The tragedy that was Air India

It’s important that I share with the public what I experienced flying with Air India (AI) this time. 

Published: 19th December 2021 05:46 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th December 2021 09:28 AM   |  A+A-

flight, coronavirus, air india

Representational Image of Air India. (File Photo)

I yield this week’s space to a reader who travels often from her home in California to her husband’s home in Kerala. She tells a tale that demands attention:

It’s important that I share with the public what I experienced flying with Air India (AI) this time. For years, I have been patronising AI more out of patriotism than lower fare because I always end up spending as much as I would if I chose Emirates or Singapore.

Because AI suspended operations, we couldn’t fly back on our original return flight schedule. We never heard from them for months after they resumed flights. And, when we called to book the return, they could not offer us the same ‘class’, but only the next upper class at about $500 extra! I haven’t heard of two ‘classes’ within the Business Class, or about giving seats to a husband and wife in different rows: we had the same PNR number and the same last names!! The lady on the phone couldn’t answer me what extra the $500 would provide. We didn’t find anything special either.

In this latest (and, of course, our last) AI saga, we missed the connection in Delhi because, as usual we went straight to Trivandrum gate. It took well over 30 minutes because there was no wheel chair one of us wanted. And to our horror, they refused to board us because we didn’t clear our checked-in baggage (four pieces). I showed them the luggage tags marked all the way to Trivandrum (TRV). They calmly said that the procedure has been changed. Only 17 hours earlier, San Francisco (SFO) AI personnel gave us the boarding cards: one from SFO to Delhi (DHI) and another DHI to TRV, four baggage claim tags attached to the latter! AI guys not only ignored this; they were very rude, loud and loathsome.

Said the husband: Of course, I didn’t have any option but to leave my wife at the gate with the two carry-ons (with no seats anywhere around) and over 100 screaming men and women shouting at a handful of obnoxious AI guys. In time we galloped to the arrival baggage to find another thousand harassed passengers scrambling! And, no trolley or porter available. Finally, I managed to get one trolley from outside, loaded two of the suitcases, passed the Customs, ran to the gate, left those two there with my wife, dashed back with the trolley to fetch the other two. Again Customs. By the time I gathered all together, the flight had gone, leaving over 50 howling and shouting, babies wailing and baggage all strewn around along with ours.

It took us another four hours of agony to get a reservation in the next flight (a day later), an hour’s ride to the hotel carting all the bags and baggages. AI countered my plea to check in the bags saying that they are no more in transit, but against new boarding cards. I asked, how could I get a boarding card before checking in? Typical government ‘servant’ attitude.

Next day for the 5.15 pm flight, we left the hotel at 11 am to try my luck in retrieving the missing piece. It took me five-plus hours to re-check in, leave the wife at the lounge and commence a treasure hunt for the missing carry-on. Worth the hunt though, because it was retrieved from their lost and found! Wished I left all behind last night! Carting them around cost over Rs 1,000 in tips and airport porter service (Rs 600 for four pieces)! 

Finally a silver line: AI was only one hour late... About 1.30 am, I got a phone call. TRV airport AI asking me to please check the four bags to make sure that all are ours. I did. And one wasn’t ours!!

Back to the airport for the exchange, AI said that I have to wait for the other party who’s on his way. He asked me to take a seat and wait because the other guy has just started from Nagercoil, three hours away. They never said that when I asked what I should do on arriving at the airport. “Why can’t you just take the one I brought and release mine?” His response was ridiculously funny: the other guy has to certify that his baggage wasn’t pilfered!

Many of you will live to enjoy AI flights, but I am too tired to dream of the return of the good old Maharaja, because Tata is only human and it will make years to get the etched-in rot out. A bit of cheering news: TRV airport management has been privatised a month ago. So you can expect better service when you visit next. 


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  • mohan

    Its takes times for new management to change the things.....working people and there attitude are same....dont expect thing will change in a day.
    30 days ago reply
  • Murthy

    Since 1947
    1 month ago reply
  • Dr T K Gopalan

    We’d like to hear the other side too.
    1 month ago reply
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