How not to book your flight tickets! HOW I LOST INR 60,000 BOOKING THROUGH TRAVEL AGENTS

How to book flight tickets

Story courtesy : A very close friend of mine! Name not revealed. He is now a world traveler and has many stories to share. One of which is this. 

The biggest dream of my Life had been realized, admit from a top engineering school in the United States! After going through a rigorous one year of preparation starting from taking standardized tests GRE/GMAT/TOEFL, Statement of Purpose, University shortlisting, visa process and other formalities, I was all set. As soon as the visa was approved it was time to book the travel tickets to the United States.

I checked the prices of air tickets to the United States and found the agent sites like kayak.com, cleartrip.com, makemytrip.com and others. I decided to go with “Makemytrip.com” since they are the number one agents in India for ticket booking. I was a typical Indian, I wanted to save money of course. Seeing that  I save INR 5,000 I decided to go with Makemytrip.com.

I booked my tickets initially with MakemyTrip.com, and the customer service was great I thought. They checked with me daily for the next 3 days to ensure that I would be convinced to book the tickets for INR 59,568. The customer care representative called me again and again to book the tickets and I finally did. The ticket was from Chennai to Delhi in Jet Airways, Delhi to London in Virgin Atlantic and London to Newark in Virgin Atlantic. The proof of the booking ticket is in the picture.

Initial Ticket MakemyTripInitial Ticket MakemyTrip
Initial Ticket MakemyTrip

The biggest day of my life had arrived finally, with 2 big baggages each 21 Kg, with a cabin bag and laptop backup I was all set to leave my family after 24 years for the first time in my life. With tears dropping from eyes, my heart and mind did not allow me to control my emotion. With a heavy heart I entered the Chennai international airport around 6.30 AM for my 8.25 AM flight to Mumbai in Jet Airways. I also RECEIVED my boarding pass for the “VIRGIN ATLANTIC” flights through “JET AIRWAYS” till Newark. Even my baggages were tied to be received in Newark. I was delighted but it was short lived to learnt that flight was late by a hour and half. I immediately checked with Jet Airways staff at the terminal and they ensured that I will be able to catch the connecting flight with just thirty minutes available now because of the delay. Please see the image of the boarding pass and the baggage tagging till Newark.

Delhi to London cancelled ticketDelhi to London cancelled ticket
Delhi to London cancelled ticket
London to Newark cancelled ticketLondon to Newark cancelled ticket
London to Newark cancelled ticket
Baggage tags issued by Jet Airways at Chennai airport till NewarkBaggage tags issued by Jet Airways at Chennai airport till Newark
Baggage tags issued by Jet Airways at Chennai airport till Newark
Baggage tags issued by Jet Airways at Chennai airport till NewarkBaggage tags issued by Jet Airways at Chennai airport till Newark
Baggage tags issued by Jet Airways at Chennai airport till Newark

I reached the New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport around 12.40 PM. The Virgin Atlantic flight was at 13.10 and because of rigorous security checks I was late to the terminal and missed my Virgin Atlantic flight. NO FAULT OF MINE!! I rushed to the Virgin Atlantic staff and they told sorry, please check with Jet Airways. I told them the situation and they told me to wait in the passengers area. After 30 minutes, I asked the staff and he told me, “My first priority is my terminal and your concern is not my headache”. After hearing a rude reply, I broke down and informed my parents.

I reached out to the New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport  staff and they told we cant hep you since you have NOT followed the international flight transfer rules of not allowing more than 3 hours time difference. I CALLED THE MAKEMYTRIP.COM CUSTOMER CARE MORE THAN 20 TIMES, NO PROPER RESPONSE FROM THEM. SIMULTANEOUSLY, MY DAD TRIED REACHING THEM, NO HELP WAS OFFERED. FOR TICKET BOOKING, THEY CALL YOU 10 TIMES A DAY TO ENSURE YOU PAY THE MONEY, WHEN YOU WANT HELP, YOU CALL THEM 25 TIMES AND THEY DONT HELP YOU.

After a complaint to the Jet Airways Team, a Jet Airways staff addressed my concern at 15.00 hours. I was hungry(skipped lunch) and had a bad headache, but wanted to figure out the problem regarding my tickets. The Jet airways staff grabbed my Passport and Boarding pass. He made me sit in a general passenger area and told he would be right back. He came  at 16.00 hours and tells, “Sorry sir, we can’t help you in anyways. We must cancel your Immigration since you have not left the country. You will have to check with Virgin Atlantic since you missed their flights, although we are sorry for the delay”. Telling this, he made me sit in the same general passenger area and came  after a hour around 17.00 hours.

This was very anxious moments since I was very afraid since he took away my passport and made me sit in the general passenger area. He tells that Immigration has been cancelled and tells to talk with Virgin Atlantic, since thats not our problem. And tells collect your baggage in sometime. Around 18.30 hours I got my baggage with extreme headache and mental agony that cant be explained. Now, I was STRANDED in the airport not knowing what to do next at the New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport. I SEVERELY CONDEMN THE LETHARGIC AND PATHETIC CUSTOMER SUPPORT PROVIDED BY JET AIRWAYS. Please find the delay certificate in the picture confirming the flight was late.

Delay Certificate, Jet AirwaysDelay Certificate, Jet Airways
Delay Certificate, Jet Airways

I had no option what to do next. I was trapped at the Delhi Airport with my baggage alone.My dad’s friend, a senior government official consoled me and I stayed overnight in their place in Delhi. Next day, we went to the Virgin Atlantic Office at Gurgaon, India. The response was VERY POOR. Virgin Atlantic India for the Records has the WORST CUSTOMER SUPPORT ever.  The staff replied we can give free tickets for the economy class if we have vacant tickets and then checked to tell the bad news that there are no vacant tickets for the next 2 weeks since its the busiest time. She however striked an offer that she could book the Upper class Virgin Atlantic tickets that costed more than INR 1,50,000, and I have to pay half of it since I have already purchased  a Virgin Atlantic ticket. However, we knew its not going to work and MakemyTrip.com must help me out. since they booked me the tickets We reached the MakemyTrip.com office and addressed our problem. The MakemyTrip.com staff SUGGESTED I MUST BUY FRESH NEW TICKETS. We were very upset and disappointed, we then took a day to decide. I had a conference to attend and my school was about to starts in a few days, we had no option to pay INR 60,000 AGAIN to book new tickets to the United States. I HAD TO PAY INR 60,000 FOR NO FAULT OF MINE. THE MISTAKE I MADE WAS BOOKING THROUGH MAKEMTRIP.COM. Please find the new invoice and new ticket details for proof.

New TicketNew Ticket
New Ticket
New Ticket DetailsNew Ticket Details
New Ticket Details

I then wrote emails to the Jet Airways Customer service, they replied that they were sorry for the inconvenience cost and I must take the issue with the agent(Makemytrip.com) since they were the ones who booked my ticket. The Virgin Atlantic team replied that I must contact Jet Airways since their flight was delayed and also check with the agent who issued the ticket for reimbursements.

PERSONAL LOSSES:

1. Mental agony I had to go through in my first International journey is a scar that can be never erased from my memory. My first immigration stamp was striked out since I was unable to board the flight, My grand parents broke down and I had to console them that I was safe. Parents and cousins  were had a tough time to ensure I was well and in positive spirit. I also lost 2 days struggling with the airlines and agents, losing my time and money.

2. The way the airlines and ticket agents treat you. The Jet Airways staff treated me like dirt,  waiting in the general area hungry and very anxious since my passport taken. Baggage arrived after 5-6 hours. Jet Airways did not have the courtesy to give me an accommodation to stay nor did simple refreshments for me to have. That staff did not even have the courtesy to be humble and use words like Sorry. Very poor customer service, very sorry Jet Airways. They claim Customers are first priority, not in my case atleast.

3. Ticketing agents are intelligent. All they want is to sell the tickets and get money. They beg you to book tickets, once there is problem you beg them. Thats how it works! I ended up paying INR 1,20,000 for my total fare. Now with such a horrible First flight experience, I am afraid personally to travel. The Airlines play the blame game and point to the agent since he was the one who issued the ticket. It is the job of the “Good travel agent” to ensure they book the tickets that allows to ensure seamless transit and flight connections, the Minimum Connecting Time (MCT) for the above flight is 3 hours , keeping in mind the possible flight delays, and the time which involves for transfer from the domestic terminal to the International Airport Terminal. In my case, the agent Makemytrip.com could have done better.

4. Imagine I did not know anyone in Delhi, what would I have done with “NO CASH” in hand. I have no clue, what would I have done. I had to take money from a friend for debt and my parents cleared it after I reached the United States.  INR 60,000 is a lot for a debt for anyone to give. What would have happen if in case someone who does not know english from a rural background or who could not afford money would have gone through.

5. People working in the hospitality industry need to have a HEART. If it was your brother or your cousin or your friend, would you have treated and took care of the individually sensibly.  I agree its a difficult job where you cant cater to the need of thousands of passengers, but can do better. My friend who is a pilot himself with a leading airline in India tells that what happened to you is atrocity and not in the spirit of the hospitality industry.

RECOMMENDATIONS TO BOOK AN INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT TICKET:

* Check the visa of your transit countries:

If your flight lands in a certain country for transit or refueling, please check and verify if you need a transit visa. One of my friend who booked in a premier airline, had TWO stopping in Europe(Austria and Germany). To make two stops in Europe, you might need a “Schengen Visa”. If your trapped in a random Europe country,, its a nightmare with language being a main problem.

* Airline Website Highly Recommend:

If your traveling to New York for example, please book through the same airlines like Emirates.com, Jetairways.com, BritishAirways.com. Although they might be a bit expensive, you can save your peace of mind.

* Terminals at Big Airports:

Many airports have multiple terminals and some even at different locations where you might have to take a shuttle bus or even a subway train. Be prepared to account for all this in your timing of your connection flights. Also please check them in advance so that you can plan well in advance.

* Minimum Connecting Time(MCT):

The international flights connection rule tells that a passenger must have a minimum of 3 hours time for a connecting international flight. I did not stick to this rule since I was unaware and paid a hefty price. So please be aware of this! Always have 3-4 hours of time to catch your international flight.

* Boarding Passes:

If you have booked through multiple airlines, please go to that airlines counter to get all your boarding passes so that it is saves time and effort after reaching the transit airport. Say for example you travel from Chennai to France in AirFrance and Paris to NewYork in BritishAirways. Go the AirFrance counter at chennai airport, collect your boarding pass for your first trip. Immediately go to British Airways counter and collect your boarding pass from Paris to NewYork at chennai airport itself.

* Help Yourself:

If you have any queries or if your flights have been missed. No one is going to check with you. You must go to the respective airline counter to ask for help and express your concern. So please be bold enough to express your thoughts for the airlines to serve you better.

* Baggage:

Please check with all your connecting flights and domestic flights about baggage allowance. Although international airlines allow 2 baggages each 21 Kgs each, most domestic airlines in India and in the US allow only 1 baggage. Please check in advance or you will pay in fortunes to get your baggage home. Please be aware of the weight of your baggage. Buying a weighing machine in your home helps a lot to find the weight of your baggage.

* Things to carry when during your journey:

Passport, legal documents to enter the country and boarding passes. Also important in your cabin baggage are local currency, basic toiletries and local contact number. These things might be very handy.

* Timing of your arrival:

It is recommend to arrive in the morning, afternoon or evening. Prefer night timings only if you have someone to pick you up from the airport. Anywhere in the world, night is not safe with your baggage around and I wont recommend.

* Port of Entry:

Also be aware of your port of entry, although it does not matter much.

* Off-Season tickets:

If your parents are planning to come to the US, they can come during the offseason preferably in the summer so that they can appreciate the country better.

NEXT TIME YOU BOOK A TICKET, I PERSONALLY RECOMMEND NOT TO BOOK THROUGH AGENTS WEBSITES LIKE MAKEMYTRIP.COM. If you do so, do at your own risk. I personally recommend my friends and family to book through the airline websites like British Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates since it is their headache to give you assistance if their flights arrive late. Although if the airlines cost INR 10,000 more, believe me its worth it! You will have a pleasant journey with peace of mind.

PS: This blog post was written in the intention to help students leaving overseas for education, where most of them travel abroad first time in their life. This blogpost is NOT to complain about the agent websites nor the airlines, it is to help the students to plan and book their ticket effectively so that they dont face hassles like I did.  Although I have loads of friends abroad, no one told me about Minimum connecting time, I thought agents will help me(I am to blamed anyways). I want to all  the students to travel with joy and peace of mind, since this is the biggest day of their lives starting a new journey. PLEASE SHARE IF YOU KNOW ANYONE LEAVING ABROAD FOR EDUCATION BOOKING THEIR AIRLINE TICKETS. THANK YOU!! 🙂

Picture courtesy: http://www.amztravels.com/images/airline_booking_banner.jpg

Credits : https://priyannraj.wordpress.com/

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1 Comment on "How not to book your flight tickets! HOW I LOST INR 60,000 BOOKING THROUGH TRAVEL AGENTS"

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