For the third time in as many years, I'm meeting Rolando, Micha and a few other people at Brussels National Airport before leaving for a long time far, far away, and for the third time, one of us is ridiculously late. We always plan to meet 2 hours before take-off, but two years ago I freaked everybody out by showing up 45 minutes before our flight to San Francisco via London. Last year Micha barely made it for our flight to Beijing. And today, I sat for a whole hour sipping chai lattes while chatting with Micha and Pierre, until Rolando and Laureline deigned showing up, about 15 minutes before last allowed check-in time.
None of this mattered very much, because around that time Brussels' National computers were busy screwing everybody up. By the time we started walking to the Jet Airways counter the whole system had shut down and all check-in operations had ground to a halt. This was especially painful for Jet Airways, a surprisingly big airline at Brussels National, and the line of angry customer queueing for check-in counter 8 wrapped along the outer wall of the arrival hall and circled nearly 360 degrees, neatly cordoning off counters 9 and 10. We ended up taking off 90 minutes late after a fully manual check-in, computers having apparently deserted for the day.
On Jet Airways' coach class, the only choice you get for your meal is between vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Getting information on, oh, I don't know, taste, is completely irrelevant. You know you're in a different culture when the most discriminating factor for choosing a meal is wether some of its constituent parts might have in the past been part of something that turns oxygen into carbon dioxyde.
Another sign is that every half an hour or so the captain told us about the score for the ongoing final of the cricket world cup, and people actually cared. Just after landing, we were told India had won the cup, and a cheer erupted all over the plane. I couldn't have cared less, but because this victory was the first in the last 27 years, we got a very good deal on cocktails and tapas at the Ember Bar, a very relaxing lounge overlooking Delhi International's terminal 3 departure hall. That, plus a quick snooze in the blankets we'd spirited away from our previous flight, seemed like the perfect way to finish the day before boarding our flight to Kathmandu.