Why don’t Jet Airways check-in agents process upgrades?

I have largely had positive experiences with Jet Airways, and they usually excel for me in the area of in-flight services. My loyalty for them only grows given my preference for a full-service carrier versus a low-cost carrier when I travel around India, and that their international network takes me places where I need to travel for work and leisure anyways. So, it is a good fit, as compared to Air India, where reliability is an issue and they sometimes don’t fly to places I need to be going to anyways.

However, one serious area of concern is upgrades. Different people in the Jet Airways’ frontline have been trained or brainwashed to think differently about upgrades which is a problem. See, upgrades are not a bad thing, and one needs to respect that. When a plane is oversold in one cabin, almost all airlines will move some passengers into the next higher cabin so that they get everyone over to their destination and some people can sample their products. In these cases, upgrades are involuntary and hence nothing is charged to the member.

Over March 2016 however, I saw two different sides of the Jet Airways frontline team which pointed towards the same thing, “why do you want to travel in D Class?” The D-Class is the fare class which is designated for all business class redemption as well as upgrade bookings on Jet Airways flights.

Take 1: How did you get into business class: miles or vouchers?

Early in March 2016, me and my wife, Shipra, were going to be on a quick weekend trip to Srinagar. We figured the best routing to get there at a reasonable time was with Jet Airways via Delhi (BOM-DEL-SXR). In this case, I made a redemption booking using some of my Etihad Guest miles, and all redemption bookings in business class show as D class to Jet Airways.

Anyhow, we checked in online and arrived at the airport to collect our boarding passes (I have a thing for real boarding passes, not electronic, not kiosk-printed ones). The check-in agent printed the boarding passes for us, and then she got confused it seems. It was written all over her face. So, instead of handing us over our boarding passes, she went on a questioning tangent. The conversation went like this:

Agent: How did you purchase these tickets?

Me: Redemption bookings issued by your partner airline Etihad Airways

Agent: Err, did you confirm your upgrade via miles or via vouchers?

Me: I did not upgrade. These are redemption tickets, where Etihad Airways used some my miles with them and issued us both tickets for this trip.

She still looked like she did not believe us, so I asked her to see the ticket in the system which would have been issued by Etihad Airways. She wasn’t convinced so she asked a supervisor, and then informed us that she was going to check on these tickets with the ticketing office and be back soon. Around here, boarding was called for the BOM-DEL flight already. She came back a bit later, still dazed, but profusely apologized, got us our boarding passes and sent us on our way.

Take 2: There is no upgrade request pending for you

Right after the Kashmir getaway, I was supposed to be travelling to Europe on a work trip. Since Jet Airways’ was moving out of Brussels, I thought of booking on the BOM-BRU-BOM segment one last time for nostalgia sake. I usually don’t venture out into Brussels, but I wanted to do that this time. Anyhow, I had a pretty good visibility on the Jet Airways inventory, and it seemed like they may have a seat for BOM-BRU available for upgrade because the flight was not full in business class.

My usual insistence is that the airline confirm an upgrade in advance, because that helps me be mentally sorted and have one thing less on my mind when I am travelling. So, I sent them an email request authorising debiting my account for the upgrade, and the airline further asked (or at least told me they asked!) their revenue management team for releasing a seat to confirm the upgrade. I also sent them tweets to ask for a confirmation before the day of travel.

I got a phone call from JetPrivilege intimating me their inability to confirm an upgrade. So I told the representative I had no intention of begging for an upgrade at the airport. He asked me what I meant, and I informed him how at the airport, the agents never see the PNR record fully, and even if there is an upgrade enlisted, they never pro-actively process the upgrade. In this case, I could see an upgrade waitlisted when I pulled up my PNR record as well.

So, the JP agent on the phone informed me he would make a note on my booking and I won’t have to do anything. The agent would be proactive in processing the upgrade.

Circa to the airport…I get in line, get to the front of the queue, and I want to see what happens. The agent asks me where I am going, prints my boarding pass and wishes me a good flight, etc. So in spite of my best urge to not ask for this upgrade, I ask.

Me: Excuse me, thanks for this. But I’d enlisted an upgrade and I see vacant seats in business class. So, could you look into it

Agent: Sorry sir, no upgrades waitlisted against your name

Like I said before, this is extremely infuriating, and this is something I’ve noticed with Jet domestically and internationally as well. They cling on to the seats till the last minute, and then they’d just not process that upgrade. I understand their desire to try and sell a seat till the last minute. But forget that part, they make the customer look like a fool for asking when they either ignore that an upgrade was waitlisted, or they lie through their teeth.

Same situation on the way back, where I had enlisted an upgrade with vouchers. No one ever even mentioned that I had an upgrade request pending and it was accepted/denied. On those days, it feels like these papers that Jet Airways’ sends me as an elite, just is a paper promise, not to be fulfilled.

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On following up with the airline after finishing the trip, they did not really have an answer, and blamed it on a technical error.

Bottomline

Jet Airways’ agents need some serious training with respect to handling upgrades and mileage redemption tickets on the frontline. Upgrades are not an entitlement, but they are a feature of their product, and hence should be honored without a fuss!

Readers, have you seen incidents with Jet Airways not processing upgrades?

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Comments

  1. Damn! I just got waitlisted from LON-MUM sector, and I was told these seats get occupied within minutes! I mean really? When I called Jet, the agent said he can see available seats in Business, and by the time I told him the voucher numbers, he said the seats got filled!! I am booking like 1.5 months in advance! Reading all your posts, I am really doubtful of getting an upgrade now.

  2. Secondly I have received four upgrade vouchers on getting elite, generally I am getting o or v class ticket which is not eligible for upgrade and upgradable class tickets are almost double.wondering Whether the voucherS are worth it if you have to pay double.

  3. Superb site, and your previous card reckoner was the reason for me to get a diner’s black. Just wanted to know, how do you pull up your PNR record?

  4. Any idea how Jet Airways deals with paid upgrades at check-in? My sister is flying Amsterdam to Mumbai later this month and I’d like to get her a seat in business class if there is availability.

    I dont have miles or status on Jet Airways.

    Thanks!

  5. @Ajay So finally , what was the explanation given by the agent for her confusion ( BOM – SXR ) ??? Curious to know as I have just redeemed my Etihad miles for 4 ‘D class’ seats from DEL > BOM > BHJ & return.

  6. A few months back , I had redeemed my JP miles for 4 seats in the Première cabin ( ‘D class’ ) , from Delhi to Indore & return.
    Due to an unforeseen situation , I had to postpone my travel dates , and this was done via the JetPrivilege helpline no. , ‘confirmed’ by the agent , and the PNR status on the website clearly showed my new modified itinerary. To be completely sure , I even did a tele check-in , and faced no problem at all.
    But when I reach the airport at 4 in the morning , I saw the same “confused” look you’ve written about , and I understood that there was some ‘technical’ problem being faced.
    Girl : Sorry sir , you are not booked on this flight.
    Me : What ?? Here’s my Eticket.
    Girl : Sir , my system is showing an ‘error’ because you changed your dates.
    Me : But I’ve already done a tele check-in , what’s the issue all about ?? I’m sorry but I can’t miss this flight because of an ‘error’
    Girl : Wait , I’ll ask my supervisor.
    ( 30 minutes later )
    Girl : My supervisor is ”allowing” you to board this time , but you’ll face the same problem when you’re returning to Delhi.
    Me : Ma’am , firstly how does the question of “allowing” me to board come , when I have a ticket issued for today. Secondly , when you know I’ll face the same problem while returning why don’t you rectify it.
    ( Directs me to Supervisor )
    ( Repeat the entire episode to the arrogant Supervisor , who pretended as if he had no idea about it )
    Supervisor : Sorry Sir , we can’t help you. This is an award ticket. Please contact them directly.

    On arrival in Indore , I called the service centre 12 times , but not a single person understood the problem I faced. As expected , I was again ‘denied boarding’ at the check-in counter for my return flight , but luckily the supervisor saw what was happening , and resolved my issue within minutes.

    I wrote a page long complaint to Jet Airways , but all I got was a ‘Sorry’.

    On a sidenote , a constant problem I face with my ‘D class’ seats is that I always have ALWAYS been initially denied a lounge invitation by the clueless check-in agents. It’s only after I tell them to reconfirm with their supervisor that they realise their mistake.

  7. Upgrading elites when economy is oversold is OK because doing it any other way would be stupid. But it’s not really a benefit. It’s at the airlines convenience. What would really make being an JP elite worthwhile was if they upgraded elites to business if there were still seats available when check-in closes. Something along the lines of what American does. Otherwise JP Platinum effectively ends up being a a co-branded card plus some vouchers. Food for thought for Jet.

    • @Rishabh I disagree. US airlines are no longer able to sell seats because everyone hopes to upgrade at the gate. That is not a model Jet follows and I am okay with that. I just want them to move their fingers and brains when I am willing to use an upgrade instrument and they have unsold seats.

      • @Ajay I understand your point. The problem US airlines have is that any tier FF member can ask for a complimentary upgrade and get upgraded as long as there is an empty business/first seat. That’s obviously going to complicate selling seats. Restricting complimentary upgrade requests to the highest tier only is probably a better balance between selling seats and rewarding loyal customers.

        • @Rishabh it is pretty easy on the Jet Airways system to get platinum under the new rules. I can imagine everyone clamouring for a seat then. The system already causes enough dissatisfaction in the US, let’s do thing the Asian way where focus is on hospitality rather than just the bigger seat

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