Monday, November 28, 2011

FLYING BLACK & BLUE


Scenario 1 : Mumbai Chatrapathi Shivaji Airport : 2004 After a nice holiday, shopping and dining experience at Taj Mumbai, my brother-in-law and family of 5 members were to take off to Paris on a reputed international flight next day early morning.  I was surprised to receive a call from my sister stating that they are staying back in Mumbai and they invited us to join for Lunch at Juhu Centaur.  We were surprised that the airline had been overbooked by 20 odd seats.  I believe during holiday season cancellations too are high.  The airline offered free boarding and lodging and next day their tickets were confirmed on priority, lest the airline incurs expense on boarding on lodging again.

Scenario 2 : Bangalore Old Airport :  2007:  Once again my brother in law and family were on a vacation to home town, in between he receives an emergency call from the office that there is a crisis because of  client default.  He had to cut short his holiday and return to Paris.  There was no refund of  ticket and instead he was charged double the price of  the ticket for using the same airline under code sharing arrangement.  He ended up paying 55 K for a fresh ticket and lost 18 K in unutilized ticket.

Scenario 3 : Mumbai Domestic Airport :  1996 :  We receive an emergency call from my mother at 6 am, that my father was no more.  We did not carry sufficient cash, nor could we disturb anybody from borrowing money early morning.  In those there were limited ATMs for drawing cash from the bank.  Ultimately we reached airport and flashed the credit card for booking ticket.  The employee at the booking counter rudely told us to come back later.  We were crestfallen whether we will get the ticket, whether the credit card will be approved, and filled with tension.  Suddenly a Jewish executive of the airline comes and enquires, on knowing our plight, he issues an order to release the ticket and offers us a complimentary breakfast in their lounge.  We were relieved from travel tension and delighted at the response of  a foreigner.

Scenario 4 : Gauhati Airport :  2009 :  We were literally on a last leg of our holiday trip to North East Trip.  When we checked in at the airport we found that the airport was bustling with passengers.  Suddenly we realized all flights are delayed due to pollution from the river bed of  Bramhaputra.  There was no ILFS landing system, I doubt with the simulator too flights would have been able to land.  There was enmass cancellation of flights announced as the day progressed.  I was watching the plight of the passengers some were on emergency trip, some were on personal trip and some were on official trip.  Suddenly in the evening it was announced that probably 4 flights will be able to land and take off instead of  12 flights.  Being an off season ( exam season ) I was sure that only  30% to 40% occupancy of flights.  Suddenly the ticket price shot up to 18 K for a business classs instead of regular 5 K.


Scenario 5 :  Port Blair Airport : 2005 :  We were surprised to find that our co-travellers returning back to Hotel at YMCA Port Blair.   They had to return because their flight was over booked .and the airline concerned did not offer them an accommodation nor conveyance.  They had paid 13 k and whereas had paid only 5 k by the same airline. The same airline was supposed to be reporting Red in their balance sheet. Next day both our families took off in the same flight on time without much hassles of cancellation due to overbooking.

Scenario 6 : Trivandrum Airport : 2010  :  My friend narrated his travails which was hilarious to listen to, he had booked his ticket through a travel portal.  They issued him a ticket subject to confirmation 24 hours prior to departure. I believe the travel portal had chartered a flight from Mumbai to Trivandrum and return.  So when my friend called up the travel portal, the employee concerned told him to stay at the airport, he will announce which airline to board.  He reached the airport at Trivandrum and found to his dismay that there was no sign of his flight departure nor any information.  He called up the employee once again and he told him that he is already in the airport, he re-confirmed that he is in Trivandrum, but the employee is in Mumbai to receive him.  We burst out laughing, than he coolly told him to stay put, he will be arriving by Mumbai flight to Trivandrum which they had chartered and return to Mumbai by the same flight with a different coding.

Scenario 7 : Pune Airport : 2011 :  I had booked flight ticket by a reputed airline from Bangalore to Pune return.  To my surprise I received a SMS on my cellphone that his flight has been preponed.  It was a real tension how to contact him and let him know that instead of  10pm departure his flight will be leaving at 5 pm.   He had switched off his roaming cellphone being on a holiday trip and was using his brother in laws local cellphone for a week.  On the final day of his departure I conveyed my message that he has to depart early since his flight has been cancelled and instead he has to catch an earlier flight.  He was relieved and thankful that his holiday did no go burst.

Scenario 8 : Abu Dhabi : 2011 :  A return ticket booked from Abu Dhabi to Mumbai was not subject to cancellation.  There was no indication on the ticket that it was Non-Refundable ticket.  My friend had to forgo his entire money.  Despite my advice to book in low fare airline which would have costed him 17 k with a provision for open ticket on return, he chose to fly a reputed International Airline at nearly 23 k just because he had a frequent flyer membership.

Scenario 9 : Bangalore BIAL Airport : 2011 ;  A return ticket to Vadodara was to be postponed.  I contacted the travel portal, who said postponement charges would be levied.  When my friend called up to the airline they confirmed that there is no postponement charges applicable.  I confronted the travel portal with this info, they obliged not to charge cancellation since the airline was not charging the same. 

Scenario 10 : Bangalore :  Live fares :  This was astonishing software manipulation from the travel portal concerned.  I was booking an airline ticket two months in advance.  The initial fare featured as 14 k, suddenly next minute fare jumped to 15 k.  The final experience was when I visited a reputed airline to enquire group ticketing to Port Blair from Bangalore I forgot to mention 30 pax.  I thought I had made a blunder, the counter girl who quoted 26 k return per pax.   I was damm pleased that it would fall within their budget.  Next day when I wanted to reconfirm the counter gal said sir the cost now is 33 k for a return for 30 pax.  A jump of nearly 7 k, and my clients cancelled their trip.


Now if one were to read between experience and decipher how the airline business operates, no wonder one can understand what a messy affair and complicated affair it can be in the rat race to scorch up the number game.  When there is an option of  code sharing, fuel prices have breached the threshold of more than 50% cost of operation and majority of tickets are booked on advance payment,  The fundamentals of scale of economy is over-ridden in group bookings, promotion coupons tariffs are charged higher than regular fare and frequent flyers are sometimes taken for a ride.  Under the above mentioned circumstance I am wondering whether I am in the right business ?  If one were to ethically thrive in tourism how does one go about getting involved in this business.  The height of heights was a comment from one five star group manager that Hotel business is like Airline business, nowerdays they don t reveal their tariffs on their portal.  I am 100% sure that the Head Honchos of airline and Hotel industry are not aware what is happening in their domain on day to day basis.   If they combine and put their heads to-gether within 2 days an appropriate solution can be arrived and ensure their business thrives even during bad times.  Guys if you were to analyse the above case study scenarios, what will be your solution to the problems created.  Let us debate for good times to be back again.


Disclaimer :  I have refrained from naming the airline or hotel group inorder to ensure that sanity returns in the industry rather than continuing this trend of  unethical practice. This is just an attempt at introspection to extract appropriate solutions to an industry which is hurt and striving to keep its head above water. 



13 comments:

Sujatha Sathya said...

very interesting read & experiences you've shared here

like you wrote,hope things change for the better because all said & done, customers suffer for no fault of theirs

the jewish executive's gesture was touching. wish people in the service industry were more human

Life Unordinary said...

That's alotta experiences. you should in fact name the airlines!

Team G Square said...

Nice to read about these experiences , since I'm naive to airline industry or air travel have no much idea about it . But i agree with your last paragraph .

Anonymous said...

Your post is really one that makes one think about this mode of travel and the airline industry per se. Superb post ! And congratulations on your 100th post :-)

Mohinee said...

Umeshji, that is really comprehensive post. Thanks for sharing the experiences from different airports. And guiding perfectly for the travel as usual. You are really an inspiration for us, as you post here such comprehensive posts and have important topics and debates on forum too.

Congratulations and thanks for giving us such a wonderful journey of 100 posts. :)

Mohinee said...

I liked the template of this blog, it's so soothing to eyes and neat too.

Richa said...

Very interesting perspective and loved the way you have showcased it. I guess, it is not that easy an industry though given the demand-supply, competition and the rising fuel prices. I can't really blame airlines going bankrupt. Afterall, excepting a few, most are barely keeping up.

magiceye said...

hearty congratulations on your 100th post!!

Arti said...

Very different perspective brilliantly presented, one that makes us aware of the different situations we could face as travelers and one that cautions us to think! Best wishes on completing the century and here's wishing you many many more in the years to come!

Maun Vision said...

congo's on your 100th brilliant post.
keep the unique flame burning.

bemoneyaware said...

While India is waiting for Sachin's 100th century atleast Indibloggers have an opportunity to read your 1st. Congratulations for the 100th post and hope you will beat Sachin's record in future.

Your post shows that in India..customer can not have good times and this lead to bad times for airlines..

Farila said...

I went through one of the worst travel experience in Mumbai airport where the custom officials were nasty and troubled us over two gifts of wrist watches endlessly.

Congratulations on your century... Keep blogging

Arun said...

Congrats on ur century!! Keep going..