On my return from a business trip to Dehradun, I found myself continuously tweeting at the Dehradun airport slamming what was utterly shambolic behaviour of ground staff of SpiceJet.
My frustration emanated from the unannounced delay of the Dehradun-New Delhi flight, scheduled to depart at 1735 hours. Given that the Grant Jolly Airport in Dehradun is away from the city, I didn’t want to take a risk and arrived at the airport with at least over two hours to spare.
My ‘business’ in the the tourist capital of beautiful Uttarakhand entailed a BIG EXCLUSIVE interview with the Chief minister, Harish Rawat. I was hoping to actually keep the ‘exclusivity’ of the interview and in order to do so it had to go on jantakareporter.com at the right time. Sooner rather than later. The CM was appearing before the CBI in Delhi and he had said some explosive stuff in my interview.
Confident that I will be home by 20.00 hrs, I was quite looking forward to my Delhi-bound flight until I arrived at the check-in desk.
The ground staff of Spice Jet greeted me with a wry smile, offered me my boarding pass before informing me that the flight’s scheduled departure had been delayed and the new estimated time of leaving was 18.15 hrs.
This was not the news I was expecting to hear. I frowned at the staff and enquired why they had not cared to inform the passengers through text messages, as is the standard procedure with most airlines. The chap at the counter looked the other way!
Meanwhile, the weather had started to deteriorate quite rapidly and soon we were witness to incessant rain coupled with a thunderstorm. It looked quite menacing through the glass wall of the airport.
As the rainfall gained momentum, the waiting passengers began to get visibly restless. There were many passengers, who had to take connecting flights to Singapore, Mumbai and Goa. The delay in Dehradun-New Delhi flight was bound to have a knock on impact on their subsequent flights.
When I confronted, a clueless ‘senior’ SpiceJet staff, he said that the flight’s new departure time ‘could be’ sometime after 1900 hrs.
“Could be? Sometime after 1900 hrs?” I challenged the man asking for a definitive piece of information.
But, he remained clueless, prompting me to take to the microblogging site.
It had been almost five hours for most of us at a tiny airport, with no access to decent food. So, when the flight finally took off at around 2000 hrs (versus the scheduled 1735 hours) it was natural for our attention to desperately shift to the in-flight menu card. There, I spotted the rice, dal and paneer option and it became almost impossible for me to control my hunger pang anymore.
I impatiently waited for the flight attendant to come my way, but they appeared busy giving attention to passengers sitting in the front row- four seats away from me.
I asked to speak to the head of the cabin crew, Ekta Pancholi. I asked why everybody appeared to be giving undivided attention to three passengers in the front row.
“They must be VIPs, right?” I asked sarcastically.
Pancholi replied, “yes sir, They indeed VIPs. They are LK Advani and his family.”
“Ok, he’s indeed a VIP and perhaps does deserve the attention,” I agreed.
Pointing towards the rice, dal and paneer option, I enquired about food.
Pancholi said that the only meal I could buy in that flight was some Manchurian.
“Alternatively, you can buy dry fruits or salted peanuts,” she suggested.
This was enough to flip the lid of any well fed, satiated man; I was a man with a heavy heart and an empty stomach. I angrily told her that there was no point having a menu if I couldn’t eat the meal of my choice after having gone through hours of ordeal for no fault of mine.
I told her that there appeared to be absolutely nothing inspiring about SpiceJet.
“First, hours of unannounced delay and now you are refusing to serve me the meal you are proudly flaunting in your own menu card. You are giving me one more reason not to ever fly with Spice,” I said in complete frustration.
Pancholi, who was patiently listening to me up until now said, “I’m sorry for what you and other passengers have been through tonight. Can I make some amends please and offer you my meal, which is precisely what you want to eat.”
I rejected the proposal saying that even though I was hungry, I was not prepared to eat up somebody else’s food.
“That will be wholly unethical,” I said.
But Pancholi appeared equally determined and said, “Don’t worry sir. There’s nothing unethical about it. Please allow me to serve you that meal.”
She kept insisting until I agreed.
All my anger caused by a couple of unprofessional airline ground staff had evaporated by an extraordinary display of kindness by one senior employee of the same airline.
Her gesture had left me humbled. I asked her if I could tweet her photo appreciating her gesture. I informed her how I was frequently tweeting expressing my anger when things were going horribly wrong at the airport.
“It’s only appropriate that I inform my followers on social media platform about this pleasant experience.”
The senior flight attendant said that taking her photo would severely undermine her position in her company suggesting that I could alternatively send my feedback to the relevant department via email.
For me, this experience brought home the point about the significance of workforce while flying the flag for the company they are employed in.
It took the sheer professionalism of one employee to change the negative perception about her company. Whilst, I had made up my mind not to ever fly Spicejet, I would now do so only to pay tribute to this senior flight attendant Ekta Pancholi’s gesture.