I’ve come to the conclusion that I must have done something truly terrible to anger the Indian gods. I have no idea what, but if anyone knows a way of paying baksheesh directly to Ganesh and his pals to clear my debt, that would be a great help.
Regular readers will remember that I’ve already had a bit of a run in with Jet Airways, who wouldn’t let me use the inbound portion of my return flight, because I couldn’t make the outbound flight. So I ended up forfeiting the £500 flight I’d already paid for and paying another £300 to get my seat back on the flight home.
Well, I didn’t think that it was possible to top that business wizardry. Oh me of little faith…
Right, so I’m in possession of a Goa – Mumbai – London flight. But I’ve decided that I’m going to spend a week or so in Kerala. I’m going to experience the delights of the Indian rail system and take a train from Margao in Goa to Kochi in Kerala. It’s 12 hours. I’ve given it careful consideration and decided that air conditioning and veg food is the optimum combination for that journey.
It doesn’t make sense to fly back from Kerala to Goa and then on to Mumbai. In fact you can’t – you have to fly Kerala – Bangalore – Goa – Mumbai. Rubbish. So I’ve paid for a flight direct from Kerala to Mumbai and I’ll pick up my flight back to London from there.
Not exactly. What you actually get is a scene straight from an incredibly well-crafted psychological thriller – one of those ones where the clever villain creates such a web of chaos and misdirection that it makes the protagonist start to doubt their sanity.
the true cost of flying
Given my history with Jet, I raise my concerns that they’d somehow cancel my Mumbai – London flight if I didn’t get my Goa – Mumbai flight. The local travel agent in Goa laughs at the suggestion. Don’t worry, he says, you can just cancel your domestic flight. It will cost you about 950 rupees (£10). Easy breezy.
So I call Jet Airways at midday, thinking I’ll get it done before I go and lounge on the beach. 2 hours later and I’m still on the phone with them. Here’s a quick recap, for those unlucky enough not to have been on the call with me:
– disconnections x 3 times
– explaining that there are 2 separate passengers, both with the same surname, under 2 different e-tickets x 4 times
– learning that it is not possible to simply cancel the Goa – Mumbai flight. You have the option of cancelling the entire Goa – Mumbai – London flight (that, remember, you’ve already paid £800 total for by now) – you will get £80 back in refund and then you have to purchase a new Mumbai – London ticket. Err, not that appealing, but thanks for the offer.
– alternatively, you can pay a re-routing charge of £100 per passenger for the privilege of NOT travelling on the 1-hour Goa – Mumbai flight.
So, only ten times the cost that the travel agent told you… Bargain.
By this point, you have started to understand that there is nothing that you can do. Jet will always win. Their illogic knows no bounds and you, mere mortal that you are, are no match for their cunning. You agree to pay the re-routing charge on a flight that you are not re-routing anywhere in the slightest. At least then it’s done. So, you send your sis off to the beach whilst you deal with the payment.
But wait, there’s another problem. Now it seems that you cannot actually get them to take your payment. The credit card won’t go through. But it isn’t a problem with the card. Too easy. No, the problem is that your sister’s ticket was issued in the name of Miss Alexandra Hughes. Pretty standard you might think – all international airlines use the same title for unmarried women.
Oh yes, madam, says the Jet customer service rep. Only with Jet, the title “Miss” can only be used for children. The ticket should have been issued as Ms Alexandra Hughes. The “Miss” title brings it up as a child fare on their system and it won’t process the payment. Don’t worry – the fare that you have paid is an adult fare and the cancellation of the Goa – Mumbai flight has been made, it is only the payment that won’t go through.
And no, even though they are the airline issuing the tickets, there is no way for them to change the “Miss” to a “Ms” on their system. “There is no button to allow for that”…
Does anyone understand that – even a word of that? Don’t even go there, you’ll give yourself an aneurism with the effort of mentally contorting yourself. And you’ll still be nowhere near.
And of course there is no other solution – you’ll have to go to an airport counter or one of Jet’s city offices to make the payment. The nearest one is a 3 hour, £20 round-trip taxi ride away.
Ok, so that’s a pain in the arse, but you’ll be in a city in a few days when you go to Kerala, so if Jet can just cancel those changes, you’ll go to their office in Kochi and deal with it all there.
Oh you English are so funny! That’s not how the game works. There is no way to reverse the flight cancellations now. It doesn’t matter that it’s not your fault that Jet can’t process your payment and that there was no way of knowing that this problem even existed until after they had already processed the cancellations. It’s done now.
And now for the finale: you have to complete payment on the cancellations within 18 hours, otherwise you will have to pay again and you risk your international flight being cancelled in the meantime. And it is now 2pm where you are and the airport desk closes at 6pm. So you’d better hurry along.
And you do. You run to the beach to tell your sis through your tears that you have to do an airport run. Yep, right now. That, once again, the fuckers have managed to trap you in their fiendish plot to break your will. And you grab your passports, both phones, your tickets and credit cards and you get in a taxi.
I get car sick at the best of times. Wasting a precious day of Goan sunshine to sit in a stuffy taxi for 3 hours was not how I envisaged my mini-retirement.
Then there was the nerve-wracking hour spent at the Jet Airways counter outside Dabolim Airport, wondering what new twist they would come up with to test me. The elation at finally getting the new tickets issued – entirely unwarranted – it’s not as though I haven’t now paid for them three times over… Being pulled over by the airport police so they could extort Prakash, my taxi driver, some pitiable amount (I couldn’t bear to tell him that it was my fault: that I was the jinx). The celebratory BaskinRobbins ice-creams I bought for us both on the drive home (world class chocolate for Prakash, butterscotch ribbon and pralines and cream for me). The anxious look on my sister’s face as I arrived back at the beach – she thought Jet had kidnapped me – and I’d left without leaving the room key at reception, so she was stranded, on the beach, with no money, no phone and a day’s worth of food and drinks on the tab. Happy holiday.
I’m really hoping that’s the end of it. I feel like I’ve paid my dues. But if anyone could put in a good word for me with the deities, just in case, I’d be very grateful. I’m planning a houseboat trip on the Keralan backwaters next week……