Spice Jet and the Madurai Airport

Flying to Sri Lanka meant our second time flying with Spice Jet. Spice Jet is just one of the few bargain airlines that India has to offer. What you get is dirt cheap flights and a wild ride…
For two people who have never been afraid of flying, Spice Jet flights were a whole new ball game. Normal airline rules are apparently just guidelines here: welcome to India. On our first flight down to Chennai, we had zero safety procedures. The plane just started rolling down the runway towards take off. No one was in their seats: kids ran around and mothers had children in their laps (I’m talking eight year olds, not babies). When the flight attendants started rolling the food cart down the aisle, instead of waiting until they moved through the rows, people just ran up and bombarded the stewardess.
“Two juices!”
“A coke! A coke!”
“Bring me some water please”
The stewardesses had money shoved in their faces, while people grabbed at the pop cans on the top of the cart. Meanwhile, they were still trying to move through the rows in an orderly fashion, so the swarms of people were slowly pushed toward the back of the plane. Absolute madness. Kelsi and I watched, appalled, as all this went on. Is this really happening?
As we neared Chennai we spent about five solid minutes in turbulence. People were still out of their seats, moving around. We finally came out of a group of clouds right over top of the city.
“Oh my god it feels like we’re going to hit those buildings!” Kelsi said in horror. We were right up next to some of the taller buildings in the city. Luckily for us all, we didn’t hit any of them.
Before we even touched the ground, yet again, people were out of their seats, grabbing their bags from the overhead compartment, and waiting to get down the aisle and off the plane. Cool it folks! We aren’t even on the ground yet! Once off we all piled into a bus that waited ten minutes before driving us 100 feet to the front door. We could have walked it in less than a minute. Welcome to Spice Jet, have a good flight.
Sitting in the Madurai airport we remembered back to that first flight.
“Are you equally as nervous to fly with Spice Jet again?”
“Yup!” We giggled nervously.
Then all of a sudden two young pilots with Spice Jet uniforms on came in. They had collars popped, hair styled and they were wearing dark, reflective aviator glasses… INSIDE!
“Oh my god,” said Kels, “are those our pilots?! They look like they’re actors in a Bollywood version of Top Gun!”
They strutted through the airport towards security. This is crazy.
We had a lot of time to sit and contemplate our demise in the airport. We’d arrived almost three hours early for our international flight. We gave ourselves extra time, so we could grab breakfast and hopefully catch some wifi while we waited at the gates. To our disappointment, there was no wifi, there was no food (apart from some guy selling old chicken sandwiches behind a glass compartment) and our check-in counter didn’t open until an hour and a half before the flight. Fail.
So we just sat around, watching our crazed Spice Jet employees strut their stuff around the airport waiting room.
At one point, I looked up and out the front window of the airport to see a crowd of about 100 people. Considering up to this point there were only 7 people, this was quite a shock. People flooded through the front gates with chairs and cameras and lights. They set up more rows of chairs in the waiting room, everyone sat down to fill the seats, our pilots perked up and walked over to talk to an official looking woman in a red suit. The camera crews moved around the room, setting up lights and screens and moving people around… What’s going on?
Turns out they were a film crew. Our Top Gun, Bollywood pilots were ACTUALLY actors (thank God) and the people were there to film a movie? Commercial? Documentary on how safe Spice Jet flying is? Who knows… But man were we confused.
We removed ourselves from the film chaos and sat on the other side of the airport. We’d had our fill of being photographed in India. At this point, we had already checked in; however, we had to continue waiting in the front of the airport until immigration opened. It opened only 45 minutes before our flight, and 15 minutes after our check-in gate closed. This is the most bizarre airport system. While we were waiting, the immigration officer walked over to us and sat down right next to me.
“Hi” he said “where are you from?”
“Canada” I said.
“Oh, Canada, very nice.” He pointed to my immigration form. “Have you filled out your form yet?”
“Oh, but you haven’t written down your address and phone number.” He said.
“Oh!” I looked back down at the paper. I wouldn’t put it past me to forget a line on my immigration form. “I don’t see a line for address and phone number” I said confused.
“On the other side” said the officer
I flipped it over. How silly, I should have checked the other side. But when I turned it over I was even more confused. There was nothing to fill out, it was just the front of the form with a logo that read “Indian Immigration Form”
“Where do I put it?” I asked
“Oh just anywhere” he said as he smiled at me.
I looked at Kelsi. This is weird. Why would I have to just write my address and phone number on the front. That doesn’t make sense. I looked back up at the immigration desks across the room. The officers were all standing there giving the guy sitting next to me a thumbs up. Oh my god, is he just hitting on me for my address and phone number? I didn’t want to lie on an immigration card, but I did want to be accepted into Sri Lanka. So I cut my losses and wrote a fake address.
“And phone number?” He asked
“Sorry, don’t have one”
“But your phone is sitting in your lap” he said as he pointed to my iPhone.
“Nope, not my phone!” I smiled back at him, daring him to challenge me. He looked confused and had no way else to argue, so he got up and walked back to immigration.
“Immigration is open” he said to us.
When we got up to the line, a man at the front divided everyone into different lines. Hmm, I wonder which officer I’m going to get. Creepy phone number guy was at booth 4.
“Just down to number five please” he said to me. Then he panicked. “No wait! Number 4! Number 4!”
I rolled my eyes. Fantastic. Two other lines were totally empty but I had to wait in line for desk number 4! When I got up I got all the stupid lines. He passed my passport photo around to his friends, gave me the thumbs up looking through all my visa photos and after a few questions about nothing official I grabbed my passport back and walked through to security. And guess what? No one else had to give their address or phone number. Pretty sure people have been fired for that in every other country in the world. At this point, I was looking forward to getting out of India and into somewhere new. Just had to survive my Spice Jet flight to Colombo!
Sri Lanka, here we come!

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