My blogging journey started in 2005 with a trip to Leh. Leh thus has an immense sentimental value for me! I re-visited Leh in January 2016! The winter flight to Leh was operated by GoAir. The trip in 2005 was a road trip. So this was my first chance to click the glorious mountains while landing at Leh! Like any good traveler I did my research. I was told that on a Delhi-Leh flight I should choose the A side window seat and the reverse while coming back!
I opened the GoAir website punctually 24 hours before my flight so that I could choose a window seat at the web check-in. To my surprise even at that early hour all but one window seats were gone! But I got 30A the last available window seat, it would have to do!
As I was flying in January, the airport was on high alert. Till the Republic Day is over security at the Indian Airports remains high. I am only stating this as a fact, I would rather deal with high security than with a breach of security! We were traveling in a big group, we were on invitation from the Hotel Grand Dragon. It took us ages to clear the security!
Eventually I found my window seat in the plane. The plane was full of Ladakhi people going back home. There were only a few tourists going there in the bitterly cold weather. I initially thought the people sitting next to me were locals but I eventually realized that they were from Japan! I had a good flight, there was no turbulence. I bought a cup of tea in-flight and enjoyed it.
The plane soon started its descent to Leh. I was now glued to the window! It was a mesmerizing panorama unfolding below me! As there was no luggage space left on, the rack I had kept my camera bag in front of the seat! Everyone had heavy woolens in their hand luggage hence the overhead compartments became full! I put the opportunity to good use, I took out my DSLR to click the pictures at the landing! The Japanese couple sitting next to me passed their camera as well. I was happy to click for them, they like the pictures!
As we got out of the plane, a gust of icy wind greeted us. The temperature was -3 degree Celsius. I had a down jacket and an overcoat in my hand luggage. I was doing fine.
Even though Leh has become popular with the tourist, the airport is still basic. Even the doors were covered just with blankets! There was no real door. I wonder where all the tourism money is going!
On my return flight, the hotel did the check-in and I got a middle seat! I sulk like crazy when I don’t get a window seat but with some good pictures on the landing, I decided to be more gracious about the middle seat, I only sulked a little!
Last Sunday (10/03/2013) I flew out of Srinagar airport with the first flight out of the town. It is currently operated by GoAir and leaves Srinagar at 8.35 am. We had a very early start from Gulmarg and we reached the Srinagar (SXR) airport before it opened. Yes the Srinagar shuts down and it completely barricaded at night. There were 3 taxis out of our hotel and a few others were parked as well, waiting for the airport to open.
Touchdown at Srinagar Airport
Before I go into the security at Srinagar Airport let me add that the landing and the take off from the airport is spectacular. So do grab a window seat for your flight.
And now back to the security procedures at the Srinagar Airport. The first sign of activity around the airport was by sniffer dogs! Then the gates opened only make an entry for an armoured vehicle. Then came a bus full of airport employees and that too was allowed to pass. Then they dragged some barbed wire to create a block. And after all this was over they allowed the private vehicles to move in.
The First Security Check: The first security check was right at the entry at least 2 km before the main airport building. All of us and our luggage got down. The luggage went through scan, we were searched by women on duty and the vehicles were checked for explosives. Then the luggage was reloaded, we got into the vehicle and we were dropped at the airport gate.
Srinagar Airport, Jammu and Kashmir, India
The Airport Security Check: Next was the normal airport security check at Srinagar where we deposited the check-in luggage and proceeded through security for hand luggage and self.
The Laptop and Electronic Items Check: Next came a separate check where they would ask you to empty your handbag and take out your laptops and all other electronic items. I was quite daunted at emptying out my handbag as it is usually so full of bits of paper! But I somehow managed to do it. I had a SLR and two separate lens. Surprisingly the security personnel did not ask me to switch on my camera though along with everyone else, I was asked to switch on the laptop. One member of our party was sent back to check-in his bag because he was carrying a lot of clothes in it. Don’t ask me why.
The Personal Identification of the Check-in Luggage: After this we were asked to identify our check-in luggage once again. If we failed to do it, the luggage would not make it to the plane.
The Security Check before Boarding the Aircraft: This was the final check we faced, similar to the frisking that is done at the normal security check in an airport. A frequent flyer out of Srinagar told us that in the past there used to be a ladder check as well. It was not in place when we boarded this flight.
Baggage Claim, 1 D, IGI New Delhi
There are flights to Srinagar by SpiceJet, IndiGo and a few other airlines in India. And just in case if you thought this was a rant it is certainly not. This is a thank you post to various security agencies for keeping me and the flight safe!
I will end this post on a note of caution. While the recent attack on the CRPF camp had not happened when I traveled I would still have added this caution. Kashmir is a very beautiful place and no wonder we want to visit it. But the ground conditions have to be checked before venturing there. And if your hotel asks you to postpone the trip, do just that. They have your best interest in mind. Having said that, as a traveler how I would like the valley to find peace. In the current conflict humanity is the biggest loser.
If you ask me about history of aviation in India I would divide it into two parts before cheap air tickets were available and after. Seriously what else is there to know? I grew in the ‘before’ era and my first air travel was obviously an international one for work. Whereas my daughter is growing up in the ‘after’ era and she took her first flight before she could properly speak! You insist there is more to aviation and airlines than this?
Well if you insist I have to try. Many of us from the before ‘era’ grew up knowing that Tata Airline was the first airline established in India and it was established by JRD Tata in 1932. It became Air India in 1946 and the government got a majority stake in 1951. JRD Tata remained involved till 1978 (source- IATA.Org).
But while digging up I realized that the first flight in India took place in 1910 and guess where? It took place at Allahabad in December 1910 and there is some dispute that which flight was the first, one by an English pilot Mr. Davis or by the French Mr. Henri Pequet. Now don’t ask me who flew the first animal in the world and where? The record goes to Mr. Henri Pequet and he flew it from Allahabad to Naini (source- Bharat Rakshak).
Moving ahead to recent times Air Deccan was formed in 2003 and as they say the rest is history. Now we have a choice of low cost carries like GoAir, SpiceJet and many more. It brought in the ‘after’ era in the aviation industry. But if you look this short period of less than 10 years there are actually so many defunct airlines including Air Deccan and what it became later Kingfisher Red. Air Sahara also came and went the selling route.
And that brings me to today- when Captain Gopinath founder of Air Deccan went on record to say that he is not happy with the way fares are moving in India. I agree with him, neither am I, there is hardly any choice when it comes to fares. I quote from the Economic Times article where Gopinath says-
“Low fares have to stimulate the market and we need to have not just low-cost airlines but low-fare airlines and that is not happening as there is a cartel and that is not allowing it to happen …”