The collective despair, alternating with barely restrained fury, of passengers, pilots, crews, airport staff and ATC personnel in Delhi’s airports - as planes wait endlessly on tarmacs before taking off to some place far more exotic - reflects a human condition called ‘enjoying-the-crib’. The condition is triggered by fog and is endemic to Delhi’s airports, although the phenomenon was also spotted in London’s Heathrow airport. The ‘crib’ has nothing to do with no-frills travel. Instead, it has everything to do with the madness that descends on airports faster than the corresponding dip in visibility levels. It is keeping this increasingly regular feature of air travel in mind that we suggest, in all seriousness, that airport lounges introduce events that could take the irate passenger’s mind off the delayed flight ordeal.
There is enough talent going around. With a little corporate nudge here and an official push there, there is no reason why passengers of any flight cannot make a moment out of a wait. If, say, the delay is of two hours, a Hollywood movie can easily be run in cinema environs within the airport. If the delay is longer, why, Bollywood stars could jolly well put up a riveting show. Passengers stuck in airports are, after all, the ultimate captive audience. In terms of consumer grouping, air travellers form exactly the kind of easy-spenders that corporate sponsors, especially from the FMCG sector, are looking out for. Cosmetic giants could engage in spot treatments — no longer having to rely just on salespeople standing forlornly in front of duty-free shops. From Pepsi drinks to Knorr soups, the sky — or, at least, what comes before the flight — can keep travellers happy as well as give birth to a retail sub-sector. The conveyor belts could be transformed — between every false alarm of a flight promising to take off — into ramps for fashion shows. This will be a cost-effective option for sponsors — for most models are, indeed, flying in and out of cities. In fact, if a calendar of events for foggy mornings and nights is distributed along with ticketing options, airliners might just get passengers to buy tickets at a premium for special airport ‘premium delayed’ packages.
It must be remembered that such a radical plan can succeed only if there are two constants: fog and Delhi’s airport. Many of you will be at the airport tonight, waiting to spend New Year’s eve far away. Airport authorities should make your wait worth your while. We hope you have a happy last day of the year!