In General

The US Visit Travelogue

Notes from the Chennai Airport

Great Online Facility. Bad Offline Facility : We landed up at the airport two hours before departure as required by British Airways. Earlier, I had checked in online via, chose my seat and also my meal preferences. Inspite of doing all this in advance, I was made to wait in a serpentine queue for two hours just to get my boarding pass. I can?t believe how can the first flight of the day can be late for take-off.

Slothy Money Exchanger: And to make the start even worse, the guy at the American Express counter at the airport was slower than an injured sloth. All I needed was to change some Indian rupees to US dollars and there were just three people in the queue. Even after 45 minutes of standing in the queue, I never got the change to have my money changed. Grrrr..

I Want to be a Minister: While we were all waiting at the boarding queue, there was a frentic activity at the airport. I turned over to see T.R Balu, the Central Minister for Shipping along with his political followers of not less than 20 members, police officers and aiport officials walk straight past us to the waiting plane. I definitely want to be a Politician in power!

Notes from British Airways Flight from Chennai to London.

Why Provide an Ashtray? There are numerous signs inside the toilet which say ?No Smoking? and warns of fines upto $2000 if the smoke detectors are tampered. Strangely after all those warning, they have a big ashtray prominently displayed. Strange.

Airlines, Please Move With the Times: I was a little surprised to know that there is no laptop charging facility provided for Economy class passengers in the British Airways flight. This facility is only available for business class passengers. That?s such a pity. With increasing proliferation of laptops, it makes sense for Airlines to quickly offer this facility. I mean, its not going to suck in a lot of power. With most laptops lasting less than three hours of full charge, folks quickly run out of power in a 10 hours flight.

Notes from London Heathrow Airport

Wi-Fi Only for the Rich: There is wireless Internet connection at the Airport ( says ?Excellent?) from T-mobile. Unfortunately, it is only for Business class passengers and available for free at the Business class lounge. The rest of the folks will have to make do with a PCO like internet kiosk. Charge one pound for 15 minutes. Tch Tch.

Wanted: Meeting Time : I have my cousin brother staying in London. Even though I have close to three hours transit window time to catch my connecting flight, I cannot meet up with him. That?s a pity. It would be good to have a facility to have a quick meeting inside the airport without leaving the premises.

Missed Opportunity: I could have properly planned the visit in such a way that I could have taken a three day break at London and looked around the place. Have a few friends here in the city and this would?ve been a good chance for me to make better use of the travel opportunity.

5th Ave at Heathrow: I?m at Terminal 4 at Heathrow and there sure are some swank shops here. All terribly and prohibitively expensive. I actually didn?t see too many people buying anything. Most were just window shopping.

Nice Money Exchanger: I wanted to change some Indian rupees to US dollars and the exchange rate is a really bad Rs.93 a dollar. Holy crap. That?s nearly twice the Indian exchange rate. The lady at the Amercian Express money exchange counter was kind enough to advise me to change it directly in the US.

Bad Mistakes :It?s crazy to see the kind of mistakes that airlines do. The information in my boarding ticket says I need to go to Gate 40 to catch my connecting flight. After walking around and searching for it, I get to hear from the airport staff that Heathrow Airport does not have a gate 40. The British Airways guys have mistakenly printed Gate 14 as Gate 40. Geez!

Notes from the British Airways Flight BA113 ? London to New York

Tensed: Filled up the Immigration form. Less tensed than last time. Still looking forward to the interview with the immigration officer on landing. Unlike last time, I should remember to speak loud. The cabin air pressure in the flight can lessen your hearing ability. Your voice is considerably lower than you think it is. Got to be careful about this.

Eat Well : I remembered to eat properly on the plane. No use landing hungry and tired. The appetite definitely nosedived towards the end of the journey. I assume this is because of sheer inactivity in the plane.

Peace & Quiet: My inflight entertainment TV wasn?t working and this actually is a blessing in disguise. I needed to do some thinking and the tranquillity is exactly what I needed. I also caught up on sleep. I?m glad. The seat next to mine remained empty. This automatically became the luggage storage seat. On the other side is a nun from Mexico who didn?t know a single word of English. Perfect.

Old but Really Good: The flight attendants were surprisingly greying middle aged men. But very courteous and very professional. They are always smiling and ever willing to show their sense of humor.

Aaargh, my Ears!! The flight is about 20 minutes away from landing and it is descending. The air pressure inside the aircraft is horrible. My ear drums are *this* close to bursting. It is crossing the uncomfortable level and entering the pain area. I wish airlines could do something about this.