So I’ve previously posted how much I love airports and how I’ve been to hundreds across the country and the world and it’s comforting that they are all so similar from FRA to LAX and even smaller airports all have the same basic purpose to assist you in getting easily to where you need to go.
Of course that is not the case with Indira Gandhi International airport in Delhi. The goal of DEL is to actually keep you from leaving but if you are determined and willing to fight you can leave but they’ll suck out whatever rupees you have left just to get to a boarding pass.
I do not know quite how to explain the ridiculousness of how this works. Normally when you de-plane from a domestic flight and need to get to an international flight you pick up your luggage and proceed back upstairs to a ticket counter to check in, check your bags and passport and get your boarding pass so that you can then proceed to customs and immigration and then your gate. Every airport works like this from ORD to NBO. Not DEL.
At DEL you pick up your bags and they don’t let you go anywhere but out. After asking a few employees we found a secret passageway that led to a glass walled lounge and the lounge led to both the ticketing counters and outside. We asked the heavily armed guards if we could go into the ticketing area to check into our flight and get our boarding passes and they said no that we had to already have our boarding passes to get through them. We explained that we had just come there from Kolkata and showed our ticket stub and some paperwork confirming we had a flight (but because we couldn’t online check in for an international flight we didn’t have anything but our flight number and reciept) they reiterated something akin to ‘we don’t give a fuck where you came from you can’t get out of this lounge without a boarding pass.’
So we went outside and tried to get into the ticketing/check in area from the actual drop off section. Nope. Same hassle all over again and the worst part is that you can see the check in counters from every direction it was torturous.
I know let’s build an international airport that you need boarding passes to actually get inside of because you know how perfectly organized and systematic the process of air travel really is. WTF!?!?
Don’t get me wrong when you actually think about how ridiculously complex it is to move millions of people around the globe–daily delays, getting bumped from flights and overbooking seems minor in the general scheme of things but if you’ve flown with any regularity you know how often shit gets messed up and usually a lot of it involves talking to the ticketing people–who at DEL are pretty much kept locked away and the people who need them are kept outside.
But of course it’s Delhi so there’s a scam in everything. We found a few other tourists in the same boat and thankfully one of them had an Indian escort who explained the system.
In the glass lounge there is a man at a desk you can pay to look up your flight and print out the appropriate piece of paper you need to get past the guards but is not a boarding pass.
So we waited in line and thankfully were both able to get 3G service on our respective devices so that we could download the email that had our original flight confirmation number so he could look it up. I have no idea what folks without smartphones do in this situation because our new friend with the escort had to borrow his phone to try and access her email.
Don’t get me wrong, we could’ve been smarter and printed out more than we had but our wifi and access to Internet was way more difficult than we expected and I am also pretty sure no matter what we had printed it wouldn’t have been good enough to get past the guards without paying the man at the desk.
Dealing with the line and the man at the desk was even more annoying because he wasn’t an authorized ticket agent and we had to explain multiple times why yes the piece of paper we have says British airways but we were flying Cathay pacific because they are airline partners and British airways booked our tickets for us through their frequent flier program. It was worse than whose on first conversation because we don’t all speak the same language.
Anyhow after multiple attempts and some cash we got the right pieces of paper to get past the guards. We finally checked in, dumped our backpacks and went looking for some food–which of course was behind the glass lounge we were previously stuck in but armed with our boarding passes and less animosity towards the airport (it was actually clean! We found the one clean oasis in Delhi) we went to find food. The guards looked at us and said you can’t come back in we told you when you left (which they did not).
We just loomed at each other, sighed and stumbled to some kiosk to load up on chips (real American style potato chips!) and water and watch a movie so thankful we were heading home.
Once we got past customs a miracle oasis of duty free and bars loomed large–apparently they revamped the entire international area for people passing through. It was heavenly.