Delhi Airport: Christmas Eve, 2005
David Capers (12/26/05): Personally, I'm much more interested in hearing how others experienced that night, but someone has to kick this off. Ratna and I were in Delhi for the Religions and Cultures in the Indic Civilization conference, and so Ratna could make travel arrangements for the college class she'll be taking to India in 2006. Our plan was to get home Christmas Eve morning and be rested up before Christmas day. Ratna planned a nice comfortable Christmas dinner back in our own home. Visions of potatoes with gravy, candied yams and fresh baked bread, all followed by pumpkin pie, danced in my head. A good old fashioned White Christmas and a warm hearth, ahhh. Hot chocolate, and/or eggnog, yeah! Since we were both excited about being home for Christmas, neither of us got much sleep, night of the 22nd. December 23rd night we'd arrived at the Delhi airport by 10:00 pm to get through lines for external airport security, boarding passes, Immigration, and finally clearing boarding Security. We were at the gate holding area by 11:30 pm, tired but accounted for. Yeah, sure, Delhi airport isn't the cleanest most comfortable airport in the world, but it's better than it used to be, and besides, flight time was 1:00 am. We figured to be on board the plane around 12:30 am. Then would be fresh drinking water, and after takeoff, hot food.
1:00 am came and passed. Boarding didn't start until later. Finally flight crew began calling categories for boarding, beginning with 1st class, of course. As we passed through glass doors more security guards verified our boarding passes. American Airlines ground crew then triple checked our boarding passes and passports. Actually that was the fourth time boarding passes and passports were checked counting Immigration. Okay, finally we were queued for boarding. But, the line was stopped at the door of the Boeing 777. After a ten minute, or so, wait we were all ordered to return to the holding area. No explanation was offered. We sat and waited as AA and security personnel waited on the opposite side of the glass wall. The holding area was not air-conditioned and became uncomfortably warm. An empty Pepsi vending stall stood against one wall. Even had there been a water fountain, westerners can't drink tap water in India. Before long we started getting thirsty, while I entertained myself with thoughts of Christmas dinner.
Okay, I'd like to give someone a chance to take over from here. Will await e-mails from fellow passengers . . .
David Capers (12/29/05): Why do I get the feeling people from that flight are ill? There were sick children in the holding area with us that night. They would cough and sputter, and cry. Such pitiful cries. Parents walked the children up and down the aisles in vain attempts to comfort them. Did I mention there was no ventilation? Air in the room was uncomfortably warm and stale, dead and unmoving. After several hours some men wore only undershirts and pants. I felt so bad for the children and wondered at the cruelty of the American Airlines employees. "Unfeeling brutes," I mused. I'd already been sick with stomach problems--for several days--so aware my own resistance was down, I donned a mask when parents passed me with coughing crying kiddies (for all the good it did). Ratna came down sick on the Chicago to Seattle flight. We got home Christmas, midday. She went immediately to bed, where she stayed for 36 hours straight. She could eat nothing AT ALL the first day and night without dire consequences! I tried my best to care for her, but totally exhausted from the trip, succumbed to the flu late that night myself. It was two days before I could regain my feet. Soon as we could both stand we went to the local walk-in clinic where they assured us we had the FLU. How comforting to know! We're still fighting this crud ourselves, so we know many from that flight must be very ill. One poor woman was stuck sitting next to parents who kept passing their sick child back and forth between themselves. Off! Bet she's pretty sick about now.
Well, for one thing, Delhi Airport should have emergency facilities for sick people on a held over flight. Heck, ALL airports should have 'nurseries' for the sick. What century is this anyway? Are we so ignorant of epidemics and pandemics our transportation industries need accept no responsibility for being the first line of defense against travel born disasters? What if there were an epidemic?! At very least American Airlines should have separated those obviously ill (children and parents, yes one mother was quite ill also), and provided them sanctuary. When AA employees came and took away the 1st class passengers, I approached one of them and asked why they hadn't given aid to families with children first? The fellow said he would mention my suggestion to his superior. Of course, that went nowhere fast.
But, for now, I'm tired. Going to nap. Hope to be getting e-mailed input from other passengers soon. Hope I'm mistaken and everyone is well. Hopefully they're not sick too. Oh I did get an e-mail from one passenger. He sent copy of the American Airlines automated response to his e-mailed complaint to them. Let's see what comes of that?
Rajinder Dhar (01/28/06) [The following are e-mails between myself and a fellow passenger from that flight. The date listed is the date I posted them here]:
Thanks for forwarding AA's auto-response. Could you send us a copy of exactly what the response was to? What did you e-mail them? Also, please check out this page I started the day we arrived back home.
If it is all right with you, I would like to post your e-letter to AA and their response. Without your permission I will post neither, of course. Please, check the page and let me know what you think I should do. Also, an e-mailed account of events by you, for posting would be great! Again, could you pass this URL along to everyone you are in contact with?
If you could also send me all passenger contact info you have, so
I can get a hold of them myself, that would be appreciated as
well. We were
promised by whoever was passing around the petition, all who
signed would get a copy of the list, but we've received no word since.
Thank you, and, all the best,
Thanks for your mail. Complaint against AA was made on computer generated customer relations form of AMERICAN AIRLINES, which can't be regenerated. However I have sent you the gist of complaint in a separate mail. I have gone through the web page dedicated by you to the Delhi airport event. It is a wonderful job. I will be more than happy to contribute to this page. I hope both Ratna ji & you are all right now.
I am looking forward to your e-mail post for the webpage! While waiting, do I have permission to post your complaint to AA and their auto-response?
We are significantly better. Unfortunately, it looks like it will be more weeks before we can fully shake ourselves free of this bug. I have no doubt we have it because the exhaustion of the Delhi ordeal reduced our bodies' ability to fight off the flu other passengers had that night. Thank you for your well wishes, and I am happy you both 'dodged the bullet so to speak.
Again, am looking forward to hearing more from you.
All our best,
Thanks for your mail. You have my permission to post my complaint to AA & their auto response. My compliments to Ratna ji.
I along with my wife was scheduled to fly by your airline on 24th Dec on AA293 from New Delhi to Seattle. However due to bad weather conditions the flight was cancelled. The first class/business class passengers were allowed hotel, food, and transportation etc. for the night’s stay. We the passengers of economy class were denied such facilities. We were forced to sleep in the airport on naked floor, without food, bedding & other basic needs. We were treated like animals & insulted in our country. We feel terribly humiliated. I therefore have decided to take you to small claims tribunals for compensation in United States of America.
[Due to a copyright notice at end of the AA response to the Dhars, I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing their Auto-Response to his complaint, while attempting to retain the original ‘flavor’ of the reply. Of course, I can only try and get it right. Naturally, it would have been more accurate had there been no copyright claim barring my posting their actual words, and should they provide me written permission, I’ll be more than happy to post their original response verbatim. Gee, I should start copyrighting all my correspondences too! Hey what if we all start doing everything the corporations do back to them?]
Dear Mr. Dhar:
Thank you so much for providing AA with your feedback. Of course it’s a dirty shame if we’ve let you down in any way. Your sad story will be forwarded to a Customer Runaround expert, and you may hear from us when we have time. Your patience is appreciated until such unlikely event occurs.
As a reminder, if you want to make any future reservations for travel, please call our reservations experts at 1-800-USU-CKER in the U.S., or use the link provided for other contact information:
There’s no point in responding to this message, as it was sent you by a soulless machine that will only send you the same stupid message again. If you simply must try and reach us once more, you may have better luck at htp:/www.aa.inc/customer_runaround, and we may even get back to you someday, ...or not.
[The letter was 'signed' by a Sean Bentel, from AA’s Customer Relations department, and followed by their claim of copyright.]
If you were on that flight tell your story.
Submit e-mails to David at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It will be posted here, if you would like. Either way, we'd love to hear from you.