Sunday, April 21, 2013

Money spinning travel sites

Makemytrip fiasco

A bit spurned by a last minute change of itinerary of a planned vacation, was anxiously looking for cheaper tickets that night (in an effort to reduce the damage caused by cancellations and resulting losses). Tried different airlines sites and the known travel sites to hit upon a 40k ticket at Makemytrip (MMT). Merrily went ahead for booking 8 tickets (to & fro).

What was disturbing was that the booking failed in spite showing the availability - this does not happen with other sites like Yatra and - they give you a good 15-20 min to complete the passenger details and payment forms and the ticket is blocked till then. The excuse given by the MMT executive was the seats disappeared while I was booking the tickets (2-3 min to fill the forms online). This is unfair, since they lured the customer with a low fare and "available" status and did not honour the booking. By this time seats may go down (or fares up) in other sites ! So by the lure of MMT you neither get any tickets here - you also lose the opportunity in other sites. Who pays for the difference of fares?

But even worse was waiting. Ticket not booked but payment transaction was "Successful" !! (for whom?certainly not for me !)
Who told them to book 2 of 4 tickets - that too for the adults and not the kids ! Do MMT personnel leave their babies home while on vacation? The person who created this logic in their software must be an avid fan of 'Home Alone' !

Booking failed - however full amount deducted
Promptly I put a complaint on their website asking for full refund. Next day they had not called after the stipulated 6 hrs and more. So a phone call from my side and they confirmed the 'error' and promised a full refund. But the mail in response to the telephone call talked about 7k refund !
Full refund sought
These guys should work in horror films - I felt stoned ! 33k lost for their mistake?
Refund 1 - 'peanuts'
The Email battle began. Took days before the refund started trickling in ! Literally in droplets. First they gave 7k, then another 7k. Then a few more phone call and email complaints (sample below). Then another 20k. Fortunately I'd paid by card, else your money gets stuck. And you may not have more left to plan the vacation till they refund. Unfair is probably a subtle word.

Refund 2 - still incomplete & partial

In spite of their acceptance the full refund was not happening. The excuse was for Rs.5000 they had escalated to the 'concerned' team ! So we are supposed to wait for our money to be refunded to us for an erroneous transaction on their part while their various teams interact with each other ! By their description it could take even a month to get back the amount.

Acceptance of error by MMT
On 31st Mar, finally there was a mail formally acknowledging the error and notifying the processing of the full refund.
The actual refund took another few days of waiting and finally on April 3rd 2013 the levied cancellation charge of 5k was returned.
Finally !!

In all there are about 20 Emails to & fro. How many people facing such problems have the connectivity, knack, time and interest to pressurize these guys for refunds. I am sure if there was any slack shown from my side, part of the amount would never have been credited back. Is this one way of earning ?

Finally got tickets through GoIbibo. No hassles this time. Got GoAir tickets although GoAir site was not showing availability. No seat droputs etc. (how did they manage the same situation?)

Guess next time I shall avoid Makemytrip. You decide for yourself !

Seems lot of others have faced similar situation with them !

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Is Spicejet incorrigible?

The airline manages to find airtime for the wrong reasons so frequently ! Last Feb, the Jeeja Ghosh ordeal brought to light the apathy of the airline towards the disabled. The matter went to Supreme Court and the apex court slapped a notice on the airline. As late as April 2012, Spicejet chose to be absent from an all airline meeting called by DGCA, in total denial.

courtesy :

3 months have not passed, and yet again Md Ali Shah is forced to deplane by Spicejet staff at Delhi for taking snaps of his damaged luggage with his mobile on the tarmac. The altercation leads to a communal slur and the airline is indifferent? They guarded the 'mentally-disabled' pilot Utprabh Tiwari last time. This time around - a simple staff - not having the authority to decide on security matters - decides  that a man taking photographs at airport (which by the way is legal since 2004) is not fit to fly since his name has 'Ali' in it? And this guy has to potray his patriotism by stating he was an ex-armyman and his dad fought in the 1971 war !

If only an aberrant staff misbehaves with a passenger, the airline cannot be blamed. However if different employees of the same airline dish out such sick behaviour time and again - and the airline continues to side with its staff ("our pilot did nothing wrong" was the support for Tiwari last time) - there seems to be something seriously wrong in the recruitment and training procedures and policies of this 'cheap' airline !

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Telecom sector mischief-mongers - don't wait for Anna

The ad by Docomo about "no fine prints" in their tariff plans is sarcastic about the competition. But if biggies like Airtel resort to the "tricks of the trade" I guess they are justified. Hope the ads and articles like these on the net would bring about some awareness and perk up the telco bosses.
Living in a housing-society which has a Airtel hub and being offered a Combo plan giving both broadband (@2.1mbps) and a phone line with Rs 200 worth free calls to any phone made the choice obvious - I had opted for this bill plan way back in 2008. Having had billing issues in the past, it was very comfortable when neither the speed nor the bills were upsetting. Alas ! peace was to last only 3 years !!

One fine evening in Aug 2011 the bill came in and the TV channels were boring. So I found time to scrutinize the bill - an act I am sure nobody finds time for these days. How much on STDs, how much on Internet, and lo ... the discount on phone calls was not there? How come, take out an older bill - yes, it's there, why not in this bill, call customer care, register a complaint - again many customers wouldn't go this far - after all it's only hundred and something rupees - kiske paas time hai?

And that's exactly what these companies bank upon ! Kiske paas time hai - noone will notice! even if they do nobody would complain ! We need a lokpal to rid our society of all evil. Us ? we don't have time !

What followed was emails and counter-emails. What will probably shock you is the number - I diligently kept on reminding - 24 times in 4 months to Nodal officers, Appellate authority and the Ombudsman!! What kept me going were two email acceptances of error in Sept and Oct 2011 and 4 reversals till Nov. So it was working, right?

Wrong ! Come 2012, they stopped responding and the reversals stopped too. Then the phone went dead. But the erroneous billing continued (over a dead phone ;), funny na?).
No internet, and worse... one day when we needed to call the Hospital (and another day the Electric office) the mobiles would not connect the Toll-free numbers. We missed the landline badly.

A Consumer forum complaint and the officials became tight -lipped. "Our legal team is working on it, I am not authorized to respond anymore". Again nothing for a month in spite of reminders. Then the case was closed based upon an Airtel response - "All is well !" - what a farce if the authorities only listen to the mischief-mongers and not the complainant.

Somebody mentioned a DoT complaint.

And Yessss!! After 10 months, Airtel accepted that they changed the FCV calculation to a "new process" (A2A). Rather stealthily, no notification on the bills or mail - noone noticed - kiske paas time time hai? And those who complained were "educated" (read 'bribed' with reversals). Rather clandestine for a market leader, don't you think?

They say "TRAI guideline gives them the right to change tariff plans at their will after 6M" ! Should I feel elated that they took 3 yrs to change? Attitude !!
When asked whether the TRAI guideline talks of PRIOR notification to customers - lips sealed again ! Cat-and-mouse !! Then came the "Apologies for the inconvenience...blah...blah ". Offer for alternate plan. Sending the official home for reactivation. etc..etc

So now I must migrate to another plan with no free call option to all phone, policies changed .... some offer for discounted STDs.

OK, but only if you are a little wary can these surreptitious acts be brought to light. And only if you spare a little of your time to spread the word (even if its Internet activism like the threats from Airtel incident) will these betrayals stop !! Alone Anna cannot help !!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Our education is exclusive

The education system in India, especially these days, are producing a miopic, copy-paste generation. There is little scope for imagination and innovation. Forget the cheap goods from China, ever wonder why the expensive kitchen systems and sleek door-closers are imported from Germany, even glassware from Singapore? Be it technology or the arts - we are losing the capability to think for ourselves, even for our own needs.

As far as others' needs go, crossing a street in NJ a few years back was an eye-opener.

There was this pillar with the traffic light in front of me on the pavement. I stood there for a few minutes and the cars kept on passing. Do people don't cross roads here on foot - there were hardly any other pedestrians at the junction! And the cars sped by too fast to try any adventure - India style. Then a man came around, pressed a switch on the pillar, the light turned red and we crossed the road. Felt a little stupid for not noticing the switch but a bell ringing while we crossed the street did not miss my ear. On enquiring I found that the bell was for the blind - they could cross as long as the bell was ringing.

We don't even build a wheelchair ramp in Govt buildings in our country. Nor at Railway stations. Not even at all swanky office buildings. We claim we are the most sensitive race. Who would think of a bell for the blind.

Reproducing an anecdote I came across while reading about Jeeja Ghosh on the net. Moving and thought provoking, to say the least.

" I will never forget the Irish steward on a British Airways flight from Delhi to London who helped me board with my daughter Moy Moy who has severe special needs — as he was leading us to our seats in Economy, he noticed she was drooling and without a moment's hesitation, he wiped her chin for her. As he settled us in our seats, he said, “I don't think you'll be comfortable enough here. Let me see what I can do.” A few moments later, he returned and moved us into Business Class.
The man sitting next to us there, who had paid good money for his fancy seat, could have objected or at least made us feel awkward and unwelcome but instead he did everything possible to help us, including looking after Moy whenever I went to the bathroom.
The steward, I found out later, had a younger sister with special needs. My co-passenger had attended an inclusive school.
Captain Utprabh Tiwari wasn't born wanting to discriminate against Jeeja Ghosh. He was taught to."
"Want to change the world? Start with teaching the children ! "

Napoleon quotation : World suffers a lot ... silence of good people

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spicejet rapped by SC

The airline known for delays, abrupt cancellation and indifferent attitude towards customers is in the news again. For all the bad reasons, that is.

In Feb 2012 a passenger named Jeeja Ghosh was forcibly deplaned from a Spicejet flight from Kolkata to Goa. Though she was a frequent flyer, Spicejet staff found her unfit to fly - directly contrary to the provisions of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Ghosh sought apex court's direction to the DGCA for enforcement of regulations pertaining to "carriage by Air of Persons with Disability and Persons with Reduced Mobility." The Kolkata based teacher at the Institute of Cerebral Palsy also urged the apex court to direct the airline to adequately compensate her for loss of money and wastage of time, besides the humiliation and the trauma that she suffered in the unsavoury incident. She approached the apex court along with an NGO, Able Disable All People Together, which works for differently-abled persons.

If only this 'cheap' airline could learn to be a little more courteous ... especially to differently-abled women ! Hope Utprabh Tiwari, the 'Captain' of this debacle of Spicejet, is made to appear on national television to apologize !!

Get more (such treatment) when you fly ... Spicejet !

Jeeja Ghosh

References :
  1. Wikipedia on Spicejet ;
  2. SC notice to Spicejet for deplaning woman ;
  3. World News - Apology demanded ;
  4. Jeeja Ghosh - IICP ;
  5. Utprabh Tiwari was taught ...
  6. Ghosh - We have our dignity

Friday, November 4, 2011

Spicejet - Get more (waiting at the airport) when you fly

Spicejet - their punchline "Get more when you fly". Just wait till you get to the airport to know what's waiting! 'Cause flying comes later - first comes the wait !!

This low cost carrier now has the dubious distinction of being a "Late Latif".
[Spicejet-passengers-hit-most-by-cancellations - DNA]
There are enough complaints on consumer boards on the net when I checked after my own harrowing experience. Had a 10:45pm flight from Pune to Hyd which was delayed. But when did they tell me ? Not by a sms / phone call/ Email as one would expect. Even after reaching the airport there was no announcement. After checking in when I glanced at the boarding pass during security check I found a 00:15 departure !

Then their patented style of easing your pain ! Every half an hour the delay kept extending. [similar in an earlier Telegraph report]. Till the plane actually took off at about 1:45am - a whole 3 hrs late ! And when I asked the Airport Spicejet manager about services, he coolly points at the TnC - Spicejet does not have any liability. Which means - no refreshments, no transfers, nothing (which BTW is a violation of the Civil Aviation Requirements, section 3, I didn't know then). The rule states that for delays greater than 2 hours, the airline is obliged to provide meals and refreshment (and accomodation and transfers where applicable, in case the passenger checked-in on time).

Well I also realized I am not alone ... a brief Google search tells me this is usual [Spicejet-leaves-flyers-dry-hyderabad]. As per DGCA data, more than 17,480 passengers of Spicejet have been affected by delays of more than two hours in Jan 2011 alone. [10] That Spicejet is the worst hit among low cost carriers is exemplified by the fact that this number stays unabated at a staggering 15,629 in July 2011.[11]  [Wikipedia - Spicejet delays]

So folks !!
" Get more PAIN " ... everytime you fly Spicejet !!

Friday, September 24, 2010

CWG ... national shame

Seems Bhanot's "different standard of hygiene" means his bedroom is infested with street dogs and 'labourers' spit 'pan' in his bathroom. Such corrupt and inept Indians potray India in bad light. Likes of Kalmadi usurp millions and we 'forget & forgive'. It's a shame that we elect such people to hold positions of power in our country. They should be confined in a pit with a roof threatening to collapse !