Spicy air travel

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Was on short vacation to Goa few weeks back , while on my return I did have enough turbulence before we reached Chennai safely. Well, it was not turbulence due to weather, but due to cancellation of flight from Goa to Chennai. One would think, so what, flight cancellations are common, but I felt mine of unique.

Our return flight was at 4:40 PM, since we had visited scenic beaches the previous day, we did not have any plan to visit place the day of our return journey. Our initial plan was to check out at Hotel around 1:00 PM have lunch and proceed to airport, which is about 35 KM from our hotel. However, the previous day our cab driver suggested to start an hour early and he can take us to couple of beach in south Goa near airport before dropping us at airport for flight. This seemed fine and we agreed.

The next day, the driver picked us up at hotel post check out at 11:30 AM and we went to restaurant for lunch. Post lunch as the driver was taking us to a beach, it was 12:20 PM and a got a recorded phone call from airline stating the flight is cancelled for the evening and asking me bluntly to reach out to call center.

While on the way to a beach, I called up airline call center at 12:30 PM and gave my ticket PNR number and waited for a moment. The rest of it,

Call center:
Yes, Sir how may I assist you.

Myself: What does your system say about my booking

Call center: Sorry sir, we really apologize for inconvenience caused, you flight is cancelled for the day.
(This was after I asked about the booking).

Myself: Why?.

Call center: Technical problem in flight,sir.

Myself: That's you problem to fix, so what are the options?

Call center: We have a flight tomorrow at 1:00 PM and you can travel with same ticket with no extra cost.

What??.... Will you provide for accommodation for stay, as I am not native of Goa and checked out of hotel? It will cost me a fortune for a night stay with family.

Call center: Sorry sir, we can’t provide accommodation (same reply came again and again).

****I was asking myself whether I have taken air ticket or a bus ticket to get such response? ****.

Myself: Come on, if you are not providing accommodation, is there alternative flight to other location like Bangalore, Hyderabad or Mumbai from where I can take flight to Chennai.

Call center: No sir, it already 12:45 PM, we have a flight to Bangalore at 1:55PM and to Hyderabad 2:15PM (then onward to Chennai at 19:25). From call center system allows for changes only upto 2 hours prior flight. Hence, unable to make change.

** I got some solace, immediately asked the cab driver to how long it takes to reach airport from that spot as he was driving towards beach location. He told me 30 minutes, immediately instructed him to drive to airport. ***

 Myself: Please get your supervisor, online. I will be in position to reach airport in another 40 minutes should be in time to reach in time Goa to Hyderabad flight. Hence put me on Hyderabad flight and had to shout" *********** and finally"

Call center: Hold on sir……….. Finally call center person confirms flight changes are done.

My wife and daughter, watching this, made a remark that they way, I was handling the situation was as thrilling like a movie scene..:).

In fact, there also a call few minutes later from airline spokesperson, stating my flight was cancelled, I shouted and asked her to check my reservation update in the system, she took few minutes and confirmed back...Hmmm....
Finally, we reached airport for flight by 1:10 PM and where in time for the flight check in and reached Chennai via Hyderabad.

Though, I was able to reach my home and flight cancellation is part and parcel of this industry, I had to manage the crisis on my own initiative for the fault on airline part.

Few question, for which I do not have answers,.

1. Airline being part of travel and hospitality industry, is it not the airline, who should have called me and informed about the flight option as from their internal computer system as they would know that, I am traveling with family and base location is different?.

2. In worst case, if airline cannot provide alternative on same day, should they not provide with appropriate accommodation?.

3. Being a no frill airline, compensation or accommodation are not applicable ?. If this is true, then passengers can be taken for a ride, particularly for small aircraft, when there are no adequate bookings and they can cite this point, if really needed.

Interestingly, the in flight crew circulated the feedback forms and collected it back, though I did mention few points in feedback. Not sure, whether these would be addressed OR is their a guideline/rule of law for passengers in event of cancellation by airline regulatory body for domestic flights in India?.

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