Mad rush to Mumbai, dodgy airport security and lucky upgrade

Been a while since I posted, but stirred by Sarah's blackberry post (oh yes those muffins she makes are truly gorgeous and I can certainly vouch for her recipe), I thought I'd better. OK so let me start with Mumbai. Or rather Pune, since that's where the driver called for me an hour late and it had been the security scare in the UK that had permeated out to all major airports worldwide - so had to be there early. After an hour and a half of a highly debatable "shortcut" across Pune to the highway to Mumbai, the car (a 4x4 with a wierd name I can't remember) was barrelling along tremendously dark and potholed roads, whilst I worked on my laptop in the back seat bumping around more than on a yacht in the Solent on a gray Autumn day, then hurtling madly like in a dodgem/slalom race through the streets of Mumbai to the honeypot that is the international airport. I struggled to dig up a few complimentary words for the driver - well at least he did get me there on time, shaken but not stirred ;-)

It wasn't so long since I'd been into departures and the changes due to the higher security awareness in the airport industry were very subtle: there were now 3 layers of ticket check to get into the airport instead of 2. Again my ticket was "electronic" - a quick check with the airport manager's office said all was ok but still the soldiers wanted a physical ticket. I said that it was "in" my laptop and that seemed a good enough proof I had one. Thus I was in. Now I've been through Mumbai nearly 10 times over the past 2 years, but this time was different. The UK security alert that week had made me, and all people flying on business of course, think much more about security matters - so it was a shock for the realisation that Mumbai airport xrays your bags - then hands them back to you _before_ you, later, hand them over at the check-in desk!@?%! It seems a recipe for disaster. A completely open and obvious loophole that is more like a crater. Sure, they put a strap around your suitcase but I guess any self-resepecting no-gooder would circumvent that high tech security, open a pocket in the suitcase/bag and put something bad in it. Hmm. Not impressed. Since I was there 3 hours before the flight and it was delayed an hour I had time so took the trouble to go to the manager's office and ask for an explanation. There I was treated courteously of course and told that having xray machines round the back to be used _after_ bags had been checked in was "in the works". Since the current, flawed system has been in operation for at least 2 years I wonder how long it will be before they realise they can simply move the existing machines to the inner sanctum where the check-in conveyor belts all converge to. Not satisfied with the general lack of urgency about the whole affair put me back into fatalistic mode, since once on the plane you're at the mercy of fate and what it has in store for you. So why worry.

But there was good news. I could hardly stop smiling when after a little light chat and a few enquiries from me about the still paper Jet Airways frequent flyer card that the check-in girl told me I was going back to London in business class. Whopee! The flight wasn't full up so I was optimistic that my journey back was not going to be cramped but this was very, very welcome. It was an overnight flight leaving at nearly 4am so this meant a great relaxing and hopefully sleepy flight for me. On the plane there was time for a glass or two of champagne (Dom Perignon which I'd not had before - full of flavour, but a week of curries had dulled my taste buds a little) before straightening out the seat into a bed and falling off to sleep. My luck had definitely changed for the better on the way home and my spirits were additionally high, since Sarah was just a few hours away....

The trip was overall a great success. I'd hired the last 2 open positions of the India based team to start in Oct (oh, I'm Help Desk manager for Red Hat Inc of Linux/Open Source fame) , training was developing and running smoothly, everyone got on really well and any and all problems were overcome.