Published: November 21st 2010November 1st 2010
Can We Go Now?
Phoebe takes a rest on Nick's pack
In my last blog I had finished with us whizzing off to Heathrow in the back of Andrew's car, to quote “All was right and good in the world at that point. We were packed, everything was sent off, Lentil had been sold, Phoebe had turned 8 and we had got to see a show in London. We were well and truly ready to leave and looking forward to four weeks in India...the last leg of our big trip!”
Excited? Yes, we sure were. So when we handed our passports over to the check-in lady for Kingfisher Airlines we were expecting a few formalities, rubber stamp, weigh the bags etc. Instead she pursed her lips, flicked through our passports, pursed her lips again, flicked through our passports again. Then she frowned, uh-oh I thought, this doesn't look good. She muttered something about visas. So....this is the point at which I feel we should explain ourselves. The truth is, that in the busy lead up to going away, selling Lentil, celebrating Phoebe's birthday, we had just not looked into what the visa situation was. We had a faint idea that we could get a visa on arrival, at least it certainly
Our Friend Mike
Good ol' Mike who gave us his room
wasn't mentally flagged as something we needed to get onto, so therefore we assumed, it must have been unimportant. How wrong we were! The check-in lady's supervisor came over and informed us that New Zealand passport holders were allowed a visa on arrival, Australian passport holders however, could not. We wheeled our baggage away to come to terms with this news and do some fast thinking. No problems we thought, postpone the flights and organise an express visa for Phoebe and I the next day, a minor set back.
The ticketing lady, an obtuse French national, who clearly could not care less about flights to India, refused to book us flights as it was clear we did not have visas. After some begging she lent her phone to us to make a few phone calls. First the Indian Consulate in London to see what the visa turn around time was. Even the after hours line was re-directing to an answering service. Fine, we would just take a leap of faith and book flights for a few days time. Called Kingfisher (who apparently would change flights for us despite the lack of visas) and here is about the best approximation
An Artists Impression of the Airport Scene
The three of us all looking rather fed up and tired
of my experience with that:
HOLD, HOLD, HOLD,
30 minutes later
Me: “Can I postpone our flights to Friday?”
Kingfisher: “I'll just put you on hold to check”
HOLD, HOLD, HOLD,
another 30 minutes later
Kingfisher: “Sorry, you'll need to call back and press 2, you've pressed 3 and come to the re-scheduling flights line”,
Me:“Hmm, but that's what I'm trying to do?”
Kingfisher: “Oh but your booking was an online booking, you need to speak to online.”
Me: dials back and presses 2 this time
HOLD HOLD HOLD HOLD HOLD, more annoying conversations, HOLD, HOLD, HOLD, HOLD
Well, you get the idea. You know, I don't know how many times I've heard people complain about Indian call centres, and I have always been the first to rush in and defend their speed, knowledge and efficiency. To cut the rest a long, whinging story short we eventually rescheduled our flights for five days time, after 2.5 hours on the phone to Kingfisher. By the time I hung up half the airport had shut up shop. Nick and Phoebe, meanwhile waited patiently at my side.
We checked in to the airport hotel for the night, scrounged around for some food, which at 10.30pm a packet of crisps and a sandwich was about all we could find. We set to work straight after food, trying to find information on how long it would take to get a visa. Eventually I rang a visa agent who advertised 24 hour service. “Oh sure”, he said “just bring in your passport and a copy of an electricity bill or something to prove your residency”. I told him I wasn't a resident... “Australian passport? No that would take at least 3 or 4 weeks”. Further hunting around confirmed this, and also informed us that for Phoebe extra, time consuming paperwork would be required. As our time scheduled for India was only four weeks it seemed the Indian dream was quickly fading.