This might be a little long. Had an experience with Indigo that, I feel, needs to be shared. It may not be unique, but it highlights a couple of problem areas.
I traveled from Bangalore to Mumbai on the 24th of August with three bags – one standard laptop carryon and two check-ins weighing 23 kgs each. The allowance for international flights is 2×23 kgs. I was to travel to Canada from Mumbai on the 4th of September with Air France as carrier. When I presented my passport to the check-in counter at Bangalore, the customer service representive told me that the free domestic allowance was one carry-on of 7 kgs and total check-in allowance of 15 kgs. I was, obviously, 31 kgs over the allowance. I told her that I was traveling abroad for a reasonably long duration of time. She responded by saying that, in that case, I was permitted 35 kgs as an international traveller. She checked my onward ticket and asked me to pay the over-the-allowance charge for 11 kgs. I acquiesced. I travelled with no problems. Upon alighting in Canada, I found that all their modes of transportation are harmonized to the maximum weight allowance per bag of air travel (both domestic and international) i.e. 23 kgs. I’ve travelled by car, intercity bus and train.
I returned to Mumbai with the same carrier on the 14th of December, with the same number of bags and same weight. Based in Bangalore for the time being, I was to connect via Indigo 6E 212 from Mumbai on the 15th of December. I reached the check-in counter and apprised the customer service agent of my travel and connection. I also notified him that I would be over-the-allowance because I was connecting on international travel. He said okay and asked me to load my check-in bags for weighing. The estimate matched. To my surprise, he informed me that I was over-the-allowance by by 33 kgs. I asked him to check my travel documents and reminded him of the allowance I was provided at Bangalore on the way out. He said that was for international travel. I said – exactly; this is international travel too. He refused to check my documents. I had retained my boarding pass with check-in baggage details for Montreal-Paris-Mumbai the previous day. He insisted, rather unimaginatively I might add, that this is domestic travel. I asked him whether all international travellers who come in with their standard international allowance pay an exorbitant amount for their domestic connections. He said – Yes. His supervisor had come in by that time. I raised the issue to him. Same response – this is company policy. The Assistant Manager, a young lady, came over to log him into the payment module for my debit card. Same question. Same response. I suggested to her that there might be some error in interpretation. She said that there wasn’t. I paid a rather hefty charge. She had initially tried to suggest that the Bangalore agent had granted me a one-off. I told her – No, she accommodated me on her own, with no prompt from me. Then she tried to change tack and tried to indicate that she was in no position to discriminate or use discretion. That was when I gave up.
It does not end here. While waiting for my flight, I wanted to see how their online chat system responds to customer problems. I logged into the company’s website and soon got a representative to connect with me. I informed him of my experience and asked him why my international allowance was not granted on the return trip. To cut a long story short, he merely said – there is a different policy. I asked him what it was. My flight got called. I asked him for the contact of their customer compaint redressal before I take the matter to court. He said – Sure, I will help you. And he closed the chat window.
So this issue raises the question of harmonization, which I started off with. And the lack of a suitable response to a simple customer question which is to be expected, if this were indeed to be company policy. To be honest though, I don’t quite believe this could be legitimate company policy because it sends out a message of them being exploitative in a very selective way. Then there is the question of service quality – the chat disconnection just when I asked for compaint redressal. I could go on with a few more things, but I think this is enough.
I have travelled only with Indigo in India, over the past 5 years. I have no experience of situations with other carriers. I also think there is an issue with training of agents at the customer interface. But the Assistant Manager was no better. I don’t think they are to blame though. This is a management problem. In case it helps, the names of the Mumbai staff, in the order that I have referred to them are – Faiz Ahmed, Hakim and Paromita. The chat agent was Ramanpreet.
On a positive note, I sense a competitive opportunity for any domestic carrier seeking to establish international traveller preference for local connections (Upon checking online, Air India wins on this account giving precedence to the International Sector allowance). Though I cannot quite get how they have not thought of this before. What am I missing?
The only explanation I can imagine, if I am wrong above, is that this allowance differential between domestic-international and international-domestic has not been taken cognizance of by the Ministry of Aviation/DGCA, though I don’t get how it helps those who travel abroad starting with a domestic connection only to return to an asymmetry on the ending domestic. What are we hoping to achieve by this?