I landed back in Houston from my trip to India yesterday. I will write in detail on my trip later.. this post will be about my journey back home.
I went through three airports – IGIA Delhi, Charles De Gaulle Paris, and Bush Intercontinental Houston. All had their own lessons.
It is when you do a trip abroad that is when you realize why the US is the best economy in the world. It doesnt have the greatest infrastructure, nor the brightest men and women. What is has is the efficiency of the processes. No one has that. How important is that one feature? TREMENDOUSLY!
When I came into the Delhi airport, the teeming travellers made that place look like a swarm. System, if any, was very difficult to see. The line to just ENTER the airport was extremely long. I went in, had the bags wrapped. And then I asked about the security screening of the bags. I was sent to another side – there were no signs for it.. but I made it easily. I got my screening done and then got my checkin. I have travelled by Continental for the last two trips to India, but this one was with Air France. My experiences with Continental Ground staff in Delhi were EXCELLENT! This was not so this time.. although I was still a platinum of a SkyMiles partner. The helpful nature was not so evident.
In any case, I checked in and moved to security line. The line went on pretty quickly although the way they were checking the passengers was rather crude. The metal detectors did not work. There was no electronic screening as in some of the airports in the US. Just hand frisking. That worked well I guess!? With a system like that, and the fact that India was a major target of terrorism for years, we could have had planes fall all over the place! Indian security is more human than electronic.
Soon I was in the area for boarding. There was hardly any system that these Air France guys followed (all Indian employees though). They declared three different directions for the Business Class and Elite line.. and the wait for people was endless! The Indian mindset where we just loathe the systems and following any, shows most clearly in the airport. My hypothesis is that we Indians do not follow systems because we ask too many questions. Far too many. To be able to follow any directive!
Everyone who was not an India would have been praying to just leave the “heck out of there” by the time the boarding started. Such was the mess.
But what seemed like a mess of an airport did seem to have a hidden protocol. A secret system that only the person on the ground could get.
Charles De Gaulle, Paris
This was one of the most bizarre experiences of boarding I have ever had! Charles De Gaulle would perhaps rate as one of the best in aesthetics and the infrastructure in the world! But manuverability? One of the worst! I got off the plane. My gate was 2F. Just 10 mins walk – said the flight attendant – to 2E terminal. Hmm.. not bad. I started walking. That seemed like a long walk. Then I came to a bus. I said, ok – so I go to another building… thats fine. We are taken to another building.. and then we start walking again. After around 15 mins of walking all over that terminal.. I come to ANOTHER bus! Then we board that bus and we are taken on another 10-15 minutes bus ride to another terminal. That is where we were supposed to be.
Now, the question #1 – why couldn’t the FIRST bus take me to my final destination? Why did I need to take such long walks across terminals to just board another bus? And why wasn’t I told about it? The person I checked with for my direction was so pissed with life that she was almost offensive!
A DDK Truism: Europeans are really rude within their country, but polite when abroad. Americans are really polite within their own country, but downright rude when abroad.
The difference between the Indian and French experience was so obvious! While in India, we ask too many questions, to have any working system; the French presumably hardly ask ANY question to have any working system!! The effect of both the situations was the same with only one difference:
In India, I started with despair and little hope, but ended with a lot of admiration for hidden system. In Paris, I started with amazement at the great infrastructure but ended with cynicism for the complete lack of basic intelligence built into the systems!
Bush Intercontinental, Houston
Then I came to Houston airport. Now, it is definitely far superior to the Delhi airport, but it cannot compare with the Paris airport in terms of sheer brilliance of aesthetics. But processes and systems are PAT ON! The signs and instructions were clear and although the screening took a long time, the expectation was built clearly.
When I came out, my name (along with others) was announced saying that one of our baggage was still in Paris. It hadnt made it. Hmm.. how could that happen?? But in Paris with lack of any intelligent system, they could just put one bag and not the other and still kid themselves at being 50% efficient!
Since it was the US, at the very least, someone had the smarts to announce it over the system, so I wouldnt be pulling my hair and waiting endlessly! Simple things in processes and systems. But they make a HUGE difference!!