Friday, February 25, 2005

United States to Ahmedabad

I want to go to Ahmedabad from Washington DC and currently evaluating various options available to me. My home is very close to all three airports in the Washington DC area and I can fly from any one of them. These airports are: Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), Reagan National Airport (DCA), and Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI). Let me point out that there are no direct flights to Ahmedabad (the seventh largest city in India with population of about 5 million) from any of these airports, which is very bad because many Indians living in USA come from or around the city of Ahmedabad.

The best option available to me is flying Air India from Newark. There is a flight from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Ahmedabad every day. Well, this flight does not go directly to Ahmedabad. It actually goes to Paris (Charles De Gaulle Airport - CDG) first, then Bombay (BOM) and finally lands at Ahmedabad (AMD). I first have to go to Newark from Washington DC, which I can do by flying Continental Airlines from DC area. I like this option because it is the most convenient one. The convenience comes in the form of less hassle with the luggage. My luggage gets checked in at the DC area airport and I collect my luggage back at Ahmedabad airport. I don't touch my luggage before Ahmedabad. There is no terminal change at Paris. The plane lands at Paris for refueling and cleaning. The total stay at Paris is about 2 hours. There is change of aircraft at Bombay in this option, but it also takes about 2 hours. All in all, it takes about 18 hours to go from Newark to Ahmedabad, which is great. The plane used in this journey is Boeing 747-400 ER, which I like because it is a big plane and it makes me feel safe.

The second option is to fly from any of the DC airports to Mumbai and use any domestic Indian carrier to go to Ahmedabad. There are flights from British Airways, Air France, NorthWest, KLM, Lufthansa, and Delta which take you from DC area airports to Mumbai. The plus for these flights is that I do not have to go to Newark to catch the India bound flight. The minus of these option is that almost all of these carriers reach Mumbai late at night. At that time I must switch airport in Mumbai, that is, go from international airport to domestic airport to go to Ahmedabad. I have to carry my luggage by myself. I have heard horror stories from some people about switching airports in Mumbai at night. One person said to me that his taxi cab driver at Mumbai was drunk at night and was driving the taxi erratically. This is scary stuff. If I have a relative’s help in switching the airport then I would consider this second option, otherwise the first option looks good to me.

The third option is to go from DC area airports to New Delhi and then get Ahmedabad bound flight from Delhi. This options is not any better than the second option and does not provide any extra comfort in the process.

After evaluating all the options, I have concluded that the first option is the best option as of now. Some might argue that the service provided by Air India is not good and the staff in Air India is not courteous. I would have to disagree with this assertion. Many people are giving good reviews to Air India now. Air India has finally realized the value of good service and they are improving passenger experience in their flights.

Finally, a wish. There needs to be a Air India flight from New York to Ahmedabad. I would love that. If Air India doesn’t want to terminate a flight at Ahmedabad then it is fine, but Air India should at least have one flight every day that goes to Ahmedabad first and then to Mumbai, not vice versa. All Mumbai bound flights fly over Ahmedabad en route to Mumbai. Why not land at Ahmedabad first and unload all Gujarat bound passengers and then go to Mumbai.

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