The Delhi airport is my favourite place. The knowledge that you're leaving this gas chamber of a city for a better place, no matter how short the trip is, is always comforting. As 2022 trickled to an end and Covid looked to be rearing its ugly head again, all of Delhi seemed to be flying out for what might very well be the last of the travel season this season. And Delhi airport bore the brunt.
Images of serpentine queues at the gates and utter chaos inside flooded social media. Airlines asked passengers to arrive 3.5 hours in advance for domestic flights. Union minister for civil aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia had to personally visit and take stock of the mess.
But he and his ministry asked people to use the Digi Yatra app for a smoother passage. What? Another app? As if apps can fill the gaps? People reported various glitches and many claimed it did make things better.
So yours truly, this correspondent, decided to get a first-hand experience. Tbh, it seemed the only way to navigate the chaos.
So, when I booked a flight for Bagdogra, I did it with the knowledge that I had to reach the airport well in advance to get on that jetplane home for the New Year weekend. My flight was Air India. Scheduled to leave Delhi at 11.15 am. From my home in Noida, it meant a 1-hour drive. I had to factor in the jam at DND, the under-construction Ashram flyover traffic, the general Delhi traffic et al.
I completed my web check-in the previous evening and
The next morning, I left home at 7.45 am; for the 11.15 flight keeping in mind the reports of chaos and delays at the airport. I also had to factor in the fact that the transit with Digi Yatra may not be as smooth as some people claimed, and I may have to fall back on the tried-and-tested stand-in-the-queue method.
The cab ride took 55 odd minutes.
3rd experience with #DigiYatra & now it is flawless at entrance & security— Siddharth Desai (@SiddharthDesai) December 28, 2022
Download app, upload credentials (one time only), boarding pass & voilà!#Pune @aaipunairport will have it by early '23
Kudos to @MoCA_GoI & @CISFHQrs@JM_Scindia @sudhirmehtapune @aparanjape#IndiaStack pic.twitter.com/oUXRFHJOLZ
So, I was at Terminal 3 at 8.40 am.
The cab door to entering the airport: 5 seconds.
I did spare a look at the other gates and the long-ass queues, and sighed one of relief. This Digi Yatra process just saved me half an hour and the pain of standing in a queue with people elbowing you.
My web check-in was done; and I knew the counter beforehand. The queue at the counter was also pretty lean. I also saw airline personnel, equipped with headsets and microphones, helping people out with counters and checking-in.
The bag drop was done. The next step was the security check.
Here, again, there were pretty long queues. But - hold my coffee - the Digi Yatra lane was empty again.
Now, once you reach the gates here, you don't even have to scan your boarding pass. Look at the camera. It recognises your face before you can say the word 'camera', and the gates are opened. This took, what, 2 seconds maybe.
After that, you know the drill. Your electronics go into one tray; your boots into another; the cabin bag in another and so on. There is staff to help people out with this process too. No stopping. No delaying others.
I glanced at the watch. It said 8.55 am.
The next 1.5 hours till the boarding was utilised well: reading, coffee, shopping, planning a New-Year-Day trip, some last-minute office work, scrolling Instagram. There just was so much time!
At the cost of sounding like those aviation ministry tweets: choose Digi Yatra. (You can sleep an extra hour the next time you have a morning flight from Delhi T3.)