Hyderabad: It was 12 noon when Anchal Gupta arrived at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad near Hyderabad for her flight to Delhi. She was on edge as she was travelling with her two daughters. The younger of them, aged 2, would just not wear a mask, and she was curious to touch every object that caught her eye.
Finally after delays and checks, her Indigo flight (6E 6468) took off at 4 p.m. Turbulence during takeoff gave her the jitters. ''It was nothing short of going into ICU for a surgery and coming out safe,'' she said while continuing to be worried for her daughter Vidanya.
She had come to Hyderabad from Delhi on March 7 to spend time with her mother. But the March 25 lockdown left her stranded in the city.
''I was supposed to take the 8 am flight to Delhi in the morning but it got cancelled last night. Thereafter I rebooked the tickets and got seats on the 2 pm flight,'' Anchal Gupta said, sharing her ICU-like experience with Deccan Chronicle after reaching Delhi at 5.54 p.m.
When she along with her two daughters reached the airport, there were hardly any passengers in the queue at the web check-in kiosk. She had already web checked-in. She displayed her ID and that of her daughters along with the boarding pass printouts, the images of which were taken from a camera operated by CISF personnel.
Inside at the check-in counter, which had a glass panel separating the passenger from the airlne staff, Anchal Gupta showed her boarding pass. The person at the counter, wearing a PPE kit, scanned the bar code and asked her to place the baggage. ''Thereafter, I went to the security check where there were hardly any passengers. When my turn came, I just took the tray myself, put it on the top, put the hand luggage. I was carrying food for my baby and the security personnel did not object or say anything for that and allowed me.''
She and her two daughters then reached the gate and sat down in the boarding lounge. ''Only the extreme left and right seats were meant to be occupied. I disinfected the seats with the spray I was carrying as I did not want to take any chances as I had kids travelling with me. Half an hour later, I learnt that my flight had been delayed and the boarding gate changed. Instead of 2 pm, it was to take off at 2.45 p.m. I then proceeded to another boarding gate where we were made to stand for a really long time and there was chaos all around briefly.''
Once inside the flight, which was packed, Anchal Gupta once again disinfected the seats (27 D,E,F) but the flight crew informed her that they had just disinfected the entire aircraft including the seats. ''It was reassuring when the crew told me not to worry and they were all wearing PPEs.'' Two hours later, the flight touched down in Delhi.
Anchal Gupta, who is one of the directors of fashion retailer Neeru's, had come to Hyderabad on March 7 to be with her mother. During the family’s two-month lockdown sojourn, they booked and cancelled tickets worth over Rs 2 lakh, hoping that the flight ban would be lifted.
As for the flight experience, Anchal says that it was all good except for the delay, the turbulence and the scary thoughts that crossed her mind when her two year old would just not wear a mask....