Experience of a Lifetime – The Mumbai Austin Flight
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.