I’ve recently been trying to use Air India off and on, given their Star Alliance membership, to try and test how they react in various circumstances and whether it is in line with Star Alliance requirements or not. Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not.
For instance, back in August, when I went with AI for my flight to Goa from Mumbai Terminal 2, AI offered me only one lounge access card, which made sure me and my fiancée could not go into the lounge together. As AI Golden Tier member and Star Alliance Gold, I was good for 2 passes due to the *A guidelines.
Just this past Saturday, I made a trip to Delhi on one of Air India’s 787 planes to Delhi from Mumbai Terminal 2. The reason this was not done for so long was because for a long while, AI did not put the 787 on Mumbai originating routes and I still don’t travel internationally with Air India.
I’ve known about Air India’s issues with the Boeing 787 for a long time, and the reason I booked this flight was to also check if I was going to be affected by these issues or not. AI has bought some of the early stage Boeing 787 planes, being one of the early customers of the plane, and these tend to be more heavy sometimes and not exactly everything is smoothened out on these planes.
Anyhow, I chose to fly Air India 348 from Mumbai to Delhi on the Mumbai – Delhi – Shanghai route, and the plane was supposed to board at 7:20 AM and take off at 7:50 AM. Except, the plane did not even board till 7:50 AM.
People, grappling with a lack of information, were frequently going over to ask AI agents about how various things would be handled, and AI agents had no answers to their questions. Factor this, people have connections from AI’s Delhi hub to Jammu, to Paris and to other places, and AI won’t let them know how would they make sure these people got on their once a day flights.
Till it came to this…
With Air India, the agents were clueless, and they counted their job only as giving information to the passengers as per what emerged from the engineers on the plane, who told them that the plane had a mechanical issue and the flight won’t be able to take off.
First, they delayed the flight by 1 hour, and then by another 30 minutes, and in this meanwhile, the agents would vanish as fast as they could to avoid the crowds. Their response to connection queries… “we will send a message to our Delhi counterparts after the flight takes off.” That is so much reassurance folks, that you get to spend 24 hours in a different city if Air India acts on whim and does not hold the other flight for you, in spite of having issued you a boarding pass for the flight.
What should have really happened? Air India should have a formal plan in place for how to handle tight or missed connection flights, which customers would be rebooked on a later flight the same day, which customers would be rebooked on another carrier and so on. This formal plan would of course make sure the agents act according to this plan rather than just duck questions from the passengers.
About 8 years or so ago, Air India mishandled a flight of mine when I had no status on them, and this was a fog issue at Delhi airport, where they handled it so badly, making me wait 24 hours at the airport, that I did not get on an Air India plane for at least 5-6 years after that.
There are luxuries and their are basics. When a passenger has a ticket to go someplace on an airline, it becomes the airline’s responsibility to get him there and they owe their customers an answer. In this case, the airline just made a mess and all they did was to go further down in the eyes of their customers who think they are a big burden on the Indian taxpayer anyways.