The trip to the airport (less frequently to the railway station and almost never to the bus station) well in time, the check in (often skipped due to the web facilities), security, the boarding – none of these bother me. I like to be well in time at the airport, not because of anxiety, but more because I enjoy the wait – Filter coffee at Vango ( 2 cups on this morning), a plate of idli (not this morning as I was traveling by Jet Airways which serves breakfast) and watching the people.
There was a time that I used to read while waiting, and on the flight – but now I find watching fellow travelers an interesting past time. The security line up always has a number of first time fliers, nervous with parting with their possessions on the conveyor belt, nervous about the frisking. It is also a national melting pot – if you keep your ears open, you can hear many of the languages of the country, as flights are taking off in all directions. But as you drift to the departure gates, the crowds tend to get more regional, depending on the destination.
The nature of the crowd changes with season and destination. Although the sex ratio is skewed heavily in favor of the Y chromosome, the female quotient is better now than in the past. And although the large majority are still business travelers, usually alone and sometimes in groups, thanks to wider eligibility to leave travel concession (the sarkari LTC) and budget airlines, you see more families than before – the sarkari crowd in the AI areas of T3 and others more in 1D. Of course, this crowd tends to expand during school holiday time. At these times, there are also organized travel groups. Around the long week ends, there are the more young, preppy families taking a break. A more recent addition are young students, as going away from home for college has become quite common. Around the wedding season, there are the honeymooners – I have counted up to 13 couples on one Goa bound flight.
And then there is the boarding, airlines these days competing for the before time departures and arrivals. Finally, when the ‘seat belt sign’ comes on and the safety drill demonstration is over, the engine revs and gathers speed on the runway. While the flight will take me to my destination, the act of flying itself brings on the adrenaline rush – as the aircraft lifts and the land falls behind, there is this flutter in my stomach, not of anxiety, but of excitement that never fails. Yes, I am a travel freak!