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30 November 2014

My trave(ai)ls with Spicejet....

Talk of Divine Retributions !!!
My family stays in Bangalore and I work out of Mumbai. Since I have holiday on the second and the fourth Saturday of a month, I fly down to Bangalore on Friday evening and return to Mumbai on Monday morning.
I have been doing this for the last 30 months. Like a clockwork.
Recently Spicejet announced some low fares and I decided to take advantage of those fares and booked tickets by Spicejet for the week of 21st November and on 29th November. It was not that I went through the mad rush of booking those lower fares. When I checked in a Travel Website, Spicejet tickets were cheaper than the rest. So I purchased them.
My booking for 21st November was as follows.
Friday 21st of November: Spicejet Flight leaving Mumbai at 7.05 PM and reaching Bangalore at 8.45 PM
Monday 24th of November: Spicejet Flight leaving Bangalore at 9.05 AM and reaching Mumbai at 10.45 AM. 
Travel time from Airport to my office is about an hour. So I was expecting to reach my office by about 11.30 - 11.45 AM
I had booked this ticket about two weeks in advance. On Monday, 17th of November, my boss scheduled a meeting at 11.00 AM on 24th. Since I won't be able to reach office at that time with my current booking, I was planning to cancel my booking, lose out 1500 rupees, and pay the extra fare (which normally works out to about 2000 rupees, a total cost of 3500 including cancellation charges) book by an earlier flight that leaves Bangalore at 6.55 AM, getting me to my office comfortably in time for the meeting. 
I was sad about losing that money but couldn't see any other options.
That was when Spicejet God intervened. They cancelled my morning flight from Bangalore and gave me their customer care number to reschedule my flight.
Reaching Spicejet Call Center number can be a daunting experience. It is my case that it is easier to reach President Obama on the phone,( in Air Force One, high above the high seas, during a Nuclear Crisis) sooner than you can reach Spicejet call center. I somehow managed to reach their call center and got my ticket rescheduled to 6.55 AM Flight at no extra cost.
This was what the doctor ordered....
Only personal cost was that I had to get up at about 4.00 AM to take the 4.50 Airport Bus from my area. A small price to pay. 
I felt like a winner. I crowed about my good luck to all who cared to listen.
Little did I know....
Remember I had mentioned previously that I had another booking by Spicejet on 29th November? You might have forgotten, but Spicejet remembered. 
As a punishment for crowing about my good luck, Spicejet cancelled both legs of my BOM - BLR flights. Both the bloody legs !!!. They cancelled my BOM - BLR flight leaving BOM at 5.15 PM on 29th November and the BLR-BOM flight leaving at 9.05 AM on 2nd December.
While they transferred my ticket to 6.55 AM flight on 2nd December, they wanted me to call their call center and get my flight rescheduled. Remember, they had a Bangalore flight at 7.05 PM on the same day, they could have rescheduled the same as they did for my return leg. But they did not do it.
May be because I am not a corporate account. Or may be they are uniformly unprofessional and did not do this for any passenger. I don't know.
I again did the pilgrimage of calling their Call Center and after about 100 attempts (I am joking, it was about 150), I managed to get someone on line.
"Can I get my flight rescheduled for the same day evening?" I queried. This was a courtesy question. I was very sure that they will. After all, don't they pride themselves on their on-time guarantee and all that?
No, he informed me, the inventory for BOM-BLR flights for 29th is full. He can accommodate me in a circuitous route, BOM-DEL-BLR. Will it be ok?
It was not ok. Who wants to fly half the country at night on a weekend when you could be with your family? But he informed me that there were no other options currently, so I reluctantly agreed to this labyrinthine route.
I was surprised that BOM-DEL route was available. It is the most congested route in the country. 
I need not have been surprised. He had not booked me in a direct flight to Delhi. He conveniently forgot to mention that I will be flying to Delhi via Jabalpur with a 30 minute stopover at Jabalpur..
I came to know of this only when I printed my Boarding Pass. I found that I had been booked in the BOM-Jabalpur-DEL-BLR route. Effectively, I was flying from West of India to East, then to North and finally to South.By that time it was too late to do anything.
'Bharat Darshan', as it were.
He also informed me that I can checkout about last minute cancellations at the airport.
I reached Mumbai airport at about 3.15 and immediately checked at the counter if they can accommodate me in a Bangalore flight later that evening. One lady, Dimpi (Sorry Dimpi, yours is the only name that I remember in this whole unsavory incident) assured me that she will accommodate me in the evening flight to Bangalore.
I was very relieved and impressed by the helpful nature of the staff.
I waited till 4.00 PM. My Jabalpur flight was scheduled to start at 4.20 PM. At 4.00 PM, Dimpi, transferred my case to another lady, who checked and informed me that Sorry, there are no seats available in the Bangalore flight. 
Highly unprofessional.The least they could have done was to have a separate counter for passengers of Cancelled Flights. And need not have made me wait.
I rushed to board the Jabalpur flight. A very small propeller aircraft. They still have them.
I reached Delhi at 8.30 PM (Ahead of Scheduled arrival, informed the steward). At Delhi, they informed me that my BLR flight is rescheduled to 11.15 PM.
Fortunately, that flight left on time and I finally landed in Bangalore at about 2.00 AM. 
Airport Buses do not ply at that time. I had an option to wait till 5.00 AM or take a taxi
I took a taxi. It costed me 1100, thereby  erasing any cost benefits that I may have had in booking Spicejet.
What other aspect was unprofessional about the whole experience? 
Since they had boarded me on a long circuitous route, the least they could have done is to offer me some light refreshments, some kind words, dinner, some recognition that they have caused significant discomfort to a frequently flying passenger. Some old fashioned courtesy, you know. 
Nothing. Absolutely unprofessional and discourteous.  I was left to fend for myself, which I am perfectly capable of, of course. 
Another unprofessional aspect. There was no one from Spicejet at Mumbai Airport who was ready to help me. My case was pushed from one disinterested Spicejet employee to another.
I am an experienced traveller. I can handle it the cancellation, rescheduling and rerouting part. But what about infrequent travellers, especially old people and those not from Cities? How will they be able to handle this impassivity? this indifference to Passenger concerns, of passengers who have been put on so much of trouble for no fault of theirs? Don't Spicejet have no responsibility other than just sending those emotionless SMSs? Shouldn't someone be promptly calling the passengers, the airline has all the contact details, and helping them with selecting the best option? 
Now the final clincher. Since my DEL-BLR flight was delayed, as a part of their 'On Time Guarantee', they sent me a voucher for Rs.500 which I can redeem in my next flight with Spicejet.
Nothing, not even acknowledgement,  for all my travails...
I don't think that voucher is going to be redeemed.
Spicejet Team, if you are reading this:
My name is Ramaswamy Krishnamurti and my PNR Number is XDGH4H