(…as if you really need a reason?)
It was our good ‘friend’ Shome the Troublemaker, who told us a couple of years back, that we should ‘invest’ in the Air Deccan Family Coupon tickets. These were a set of 16 tickets for the long flight sectors, e.g. Bangalore and Delhi types. He told us with great confidence that this is how he was travelling every weekend to Delhi to see his wife, and that it was great. Always quick to get caught up in someone else’s enthusiasm, Vijay and I thought ‘Wow, great deal!’ and immediately purchased the family booklet for long flight sectors – and never ones to do things in half measures, we also bought another coupon booklet of 12 tickets for their ‘short flight sectors’ since we go to Jaipur fairly often from Delhi –a total of 28 tickets, which would be valid for one full year of travel. We spent over Rs.70,000 but it all seemed worth it at the time.
What you have to remember is that these were days when the Kingfisher, Indigo, GoAir, etc. had not really come up in a big way- Air Deccan was pretty much the only low cost option and we figured our already frequent personal travel would become far more frequent with this intelligent purchase. Alas…
I submit, with all the benefit of hindsight, the top 5 reasons why we don’t travel Air Deccan anymore. These are apart from the usual poor service, lack of cleanliness, flight delays, etc – experiences of different people vary here. Anyway, the top 5 are:
#5. They lose luggage with alarming regularity, even pride: We lost our luggage while travelling from Bangalore to Delhi because Air Deccan seemed to think we would be better off with our baggage in Chennai. So off we went, husband and wife in one direction, beloved suitcase in another. We were travelling onwards to Jabalpur later that day and so had to buy new sets of clothes there, and that too, from a Bombay Dyeing showroom, due to lack of time. We look great in the photos on that trip.
Now, these guys do not just do not just lose luggage, they expect to lose it. I remember how once Vijay overheard one Air Deccan guy casually remark to another ‘Aaj to bahut bags ghumenge, yaar’ in an almost satisfied tone, as they both stood observing the chaos around the check in counters.
#4. Their staff is clueless and rude: I still remember trying to talk to the Air Deccan staff member in Delhi about our lost suitcase– he was a haughty young man (why haughty? You work in Air Deccan!) and I really ended up losing it with him. My temper, always quick to flare up, was set off because he was refusing to check the possibility that our suitcase was in Chennai. We knew it had gone to Chennai, because back at the Bangalore airport that day, there had been great confusion, with the Delhi and Chennai flights boarding all together - and we had actually watched our callously thrown suitcase float away on the conveyer built with great trepidation.
Anyway, this rude young man in Delhi informed me with great dignity and broken English ‘Madam. I work in the Dah-li aair-pote. So how I can know about flights taking off from the Bangalore aair-pote to the othha aair-potes…?’ While I started raving to him in my poor Hindi, Shome (who was travelling with us that day, with his luggage intact, I might add) pulled out the Air Deccan flight schedule from his bag with a flourish and waved it under the idiot’s nose. The man didn’t have much to say to that and blubbered something about calling his superior. Anyway. I didn’t actually physically assault the guy, but believe me, I’ve seen quite a few passengers come really close to this state. We eventually recovered our luggage a few days later. Yippee.
#3. Their short sector flights hardly ever seem to take off: Believe me – we tried taking the flight from Delhi to Jaipur and back many times but it just didn't seem to exist. Two days before the scheduled flight, we would get a cheery SMS saying that ‘due to technical reasons, this flight will not be operating two days hence’. Well, if there are technical reasons, why don’t you just use the two days to fix them, we asked the helpline operators. But they just tee-heed and ‘tch-tch’ed and ‘I know, sir’ed with us, in the manner of those who sympathize but are powerless to make a change, being helpless cogs in the wheel. In fact, in some cases, the call centre operator’s tone would suggest that she was the one who deserved sympathy from us - because she was unfortunate enough to be employed by Air Deccan, while we were free to just walk away… (we certainly wouldn’t be flying away any time soon)
The worst part of this entire thing was the story I heard about how when Air Deccan, on one particular day, realized that there were only 5 passengers booked to travel on the flight from Delhi to Jaipur – being the financial wizards that they are, they did some quick mental maths and decided that it would be much more economical to cancel the flight and transport the passengers to their destination – in a Tata Sumo! Now, I don’t know whether this is true or not – I am partly offended that I was never offered this option, and partly relieved that I didn’t have to bash someone’s head in upon being made such an offer.
Actually, that’s not the worst part – the actual worst part is that thanks to this flight-cancelling tendency on Air Deccan’s part, we ended up wasting around 8 of our short sector tickets – that’s around Rs.16,000 or so – which Shome later casually told me we could have gotten refunded if we hadn’t allowed the one year deadline to elapse.
(Note to Vijay: have you noticed we take too much advice from Shome when we really should have buried him long back? I have realized over the last two posts that listening to him proves that we are not a very bright couple).
# 2. Their ‘food’ sucks so much that the airhostesses bring their own dabbas: It’s true. One late night, after a three hour delay, we found ourselves on the flight, with our stomachs growling. We philosophically purchased two moldy sandwiches, a packet of chips and some Frooti-type of drink and were just settling down to this sumptuous, overpriced meal when our nostrils were assaulted with the smell of some truly delicious alu paranthas. We were sitting near the front and craned our necks around the curtain to catch a glimpse of the two airhostesses giggling and sharing their wholesome, home-made full meals, right out of their steel tiffin dabbas. Vijay and I looked at each other, peered wistfully for a while longer through the curtains and then resumed our listless poking at our own sad excuse for food, trying to ignore the tantalizing whiff of the real thing. It was pure torture.
# 1. And the top reason not to travel Air Deccan is….: the attached sign which we saw on one flight. Now, this one would only be an issue for you if you happen to have a baby and coincidentally, to also be the type of parent who happens to love it.
In case the Hindi isn’t clear enough for you to read for any reason, allow me to tell you what the sign says:
‘Kharaab Mausam mein Shishu ko Fold Karke Rakhen’
So that’s it. Those were my top 5. Our one year period validity of our coupon tickets was over on October 8, 2006 and we have never travelled on this airline since. And though I have seen something on TV a few months back about Air Deccan’s attempt at a complete image makeover, a full relaunch and rehaul, with a focus on making it a fabulous flying experience – it’s going to take more than a few ghastly yellow shirts with equally ghastly slogans about ‘being No. 1’, to get me to try this airline again.
Anyone travelled recently on this airline with a good experience? Come on, shock me!