled, and no formal reason was told, but heard that it was due to fog. Even when 500+ passengers were waiting at the terminal, no formal announcement was made. Contrary to the repeated announcement requests that were being made to two individuals ( who might have lost themselves in the fog) to board the plane. At around 1 AM, when there was no sign of boarding, everyone started enquiring and found out through the display that flights were delayed. Surprisingly, it seemed as if fog affected only AI flights because 4 other flights were taking off right at that moment.
To handle enraged 500 passengers (of 3 flights), only one or two officers came forward. They too did not have proper answers to the questions of what, when, how regarding flight, luggage etc. Situation got even worse when few people started shouting and fighting.
We were then assured of hotel. But the process to take us outside, cancel the boarding pass , immigration (there were some transit passengers whose passports were retained much to their confusion) etc was chaotic and delayed. No priority was given to elder passengers, children or even first class passengers. Most of the times, the irate but patient passengers met with clueless officers.
By the time we were checked in to the hotel, it was 3:15 AM to be back to airport by 7 AM. However, boarding did not happen till 9:30 or so (with few other drama), take off happened at around 11:30 AM. That quite well made me miss my bus to SC.
Given that fog is quite regular and expected at Delhi, wonder why the management (of AI or Delhi airport) do not have proper crisis management procedures with more clarity among their officers and good communication protocols. It would have been better (for them and us) if they provided food at airport instead of checking us into hotel for couple of hours.
On the positives, there were even more inconvenient stories (there are always so many different stories !) – one bus taking 2 hours to reach the hotel which was 15 minutes away, not having proper heating in hotel, having missed many flights, missed baggage and what not. Also, I did not have to wait whole day for the bus in the cold NYC, instead I waited in the airport in Delhi !
Having been through much more terrifying, unforeseen, unpredictable incident (earth quake) in a foreign land of unknown language (http://ravikiran.wordpress.com/2010/08/10/chile/), I was quite comfortable to realize that here, ground is strong and situation is stable. I even was smiling to myself all the time, especially when I saw the passengers shouting at the officers. I was calm through out and not for a minute did I stress out thinking about the consequences, for I knew the doubt was about ‘when’ and not ‘if I take-off’.
PS: Oh yeah, Penn State jerseys help. It was good to talk to Penn Staters at Delhi airport and on the plane, and one such person was helpful to travel to State College.