13th February, 2006 - A pretty important meeting. And the beginning of a life-altering affair.
But this post is about the events which happened the next day.
14th February, 2006.
After the events of 13th, I was returning to my then residence in Duliajan. Had a flight booked from Calcutta to Dibrugarh hopping at Guwahati. Unfortunately, ULFA had decided to have a state wide 12-hour bandh on that very day (and the day before as well). And when ULFA declares a bandh, it means Assam is shut down. While checking-in at the Calcutta airport, I was informed that Dibrugarh airport was shut down as ground crew could not reach the place. This had led to the cancellation of the Guwahati-Dibrugarh leg of the journey. I was given an option to cancel or go to Guwahati. I had to return urgently so took the latter option while thinking of options for the journey onwards.
The flight to Guwahati was uneventful. Then had to get off at Guwahati airport itself. Was wondering about the options ahead. The whole state was closed down, so even overnight buses wouldn't have been running. And nothing was going to open before 6 P.M. till the bandh ended (One point to be noted here, in Assam the bandhs are called off exactly at the time mentioned). While I was thinking about the options, the airline ground crew began collecting the passengers who were in the same predicament. Also at the same time I received a call from the airline, detailing my options. The offers included a ticket two days after with stay arranged for in the interim. However, I had to report back to work as early as possible. So the caller promised to look into some alternative arrangements.
In the mean time, the airport manager had already started making alternate arrangements. Refunds for those who wanted it or else transport to Dibrugarh via road. I preffered the second option. This option was also confirmed by the airline office via call. However as the bandh was still on for a few hours more road journey couldn't be started immediately. Thanks to the staff, the next few hours at the airport were as comfortable as could be possible in the cirucmstances. In the evening, our vehicles had arrived and an overnight journey followed. And they ensured that the passengers were taken to their actual destinations and not just the airport. For me it was my rooms in Duliajan which was a further 60 km away from Dibrugarh airport.
This was a good experince on customer relationship management which years in B-school wouldn't have provided. The airline in question? Kinghfisher who really treated customers as guests.
Why am I writing this today? Well, two reasons. (a) I had promised to write about this experience someday (taken over 5 years though), and (b) reading about the troubles at the Kingfisher Airlines with fears of the airlines being shut down. That day's experiences had got Kingfisher a fan for life in me. This is a story that I have oft-repeated, whenever talk of airline services arises. And I certainly look forward to travelling on Kingfisher again. Hoping Mr. Mallya and company are able to sort out this trouble.
P.S. The life-altering event was the interview for IIM-Indore. Sometimes I do wonder what would have happened if the bandh had begun on 12th instead of 13th & 14th and I had missed that interview...