On the 26th of June, the Kingfisher Leh-Delhi flight was cancelled. Kingfisher forgot to inform all the "guests" who checked out of their hotels, with kids as young as 1.5-2 years old, and got to the airport, only to realise that there is no flight. There was no problem with the weather. The problem was a "technical snag" which means their plane broke down and they did not think of a replacement at all.
So there it was, a bunch of over 200 people (it was a full flight) , with their baggage, outside the Leh terminal, in the blistering sun, because they were denied entry into the airport terminal. These people had connecting trains/flights, had checked out of their hotel. Some of them were unwell and were looking forward to being in the pressurised container to help ease the mountain sickness.
There is only one ATM in Leh, and that one was not working. Which meant that these people were there - with no accomodation (in this season, if you check out, fat chance that you will get that room again without a prior reservation) , no cash, not too well, and in the hot sun. No explanations either.
Happens all the time, and the airline expected them to whine for a while and then go try and find hotels or whatever. The airline maintained that they are a budget airline and there will be no help at all - no acco, no alternative flight, not even an attempt to help.
EXCEPT that in this case, the passengers did not let up. They kept at it, kept asking the airline staff for reasons, for alternatives, and kept asking for the Kingfisher Airport manager to step out to tell them what's happening. Finally, the airport manager came out. He had not expected this. Passengers are expected to whine, give galis, and then go away. 2 hours later, they were still around, asking him why no alternative plane was arranged if the airline knew at 4 a.m. that the plane will not take off from Delhi.. and other very relevant questions. The Airport manager went back in, accompanied by some passengers. The airline finally agreed to give refunds, and very few passengers took that refund. The others stayed on, asking for the alternative aircraft.
When a young child showed obvious signs of illness in the hot sun, the father put him on the airport door and insisted that the terminal be opened for women and children at least. It was opened, because all the other passengers stood behind that family.
A little later, the airport manager finally managed to get an alternative aircraft for the stranded passengers. Yes, they did. And the "budget airline" also magically managed to get tea and breakfast for people who literally, hadnt had a sip of water since morning. In Leh, that can be very destructive.
Finally, about 4.5 hours after the scheduled departure of that plane, the alternative flight took off. Full marks to Jet Airways for everything. Kingfisher managed the check in queue that was allowed entry into the airport check in area, and that was a nightmare. However, from there, Jet took over and was one impressed! Queues rationalised, staff holding children so parents could check in fast, staff helping women and children to the seated area so the queues are shorter and check in faster. There are days when Jet behaves like the new IC. That day, however, one saw a glimpse of the old Jet Airways again. Thank you Jet, and no thanks to Kingfisher.
But the moral of the story is, remember that if you stick together, you CAN force even the mighty to do what they should have done right in the first place. This is the first time in all one's life, that i saw people power at work. Remember this post when you feel helpless again. All one needs to do is stick together. :-) To more such days!