Monday, June 27, 2011

Airline Customer Care

Today morning I had couple of very interesting conversations with an Airlines Customer Care. I am quickly trying to jot down what I remember before I forget.

As of now I am not in a mind to take any names and insult the airlines. So I would be calling the Airline as what else but “Airline”. 
(Ya I know I can’t think of any more imaginative names, but I am writing this so I would do what I want to. But again I Digress)

Background: Next month during travel to India I have to travel from City A to City B and since there is no direct flight, I had to book using a connecting flight through City C.
So I had booked 2 flights by the same airlines flying from City A to City C and then onto City B (my final destination). I booked these tickets 2 months in advance to get cheap fare (which I did). 

Being the ultra careful person that I am I took prints of all my tickets 2 months in advance, stapled, pinned and arranged them in the correct order of how and when they would be needed and then proceeded to take a backup print of the entire set.

Now one week before I fly to India, I got a mail from the Airline that my Flight from City C to City B has been cancelled and that my flight from City A to City C is still confirmed.

The exact words:
Kindly note that your flight is cancelled and contact customer service center for reaccomodation. 
We regret the inconvenience on account of this change and appreciate your understanding

First reaction on seeing this: Anger, Frustration, Panic, Since every day of my 1 month vacation is very carefully planned out and I cannot afford any changes or delays to my travel itenary.

I got this eMail on a Friday evening so had to wait patiently till Monday morning to contact the customer care. Which by the way does not have an International Number which I can call them on (Although they have flights operating on International Routes)

So today on Monday I called the Domestic Customer care number in India at 6 AM IST. After multiple redirections, which seemed to me like, 

“Thanks, you have reached Airline. We have no idea why you are calling us at this ungodly hour, as expected all our customer care representatives are sleeping or busy chatting with their girlfriends/boyfriends on company phones. Since it would take them 10 minutes to wake up why don’t you play around with our automatic call forwarding service.
For talking to God: Press 1.
For talking to Barak Obama: Press 2
For talking to Barak Obama in Hindi: Press 3
For receiving a free body massage press and hold 4 until your finger starts to pain.
If you are still here and have nothing better to do, please stay on line while I go and wake someone up.

After 5 more minutes Creature comes on line, groggy and sleepy and sounding as if I just woke him up from his wet dream.

Creature:Thanks for calling Airline at 6 AM, I wish you die bugger, how may I be of assistance today?

Me: "Hey hi, Sorry for calling early on your 24 hour customer care number. I am calling from Sydney and I had blah blah booked a ticket from blah blah City A to City C to City B and now blah blah you have cancelled my flight. What can I do ?”

Creature:Fikar not bugger, let me put you on hold while I look for some alternatives” 

Creature goes to brush his teeth and take a massive dump while I hold the line listening to some mind numbing funeral music.

After 32 more minutes (mind you this is an International Call so I am being charged through my teeth by my phone company) Creature comes back online.

Creature:Thanks for holding bugger, I had hoped that you would get pissed off and piss off and disconnect the line, but since you are still here why don’t I tell you your alternatives
Creature:Sir I can re book your tickets so that you can travel from City A to City D and finally reach city B

Me: “Err.. Ok.. That’s good enough, the tickets are on the same day right?”

Creature: Yes your Royal Highness bugger Sir

Me: “Ok, please go ahead and book the tickets then”

Creature:All right bugger, let me put you on hold while I process this and pick my nose

Me…still holding on a international call getting worried if my salary for the month would be spent in paying the phone bill after this call.

Creature:What the hell Bugger you are still here. Ok then, I have booked your tickets from City A to City D and finally to City B

Me: “Thanks a lot, Can you send me the tickets in an Email so I can take a print?”

Creature:Dash off Bugger Sir, Actually sir you cant print the tickets yet, Please call back after 5-6 hours when my shift is over and I am home and disturb someone else

Me: “Err ok.. Thanks for your help”

Creature:Thanks for Calling Airline may your plane crash before take-off and have a nice day

So now I am satisfied that I have got my tickets and am happily waiting for the 5-6 hours to pass when I can call back and get my tickets.

--- After 6 hours ---

I call up airline again, After the obligatory 25 minutes waiting while listening to things like “Your call is important to us, Right now all our customer care relatives are busy jerking off please stay on the line and do not move else you may get splattered

And after again being asked if I want to talk to the Dalai Lama and discuss the low and attractive fares, I finally navigate through the labyrinth of 1s and 2s to reach another human being.

This time its “Person” who is a female of the species.

Person:Hello Sir, How I may I be of assistance today? Would you like to have a look at our specials for the breakfast? We have freshly plucked Kanda-Bhajiya from the gardens of Virar and some extra oily and stale vada pao?

Me: “Err.. Sorry, Did I reach the catering service? I wanted to enquire about my ticket. Can I give you my PNR number?”
(For my international readers – PNR is something like your Ticketing/Reservation Id for Indian flights and Trains)

Person: Ok Sir, if you are not interested in our international cuisine let me have a look at your PNR number. Can I please put you on hold while  I go and flirt with my manager? Thanks

After 43 minutes of baraati music.

Person:Thanks for holding sir, It shows here that your tickets have been confirmed

Me: (Super Enthusiastically) “Woww that’s great, please send me a copy of the ticket”

Person: "Sorry sir, we can’t send you a copy of the ticket .. You can go to the counter at the airport and tell them your PNR Number and they will give you your tickets"

Me: "Err.. Ok.. But you know right.. that the security guard at the gate of the airport will not allow me to even get in the airport and go to your counter if I don’t have a ticket. How do you want me to get in?"

Person: "No sir, Airline has a counter before the security check in where you can get the ticket from"

Me: "Yes maam , that’s fine that Airline has a counter before security check in. Every airline has that .. but what about the police man at the gate of the airport much before the check in counter.. What do I tell him ?"

Person: "Sorry Sir.. we can’t send you a copy of the ticket. It’s against our policies"

Me: "So let me get this straight. I booked my tickets. Took the prints when I booked them. Then you cancelled my flights without any prior notification.
Then you booked them through different cities.. and now it’s your policy to not give me my tickets which I have paid for ?"

Person:That’s absolutely correct sir and for getting that right, I would give you a special 10% discount on the wada paos which you ….

I disconnected at this point hoping to god that after paying my phone bill I have some money left to get a train to the airport.

I finally went to the Airline website, put in my PNR number and got the ticket which according to the Airline policies they can’t send me.

UPDATE : My misfortunes associated with Airlines continued after this first encounter. To read the follow up and sequel Please click here: Airline Customer Care - Part Deux 



Priyanka Chowdhuri said...

i am amazed how you can be so humourous in such a situation!

i mean the ulterior calm, the sharp humour, the references to various genres of music, the localisation, the culinary touch, the interesting characterisation...

MAN, this is epic!!! and i pronounce this as your "greatest blogpost ever"

Unknown said...

Absolutely hilarious bro, this is hands down your best post yet....mail me the damn airlines name, even i would love to talk to those fellas !!!

Chuck said...

Shukr karoo at last ur still having the ticket :P, but do have those tasty vada in fight

Monty said...

Abey..hum log yahan se kar lete and u cud have treated us with the AUD spent on the stupid calls :)

A Nonsense Intellectual said...

Awesum!!! :D Best post evr!!! :D

Rim said...

And you thought everything goes according to plan?

But it's a rare ability to make frustrating situations sound funny.. Awesome! :D

cosmic_wanderer said...

Thanks Everyone :) ...

Hemant said...

The most humorous post I have read in recent times....

Awesomely Awesome :)

Anonymous said...

I can't stop laughing!
This 'Airline' sounds like Air India. :P

Please read & promote my post-

The Tablet Revolutionary

Aakriti said...

you are aweeeeeesome!! kithon anda haiga ena balyi bharkar humor?? hmm??:D... i just come here to make myself laugh!! u knw:D:D

"For talking to God: Press 1.
For talking to Barak Obama: Press 2
For talking to Barak Obama in Hindi: Press 3
For receiving a free body massage press and hold 4 until your finger starts to pain.
If you are still here and have nothing better to do, please stay on line while I go and wake someone up.
"Hey hi, Sorry for calling early on your 24 hour customer care number. I am calling from Sydney and I had blah blah booked a ticket from blah blah City A to City C to City B and now blah blah you have cancelled my flight. What can I do ?”

u made me laugh sooooo much!! but honbestly..these things can be soo damn annoying especially when u are making an intl call, and they are busy flirting or brushing their teeth;)..Sometimes I just get too frustrated the way things happen here in OUR India!1..but then will India remain the same if they don't happen in India??:P

cosmic_wanderer said...


SIGH !! ..
Laughing at other's mis-fortune...
Tskk..Tskk.. That's Sadistic :P

And I absolutely agree that we should never change OUR India, It's almost purrrrfect the way it is. :)

P.S. : And since the past few years since the BPO boom. The entire world is now getting used to the Indian Way of a Customer Care Call :)

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