Monday, November 12, 2012

Penny Wise Pound Foolish Air Travel Business of India !

Long ago, I had the opportunity to have scores of foreigners as my fellow student companions in a reputed engineering institution in North India. Many of them were from poor African nations, deputed by their respective governments for higher technical studies in India where they considered the education cheaper than many of the western countries. They were having generally good opinion about India but some of them were outright candid in telling some things they disliked about India, especially about Indians.
I still remember their unanimity in telling that Indians are too money minded and greedy. At that time, I did not have much experience to agree with them. In fact, it pained me much when these young people considered those of my nationality of such bad quality in their eyes.

Some of them also used the idiom ' Penny-wise-pound-foolish' when referring to Indians.

The other day I had to travel from my home city Ranchi to another nearby city Nagpur which is about 900 odd kilometers away for some official work. Both cities are well connected by rail trunk lines and have good airports. But as matters stand now, there is no direct air connectivity between these two cities. More over, if you want to go by the cheaper railway, you have to plan at least two to four months in advance if you want to get the rail coach seat reserved for the journey. The two cities are connected by national high ways also, but only insane people in India would try to use the roads for long distance travel. I have written about it in some other blogs.

To tell you in short, I had to spend nearly Rs 20,000/- and spend nearly 12 hours in the airports and the airplanes to accomplish this short travel, that too just one way. They had to show me Delhi and Mumbai too before dropping me off at Nagpur ! Anyway, the loss is to my company. Why should I bother ?

To my surprise I find the flights connecting the metros flying with less than 40 % load factor and lowest fares while those to tier two cities like Nagpur and Ranchi flying 100% full with the highest possible fares ! Do not try to analyse the business economics or the business logic here. That is the Indian way of doing business !  
Spacious sans Passengers- A view of Mumbai Airport Reserved for Air India !
This perhaps happens because of the greed of Indian business men and the high headiness of the Indian policy makers alike. Both of them seem working complimentary to each other to bring about such irrational scenarios! It is common knowledge that with this kind of money, that I had to spend for covering a distance of 900 km in India, I could very well have a fully paid pleasure trip for a couple of days to some good Asian cities like Singapore, Malaysia, Bangkok and the like. It is not the shortage of the passengers or the planes. It is something connected with lack of brains or an opulence of it in some quarters connected with the planning and implementation of domestic air travel.

A Coffee n Snacks Stall of Delhi Airport where Seven Star Cofee and Tea are Sold !
In Delhi airport, I had to move all the way from one gigantic airport terminal to the other for catching the connecting flight to the next city enroute. It is a harrowing experience ! No one can dare to send their children or elderly family members or not-so-sophisticated ones not understanding Hindi or English alone on a flight from one city to the other where he or she has to alight plane in the metros like Delhi for taking the connection flight. No doubt, they will be lost for ever ! 

After the trouble in having the inter terminal transit walking with my cabin baggage I thought of taking a tea or coffee in the first tea shop which came to my vision. A so-so tea just as the one  you get any where including that you get in the AC first class coaches of the Indian Railways in the super trains like the Rajdhani Express. Only difference was the cost. I had to curse silently the greed of all concerned with this situation when I had to shell out more than Rs 100 /- for a cup of tea and the additional service tax. My country's planners are going to make lot of money for the betterment of the country this way !
Reserved Toilets for Staff at Passenger Area at Mumbai Airport !
In Mumbai I took shelter in one of the empty benches in the arrival hall waiting hours for moving on to the departure side to take the next flight. Here I was surprised to find toilets reserved for staff members only. Why do they want to show this arrogance to the passengers ? But then it is India !

The security aspects of the airports are now with the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), thanks to the terrorist scare ! These paramilitary jawans are one of the elite class forces of India. They do their job nicely without much harassment to the passengers. But they do cause incovenience that too for mundane things with irrationality of the highest order. Some of them will not allow mineral water to be taken in the cabin bag. Some allow. For some the mobile phones and lap tops can be inside your bag sent for x-ray scan. But some of them will not allow that. They need those things to be taken out and kept in plastic trays. Imagine the confusion these things create in the long queues and the problems that they create for the passengers especially for those who are new. When things are like this here, one has to laugh at the manner at which the cabin crew routinely showing the safety drill as per the air traffic rules. It seems that the security jawans operate without such rules to guide the new passengers !

One of the Promising Indian Private Airline Airbus A320 waiting for take off at Delhi Airport

I watched a sign board at Delhi Airport which prominently and proudly displayed the number of passengers who used this airport last year. It said it was 11.4 Million.
Delhi Airport's Private Operator Proudly Displaying the High Traffic Record !
If those passengers decided to take at least one cup of coffe or tea from this airport, they made Rs 1140 million out of it. If such an amount is made, the major chunk of that would be going to the airport's private management who in turn got the right to make that kind of money by paying the government either directly or indirectly. But I seriously doubt about such a possibility. That is the nature of Indians. Even when they can afford, no Indian is going to pay exorbitant price for a tea or coffee which they can get at much lower cost just outside. Had they kept the tea at a reasonable cost of say Rs 10 or 20, most of them would have readily and gladly paid for it ! Obviously, the airport business fellows should have lost a good opportunity ! Regrettably, they seem to prefer killing the goose which lays golden eggs !

And all of them keep doing that.

Otherwise why there are so many of those planes costing billions of dollars that lie idle in the airports ? Their engines and mechanisms are rusting ! What if all these belonged to some business men like Mr Mallya ? What caused his company to ruin financially ? Is it only because of his mismanagement or it has also to do some thing with the irrational policies and irresponsible attitudes of the government agencies ?

Is it only the problem of  business men like Mr Mallya ? Is it not something of a problem affecting the people of India ?

You can keep arguing both ways !

I think I have to agree with my old African friends.

Indians are penny wise and pound foolish. Their penny wisdom blinding their pound foolishness always ! Their greed and egos rule their minds more than simple common sense driven by the passion to do good for others !

Why should even God think of saving this country ?

[View the linked list of all Blogs of the Author Here ! ]


  1. "Indians are greedy".Think of the early 1980s when PSU officer's salary was just Rs 1500.If you want to make both ends meet,you have to be greedy/(corrupt)/money minded.A question of survival. Today,the salaries of the well heeled have multiplied 100 times.Yet,Indians continue to be greedy to keep up with the Joneses.The poor class is crushed beyond redemption and the middle class is not in a "giving back to society" mode.n the 2012 Legatum Prosperity Index, India ranks 138 on the Social Capital measure of the Index—the fifth-worst country globally, ahead only of Burundi, Georgia, Benin and Togo. According to the Index’s working definition, Social Capital is the accumulation of benefits accrued by a society whose citizenry is interconnected, trusting, and who engage in altruistic and charitable behaviour. The Index captures social capital performance through a number of variables that measure factors such as donations to charity, volunteering, levels of trust in society, and the willingness to help strangers. Notably, Indians show the least likelihood in the world to help strangers.

    India is an accidental nation;the second World War made Britain's continuation unviable esply after the INA(courtesy Netaji) trials Britain was aware that Indian Army can't be trusted any more. How many people are aware that independence came this way and not because of Congress/Gandhi?

    Look at Africa;for a population of 93 crores they have got 54 nations.The loot is distributed.Compare this with India;for a population of 120 crores,we have just one nation.The loot by a few selfish people at the top people is hence running into mind boggling figures.Only the politician/crony capitalist/corporate criminal has benefited from the system.The state does not worry about humongous corruption.The lower middle class and the poor class do not exist except when they are counted on the election day as vote banks by offering money/biriyani/liquor.

    1. You have expressed your anguish and anger well. In India, certain good things do happen only to be marred by bigger bad things. For example, you rightly said the salary rise of certain sections of the society 100 times from the 'peanut' levels. This was a good thing for them to think of giving back some thing to the society. But they won't. Because concurrently with the salary rise, the social insecurity perception too has risen many fold. Due to corruption and haphazard planning the costs of education and healthcare has risen more than 1000 times ! That has created a situation where in the poor are crushed 'beyond redemption'


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