TODAY -

A free stopover at Amsterdam

Kamal Baruah *



Being a grandfather is true joys of life. Nothing is better than meeting grandchildren, playing with them, eating and relaxing. They’re very happy, for they’re finally returning home past six months stay with children in Houston in the US state of Texas. They felt lousy after travelling 10 hours last night.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines finally made a stop in the early morning at midpoint Amsterdam. The stopover was merely for catching another flight and accommodates new passengers and rest and refreshment at a pleasant lounge in the Schiphol airport.

They boarded another KLM flight for New Delhi at 11:00 hours. The cockpit announcement was made for half an hour delay followed by extending an hour. Passengers were happy being offered water and chocolate. They felt glad keeping more chocolate to help to balance air pressure for another 11 hours home bound flight. Nevertheless the third announcement was fairly disappointment. The air route closed down for border incident and the flight was cancelled. The incident terrified 400+ boarders.

The airlines took all passengers to airport lounge and offered refreshment. It took an hour to issue new VISA for staying overnight. Things went on smoothly yet very surprising for them. Very quickly airport taxi from Schiphol Plaza picked them up to a hotel near Amsterdam City Center. While moving 15 km, KLM took passengers for sightseeing on the way. The travellers found it very convenient and easy way to travel.

It was 22:00 hours, Prof Brojen Talukdar and his wife Mrs Binita Talukdar were confused as to where it went wrong. After dinner, they viewed to TV screen saying restriction and closure of air space over Pakistan. Soon a call came from his son. In a pre dawn airstrike on 26 Feb, India avenges Pulwama attack by bombing terrors camps at Balakot through aerial route by IAF Fighter when enemy was unaware of rapid seek and destroy operation.

The things went clear. Pakistan imposed airspace restrictions and closed the country’s airspace to aircraft flying over it, to and from India. Hence, flights flying west, Europe and America are flying longer distances to circumvent Pakistani airspace, adding time, costs and inconvenience caused to the passengers.

The closure of Pakistani airspace hampers India’s normal flight operations as it’s difficult to fly over the mountain range Himalayas. Also there is another factor that commercial airlines generally fly from east to west globally with several entry and exit points.

This was not the first incident that isolated aviation airspace. Russia closed its airspace during cold war for American flights. Pilots and airlines avoid conflict zones. Recall what happened to the Malaysian Airlines that disappeared from the radar over conflict-hit Ukraine in 2014 which was brought down by a missile, killing all 283 passengers. Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan also faced in the past.

We saw cascading effect on 26/11 at American airspace. Now things have changed. Air India could go Israel through Middle Eastern airspace. US-India nonstop flying is possible for opening Russian Airspace.

All these came into their minds. They could not sleep that night and were frantic with worry. After early breakfast, they’re offered a longer route to New Delhi via Moscow. But the History Professor (Retd) from Cotton College chose the direct flight to Bangalore in the evening. At the same time KLM arranged a city sightseeing. The passengers were not disappointed. It was beautiful yet unplanned visit to Holland. The tailor-made stopover made it possible to experience Amsterdam, the capital of Netherlands.

The city is a full of cannels surrounded by the architecture of the buildings and beautiful sights of fun fair at The Dam Square. The white wooden bridge Marqere Brug over Amstel River is decorated with light. Visiting the Anne Frank House or Van Gogh Museum is worth seeing.

Tourists are walking, biking and boating around. The cultural treats await visitors at every corner of this charming world. The centuries-old canal houses, the Dam Palace and the Rijks museum breathe history. The Rembrandtplein square is famed for playing the divine Dutch music in the pubs.

Strolling through Tulip flowers at Botanical Garden Vondel Park is all a lovely site to behold. The church attracts tourists due to its Gothic-renaissance style and the octagon bell tower. The treasure hunt for the entire day passed beautifully with flying blue members of KLM.

At 15:00 hours, the KLM plane finally left Amsterdam. On the other side, his son was worried for parents and contacted KLM and arranged an airport hotel at Bangalore. Soon his parents landed at mid night, it welcomed them to take hotel. Scotland is renowned for its hospitality. But Mrs and Mr Talukdar had passed beyond the zone of that gracious hospitality at KLM Suite.

All they can say that, being closed down airspace, following a free stopover at Amsterdam, a relaxing hotel stay, sightseeing, a rental car and a smooth ride to and from the airport with no additional airport taxes till Bangalore made all travellers’ delight. On the fourth day, they finally reached Guwahati on 1st March at 20:00 hours.

That made the most of their memorable journey. A freebie travel to the Venice of North Europe Amsterdam was tense, yet they enjoyed their way with great hospitality on board.


* Kamal Baruah wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a former Air Warrior and currently working for SBI Dispur. He can be reached at kamal(DOT)baruah(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on May 27, 2019.



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