India (15) – Coming home? Or not?
Despite the fact that we had nothing planned today, we were all up early, fretting about the flight situation and the fact that we were likely to be stuck here for the next 10 days. As soon as 9 o’clock struck, we were back on the phone to KLM, trying about 4 numbers before we finally managed to get to speak to someone. At the end of the conversation we weren’t any further along – they’d call us back later with some information (we never did hear anything back from them).
We could have had our city tour, but with minds only on the flights, we hung out in the hotel room instead, glued to BBC World and busy with our photos and blogs. Since we didn’t want to venture too far whilst we were waiting for KLM’s call, lunch was the hotel’s buffet, a tasty and extravagant affair. Just how extravagant, we realized when we got the bill at the end!
After lunch, a surprising and very welcome call from our local agent. Apparently he’d spent the morning at the KLM offices, 40km out of the city, and managed to persuade them to put us on the list for tonight’s flight. If the flight was going, we’d be on it. We began a little tentative packing, but didn’t want to commit ourselves til we heard back from him. At 6 he called again – the flight was running and he’d pick us up around 9.30. To be doubly sure, we rang KLM and they confirmed…. we’re on our way home.
Checked out of the airport at 9, with some amount of shock at the bill we’d manage to run up in just 24 hours – internet usage, laundering enough clothes for a 10 day extension to our trip, phone calls to KLM and of course the buffet all added up!
The airport was in total chaos. Queues of people lined up outside the terminal, trying just to get in the building. Without being able to show proof of a ticket, you weren’t allowed in. So the first stop was the ticket office, to get an updated copy of our ticket. Our agent fought through the clamour of people trying to get the representative’s attention, and had a long, and slightly worrying looking discussion with him. Then we were beckoned into the ticket office itself, whilst the KLM rep checked the computer. The result – nothing but our original booking. He checked the flight list – no mention of our names. Our agent shouted, the rep shouted back… the reality was, we were getting nowhere.
If I’d been on my own at that point, I think it wouldn’t have been long before I’d have given up and left the airport, but our agent was made of sterner stuff, and having promised us that we’d be on the flight, was determined not to let us down. Somehow he managed to persuade the security agents to let us into the building, despite not having a ticket for the night’s flight, and once inside he proceeded to do battle with every KLM representative he could lay his hands on. The net result, after an hour or so, we got our names put onto the wait list. After that, it was just a question of sitting down in a corner, and waiting until 12.30am when the main check in closed. One by one we watched other people from the list being called over, the question was, just how many free seats would there be. Eventually our agent came over and handed us the departure cards to fill in. The first moment where I really thought there was a chance we were leaving. Another 10 minutes and a lot of discussions, and we were beckoned over for check in! We’d done it, 5 minutes and a lot of typing later, and we were clutching on to boarding passes like our life depended on them.
The main hurdle over, we took our leave of our extremely diligent travel agent. Only thanks to his efforts were we able to leave just a single day behind our scheduled departure date (and yes, I do feel rather guilty about all the other people there who have already been stuck for longer), rather than being stranded for the 10 days KLM promised us.
Eventually, after getting passports, boarding passes and hand baggage tags stamped multiple times by immigration and security, we left India at 3am. A fantastic holiday, and one that fortunately wasn’t as marred as it could have been by an unwanted extension.