You know how some people have tons of luck when it comes to travel, being upgraded from middle seats at the back of the plane to first class, or the hotel runs out of single rooms and substitutes a large suit for them? Yeah, I am not that person. This one is going to be a novel. Feel free to skip.
It started Wednesday when Delta called to tell me that my connecting flight from Mumbai to Chennai had been cancelled. They booked me on a later flight out of Mumbai. I was concerned because we have been cautioned not to go out alone, and I’d be arriving at 11:30 PM with 8 hours to kill. Luckily I found a hotel right inside the Mumbai airport and booked a room. I was glad to have gotten my travel issue solved. Not so fast…
The flight from Cincinnati was delayed thanks to severe thunderstorms that knocked out power for a few minutes at the airport. They couldn’t pull the plane to the gate to disembark, so our boarding was delayed. Twice. When we arrived in Paris, I asked a guide where to connect to K gates. He sent me to a security section that covered pretty much every other gate than K. It would have been awesome if I’d figured that out before clearing security and asking another guard how to get to K. Had to leave that section, take a bus, and go through security again. Hurried up to gate right as they were boarding.
Arrival in Mumbai only got worse. The flight attendant left me the wrong form while I dozed: the one for residents. So the man at immigration had me step aside to fill the right form out, then wait until he was open again to submit. Not so bad, only 5 minutes… Luggage came out (yay) and I proceeded to check it back in after customs. This is when it really got bad. The new airline that Delta booked me on said I had no reservation. I showed them the confirmation code, and that my luggage tags even showed me checked through to Chennai. He said I would have to go to Air France. I stepped aside to call Delta, who said everything was correct the system, and they could even see that Jet Airways had control of my reservation. I talked to the man again, to no avail. Dejectedly I walked to my in-terminal hotel and called the Jet Airways service center. Spoke with several people all of whom said they couldn’t help. By this point, Air France had closed down for the night.
Decided to settle into my room and get a few hours sleep then head to the airport ticket area first thing in the morning. I was looking for the bag with my allergy medication when I realized my backpack was missing. !!! I hurried out to the front of the hotel and asked if they had seen it. They said I didn’t have it with me when I checked in. So here is where kindness starts to come into play. The front desk clerk said he would take back to the connecting flight area and see if it was there. They wouldn’t let me in because they said I didn’t have a ticket. The hotel clerk took my ID back to the center and found my bag. They wouldn’t let him have it because it wasn’t his. He finally persuaded a guard to let me through and collect the bag. They even made me open the combination lock in front of them to prove it was mine. Whew! Crisis averted!!
I managed to get two hours of sleep and then checked out of the hotel. That same front desk clerk was waiting for me. He said he wanted to make sure I could get on the plane. First we went back to the connecting gate area. They still argued that I wasn’t booked on the flight. He argued back, and made them call Air France. That led to another long conversation. Finally Jet Airways agreed that I did have a reservation, but they could not check me in without further paperwork. Then the front desk clerk took me all the way up to the ticketing area where we met a Jet Airways rep. Again more arguing. They gave me a document that allowed me in the airport to check in. However, they claimed I was a domestic passenger and wouldn’t let me check two bags. And the weight allowance was much lower than for international. The check-in agent made me move things from on bag to another, then charged me $100. My new buddy stayed with me through it all, arguing with them about the fee and if I should be considered international or domestic. He escorted me to another area to pay the fee, and back to check in to finally, 90 minutes since this began, get my ticket. He even took me to security, gave me his card and told me to call if anything else happened.
So this blog entry reads like a book of travel woes and complaints, but to me, it is the story of how one amazing guy named Rohan went far, far out of his way to help a stranger. I was having such a travel nightmare, yet I was ok. I had Rohan. Can tell you without a single doubt that without him, I wouldn’t be tucked into my hotel in Chennai, ready to catch up on some sleep. I told him several times that I would be able to figure it out, yet he wouldn’t leave me. I even gave him a nice tip, knowing his work shift had ended. Still he stayed.
I wonder how often we have the opportunity to be a Rohan and instead act like all of the other employees I encountered. When someone asks us for directions, and we point instead of help. When a quick answer to a problem like mine can’t be found, we wish the person luck and walk away. You could argue that this was all part of his job, but I’d argue back that running around an airport for 60 minutes at 1 AM and another 90 minutes at 5 AM for one guest is not at all in his job description. He saw someone who needed help and generously gave it. What a gift to me! Truly. I will always remember that my first real contact in India was such a kind, generous person. And the next time someone asks me for directions or help, I hope to pay it forward.