The mother of a young Kolkatan scheduled to fly to New York from Kolkata by Air India narrates their experience:
Soon after the Bengal government announced restrictions on incoming flights to Kolkata from New Delhi and Mumbai, we started enquiring if the decision would affect outbound flights to these two cities. Our son, a student in the US who had come home during the Christmas holidays, was due to return by an Air India flight leaving Kolkata for Delhi on a Saturday with a subsequent onward connection to the US from Delhi.
The ordeal began when we came to know from a friend around January 5 that the flight (AI 770) had been cancelled though we had not received any intimation from the airline. The website showed the flight as “confirmed”.
We called a travel executive and he told us the flight wasn’t reflecting on his system. Thus began our series of frantic calls to the AI call centre, each lasting at least an hour, with another 30-45 minutes spent being “transferred” to the rescheduling department. These calls lasted a good three days with conflicting information provided by the executives. One told my husband the flight was “on schedule”, another person told me the flight was “not showing”.
All this while, the website showed our son’s entire schedule as confirmed. Finally, an executive at the call centre told me the flight had been “definitely cancelled”.
In the meantime, my husband had spoken to an airline official who told him one had to visit the AI office for changes. Queries about why these changes couldn’t be done online or over the phone and why AI couldn’t inform the passenger were met with a bland statement to the effect that the ticket has been booked by us and thus it is our responsibility to keep track of changes.
I was compelled to go to the AI office in spite of concerns about the Covid surge. We had been avoiding going out since we didn’t want to risk my 84-year-old mother-in-law or our son ahead of his travel but there was no option.
We had even booked a flight to Delhi by another airline but were told by the call centre that this would be “out of sequence” since our son’s entire ticket was from Kolkata to the US and he couldn’t avail of just the Delhi-US sector.
At the AI office, I was told by other harried customers that the wait is usually for 3-4 hours. Finally, once I got my chance at the counter I managed to reschedule the ticket. When I asked why the airline can’t be more transparent, the answer I got was: “Tell the government which made the rules, not us.”