I’ve been in couple of flights before but this would be my first International, Intercontinental flight. As in my previous post, the flight was scheduled to depart at 23:40 from Mumbai on Nov 20 and arrive in Newark, New Jersey at 05:25 AM. And then the connecting flight from Newark, NJ to Austin, Texas was scheduled to leave at 07:15 and arrive in Austin, Texas at 10:25. Like most other things, (surprise, surprise) this too didn’t as per plan.
Let me start from scratch.
Before leaving from Mumbai, I had to get there, that was via the 15:15 flight from Chennai. That flight set the precident for flights ahead, it would seem, for that flight was delayed by half hour. So I reached Mumbai at about 18:30, and by the time I made it to International airport for the mini-tweetip, it was already 19:00. Soon I met up with Manan, Aalaap and Shadez (12-pack bodybuilder, was carrying my 12.5KG baggage all over :O ). We chatted for a bit, and then went for dinner. Aalaap and Shadez wanted to have some beer, I said no at first, but then its hard for a beer lover NOT to drink beer 😀 😉 ) After the dinner, just before heading for checkin met with Mehul and Aditya Sengupta (poor Mehul’s bike ran out of fuel, hence the delay).
Anyways after the byes, I went in for Check in and then the first of mini-drama started. The Continental guys wouldn’t let me check in without me filling in the details of where I’d be living - I drew a blank as I didn’t HAVE THE ADDRESS! I drew a blank now - I had the guy who I’m meeting at Austin’s phone number, but I couldn’t call him as my cell didn’t have ISD facility. Finally I came across a couple of phones, but it needed ONLY Rs 1 coins (helloooo? Rs 1 coin ? ISD ??). Finally made the call, dumping 2 Rs 1 coin every 5 seconds, managed to call him and tell him to give me a call back. He obliged, called back and got the address. That was like phew. After baggage check, immigration, security checks I was given the boarding pass - and I was like - oh crap looking at the seat number. It was a middle seat. in between 2 people. What’s worse? In between 2 old women 😐 Thankfully one woman shifted to some other seat, sparing me some of the pain.
Rest of the flight was uneventful, and I reached Newark, NJ at 06:00 instead of the normal 05:25. And by the time I’d reached immigration it was already 06:15, and I was damn worried now, as the flight to Austin was at 07:15 and the queue at immigration seemed endless. At immigration, the police officer asked me Q’s like why are you here, how long will you stay etc. By the time I was done with immigration, it was 07:00 and now I was rushing towards baggage claim and Customs clearance.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to recheck in, as I was checked in till Austin from Mumbai itself. At 07:05 I reached Continental office, and gave them the boarding pass. They gave me another one, in exchange of that, and I didnt bother reading that. I ran towards my gate, the security guy(he was Indian) asked me in Hindi, about my departure time, flight etc and had a look at the boarding pass and he was like “yeh to 08:50 ka boarding hain” (This flight boards at 08:50). I was like HUH? :-?? ) I guess the continental guys gave me a ticket to the backup as I wouldn’t be able to make the 07:15 flight. I headed towards gate C90, where the boarding was. Before that there was an extensive security check on me - AND I MEAN EXTENSIVE. It was only for me, a “special” line, lasted a good 30mins, maybe cause I was not an American or something. Anyways after the security check, since there was some time, I had a look at the pass and noticed it mentioned “Newark - Houston”. I was like WTF???? Then I realized that the flight was frm Newark to Houston and I’d have to switch planes at Houston, to make it to Austin. The first thing I had a look was the arrival/departure time, and I noticed that there was a 2 hour time so I was OK, thats fine.
The boarding call for Houston bound plane was announced, and I went and sat on my seat. About 15minutes later, we were told that….. “there’s a problem in the lavatory pipe, we’re gonna fix it, flight’s delayed by half hour”. I was oohhhhhhhhhhh boy, not again 😐 The plane finally took off at 10:30 NJ time, instead of the scheduled 08:50 time. The flight duration was about 4 hours, and that would mean I’d reach Houston at 14:30, effectively missing the 13:50 connection. Then it struck me that Houston time is 1 hour BEHIND NJ time, so I’d be reaching Houston at 13:30 Houston time, and I just might have a chance of making it to the flight. Anxious moments, no doubt. The plane touched down at 13:35, but by the time it was done taxiing and stopping by the gate it was 13:50. Made a maaaad dash to the gate E14 where the Austin bound plane is supposed to stand, and I saw that the gate is closed. I was like, DAMN! So I went back to gate E10, ie, gate at which I’d arrived to talk to Continental ppl about backup flight, and I get a message - “Sir, the plane is waiting for you, please head to gate C44). I was like wooooooooohoooooooooooooooooo but - asked the official, what about the checked in baggage? To that I was told, it will be taken care of. So yet another mad dash to the gate, I made the flight and finally reached Austin at 15:30. Oh boy what an experience,
Bet I would never have this experience again. Austin seems like a nice place, weather-wise its similar to Bangalore of yesteryear and this day early mornings.
More on Austin soon.