Air India / absolutely the most horrible travel experience
I purchased a RT ticket on Air India from London-Delhi-Dhaka (flying onward to Bhutan with another airline). My nightmare started with my return flight when I was notified via email the friday night before my monday departure that my flight had been canceled. After many phone calls it seems my flight had been canceled months ago, but I was not informed until the very last minute. This was the first in a long series of problems with my return flight.
When I tried to rebook my flight, I told the Air India agent that I was in Bhutan. If you are not familiar with Bhutan, it is a remote country and international phone calls are expensive and difficult. I eventually had to rely on my fiance to call Air India on my behalf. Air India re-booked my flight but would not reissue the ticket. I was told by the Air India representative in Dhaka, Bangladesh, I'll refer to this person as Moni, that I would be booked on a flight out of Dhaka on the day I had planned to travel. I told Moni that I am a US passport holder and am unable to stay in Bangladesh or India without a visa, so the flight he had booked, with short layovers, seemed suitable. However, when I arrived in Dhaka, I was not allowed to board the flight. Over 10 different Dhaka airport staff members told me I needed an Indian Visa for this flight. I do not know if that is true or a misunderstanding, however, I was not allowed to board the flight and met another non-Indian passenger who encountered the same situation. I faced a huge problem because there was no one at the Dhaka airport who could assist me with getting on a proper flight. I also did not have a Bangladesh cell phone, so I had no way to make contact with Air India. After several hours of trying to get on another flight, I realized I had no other option but to buy a visa on arrival at the Dhaka airport and try to get to the Air India office in town. The Air India agent in Dhaka, Moni, eventually changed my ticket to a flight the next day (20 hours later), but he refused to book me into a hotel. He said he 'had helped me enough.' This man had booked me onto a flight I was unable to board without an Indian Visa, knowing full well I am an American passport holder WITHOUT an Indian visa. He then refused to assist me after his error caused me to be stranded in Dhaka during a violent strike. I was forced to buy a visa in Dhaka for $51 and had to spend another $60 on cab rides and a hotel room for the night, because of Moni's error. My life was also put in danger as I was stranded in a city during a violent strike.
My fiance phoned Air India and told them about these issues with my flight and the agent he spoke with kindly offered to upgrade the Delhi - London leg of my flight to business class. When I eventually arrived in Delhi, in transit to my London flight, I informed the guy at the check in counter that my flight should have been upgraded to business class. The agent refused to look into this and dismissed me. I asked to speak to supervisor. This man laughed at me and shook his head at me BEFORE I EVEN EXPLAINED THE SITUATION. Once I did explain, he told me that Air India would never upgrade a customer due to this type of situation. I told him that an agent had upgraded the flight and he then lied and told me ONLY the CAPTAIN of the flight could upgrade a passenger. Clearly, the Air India supervisor in the Delhi airport has no regard for customers. This man told me a flat out lie and refused to look in the computer and see if my flight had been upgraded. After I kept insisting that my flight really had been upgraded, he told me I needed to have something in writing in order to get the upgrade.
To add to this already awful experience, Air India 'mishandled' my checked in luggage in Delhi. When I arrived in London, I received a phone call saying the bag had been found and would be put on the next flight. It took me nearly a month of phoning Air India's baggage departments in London and Delhi in order to get the bag sent to me in London. I was hung up on and lied to, too many times to count. I was offered a mere $70 for 'emergency' clothing, which was a joke considering I am in England during the winter. It took multiple, daily, persistent phone calls before I finally got in touch with one man in the baggage department who agreed to personally make sure the bag was sent. Finally it arrived.
I would never again fly on this absolutely horrible airline and I would warn anyone traveling in or around India to avoid this airline at all costs. I have traveled to over 30 countries on a range of different airlines and this has undoubtedly been the most awful travel experience so far.
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