My parents were supposed to visit us at Singapore. My brother in law told me to book Singapore Airlines tickets. Every time I thought over his suggestion, the song
Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna Ab Hamare Dil Mein Hai
Dehkna Hai Zor Kitna Baajuen Qaatil Mein Hai…
Dehkna Hai Zor Kitna Baajuen Qaatil Mein Hai…
rang in my head. I got charged up every time with the patriotic feeling. As Steve Jobs once said, “…There is no reason not to follow your heart…”
After evaluating all the permutations and combinations with flight schedules, cost, stoppage and waiting time for journey from Nagpur to Singapore, I narrowed down on Jet airways for their onward journey and Air India for the return journey. Onward journey with Jet airways was smooth and it ended with an appreciation and feedback mail in my inbox from the company. As for the return journey, AI gave me a tough time. Below narration is the series of events as they unfolded.
Original Plan: My parents were supposed to travel from Singapore to Mumbai on 18th June 2013 by AI343 at 10:45 AM Singapore time. And then from Mumbai to Nagpur at 6PM by AI flight.
I got a call, a day before, on 17thJune 2013 from a local landline number. Generally I tend to avoid unknown numbers and if I am in a meeting I don’t take even the known ones. I picked up the call and below is the conversation I had with Air India (AI) lady on the phone.
AI staff: “Hello Sir, you are travelling to Mumbai via AI343 tomorrow, right?”
Me: “Yes, I have booked tickets, my parents are travelling.”
AI Staff: “The flight is delayed for operational reasons. Please reach at Row 8 between 5 AM - 5:30 AM. We have made some arrangements with Singapore Airlines.”
AI Staff: “Ok sir, Bye. “ (The lady did not even bother to listen to me and was about to hang up.)
I got little annoyed.
Me: “Hold on! Wait! SQ Airlines? 5:30 AM, a pre-pone? What if I don’t want to pre-pone my trip?”
(I was not inclined to trouble my parents by making them get up at a weird time.)
AI Staff: “AI343 is rescheduled and will be late by 1 hr…”
Sensing that I was fine with 1 hr. delay she carried on, “…or it might get delay even further. We do not know.”
“Do not know” is always scary.
Me: “What are other alternatives?”
AI Staff: “There is another flight in the evening…” I interrupted: “As you can see in the ticket (I assumed it was open on her screen because she asked for PNR#), we have connecting flight from Mumbai to Nagpur in the evening!...”
She checked in the system.
AI Staff: “Ok sir, then you can send them after two day to Mumbai.”
For a moment, I was speechless. I was pissed off with that statement.
Me: “Did you really mean that? Should you be saying like that?”
AI Staff: “Sir I cannot say anything. Due to operational reasons the flight is rescheduled. Reach by 530 AM at Airport.”
Sensing that I had limited options, I enquired, “What time will SQ land in Mumbai?”
AI Staff: In a very rough tone, “Sir you can calculate that.”
I asked politely again, “Can you tell me what time flight will land?”
AI Staff: “Sir you can calculate that. AI flight will reach around 1:30 PM. Subtract few hrs. and you will get it!”
Me: “What about Veg meal that I booked with AI tickets?”
AI Staff: “That you will get Sir.”
Me: “And I have 40 Kgs baggage booked in AI.”
AI Staff: “Yes sir you will get it. No…no sir, it will be 20 Kg.”
Me: “I am your customer. If you are rescheduling flight, you should match the options availed or provide some flexibility!”
AI Staff: “Let me check.”
After 5 minutes.
AI Staff: “Yes Sir, SQ will provide 20 Kgs, reach at 5:30 AM at airport, bye!”
Me: “What is the Flight number of SQ? I can see three morning flights to Mumbai! Give me PNR number.”
AI Staff: “That we will manage Sir. Reach at 5:30 AM at airport, bye!”
And the line got disconnected.
I calmed myself down. I told myself:
No Air India airlines anymore, even if it meant shelling out more money. And the thought got firmer as the event unfolded. Patriotism is good but still no Air India.
“Reach at 5:30 AM at airport!” Real worry was that if there were more surprises to this itinerary, I had no back up plan.
I called up Delhi office in India just to reconfirm the status of flight. On second ring somebody picked up phone. I felt blessed.
Me: “Hi, I am calling from Singapore, can you please check the status of flight AI 343 for tomorrow, to Mumbai.”
AI staff, India: (In Punjabi accent) “Sirjee, meri system mein toh sahi dikh raha hai. It is as per the schedule.”
I narrated the whole story and told him that I was getting calls about rescheduling of flight.
AI Staff, India: “Achcha ji essi baat hai? Mein apne manager ke system se bhi check karwa leta hoo, just for confirmation.”
After holding for sometime… “Sirjee hamare yaha toh sab sahi dikh raha hai.”
Before I could acknowledge that,
“Achcha sirjee ye batao, Singapore mein mobile saste milte hai kya?”
I kind of laughed at the question. “Han, 1 se 1.5 hazaar ka farak padta hai. Oncha model loge toh jyada farak padega.”
“Achchaji. Mera ek colleague 11000 rupaye ka Nokia ka phone 5000 rupaye mein laya hai.”
“Pata nahi deal mein liya hoga. TV lelo bohat saste milte hai.”
“Kitna farak pad jata hai? Ye LED wagra mil jata hai sasta?”
“Han, Samsung ka 28000 rupaye ka 18000 rupaye mein mil jayega.”
He gave me Singapore senior authority’s office number. I thanked him for the help and hang up.
I called up Air India Singapore office. They confirmed the change, rather politely,after I told them my complete account.
I made my parents wake at 3:30 AM. Left home by 4:30 and reached by 5:10AM. (I assumed that that was enough buffer in case of more surprises.)
At the airport, there was a long queue at AI check-in counter. Only one lady was handling all the requests. I could see at other counters of smaller airlines with good number of staff helping with check-ins. People standing in the queue were annoyed. She was slow and taking her own time in confirming tickets in the system. Then manually noting some numbers on a piece of paper, stamping it and directing towards Singapore Airlines counter.
I had early morning meeting at office but looking at the situation, there was no way I could instruct my parents and leave the business half done. We collected boarding passes from SQ counter. I instructed my parents of the next steps and what they had to do at Mumbai Airport. They went for immigration and I rushed towards taxi.
Moral: In the whole event, I lost my piece of mind. My parents lost sleep for that night. 60 dollars in taxi. Disturbed body clock. But what I gain is a huge lesson. No more Air India flights whatsoever.
“…Sarfaroshi ki tamanna…”
PS: This was not the first time AI disappointed me!