The Terminal 2, starring Olga and Jordi, staged in New Delhi airport transfer facility

New Delhi Airport transfer facility

During the 3 days that we were traveling between Kathmandu and Yangon to get to Myanmar we had a great chance to feel a lot like Mr Navorski from the legendary Terminal movie, with the only difference being that the guy with no country couldn’t exit the airport and in our case we couldn’t exit the 100-square-metre ‘transfer hall’ of the spotless New Delhi airport. The story is very simple – since the direct flights to Yangon were too expensive and the best way to get out of Nepal was via Delhi we got a chain of three flights to get to Myanmar: Kathmandu – Delhi – Kuala Lumpur – Yangon, with approximately a day in between the flights in both Delhi and Kuala Lumpur. The latter was not a problem since we don’t need a visa so we could just walk out and visit the city. But India was a different story due to the visa stuff so we were predicting a day of waiting in the airport, with visions of all the usual little pleasures of the airport waiting - wandering around the spacious halls, walking into the perfume stores and smelling many many perfumes till the point when you no longer smell anything and even coffee beans wouldn’t help, reading the National Geographic and browsing through books at the book stores, then indulging yourself in a coffee, then reading, listening to the announcements and wondering whether a certain Mr Lee is going to make it to the flight as they are actually threatening to start offloading his luggage, etc etc.

Well, we still got some of the announcements at the Delhi airport, but the rest of the stuff never materialized as we ended up trapped for 26 hours in the tiny tiny transfer hall which had nothing but a few counters for some airlines with a few quite incomprehensive representatives. No shops, no coffee places (= no food or drinks), not even a vending machine, a guard on one side and a complete security check on the other. Every time we had to go to the toilet we had to report to the guy on the entry side. I wonder if Mr Navorski would have traded his few months in the whole airport for a day in this transfer hall :).

New Delhi Airport transfer facility

What happened? – well, nothing special except that’s the transfer facility as they have it in the New Delhi airport, and due to a whole set of – probably – very complex procedures that must make sense only and exclusively to the person who wrote them – they would only let people access the normal departure space with the old-fashioned boarding card that needed to be issued by the flight personnel. So here is simple maths – if your flight is in 26 hours, then you will exit the transit hall (I will call it hole from now on as that’s what it was in essence) in 24, point. We did have the print-outs of our boarding passes for the next flight with Air Asia but they couldn’t be classified as boarding cards by the Delhi airport stuff that we talked to, and of course there was no one to issue the old-fashioned type that they seemed to like so much in India. Well, here comes the silver lining – they had some chairs for sleeping (I guess the maniac who designed the process of trapping people in the transfer hole and watching them suffer could predict that some might need to sleep).

For the next 24 hours a couple of those chairs was all we had, plus a couple of sandwiches that they brought from the “other side” to feed the hungry crowd. In fact, these sandwiches were such a rare commodity that they were gone almost as soon as they brought some (well, imagine a few dozen hungry people, no cafes, 10 sandwiches - and do your math). Our first day was ok – we enjoyed the novelty of the situation, tried to do some reasoning with the airport personnel about our boarding passes (to no avail), then just reconciled ourselves to the whole thing and settled to reading and sleeping.

New Delhi Airport transfer facility

Now and then we would have a free entertainment program at the security gate – one was especially interesting and kept us in suspense for a while, as a very angry and assertive guy was trying to convince the security guards that it was ok if he brings his 10 kilos of climbing rope on the plane (maybe he climbed Everest with it, who knows... in any case on top of any emotional value the rope had for him it’s also extremely expensive), but the guards just kept telling him that it’s against the regulations, so it went on and on, and after some time the guy who you could see straight away that he never had any intention to strangle any pilots in order to hijack a plane, started to look like he was ready to strangle those guards. In the end since they didn’t manage to reach a consensus, the whole thing got escalated to probably the highest airport manager on the shift, and when this manager guy appeared, from then on it was like watching a practice part of some conflict-resolution-skills seminar. The guy would attack, the manager would resist, the guy would come up with more arguments and more reasons and the manager would just patiently let him talk, the guy would shout and the manager would simply shake his head... Guess what, patience combined with authority wins – in the end the guy didn’t manage to get through the security check with his rope so even though he had a “proper” boarding pass he was “advised” to join us in the transfer hole. When he heard the suggestion, he asked a series of very smart questions that amused all of us who were already trapped there: “Is there a hotel?” “Ah, no, so where do I sleep?” “Ah, this is all there is!!! And where are the restaurants?” On getting his answers from the same polite manager, he had no choice but to join us and spent the next couple of hours sulking over the whole thing with his precious rope still with him until he finally could get out to the departure space (which we didn’t see since we were sound asleep by then)...

Another amusing part of that night’s program was watching two cute Russian kids play with the security guards and making these ever-serious guys smile. These two would just cross beneath what a grown-up would perceive as a barrier, run around in that very free world of theirs where a piece of wire at a level higher than their heads is not a real reason not to cross...

Well, anyway, as to us, we tried talking to different guys about our boarding passes but with the same result like the angry guy with the climbing rope, so next morning we woke up in our chairs to face another 14 hours or so of waiting. This day was a bit harder as yesterday’s guy with the sandwiches was not there (probably made enough profit on the 10 pieces he sold the day before to retire) and we had no food except some peanuts. So we had to ask those “chosen ones” in the airport uniforms who could cross between the sides if they could fetch someone with some food. After we were asking several times for a couple of hours they fetched another guy with exactly the same sandwiches, so we were able to stock ourselves on 4 of them (the rest of the stock in the “shop” was acquired by a hungry tough-looking guy (transporter type) who was sitting next to us and as far as we understood from his brief talk with the airport staff was a reporter traveling to Afghanistan). So we got some food, and later - some water (a girl approached us and donated two bottles as otherwise she would have to leave it to the security guys)...

On comfortable Air Asia plane from New Delhi to Yangon

Well, as usual the story gets a little bit worse just before getting better – we were waiting and waiting and waiting till someone from Air Asia would rescue us but the time of our flight was getting closer and closer and there was no-one. The flight was checking in and still there was no-one... We were thinking that technically for the guys in Air Asia we were already checked in so no-one would even notice until we would become the laughing stock of the people in the airport as the charming voice in the announcements would be calling our names warning that “they will proceed to offload our luggage”... We asked all the managers available in that transfer facility to call someone and they kept telling us someone’s coming... Roughly 1.2 hour before the take-off time two Malaysian guys from Air Asia finally came and issued us the precious old-fashioned boarding cards. We could go to the security check! Oh, the smell of freedom... Wait, it gets a tiny bit worse – as we showed the boarding cards to the security guy the old-fashioned part was fine, but it turned out the Air Asia guys had forgotten to put some cross somewhere on it, but by that time they were gone!.. As I heard the security guy announcing to us that we needed to find someone to draw those crosses when there were about 40 minutes left till the take-off of our flight, I couldn’t help telling him - very politely of course – what I think about the possibility of him making us hunt for someone eligible to put a cross on our otherwise perfect boarding passes, after we had been waiting in the brilliant transfer facility for 26 hours with chances of us being late for the flight growing higher and higher...

As I was telling him this, some manager happened to be nearby and he must have created a precedent in that curious transfer procedure of theirs, but they let us go and we passed the check and were able to catch the plane on time! That’s where it got better and continued very well ever since. The happy end of this Terminal 2 movie takes place on board of comfortable Air Asia plane, with me and Jordi drinking some champagne to celebrate our liberation from the Indian airport… (just kidding :), but only about the champagne part).

Our next stop was Kuala Lumpur – we got our entry stamps, left the bags and went to see the famous towers, got amazed by how clean and comfortable the city is and caught our last flight – to Yangon.

Current Comments

1 comments so far (post your own)

Cet article sur est digne signet à mon avis. Il vaut la peine d'économie pour référence future. C'est une lecture fascinante avec de nombreux points valides pour la contemplation. Je dois d'accord sur presque tous les points faite dans cet article. and Happy New Year!

Posted by Winnie on Friday, 01.3.14 @ 19:08pm | #2446

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