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Saturday, 14 July 2007

The disaster that is Air Deccan

This was a few weeks ago, Monday morning, June 18. I was in Bangalore and flying back to Hyderabad by the 18.30 flight. The previous night was spent partying and listening to friends asking me not to leave so soon (I had already spent 10 days there). Here I was sitting, having lunch with my bro-in-law-to-be and a friends' friend who I think should become his girl friend. Both of them convinced me to stay a bit longer in Bangalore - a week more to be precise. I gave in. The not-yet-girlfriend called up Air Deccan and I rescheduled by paying another 650 bucks.

But being a person who thinks changing-one's-mind is absolutely ok and going back home is more important, I called up the airline to find out if i could fly back the same day. Another 600 bucks and they said it would be ok. Ok done. Somewhere in between all this drama, going, not-going, I had called everyone to tell them that they would have to play good host for a while longer. Lunch was over and I had to leave the same day so rushed to Ogilvy office, where I had been going everyday, to say bye. (To say bye to the friends, of course and not the office, silly)

Rushed cake cutting for a friend who was leaving (yes, ogilvy) and then pick up bags and go to the airport. Pallo drops me to the airport (my gracious host) and leaves. I go stand in line at 17:20 hrs and by the time I reach the counter its about 17:30 hrs.

Now the ditz at the counter, a lady called beauty, (did full justice to the name) and maybe should been called brainy (so she could do more justice to the job) tried to give me printout of the ticket. Each and everyone of the printouts said my ticket was cancelled but the system said not cancelled or whatever.

Henh? What cancelled - I paid about 4000 for the ticket already and for that much money could have travelled a nice airline - how could my ticket be cancelled. 15 minutes passed and the no-brains-beauty could not figure out what to do.

I readjusted the contents of my baggage and shuffled things around right there while she dithered and racked her teeny weeny brain to find a solution.

At about 17:55, I called Air Deccan. Standing there, in front of the Air Deccan counter where the 3 ditzy-no-brains tried to have a board meeting to figure out a solution while about 10 frantic people waited, I called up a 4th Air Deccan person, while my phone was on roaming, to sort this out. The agent says everything is alright and I should be allowed to fly. Ok, speak to your friends and tell them that, I say. Pass the phone (which is already screaming low battery) and they speak. Finally at 18:09 i get the permission to enter the airport. Rush to the check-in to fin the Hyderabad counter is closed. Ha Ha.

But I have to fly. It was meant to be a surprise for my family. They all thought I was coming after a week. Guess who got a shock!!

Now, I started getting nasty, angry, desperate, frustrated, irritated. They wrote in my ticket that I reported at 18:11 hrs. But whose mistake was it. Obviously not mine. I had hyper-ventilated at the Air Deccan counter for a silly printout for 45 minutes. The gentleman, boor actually, at the counter said I would have to reschedule. No sorries, no nothings. Would I have to pay - yes. You must be kidding me, I said. I refused to budge and they refused to look me in the eye or anywhere in the nearabouts.

No airport manager around, no one to complain to, no one wants to talk or listen and everyone is playing passing the parcel so I call up Air Deccan again. The guys there are definitely brainier, smarter, more helpful, better informed and polite. (Maybe the staff at the airport needs to go through a month-long training, maybe more, if it helps)

Tell the entire story again (scheduling, rescheduling, blah) and as usual the call centre person wants to talk to the counter person. As if anyone wants to touch the phone. Finally, one man grudgingly takes the phone, gives it back after 10 seconds and says I cannot fly as its too late and they cant do a thing. But its not my fault. Not even remotely so.

Who says I cant reschedule more than once? or twice or even 10 times. Sigh.

I take the phone and start yelling. Literally. I have never before yelled at a public place. Been catty, yes. Been nasty, yes. But yelling, never. The smart guy at the other end, tries to calm me, asks me to hold the line and I wait for a long time. Menawhile my phone is going to die. Eventually, I head out of the airport, walk back and forth with the baggage trolley (which incidentally, need to be thrown out) try to find a charge point, don't find one and hyper-ventilate some more. What is he is going to hang up? What is my phone dies mid-call?

Shiva comes back on line, gives me his personal mobile number, says will reschedule the ticket for the next flight, not charge me anything extra, gives me the email id of the ceo and says will call back to confirm status. Meanwhile, I had about 15 missed calls, all trying to find out my ticket status and my mom calling to chat. So I found a PCO, returned those calls, talked to Shiva (he did call), found an auto and finally left the airport.

At the end of it, I felt like a good cry, a stiff drink, the comfort of home and a mobile charger. None of it was meant to be. But that's another really long story altogether.

Moral of the story: If you have a problem with Air Deccan, call Customer Care. (And if anyone thinks or says to me, that Customer Service is a brainless job, think again. And again.)
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