Name of company/service: Air India
June 21st 2012
Chairman Air India
Air India Building
Mumbai , India- 400021
Re: Compensation for Harassment by Air India. Web Ref: AIBE3090506 and Booking Ref HL06M .
As the Chairman of Air India, I want to make you aware of unrelenting harassment at every level that an Air India passenger has to go through. It not only brings shame to your Airline, but also embarrasses our country. After having tried to go through different channels, I finally realized that only a person of your caliber can make a difference (hopefully).
We were to board AI 126 flight from Chicago to Delhi on June 11, 2012. We were not allowed to board the plane as we were told that we did not have the old passports for our minor children with the OCI stamp. We were carrying the original OCI booklets for all four of us and had the US passports for all of us. The children’s’ passports were recently renewed. The adults’ passports had the OCI sticker. The staff was rude, uninformed and absolutely bent on harassing the passengers. The flight was overbooked and they happily went on to give away our seats to other passengers. They did not give us the option that a visa could be obtained for our children at Delhi airport for a fee, which we would have had no problems to pay. Instead we were told to come every day to the airport and be on standby. We requested that if someone bring the passports by 1.30 pm (flight takes off at 2.30 pm). They point blank refused saying that the counter closes at 1 pm. Such inflexible attitude is unique to Air India. Other airlines will make exceptions in such situations.
Let me inform you that we live a 120 miles away from O’ hare airport, Chicago and had arranged for transportation that costs $175 each way. They told us to cancel this ticket and get a full refund /or to rebook the flight by calling the 1-800 number. Unlike other airlines, there is no customer service support onsite for customers at the Chicago airport.
We called that number from the airport four hours before the flight took off. It took Air India customer service agent 40 minutes hold time to come on the phone. We asked them to cancel our flight. We were told that there will be a Rs.5000 charge per passenger. We agreed to it and while we were authorizing this cancellation the phone got disconnected. It took us another 40 minutes to get a hold of another agent and then we got disconnected again. This happened about 5 times and we spent five hours in this process. Finally, when a customer service representative (Mr. Shiva) came on the phone, he informed us that there will be a $400 charge ($200 charge for no show and $200 for cancellation) per person.
How can you charge us for “no show “when we did show up and were refused to board? We were not a no show.
After going through all this harassment we booked tickets with Air Canada connecting with Jet airways to Delhi for the next day. To our surprise both the Airlines including Jet Airways run by India and with an Indian lady at the check in counter, never asked us for the old passport with OCI stickers for our children. They were content with seeing the OCI booklet. Upon arrival in India we asked the immigration officer, about what happens if we forget the passport with the OCI sticker and he informed us that this is not uncommon and since were of Indian origin, we would just have to pay for a visa for the children and would then be allowed to enter India.
We need you to explain: Why Air India staff behaved so unethically and rudely and did not allow us to board, while other Airlines let us through without a problem.
Let me make you aware that it is common knowledge in USA that Air India seems to have a racket going on by cashing in on overbooked flights and finding any excuse to harass passengers and make money on it. Any other airline goes out of the way to accommodate.
Air India staff does not have the courtesy to even speak professionally at its counter. The call center is very hard to reach (40 minutes hold each time) and then disconnects the phone in the middle of dealing with its customers, also has no appropriate information. The Chicago office NEVER picks up the phone.
It seems that there is no person to own responsibility and correct such unnecessary harassment of unsuspecting passengers.
We would like you to compensate us for:
1) The taxi ride to and from Chicago airport totaling $344.40 ($171.20 each wayX2 plus tips of $20).
2) New airfare difference of $ 2981 ($8951-$5970)
3) Full refund of our Air India tickets totaling $5970.00
I expect a full refund of my air tickets ($5970) and reimbursement of the taxi fare and the fare difference paid by me ($344.20+ $2981) amounting total of $3325.20.
With your Airlines unnecessary penalty charges it will cost us $5000 extra for this trip that was really uncalled for and I refuse to pay this.
Chicago to Delhi direct flight is a boon for passengers flying to India. Now that American Airlines has stopped their direct service, your airline has a monopoly in this sector. This monopoly is a gold mine to cash in for any Airline with a vision to grow. You are throwing away such a beautiful business opportunity by such disservice. This non-stop flight was the only reason we were flying with Air India. But after this experience we would rather take multiple stops than fly with you. I am sure there are multiple others like us who feel the same and will never recommend your Airline.
Acceptance of such behavior only propagates it more. If you are unable to fix it at your level of authority then it is obvious that the future of your airline is very bleak. I hope this feedback brings a positive change to your airline.