Some Indian Airlines are taking the fun out of flying by charging passengers extra for carrying baggage that weighs more than what is allowed.
On domestic flights you are allowed to check-in 15 kg of luggage, which is ridiculous since Indians need to take with them a lot of stuff every time they travel. We are not a throwaway society such as America, so we carry around with us most of the things we possess.
If your baggage is even a kilogram heavier than the 15 kg allowed, the airlines will make you pay Rupees 285 (about Dh16) per kg, more than double the amount that you paid last week.
The Delhi High Court has revoked the order by the Director General of Civil Aviation capping the amount charged for excess baggage. This has made the airlines happy because it was fed up of passengers bringing silly things on board. A Times of India report quotes Virgin Atlantic aircrew who had to deal with someone bringing a headboard on board, hoping that he could attach it to his bed back home. There is the case of international students from India wanting to bring brooms (presumably the jhadoo that every Indian housemaid wants, instead of a vacuum cleaner, and which was the symbol of the Aam Aadmi Party, (Common Man’s Party), pressure cookers and folding beds as their cabin baggage.
It is not just Indian passengers who wish to take crazy stuff on board and I am not sure how the Virgin staff handled requests such as wanting to take a freezer, car tyres, a bathtub and a car engine on board, from people in various cities from Shanghai to South Africa.
But travelling to any Indian city from the Arab Gulf states is generally interesting. Airlines plead to passengers to come early so that things can be sorted out about their humongous baggage.
Kitchen sinks on board
Passengers come early and bring with them baggage stacked high on their trolleys that even divas or film stars would be wary of checking in. Then everything becomes informal as if you are on a train journey to Jalandhar.
Every “Gulfie’s” favourite airline is always Air India because it allows 30 kg of baggage from the Middle East. If you are flying Business Class, then the airline allows 40 kg of free baggage.Travelling to Mumbai from the port city of Jeddah in Western Saudi Arabia, my heart would beat faster as we took off and slowly, very slowly, gained height and started to level off over the Red Sea.
Flying with us was loads of stuff in the hold, ranging from two-in-one transistor radios to kitchen sinks (seriously yes, kitchen sinks, as everyone was then building a home back in their villages and towns in India with their petro-dollar wealth and Italian kitchen sinks were sleek and easy to install).
If God forbid, there was an incident mid-air, nobody would have reached the emergency door as we would have been tripping over the bags kept under our feet instead of under the seat as advised by the airline crew.
On my final departure from Dubai I had two carry-on bags that looked like round kettle weights, as the bags had gone out of shape with the things stuffed inside. “Please put them on the scale,” said the staffer at the check-in counter.
The weight was way above the seven kg I was allowed. “You still have time,” he said, looking at my boarding pass. “Shuffle your stuff around and check-in one hand baggage.”
This shuffling of baggage stuff must be happening quite often as Dubai Airport has set up a weighing machine. Despite bringing everything out from one bag and feeling embarrassed at the insane stuff I was carrying, I filled the small suitcase, checked it in but still had to pay Dh500 for extra baggage.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. You can follow him on Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.