Air India on Monday asked its sales agents to provide contact details of passengers while booking tickets and acknowledged “several” complaints about lack of communication on changes in schedule or cancellation of flights.
Travel agents said it was a tactic to suggest that gaffes were a result of not having contact details of passengers.
Air India said in a note sent to sales and travel agents on Monday: “There are several communications received from passengers wherein schedule change information has not been passed on to passengers which results in enormous inconvenience to passengers especially during fog season.
“It is advised to provide passenger contact details (mobile number/email etc) in PNR in the prescribed format so that passengers can be informed in order to minimise inconvenience.”
Last week, The Telegraph had reported about the harassment faced by hundreds of passengers because Air India did not communicate to them the change in schedule or cancellations of flights.
Many passengers had complained about not being able to get assistance from the airline's call centre regarding change in schedule or to get any information.
Many passengers and their family members have to visit Air India’s office on Chittaranjan Avenue in central Kolkata and wait for hours to get information or assistance.
Monday’s communication was sent to sales agents to “sensitise them”, said an official of Air India.
“The communication was sent to sales agents across our network. The idea is to sensitise the agents about providing contact details of passengers while booking tickets. There are many passengers who cannot be communicated because of lack of contact details,” said the Air India official.
However, passengers and travel agents said they always provided their contact details to airlines while booking tickets.
Gautam Ghosh, a Kolkatan, had earlier this month spent 36 hours at the Frankfurt airport in Germany because there was no communication from Air India about his flight having been cancelled.
“We had provided the contact number of my son, who stays in Dresden, and also my Kolkata number, as well as that of my travel agent who had made the bookings. However, no communication had come from Air India to any of these numbers,” Ghosh said.
On reaching the airport, Ghosh and his wife came to know about the cancellation. He could not step out of the airport to check into a hotel because his visa, timed according to the couple’s return flight, had expired.
Travel agents said that during the pandemic they were extra careful to convey contact details of passengers to the airlines.
“We always provide phone numbers of travellers and our own numbers while booking tickets. Also during the pandemic, when there are too many cancellations and change in schedules, we are doubly careful to put contact numbers for proper communication,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman, east, Travel Agents Federation of India.
“Many passengers now don’t want to book on Air India flights because of the harassment… but on most international routes, it is only Air India that is operating flights under air bubble agreements. So they don’t have any choice,” said Punjabi.