Flight to Reality

Kavya heaved a sigh of relief as she cleared the security at the Columbus airport in Ohio and walked over to the boarding gate. She found a suitable seat, put down her cabin baggage, and opened her laptop to give some finishing touches to her report as she waited for the call to board the flight.

“Oh God! I forgot. I need to call up home. Amma will be eagerly expecting my call,” she muttered to herself.

Kavya immediately gave a call home and Amma, as usual, picked up the call at the first ring of the mobile.

“Hello Kavya. How are you, kanna? Are you in the plane?” came an excited voice from the other side.

“Yes maa, I am at the airport and will soon be boarding the flight to Philadelphia. I will be taking the international flight from there and will reach Chennai via London. I will call you once I reach Philadelphia. The waiting time for the connecting flight is about three hours at Philadelphia. Bye maa. Waiting to hug you all.”

In the first leg of the journey to India, Kavya alighted at Philadelphia. After the routine security check, she found a comfortable seat at the airport from where she could keep a tab on the various announcements on the display screen. She looked at the time, plugged on her ear phones, closed her eyes and started to enjoy the music from her mobile.

Suddenly she sensed some commotion and quickly opened her eyes. The passengers were hurriedly rushing here and there and there was pandemonium She pulled out her ear phones and was startled to hear the tense announcement.

“Your kind attention please. We request all passengers to evacuate from the site immediately and assemble at a particular location as directed by the staff. Please follow the instructions. There is a bomb scare. But let me assure you there is no danger and this is only a precaution we are taking.”

Kavya, now fully alert, picked up her cabin baggage and made a rush to safety at the location. All the passengers had assembled at the specified area and there was apprehension on the faces of most of them. There were also loud exchanges among them, trying to piece things collectively. The passengers were all huddled together for over two hours, while periodic announcements were being made, which were muffled and not clearly audible at the location. But the passengers could figure out that it was for departure of flights too.

After some time, an announcement was made for the passengers to get back to the gate to board their flights. Kavya hastily looked at her watch, gave a cry and rushed to the boarding gate. She pulled out her boarding pass and passport from her purse and showed it at the counter.

The girl at the counter checked the boarding pass, looked up at Kavya and said, “You have missed your flight, madam. Where were you all along?”

Kavya replied, “I was here on time but because of the alarm raised for a bomb scare, I followed your instructions to move to a safe arena.”

“But that was only a mock drill”, replied the girl at the counter. You need to get your tickets rebooked as you are not entitled for a refund.”

Kavya flared up. “Listen, madam. This is no fault of mine. It is purely because of the instructions you had announced which I had followed and this has left me in the lurch. Put me on to the customer relationship cell, please.”

“I request you to wait, madam. I will clarify with the customer relations and revert to you. I understand the difficulty you are facing and I will do my best to put you on board your flight at the earliest.”

Kavya realised that the waiting time at London was six hours and she would not be able to catch the originally booked connecting flight to Chennai unless she got her revised flight in a couple of hours.

As Kavya turned round from the counter, she saw that over a dozen passengers were also in the same plight, having missed the flight like her due to the mock drill.

After a few minutes, the girl at the counter put down the phone and beckoned Kavya.

She said, “As a special case, the airlines would provide you a seat in the next flight.”

Kavya waited anxiously as the girl at the counter scanned the screen in front of her for some time.

She then looked up with a solemn face and said, “No luck, madam. All flights are overbooked. The earliest flight is only tomorrow, same time but not through this airline. It is through another airline and it will not touch London.”

“What about my check in baggage then?” asked Kavya.

“Not to worry, madam. The original airline will deliver it at Chennai as that is the final destination given while loading your luggage.”

“Oh! I need to manage a day here at the airport lounge. It’s a real pain,” Kavya muttered to a co-passenger. 

She quickly realised that her uncle was close by at New Jersey. She immediately rang him up and explained her situation. Her uncle was too glad to pick her up from the airport and take her home. On the drive home, Kavya narrated her adventure in detail to her uncle.

“Wow Kavya. You have handled this very nicely without getting panicky. Your amma will be very proud of you. I will talk to her when we reach home.”

“That’s mainly because of the freedom my parents have given me to think on my own instead of thrusting instructions upon me to be blindly followed. This has helped me handle these situations very objectively. I must thank my parents for this”

“Right. This has made you think on your feet without getting perturbed, Kavya.”

Kavya’s aunt and cousins were waiting for her at the gate. They all hugged her warmly and even as they took her into the house, a volley of questions broke out from every one as Kavya took them through her experience of the bomb scare which had resulted in her missing her flight to Chennai.

Kavya immediately called up her amma in Chennai.

“Hi maa. I am now in New Jersey with uncle, aunty and my cousins.”

“What! You never told me you are breaking your journey. We are all eagerly waiting for you here.”

“No maa. I missed my flight at Philadelphia.”

There was total silence at the other end.

“Maa. Maa,” called Kavya.

“Yes, kanna. What happened? I am shocked. Are you safe?”

“No fault of mine, maa,” said Kavya.

She then recounted the events and heard her maa heave a sigh of relief when she was done.

Kavya’s uncle took the phone from her and started talking excitedly.

“Hi Anjali. Kavya is awesome. The way she has handled this is incredible. She has been able to arrange for a free ticket and has also checked on her luggage and ensured it will be safely delivered. Hats off to her. She’ll be delayed by a day but will be under our loving care. An unexpected bonanza for all of us. We’ll put her on the flight safely. Bye for now.”

Kavya’s uncle handed over the phone to her and gave her a big hug.

Kavya suddenly felt so drained out and exhausted that she fell asleep. After a good rest, she found herself very relaxed.

She then called the original airline to check on the status of the baggage.

A voice at the other end said, “Madam, in the normal course, your baggage would have been delivered at Chennai but since your ticket has been cancelled and rebooked through another flight we have held back your luggage in London as the passenger is not travelling in the flight. Further, since you are not travelling in our flight we cannot transport your baggage. It is the responsibility of the airline in which you are now booked.”

“But look,” declared Kavya. “This is due to a combination of factors for which I should not be penalised. Please put me on to your superior and I will explain my situation.”

After a volley of exchanges, the person at the other end relented and agreed to reach the baggage to Chennai safely.

Kavya gave a smile and closed the call, relieved.

The next day, Kavya boarded the flight and after a long journey, reached Chennai.

Her Amma Anjali, Appa, Patti and Atthai Shanthi were at the airport to receive her.

Kavya called up over the phone. “Amma. I have landed here in Chennai safely. I checked up with the original airline for the status of my baggage. They told me that my baggage has been despatched and will be available in Chennai in a couple of hours. So we have to wait for a few more hours before we can meet and go home.”

There was a sigh of disappointment all around

After a few hours' wait, Kavya came out of the airport, sporting a beaming smile, though looking tired.

“Oh! What an experience," said Kavya to no one in particular as she hugged each one in the family.

"And what a relief," everyone said in chorus.

# Kavya first appeared in my book Eternal Art in the story Match Makers.



More by :  Sundar Rajan

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