I can understand what possessed Vijay Mallya to buy Air Deccan. After the (true) story I’m going to narrate, you too will see why Mallya wept with tears (of joy no doubt) when he acquired this magnificent airline. It’s no secret really, the answer is plain and simple: Air Deccan was and always will be, a terrific airline.
Air Deccan is a terrific airline. Sometimes I wonder how Indian aviation was managing before this path-breaking airline set the wheels of the Indian airspace rolling with their 1 rupee ticket (nevermind the taxes and surcharges which usually make your ticket a minimum of Rs. 3001, and god forbid you may have no option but to book it last minute, where the rate is usually double what you’d pay to get to North America). Coupled with Laloo Prasad Yadav becoming the railway minister, Air Deccan’s launch realized the great Indian middle-class dream of getting to a ‘higher plane’.
Despite a 99.9% record of being delayed by a minimum of two hours, Air Deccan still remains a thoughtful and terrific airline. Even as you lounge around after security check, a glass panel away from the runway, Air Deccan has made plenty of provisions to keep you from 1) getting bored and 2) getting on board. For example, try asking any Air Deccan staff the cause of a delayed take-off. If at any point you do intend to ask them this question, please remember that for your entertainment, they will play a game. Usually they try to act out the scene, as in dumb charades. Punctured with grunts and squeaky noises, they first pretend being hard of hearing. This in reality is actually a clue: They know the answer, but they can’t reveal it. If you ask them to speak to you, remember you’re breaking the rules of dumb and should you ask “Why the delay?” They will clearly tell you, “I can’t say” and will continue to squeak, until you throw your hands up in the air and give up. Then they will reveal a terrific answer that will have you rolling on the conveyor belt. As they said to me once, at Ranchi airport: “The flight is circling overhead and can’t land due to airport congestion.” This is a good reason to be taken seriously, as the Birsa Munda (after who the airport is named) isn’t exactly JFK (even though the men were evenly matched in most respects) and has limited resources. But you know Air Deccan is yanking your chain when you look out and realize that the only thing on the airport runway is a runaway cow, who has probably been there for the last two months, avoiding detection.
If by some chance a plane actually does get ready to take off, you should ready yourself too… To run. Being a trained athlete helps big time. This is how it works: Smaller airports do not need buses to cart people to the aircraft and Air Deccan doesn’t give you seat numbers! Now you’re free to sit wherever you want on the aircraft! Can you imagine what a breakthrough in passenger democracy this is! It’s terrific! So you line up at the door, and an Air Deccan bouncer tries to hold the line. Holding, holding… the stair van is docked, door opened, airhostess in the Good Evening position… and “Go!” he yells. You run. Like the wind, holding on to your security-checked hand baggage as it thumps your back, you run. On the airfield, dodging oil trucks and baggage trolleys, you run; grappling, gaining on your co-passengers on the airfield, much to the envy of passengers of other airlines who are left gaping from the terminal. You see, Air Deccan gives you a chance to experience life as a gladiator, as you gamble your life and knees, scrambling for the perfect seat.
As you know, no matter how smart you’ve been to be first in line (or in this case, first in the race across the runway), there will always be many people already on board. Where do they come from? No one knows. Air Deccan, maintaining full passenger privacy, never asks either. Some of these folks probably have nowhere else to sleep because they believe Air Deccan is their home. So despite everything, you will land up in the middle seat. An announcer in the aircraft will repeatedly remind you that there is free-seating in the aircraft. Isn’t that terrific? What if you forgot?
Even the interior of the aircraft is designed innovatively, such a far cry from standard airplane designs where you have overhead lockers that shut. Some Deccans don’t have lockers with anything to shut them in. That’s why the airhostesses say, “please use the overhanging shelves to store your bag. Please make sure no one is seated underneath during turbulence. If there is someone sitting underneath during turbulence, please resist from laughing when your bag falls on him.” This is some of Air Deccan’s terrific humor. Another funny thing you’ll notice is the in-flight magazine. It contains several ads for – you guessed it – chairs! This padding, that armrest, it’s when you begin noticing the Deccan’s own terrific seating (wholly unique to any airlines): the buttons on the armrest are only placebos. Your seats actually don’t recline. In fact, they’re totally rigid. No more slouching, uncomfortably twisting and turning to find the right position for a catnap. With Air Deccan’s seating, you’re ramrod straight, alert and ready for action. No more sudden jerks from the jerk ahead, spilling your food (of course – Air Deccan cleverly doesn’t provide food in the first place – double insurance against such an accident) – therefore no more lost tempers, screaming, and shouting. It’s terrific. It’s almost a course in non-violence.
Back to the food. All is not lost! We all know that Air Deccan doesn’t serve meals or any kind of food to keep costs low. But if you think about it, this is a terrific idea and a good thing. I mean, doesn’t everyone hate airline food anyway? Of course, if you’re hungry, you can always buy food, and guess who’s catering? Café Coffee Day! How snazzy! First imagine all those hours you’ve parked yourself at one of their tables, slowly sipping their Mochachillos to gain extra faff time. Now imagine a sexy airhostess pushing a CCD card towards your seat as you fly across clouds. Ha! It’s practically a wet dream. And what an expansive menu they’ve extended to Air Deccan – Cheese sandwiches. Yes, that’s it. You can’t expect Guava Granitas in the air, now, can you? Beautifully packaged (ketchup included) the uncooked shard of mozzarella would make any French gastronome proud! For 50 bucks, a steal!
While you munch through CCD’s entire menu, don’t bother looking out of the window. All windows on these aircrafts are fogged out and scratched. You’ll never guess why. This is because other Deccans are playing ‘hit-n-miss’ (also called ‘narrow escapes’) with your aircraft. Deccan pilots, the best in the business – hired straight from stunt flying clubs – always have a point to prove. This exercise keeps them motivated and their minds terrifically sharp. I am only guessingthat their windscreen is see-thru and/or they are not blind. Air Deccan has been known in the past to complain to the AAIof “short runways that (their) pilots always seem to be missing” – not sure what the reason is for this – but it doesn’t matter. Like I said before, Air Deccan is a terrific airline.
Once you land on the runway (AD will always strive for this, it is in their mission statement) – Air Deccan will try their mightiest best to keep you entertained as long as possible. They will ensure that your baggage will not appear on the conveyor belt for at least 50% of the flight duration and once again take up charades, should you ask for an explanation. My last flight lasted 8 hours (it hopped four cities) – so you can do the math. Sometimes I think that Air Deccan’s claim to be India’s second largest airline is misleading. I believe their best-kept secret is that they only have three and a half planes that hop about 6 cities on an average flight. This is why there are always people on board. And this is why Air Deccan is always entertaining you. I wholly recommend flying this airline to everyone. It’s an unforgettable experience every single time. They’re absolutely terrific!