For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you would have figured that I am usually a Economy passenger on the domestic legs, and I’d like to be in Business on my long-haul flights. Essentially, I got into the aviation game when I moved base from Delhi to Mumbai about a decade back, and started being a regular on the morning flights for business! While initially I’d travel on the overnight train to get to Delhi to visit family, over a period of time I converted to Economy air travel as it became more affordable, and today, here I am, trying to share my bag of tricks with all of you.
I remember very clearly a commercial from MasterCard in the good ol’ days which used to go about sending tickets to your parents in Business Class. Way back in time I used to think when would I be able to afford to send J class tix to the parents to visit me. And happy to report that the time did arrive, and it is now! 🙂
A year ago I finally hopped on to the American Express bandwagon in India. I’d been keeping off for a while since I had principally stopped taking new credit cards and I had enough to keep my wallet full. But then, once you get closer to the details of the American Express Kingfisher First card, it looked like an attractive proposition, and I hopped on.
One of the product propositions is the free tickets offered every year on achieving certain spending limits. One could earn up to 2 Business Class round trip tickets on any sector in India, to fly on Kingfisher if you’d put up to INR 7,00,000 spend on the card in a year (USD 14K). With my business spend coming almost entirely on this card, that should not have been an issue I figured.
Having crossed the spend limit earlier this month, I called up American Express to check on the status of the tickets. I was informed they had sent out all the information to Kingfisher and within 72 hours I could go ahead and book up the tickets.
These tickets, I could have used them till July 2012, because they were valid for 18 months from my date of starting the card subscription. However, I recently hopped on to Kingfisher and got a free upgrade to Business, and I was very excited to have my parents travel business too! 😀 Kingfisher books these tickets out of the award seats on each flight, and to get an award seat on KFA domestic was never a problem. So when I looked up for BOM-DEL and DEL-BOM on the required dates, there were 6 or more flights, and each had a couple of seats in business class up for grabs.
So, on one of these days, I decided to book them up on these tickets I just got into my account and ask the folks to fly in to Mumbai for a while! I called up Kingfisher Airlines, and surprise surprise, I got an agent on in 3 minutes flat, which is different from other stories I hear about other pax not getting through to agents in a while. Or maybe KFA just knows I am here, and they want to create a good impression. 😉 No, I haven’t ever told ’em anything which goes like ‘Do you know who I am?’ 😉
Like you can see, the call went on for over an hour. No, we were not talking about the weather or the last cricket game or about the latest happenings in the Big Boss house. The agent I got over was clearly someone who wanted to help and very keen to help, but was slow at his game. He obviously wanted to confirm everything that I told him already existed, and instead of using my research, wanted to do his own. I thought of hanging up and calling back to play the agent roulette, but I did not want to be lucked out. So, I played along.
The call proceeded very slowly. I first went over the details of the number of tickets I wanted to book. He confirmed Amex had transferred that many tickets into the account. Then I told him the dates (different for both parents). He started with booking the first one which took him 20 minutes, and similar time for the second ticket. It took him 5 minutes to price each ticket, but eventually, that was 900 Rupees for one-trip ticket, which was very cheap, for a ticket which actually costed INR approximately 30,000 (USD 600). The INR 900 went towards the compulsory passenger service fee and airport charges collected, and there was no-fuel surcharge applied as per the new policy on these tickets since May 1. Amex/KFA took away the fuel surcharge charged on these tickets in May 2011.
The agent, then went over the bookings with me and told me every detail possible. After getting my okay, he proceeded to ticket them and generate a booking code. After this, came the contentious part. The payment. Kingfisher still needs to receive a credit card number by me having to voice it out. Some others use the IVR system where a human intervention is not required. The other option given to me was to go to the Kingfisher counters (either at the airport) or at the city office and make a payment there. I weighed the options, and gave my number on the phone.
An American Express card would not be useful for internet transactions anyways, with the limited information provided on the phone. It was only valid for a swipe kind of system. So I figured the risk was low, and American Express anyways takes care of online fraud very well. So, this was a no brainer as compared to going over to the office to pay.
After it was all done, we discussed seat preferences, and seats were assigned to both the passengers. Both the parents have unique seat preferences so clearly the agent was not going to be able to paint the 2 tickets in the same brush. Again, this was slightly confusing for the agent since he was mentally only dealing with one ticket at a time. But to give credit where it is due, he did refer to my parents with a lot of chivalry, and ‘Ma’am’ed the mommy every time.
So, here we are, with 60,000 rupees worth of flight tickets for the parents, but costing only 1800 rupees. The parents received only a very sparse version of the ticket, and I am waiting for them to walk to the airport to figure out they are going to receive the red carpet treatment this time around!