My brother insists my experience on Jet Airways was atypical, and the crowds that swell India's airports mean that even a labor-ready country like India has started to incentivize electronic check-in with free frequent-flyer miles and the like. Just how much has travel increased? In 1996, there was one flight a day between Chennai and Bangalore (two cities about a half-hour flight apart) and one train line, both operated at some loss by the federal government. Today, there are no less than 31 flights, 4-5 train lines, countless sleeper and nonsleeper buses, almost all by private operators, and yet it's virtually impossible to get a ticket on any of these modes of transport on short-notice.
Even the flight attendants on my Jet Airways flight reflected a change from the India of past. They were attractive women dressed in skirts rather than the traditional garb of a sari, although at least one of them seemed not to appreciate her natural aesthetics, donning enough makeup to serve as an endorsement for a budding rouge maker.
The meal ... yes, Indian air operators still offer more than peanuts ... was delicious, leaving me tempted to ask if I could buy another serving, and was served on china and with silverware - a welcome fact for a food-loving tree-hugger like myself.