BENGALURU: A nightmare unfolded for a city-based entrepreneur who had been with his family to Andaman and Nicobar Islands to celebrate the 35th wedding anniversary of his parents. The reason: SpiceJet provided them tickets from Port Blair to Bengaluru on a Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, a flight that was grounded a month ago.
Rahul Neelkanth, Managing Director of Peregrine Phosphate (P) Ltd, plans to approach the consumer court seeking justice for the trauma his family underwent on May 11 with their two infants in tow at Vir Savarkar International Airport in Port Blair.
The DGCA had grounded all Boeing Max 737 aircraft in India from March 13. Neelkanth’s family were issued the tickets on April 15. Though SpiceJet helped the family return to Bengaluru by booking them on a flight to Kolkata and then to KIA, Neelkanth is still upset. Instead of reaching Bengaluru in 2.5 hours from Port Blair, the family reached after 12 hours, he said.
“My two-month-old daughter Aria and my relative’s 2-year-old son Rahul were crying. We all had a miserable experience,” he told The New Indian Express. “When an airline has stopped the operation of a flight, how can they accept bookings? SpiceJet staff in Port Blair were rude and I had to argue my case for an hour before they made alternate arrangements,” he added.
The airlines had sent an e-mail to Neelkanth and other passengers that the aircraft was not operational. He missed the mail as it had landed in his spam folder. “As per DGCA rules, passengers need to be informed at least two weeks in advance about a cancelled flight,” he said.
When contacted, a statement from SpiceJet confirmed it had booked the tickets on a non-existent route. “The airline was hopeful that with the induction of new planes and a likely resumption in MAX services, it would be able to resume operations on the route by May 1 and hence restarted bookings on the sector,” it said. However, the continued grounding of MAX 737s and a delay in induction of new planes hit SG 759 operations, SpiceJet said.
Passengers were intimated via SMS and e-mail about the cancellations on April 29 and sent a reminder on May 5, the statement added.
While the airlines claimed the family booked their return ticket on May 5 via Kolkata, Neelakanth denied it and said the airline facilitated their tickets on May 11.