Whilst I was sitting at the Kochi airport terminal this afternoon waiting for my flight back to Mumbai, the PA announced that a flight to Madras was boarding. Some tourists sitting nearby appeared confused because I think they recognised the flight number – but not the destination. Their boarding passes would have shown their destination as Chennai – the new name of Madras (well actually not that new because it was changed over 10 years ago).

After a second boarding call for passengers to Madras to make their way to the gate, one of the tourists got up and checked with the ground staff, after which he hurriedly beckoned to his companions to go to the gate.

The flight departure board did show Chennai as the destination, but interestingly another flight was shown as going to Bangalore – despite that city having changed its name to Bengaluru in 2006. And, according to a PA announcement, the incoming plane for my flight to Bombay (Mumbai) was delayed because of “air traffic congestion around Bangalore”.

So even though governments have been changing the names of Indian cities from their British colonial names back to their old names, or names in local languages, many of the locals seem to prefer to use the old names – and the airlines are using a mixture of both.

For tourists it certainly is confusing, and I wonder how many have missed flights because they didn’t know the alternative names of the cities to which they were flying.

In Kerala, all the maps and guidebooks refer to Alappuzha as being the base for the houseboat tours of the backwaters. But not once did I hear anyone refer to the town by that name – they all called it Alleppy. (I did see Alappuzha on a few road signs though).

It is easy to recognise Cochin and Kochi as the same place, but some of the name changes currently being considered for other Indian cities will not be. For example, a few that are currently being considered are: Ahmedabad to Karnavati, Allahabad to Prayag, Aurangabad to Sambhajinagar, Delhi to Hastinapur or Indraprastha, Faizabad to Saket, and Lucknow to Lakshmanpuri or Lakhanpur.

Traveling in India is about to get awfully confusing!

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