How not to do things in India

#37 – Fly with Spicejet with any hope of retaining your sanity

1.  You need to take a flight out of Pune. Despite not being overly thrilled with their service before, you choose “India’s most preferred airline” as they offer the most convenient timings.

2. At the airport, you screen your little stroller, which will go in the hold, through the CISF scanner.  You then realise you have to scan the bag again through the airline’s scanner, which you do.

3. You inform the stooge looking at the screen that the three jars in your bag contain biscuits, honey, and pickle.

4. You express surprise at being asked to open the bag to show him the jars.  On not receiving any answer but a standard “For security reasons” after repeated questioning, you decide to humour him.

5. You express bemusement when told that you cannot carry two of the jars as they contain liquid food products, which have been packed at home, and there is the risk that they may leak.

6. You point out that the plastic bottles are wrapped in paper, covered all over in masking tape, and placed in ziploc bags.  You further note that whether they leak or not is not his problem, surely, but yours and if you are happy with the packaging what goes of his mother. And you remind him that they are all going into the hold anyway, not the cabin, so there are no limitations as to what you can carry so why is he creating a fuss.

7. You look around for hidden TV cameras, convinced you’re being set up for a prank show, when he proclaims that there are “limitations on how much liquid can be carried in hold luggage”, and that his airline is responsible if the products leak and spoil bags.

8. On realising he’s being serious, you point out that -a) No airline in the world has restrictions on carrying food or liquids in the hold luggage.
b) In the 22 years since you first got on a plane, not one airline in any of the dozens of cities you have flown out of has ever cared about what’s in the hold luggage before getting on the plane.
c) His own airline has no such rules stated on their website, their tickets, or even at the airport itself.
d) Even if they did, and for some reason had hidden it from public view, the same airline had never objected when you had carried such goods several times before – from the same airport.
e) He doesn’t seem to be worried that the bottles of shampoo, shave gel and moisturising lotion also contained in the same bag might leak – even though they are not sealed or packaged.

9. After five minutes of attempting reason, and realising your flight is soon to depart, you demand to see his superior.

10. You shake your head and draft in the support of fellow passengers when the Shitejet’s senior security officer backs up the stooge.

11. You offer to pack the jars up with their own tape and paper, which is on their desks, till they are satisfied with its condition.  And finally explode in anger when they say it doesn’t matter how much you pack it, because the contents are liquid, and they may leak, and they won’t clear your bag till you leave the jars behind.

12. You once again go back to demanding to see where these rules are written, and wonder if you’re in a Kafka novel when you’re told that not all the rules have to be declared publicly, and it’s a rule because they say so, and that’s the end of that because they’re in charge and your plane leaves in 20 minutes and you’re not taking those jars in your bag.

13. You ponder briefly, yet again, at the old adage about the petty tyranny of minor bureaucrats, and the slavish adherence to idiotic rules that is the hallmark of modern air-travel the world over.

14. You demand that they give their reasons to you in writing, and after suppressing your editorial instincts at the one badly written line of explanation, insist they sign alongside their names to validate the note.  And almost, almost punch a pillar when they refuse to do so, claiming they “are not authorised to sign any paper, or stamp it” (but decide you don’t hate your knuckles).

15. Realise that this is one of those rare occasions that you regret not having a smartphone to be able to record this conversation, and highlight the state of your jars, and highlight it to the airline via Twitter.  Instead, you pass the jars onto one of the airport cleaning staff, taking scant consolation that you just made somebody less fortunate than you a little happier (and healthier).

16. You use the time before the flight departs to write a courteous, yet indignant, letter inquiring if they really do have such rules and if so where eet ees and why.

17. You wait for three days after receiving an initial standard response.

18. You send off another mail, reiterating your points.

19. You wait another two days, before sending out yet another mail.

20. You worry about the quality of English being taught in Indian schools, the paucity of qualified staff in the customer-service business in this country, and the soreness in your strained vocal chords after reading their eventual answer, which states:
We would like to inform as per the SpiceJet’s Conditions of Carriage of perishables are to be removed from the check-in luggage. SpiceJet will not accept responsibility for these items”.

21.  You escalate the matter by writing to the Nodal Officer, pointing out the blatant falsehood in their explanation, as the Conditions of Carriage do not mention anything of the sort.

22. You wait. Without expectation.

23. And you vow that, no matter how urgent and how price-attractive and how convenient it may be, you will never ever fly with this airline again. And will go on a lifelong rantcrusade to convince anybody you can not to either.  And will from now and forever more, refer to it only by the name that (to you) utterly defines its service –
Shitejet.

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