To Get a Smile from the Airline Staff and Other Random Travel Thoughts

It’s not as if airline staffers do not smile and greet travellers. Most of the times though, the smile does not reach the eyes and is a mechanical chant, a standard “customer-friendly” operating procedure.

There is one act however from our side that is guaranteed to bring forth a genuine “thank you” from one group of staffers…those who tear off ticket stubs from boarding passes.

I always web check-in. Irrespective of the airline, the self-printed boarding pass also needs to be divided into two unequal halves. When you present your boarding pass to the stub-collecting staffer, it takes that extra minute for him/her to tear it. There is a specific way they speed things up, by folding the paper before tearing it off…but it still takes time…and this cumulatively adds to the boarding time for the airline.

If you tear the boarding pass yourself and present the staffer with the “agent copy”, he/she will actually look up with genuine gratitude and say “thank you”. Since very few people actually take the trouble to do this, the “thank you” is spontaneous and real.

Try it out the next time you web check-in and let me know.

Three-four years ago, I picked up a four-wheel Tumi. I have never looked back since…and literally. When you have a two-wheel stroller, the bag is behind you and you have to pull it at an angle. This takes some effort and if there is carpet (e.g. T3 Delhi) instead of a tile or granite floor, the effort is that much more. With a four-wheeler, you have to push the bag in front of you instead of pulling…and trust me… pushing a bag is much, much simpler and takes much less energy than pulling one.

The older you get and especially if you have shoulder problems, there is nothing like a four-wheeler to help make your travel a shade that much easier. The downside? The bags are a little more expensive and for the same outer size, the inner capacity goes down by a cm or so to accommodate the extra wheels. But that is a small price to pay for comfort. Oh…and you must buy a bag that is the lightest possible.

It is all about how much the body can take.

In my 30s, I had only one goal…to optimize my travel time and spend as little time outside Mumbai as possible, both in flight and at the destination. This meant taking ridiculous 5.30AM flights to Ahmedabad, which in turn would mean getting up at 4.00AM, dashing to the airport, trying to sleep on flight and then rushing back home the same day.

I can’t do this anymore. Early morning pre 7.00AM flights and domestic flights that land beyond 9.00PM are hell and make it very difficult to function either during the day or the next day. The better thing to do if it’s practically possible, is to take a flight the previous day in the late afternoon or evening, spend a relaxed night at the destination (and it helps if the hotel is comfortable), get up without stress in the morning, perhaps go for a run in a new city, have a relaxed breakfast and then be ready to start work. Typically, since you can begin work early, you can wrap up early as well and be ready to head back home by late afternoon / evening.

This does not optimize travel time…but it sure as hell prevents physical and in turn, mental stress.

Have similar tips to share?


  • P. Venkatraman wrote:

    I now love going by train for overnight trips.

    – No security hassles
    – No luggage issues
    – Every seat is a sleeper seat
    – Seats come with power points and network connectivity, so you are prodcutive
    – Co passengers who are interesting and share food with you.
    – Oh..home cooked food can be taken and eaten crossed legged
    – Catch up on reading
    – Everyone gets a pillow, blanket and hand towel.
    – You arrive at the destination fully refreshed, caught up on sleep deficit.

    Very relaxing especially if you are going to run a Half Marathon in Hyderabad the next day 🙂

  • A better option is take overnight trains. You can sleep comfortably and get up fresh in the morning. and since most train stations are in the city, it takes less time to reach your destination. Only problem could be 12 noon check in time at many hotels.

  • I have started going to Delhi by Rajdhani with the sole intention of catching up on some sleep or then catching up on missed movies.

    At the time of checking in small talk with a smile such as is the flight full, has more or less landed me with a seat of my choice which is a boon considering my width. And yes thank them cos no one usually does.

  • Sundaram M R wrote:

    Yes I agree with my friends. If you have time to spare and plan in advance , nothing compares with train travel, flipside being the theft in AC sleeper coaches and incessent hawkers in coaches. Otherwise Air travel could, with your suggestion still save time comparitively!

  • Vibha sheth wrote:

    Yes this makes sense giving them the agent copy saves our time too .going to try out the 4 wheeler. At fifty I find comfort to b paramount in all travelling whether business or pleasure..

  • laxman G.S wrote:

    Experience differs from person to person.Some prefer Air travel cos of urgency or status symbol. Travel by train has its own adv/disadv.Considering time factor, Air travel is best.Train journey by ii A/C or iii A/C is a pleasure as you have some free movements in the compartment. Taking care of one”s luggage is a necessity and cannot be ignored.

  • Enjoyed reading this piece

    I try to do the afternoon before routine myself whenever possible

    Apart from the circadian rhythm, it takes care of some of my site seeing penchant

    My father like the article too as an Ahmadabad trip is is a common commute for us

    Got to get me a four-wheel drive now

  • jayesh Desai wrote:

    I think Bhavin was referring to change in attitude that comes with age. It was’nt about what is better, train or air. Like everything else in life there are pros and cons. If I have to go to Shrinagar Air beats train hands down, but between metros, durantoss and shatabdis and rajdhani’s have tilted balance in favour of trains. I have physical handicap and I find walking down to nearly kilometer long platefroms a big let down compared to assisted wheelchair travels to the airplane. But each to his own, more important point is effect of advancing years, the wears and tears that body undergoes and thus reduces capacity to bear hardships. What in the end counts is enthusiasm to travel. There are people in Mumbai who never go out to see even national park!!

  • Ravi Ramakantan wrote:

    Whether you are in the hospitality industry or the ‘hospital industry’ – the daily and innumerable human interactions do take emotional toll on the ‘giver’. It is not so bad if yo are a doctor.. you generally are in charge. But think of all those guys (for example) at the airport – from the security staff to the cabin crew and everyone in between. Imagine what they do and it is not easy. They lead tough lives. The lest we can do is to be nice to them.. we may have bought airline tickets but we have not bought their off their dignity and respect.
    The courtesy I do is to make sure my “security tag” on the hand luggage is easily visible to the security guard and I present my boarding card (unlike Bhavin I never web check in), in such a way that he does not have to turn it around and around to tear it.
    When you are young at 60+, you can still do morninhg-night travels.. so even as Bhavin did the over night to Bhopal, I was up at 3 in the morning in Bombay and back home at midnight and still feeling fine.
    Bhavin may be getting old.. but I am not 🙂

  • Dr mona Badani wrote:

    And I thought only I was getting that feeling that age was catching up and I couldn’t cope up as before!!!!!

  • Dr mona Badani wrote:

    Talking about age- had d pleasure of reading Kane n Abel again- after thirty two years- my tale home message from d book this time was – do not wait to make amends- wonder why I never registered this thirty five years ago. My memories of the book till last year were d two success stories running parallel to each other.
    How ones perspective changes with age!!!

  • Prakash Nanavati wrote:

    Try saying “Thanks” to the air hostess/purser/ground staff and see genuine smile as well!

  • Yes indeed! Four wheeler strollies are Godsent to ease senior travel. My husband and I enjoy using them except at Mumbai International airport. Somebody has to tell the blokes there that they simply cannot use thick cheap carpets for long stretches of corridors. All other airports I’ve been to have tiles or granite and are a dream to roll a four wheeler thru. Not so Mumbai airport corridors u travel on your way back from the journey.

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