Stories by Guest Contributor

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An Air India Boeing 777-300ER - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz | NerdEnterprises

Let’s start with the bare facts: India’s flag carrier Air India doesn’t have a great reputation. Whenever I’ve asked people about their experience on the airline, they cite inexplicable delays, poorly maintained aircraft, a non-negligible risk of food poisoning, or rude staff. Or, sometimes, all of the above. As a friend of mine put it, “If my only choice for a flight was Air India, I would just skip the trip and stay at home.”

As an American of Indian descent, I’ve always been a bit disappointed that my ancestral homeland’s flag carrier apparently doesn’t seem to have its act together. As someone who has never flown with the “maharaja,” part of me also wondered whether the airline is actually better than the reputation suggests. I decided to find out for myself.

Looking out the back of the skyvan

Every now and then, the stars align, and the trip you often dream about lands in your lap. Events over the last five years came together over a few days, and the decision to attend the 2015 Sanicole International Airshow in Belgium was made. As a bonus, while researching the trip from Vancouver, Canada, I came across the opportunity for an air-to-air photoshoot. How could I refuse? One new camera and two new lenses later…

DAY 1: Vancouver to Toronto on Air Canada & Toronto to Belgium on Jet Airways

It’s been close to 20 years since I’ve flown business class (never on my own dime), so I was excited to start my trip in the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge in Vancouver (YVR). I work at the airport, so it’s always nice to get a new viewpoint of the apron. I knew I’d be eating non-stop for awhile, so I made do with just a quick coffee and muffin in the lounge, before heading to the gate.

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My name is Jay. I’m a licensed private pilot, and I have Type 1 Diabetes (T1D). While my medical condition is fully controlled, guidelines written decades ago prevent me from pursuing my dream of becoming an airline pilot. These guidelines are outdated and need to be revised. But more on that in a moment. Let me tell you how my condition was the catalyst for my love affair with flying.

When I was six, my life changed forever. I was diagnosed with T1D. I had just started kindergarten and I wasn’t sure what to expect. My life as a seemingly normal child was turned upside down. My mom, dad, and I spent three days in the hospital learning everything we could about T1D. At the time, I wouldn’t have told you my diagnoses had a positive impact on my life; however, looking back and connecting the dots, it most certainly did.

While traveling to learn more about my condition, I ended up stuck in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) for nine hours. At the time, I was just nine years old. During that delay, I walked around CVG and took it all in; it was amazing. While I had flown my entire life, starting at 18 months, I somehow managed to avoid being bitten by the “AvGeek” bug. This trip was different, however. After years of flying, a nine-hour delay and the chance to observe airport operations over an extended period did me in; I was hooked on aviation.