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Published: October 10th 2017
Are flight attendants still living the life? Are there still exclusive airlines that set themselves apart from the rest?
There are but not many. It has all turned in to the same goal. Transport as many people as possible, as fast as possible, for as little money as possible and with as little frills as possible. At least that is the story for Air France.
It certainly wasn’t a bad flight, not at all but was it good? Was it different?
No, not really, it was the same as most of the other major airlines out there. The times of flying, as we knew it 80/90 years ago, is definitely a thing of the past. The glamorous stewardesses, the untouchable destinations. It all came to a grinding halt over the last 30 plus years. Having said that, it is what it is and we must make the best of it. If we want to travel the world and go places, we must suck it up and deal with the cards that are given to us.
And this is exactly what I did, Sunday afternoon when I checked in for my flight from Toronto to Mumbai via Paris. I had flown Air France before, about 4 years ago, to and from the same destination and so I was familiar with the airports involved, the layover and the stubborn French service or should we say communication style.
The flight was uneventful. We left on time, the food was pretty good, the entertainment system ancient but I received 3 seats to myself because of the fact a stewardess dropped a bag on my head from the overhead compartment when she opened it. The 3-seater was comfy. I could stretch out, had a snooze and 6.5 hours later, we landed safely at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. It was still early and quiet in Paris and this meant for an easy and quick transfer to my connecting area, where I found myself a Starbucks, a comfy chair and a nice Skype session with mom and dad. After all, they were now in the same time zone, 500 km to the north.
Charles de Gaulle isn’t your wow-airport like HongKong or Amsterdam. As a matter of fact, I thought the terminal where I was spending my 3 plus hours was worse than Toronto. The two “charging stations”, as they call them, didn’t seem to work well for Android equipment and USB ports are still not discovered here.
I had booked an emergency exit seat for my Paris-Mumbai flight, which was great for leg room but it turned out that it wasnt 100% amazing as the seats tend to be narrower, due to the fact the tray table is usually stowed away in the armrest. Anyway, I guess we are back to that saying about the cards that are being dealt.
8.5 hours to go… at least that is what the pilot announced when he came on the radio. Am I going to try and sleep or watch another movie. I mean how bad can “Wonder Woman” be? I ended up doing a little bit of both, a 30-minute nap, a bit of “Friends”, a 20-minute snooze and a little “Two And a Half Men”. You can never get enough “Two And a Half Men” in your life.
Perfectly on time we touched down at Mumbai International Airport, only for us to sit on the tarmac for about 20 minutes due to the fact our gate was in use by another aircraft. Thankfully this didn’t take up too much time and luckily for the dozens of babies, screaming their ears off and the stressed-out parents accompanying them, we were on our way pretty quick.
I forgot how big Mumbai’s new airport was, the walk was long and my eyes kept being pulled in to the brown carpet, that somehow smelled like I was in a 1970 smoke-only hotel. Customs was easy, it went fast but I believe the female customs officer was again trying to figure out which famous North American wrestler I was. She asked me to look into her camera 3 times, to the point where I was thinking of charging a fee. Was she sending these pictures to her friends on Whats-App? Eventually she said I passed the test and I was sent on my way to the luggage carousel where suitcases and cardboard boxes, in all shapes and sizes tried to win the race by posting faster lap times than their direct competition.
I had nothing to declare, except 12 cans of tuna, 18 protein bars and 3 little bottles of Mio but who needs to know. I left the terminal area and walked outside into a sea of cab drivers, family members and name signs. Luckily, I found mine fast and my shy 18-year-old private driver, shook my hand like I was a wet poodle who’s touch he was trying to avoid. My next India adventure was about to begin.
The driver was instructed to drop me off at the Kohinoor Continental Hotel not far from the International Airport. The drive wasn’t more than 10 minutes, I made my way in to the lobby and by the time I was served by the front desk and found out I was at the wrong hotel, my driver had magically vanished back into traffic. The hotel that was booked for me, was a sister property of the one I was at and the front desk offered to drive me over to the other place. Eagerly I accepted. I didn’t feel like hailing a cab at 2am in a city with 16 million people and really, all I wanted was to go to bed.
The 7-kilometre drive took 30 minutes and it was, so to speak, not a very charming one. I saw homeless people trying to get comfortable underneath the highway overpass, dogs trying to cross the road in search of food and potholes appeared out of nowhere as saying “don’t go this way”. Alleys were lined up with rickshaws, children were begging and the smell of raw sewage made my head spin.
The Kohinoor Elite, we were finally there but was I?This wasn’t the good-looking hotel I was used to when travelling to India? The rooms were small, bare to the bone, elevators were tiny and the front desk looked like a fold out table with a person in a suit behind it. No towels in the bathroom, no soap, no fitness facilities except the deserted building behind the property being used as a gym by the locals.
Later that evening I came to find out that the hotel is situated in a very rough part of town, an hour away from the office. Not efficient and not where I want to be. As I am writing this story to you I am waiting to see if a possible hotel change is in my near future.
Yes, my Mumbai adventure was about to begin but it had thrown a few different rules at me. For now though, it’s time for bed. I am exhausted. Tomorrow is another day.
Shubh raatri Mumbai!
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