The quintessential guide to flying like a maharaja

Article written exclusively for India Today

Flights, as some of us know them, are air-pressurised metal tubes designed to facilitate humans to indulge in small talk with random strangers at 35,000 feet above sea level.

I still remember my first flight way back as a kid, we couldn't get on to the plane till my mom packed us aloo puri in spite of innumerable assurances that we would be served on the aircraft. You see, Punjabi kids like me rank mid-air food scarcity crises higher than potential flight hijacking.

Air India's unofficial mascot, PM Modi, boards a flight.

There was a time in the pre-recession days, when air hostesses would come with a tray full of toffees and offer it to the passengers before the take-off. Like an imbecile, on my first flight, I took the whole tray from the air hostess, only to be given a seemingly comforting excuse:

"Take a few toffees, and I will mail you the whole tray on your birthday."

I am 24 years old and that tray still hasn't shown up on my door. So ma'am, just in case you're reading this, do get in touch urgently. I got some scores to settle.

Soon, with the passage of time, the aviation sector realised that it had to come up with a new business model to sustain long-term growth efficiently. Budget airlines were launched, which gave no freebies at all, and thus offered lower airfares.

I am in love with the Air India model of budget airlines known as Air India Express. The best part is that they don't let you feel like you are in an actual budget airline since they serve you complimentary refreshments onboard.

It's almost like they feel guilty that you have fallen on such bad times that you have to travel by a budget airline. The thing about flying Air India is that somewhere deep down, you know very well that if you coax the airhostess, she will quickly churn out gajar ka halwa (Indian carrot confection) onboard for you. It's precisely this mot