Sunday, March 22, 2015

Reached India ...

The last week has been a bit hectic; there have been a few incidents that I would like to share, a few items of news and some other information. As I told you all in my previous entries, I started my leave within Al Muwayh last week itself; a few days later, I started organising my leave and its later repercussions. I finally completed all such tasks by Monday. On that day, I filled up an online application for a UK visa in preparation for my forthcoming visit to that country to attend a conference on Patient Safety and Quality in London from the 21st to the 24th of April 2015. I took an application appointment for their Jeddah office for the 19th of March. Accordingly, I packed my bags and left for Taif on the 18th. This time, the Ahle Saif Hotel had no rooms, so I took up a room in the hotel right opposite their hotel. It is called the Judur e Masief hotel. The Egyptian manager gave me a nice ground floor room for SR 70 per night. Initially, I did not know whether I would continue to stay in Taif or return to Al Muwayh for a night before going back to Jeddah for my flight to India on Saturday night.

In the event, I never did return to Al Muwayh. The Jeddah trip was a complete waste of time, money and effort. This was simply a center to accept a visa application, not to process or adjudicate on it. Hence, and also because they told me they would need my original passport to send it with my application to Riyadh where the UK embassy was located, I returned empty-handed. And wasted nearly 350 Riyals in the process. Afterwards, I called up the UK Immigration and Visa office (a premium call where you have to subscribe by credit card ... they charge you GBP 1.37 per minute!). They told me that there was no need to complete a business visit visa from the country of one's residence, and one could apply from anywhere else in the world. After this, I went ahead and applied once again, this time choosing Mumbai, India as my base station. And took an appointment for the coming Tuesday. Let us see how this goes ...

This time, I had booked my journey online through www.jetairways.com. They run flights from Jeddah to Mumbai ... however, the planes are not the big-sized ones but the usual Airbuses. Even so, I booked my journey with them. I reached Jeddah airport a bit early at around half past five in the evening for a journey that was still 7 hours away. I spent the next 3 hours going through my luggage and dumping a few old things like unwanted papers, old towels and such to bring the weight of my luggage down to less than 50 kg, of which the allowed luggage in the check-in category was 40 kg, while the cabin luggage allowance was 10 kg including the laptop bag. I exceeded both categories by up to 5 kg or so. The going rate for excess luggage was SR 76 per kg of excess. I pleaded with the check-in staff to forgo any penalties. And I succeeded.

Tragedy struck when information received by the onsite Jet Airways personnel confirmed that our flight would get delayed due to some technical problems.Initially, he led us to believe that the fault may get rectified and the flight might either be delayed by a few minutes to a maximum of 1 hour; an hour later, he had mellowed down and informed us that while the engineers were busy trying to rectify the malfunctioning part (he wouldn't tell us exactly what was the problem or which part had malfunctioned), they might have to wait for a suitable replacement part to arrive from their stock-facility in Doha by their next incoming flight, which was still 4 hours away. 

We resigned to various seats in the waiting areas. We tried to ask them to take us to a hotel, but they said that would be logistically impossible as our delay would not be for more than 5 hours at the most. 
We were waiting patiently for them to serve us dinner which they said they had requested to be sent for all the guests. What did arrive was adequate for the unforeseen emergency that had occurred. Our food packet had a large bread roll, rice, 3 chicken cutlets and a ladle-full of white beans. Adequate for the occasion. They finally boarded us a little before 4:00 a.m. as their local team managed to rectify the problem without awaiting the arrival of the new part from Abu Dhabi. They ran safety checks for quite some time, and once they were satisfied that everything was good, we took off at 5:00 a.m.

They served us breakfast on the flight. The facilities were quite mediocre, but the flight was event-free, barring some small instances of turbulence from the outside air. We touched down at Mumbai airport a few minutes before noon. 

They first sent zamzam water bottles and small bags on the luggage carousel. The big bags started arriving at 1:00 p.m., and I reached home at half past two in the afternoon. Thus, I arrived home nearly 21 hours after I first started my journey at the King Abdul Aziz International Airport at Jeddah on the previous evening.

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