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        Volume 11 |Issue 14| April 06, 2012 |


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The Excitement Never Ends

Aasha Mehreen Amin

In earlier days it was a matter of pride to fly on our national carrier. Now it is almost always a matter of trepidation. The question we agonize over these days is not 'will the flight leave on time?' but 'Will it ever leave?'

Being a fatalistic people and given the wonderful track record it has set, we usually take it for granted that things will go wrong when we fly the national carrier. But just how horribly is something that is hard to predict.

A recent experience reveals the bizarre turn a simple half hour flight can become.

Photo Credit: Gilles Brion

It was with extreme surprise that passengers of a Biman Bangladesh flight to Kolkata took the news. The flight was on time. Feeling a bit guilty for having so little faith in their country's national airlines, a handful of passengers approached the boarding gate after a smooth, hassle-free check in and immigration. But to their dismay they were greeted by a commotion at the gate. A crowd of men had gathered around the airport security officials and were shouting and screaming about something. Apparently the row was over the excess weight these passengers were carrying as hand luggage and for which they refused to pay. It seemed that at least thirty men in this group were arguing vehemently with the officials who had obviously lost control of the situation. After a long wait with many queue jumpers creating a lot of resentment, finally, the passengers were asked to board the plane. The passengers not part of the vociferous group, which consisted of all Indian nationals, heaved a sigh of relief.

But it was too good to be true, of course. Within a few minutes of being seated another uproar broke out. Again a member of the trouble-making group started shouting, instigating a mini riot, inside the plane. No amount of pleading by the steward and stewardesses could calm the angry crowd. Some of them got up and paced to and fro the aisle consulting with their friends while others were calling for their comrades to get off the plane. According to one of them the officials in the ground had not given tags for the excess hand baggage that had been kept back and hence no one could do anything if those bags 'got lost'. Hence the ruckus on the plane.

Suddenly the angry, agitated group just got up from their seats and started getting off the plane like it was a bus to Kakrail not a plane to Kolkata. The steward stood helplessly and then gave an unusual announcement: due to some unruly passengers, the flight was being delayed for which he and the rest of the crew members were truly sorry. Two security personnel hopped on board and tried to stop any more passengers from getting out. Babies screamed and the steward told one grim First Class passenger: “I am totally helpless, this has never happened before.” The rest of the passengers looked at each other in disbelief. It was clear that the bus, sorry plane, would not leave until the mess had been sorted out. After half an hour the seated passengers had all but given up hope of the flight ever taking off when another commotion drew their attention. All those who had got off the plane were coming back again. This time they looked calm, some were even smiling. When asked if everything was ok, one of them said that the 'confusion' had been sorted out, the tags had been given and they were now good to go. One of them however, said that although they hadn't had to pay any money to any official they (the Dhaka airport staff) would make sure that the officials in Kolkata would give them a hard time.

The plane finally did take off and landed about an hour late with the steward apologising profusely for the inconvenience to the passengers, some of whom would most likely be missing their connecting flight. The bewildered passengers could only sit through the flight wondering why the passengers with excess baggage who didn't want to pay the excess duties were allowed to board the plane in the first place and why the unpleasant pandemonium on the plane could not be avoided.

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