vI’ve just gotten back last night from a packed trip to Bangalore, and this whole trip came up last minute because I was dragging my feet on booking it. Shipra was away on a very long work trip overseas, and somehow I wanted to have her back in India before booking up this trip because I wasn’t sure if she’d want to travel or not within 24 hours of landing back in the country. Also, the on-the-ground situation in Bangalore added to my indecision.
Anyhow, on Friday, we decided to pull the trigger on the trip, and I started researching ticket options. Three of the tickets fitted in very nicely. From Mumbai to Bangalore, we took a red eye flight, since it was significantly cheaper to the early morning ones. We decided we’d sleep it off in Bangalore once we arrive in Bangalore. For Shipra, who was arriving back in Mumbai on a different date than me, we also found a flight around the times she wanted.
However, for myself, I needed to be back in the office on Monday, so I wanted to fly out on Sunday night out of Bangalore if possible. So, I wanted to pick a Sunday night flight. However, for whatever reason, now the Sunday night as well as Monday morning flights were all looking pretty expensive, like ₹ 7000 upwards. So, I decided to scout for mileage flights.
Air India had a seat on their flight early evening, did not work for me. Vistara had killed their Bangalore Mumbai flight. Jet Airways was the only resort. So I checked the JetPrivilege website for a redemption. The last flights out of Bangalore did not have award inventory for the time I wanted.
But sometimes, Etihad Guest has access to invisible inventory at Jet Airways. Etihad Airways is the part owner of Jet Airways, and hence Etihad Guest has access to redemption inventory on Jet Airways. So I called them on Friday afternoon, and voila, they had access to inventory on the exact flight I wanted.
You may all know that you need to ticket 14 days out on a Jet Airways flight with Etihad miles, but this rule was recently changed and you can have a ticket when you are at least 24 hours out. Since Etihad Guest tickets are now more expensive than Jet Airways’ JetPrivilege tickets in terms of the number of miles required, usually it is a bad idea to use EY miles for 9W redemptions. But the amounts I was looking at were absolutely crazy, so I preferred to redeem miles over cash then.
That is where my tyranny with Etihad Guest started. Etihad Guest’s India call centre cannot issue tickets if you are paying taxes with an Indian credit card. This is because the Reserve Bank of India disallows any transactions in India on Indian Credit Cards without authentication. So, Etihad Guest generates the PNR, and passes it along to their central team in Abu Dhabi who can then issue the tickets after collecting taxes in Abu Dhabi and generating the tickets. The usual timeline for this to happen is 24 hours.
In my case, it was almost 24 hours but no call came. No biggie, since sometimes you just need to call back and they remind the central team to move your request on a higher priority. Usually, the second time around, you get a call back within 2 hours.
I started getting edgy since ticket prices were creeping up by the hour. So, I started pinging them on Twitter, and every time a new agent would tell me that I’d get a call back. I still did not have a ticket to get to Mumbai.
@EtihadHelp Etihad guest needs to call me to collect payment for a flight N issue tickets for tomorrow. Haven’t heard from them in 24 hours.
— Ajay Awtaney (@LiveFromALounge) September 17, 2016
.@EtihadAirways my ticket for tonight travel still not issued. Can you get someone to issue the ticket urgently?? Have been waiting 36 hours
— Ajay Awtaney (@LiveFromALounge) September 18, 2016
— Ajay Awtaney (@LiveFromALounge) September 18, 2016
I’ve spent plenty of hours in the past year or so helping people redeeming their miles, and a lot of time on the phone with the agents, but this was where I was on the edge of irritation because the whole system was being irresponsible. So, I did not call the Mumbai call centre one more time, but I called the Abu Dhabi call center this time.
My oh my, why did I not see this coming. The agent on the line told me my itinerary had been dropped by Jet Airways since it was not ticketed in time. She guessed that this was because I had tried to book a ticket 52 hours prior to travel, while I had to book 14 days prior. I informed her about the new policy on Jet Airways ticket, and I was promised a call back.
A while later I was called back by the Indian call centre again. I was informed about the same thing. My itinerary was dropped by Jet Airways, conveniently missing the fact that Etihad did not ticket it in time and hence the ticket expired. I asked the agent about why was it allowed to expire, and he told me there were a lot of tickets put in the queue, and that there was no priority order, so Etihad Guest UAE missed the request for my ticket.
Yes, right, they missed it and they survived to tell the tale…
In the end, there were 10 phone calls from there on through the evening, where Etihad’s call centre tried to convince me that they had reinstated the booking, so I should allow them to ticket it. No apologies, no shame. One of the high points of the conversation from Etihad went,
Etihad Guest: Sir, but we have enough time to still issue this ticket.
Me: If I called you today, and said I needed a ticket urgently to fly out tonight. The inventory is there, you just need to redeem my miles and issue the ticket. Would you do that?
EG: No sir, we won’t be able to do that…
Me: Then why do you expect to not do your job and keep me hanging on till the last minute?
Eventually, I did come back to Mumbai, but not on the itinerary that Etihad Guest effed up so many times over 48 hours. But that is a different story for another time. Etihad Guest promised to examine their slip-up, and come back to me at the earliest with who to lay the blame on. They insist it is Jet Airways’ fault, but they haven’t convincingly answered me yet on about when they found out the ticket was in a mess, why did they not call me to inform me that they had made a mess of it.
Moral of the story for me was, as should be for you, to keep an eagle eye on your redemption bookings till they are ticketed. Don’t take it easy, and keep following up till you have a ticket on hand.
Readers, have you had any similar experiences with a program where you did not receive tickets in time? Do share your experiences.