As soon as the road route between Chennai and Bengaluru opened up, thousands who were stranded at the Chennai International Airport were transported to Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru, herded in the state-run SETC buses. While they were all relieved to be rescued after, uncertainty and chaos continues for most of them, as airlines remain as clueless as their stranded passengers about organizing alternative travel arrangements.
The KIAL bore the look of a refugee camp, buzzing with activity, apprehensive, while bewildered passengers looked to representatives from their respective airlines and airport authorities for clarity. And after they received none, despite waiting for several hours at the airport, several of them made their way to hotels, some booked by their airlines and some on their own. Tickets to other metros like Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata have been booked till at least Tuesday and the ticket fares are exorbitant.
At the KIAL, different zones have been created for domestic and international passengers, and many harrowed passengers have converted their baggage into beds to nap after their exhausting experience.
Passengers who were to travel abroad have been affected the most. Many of them say their visas are on the verge of expiry and they are still waiting for a confirmation about being able to leave the country.
Some others, like Janine Austin, have had to report to work in their respective countries and are unsure of when that will be possible now. Janice works as a professor in a university in South California, USA and says that British Airways, on which she was booked, offered her no assistance either in Chennai or Bengaluru. Even when she fell sick, it was passengers of other airlines who offered her the food which was given to them. And now that she has managed to make her way to Bengaluru, while she is looking for a hotel room close to the airport, she still awaits for details of how she will be able to return to the United States.
Janice's case is not the exception but the rule. While airlines are issuing statements on how they are taking care of their passengers and are bending over backwards to accommodate them, the passengers have a different take to narrate.
Twenty-year-old Nidah Ruman who was on her maiden trip abroad from Cairo was disoriented from her experience. While what happened in Chennai was understandable for her due to the sheer magnitude of the disaster that was unleashed upon the city, she cannot fathom the disconnected unprofessionalism of the airlines that she is up against. Her parents are worried sick about her return and she hasn't been able to get in touch with her contact person in Chennai due to the breakdown in the commutation system.
While Chennai is still limping back to normalcy after one of the worst calamities in recent times, the passengers feel the attitude displayed by the airline has no excuse. While their heart goes out to those they have left behind, those who are still grappling with the onslaught, they believe that the shoddy treatment they received from airlines that brag of hospitality has left a bitter taste.
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