An Open Letter to Vijay Mallya

Dear Mr. Mallya,

Every time we fly your airlines, you come online and welcome us and tell us that we are your ‘guests’ and that you have trained your in-flight attendants to treat us as guests in your own home. Perfect;  Impressive. I must admit that most of the time we are treated well. The girls are all smiles and ever ready to help you with anything you need or ask for and when they can’t they smile in such an apologetic manner that you hasten to assure them that you could do without whatever you are asking for. The food is good (even if the tea and coffee are just tepid water) and the selection of movies and entertainment fairly good.

But before you begin to gloat over the praise of your airlines, let me hasten to add that you seem to think that guests are guests only after they enter your house and how they are treated before they get there is none of your business. Perhaps one is to exult having surmounted all odds to reach the goal of becoming your ‘guests’?

Now my point it this: when you train your house staff to make your guests welcome, you should also take care to train the others dealing with them before they actually get there, right? Your office staff who man the help lines should work in tandem with the rest and should have their facts right especially when giving any flight related information such as baggage limit to one of your ‘guests’.

This is what happened to me last week. I had gone to visit my son and like doting children he and his wife plied me with all kinds of things to carry back. But before doing that, they made me call your office and find out the baggage limit. I have to digress here to point out that the toll free number for UK doesn’t work at all and you are left holding the receiver endlessly — no matter what extension you select — listening to an electronic voice assuring you that you are going to be flying the world’s only 5-star airline! Some 5-star airline that!

Disgusted, I called the Indian number and after giving them my ticket number and other details, was assured that I could carry back 23×2 check-in baggage, i.e., a total of 46 kgs. I was elated and so were my children. They lent me one of their suitcases and filled it with stuff – all totaling about 42 kgs. ‘You can take 4 kgs more,’ said my son. I grinned happily, shaking my head.

The shock came when we reached the check-in counter at Heathrow.  The PYT that took my ticket told me that I was way over the limit and that the baggage limit was 28 kgs. Indignant, I protested that I had been told specifically over the phone by one of her colleagues that my limit was 46 kgs, but to no avail. Soon her supervisor came to investigate the commotion and asked me for some confirmation, like an email or fax.

I naturally didn’t have any such confirmation, having naively believed that a phone assurance was more than enough especially since the lady in question had not cautioned me about such inconveniences at the time of check in. Finally she took the ticket and said she would talk to the Kingfisher office and clarify the matter. She came back after sometime saying that I was magnanimously ‘allowed’ by one of your staff to take 35 kgs, which was 7 kgs less than what my luggage weighed.

Unwilling to take out the lovingly bought gifts, my son asked about the excess baggage fare and was informed that it was a whopping 20 pounds per kg! Useless angry remonstrations later he got ready to pay it off but I put my foot down and began offloading stuff. I was completely stressed out by then since I like to relax after the security check. I had fortunately gone three hours in advance. I shudder to think what might have happened if we had gone a little late and encountered this situation!

In the confusion and stress, I broke a lamp which I had lovingly bought. The scene looked like a battlefield as there were others who were frantically trying not to be fleeced by your airlines, in the name of excess baggage.

So much tension did it cause me and my family that I didn’t have enough time to even cuddle my granddaughter or say relaxed goodbyes to my son and daughter-in-law.  In fact there was no time to even have a drink of water before I had to rush through the security.

Such confusion on the domestic flights are still ok but don’t you think that on long international flights  your staff should have specific instructions to guide the so called ‘guests’ properly in order to avoid such chaos at the airport? Or don’t you think that the ‘guests’ deserve any courtesy whatsoever, if they fly your airlines, since they get treated like your personal guests in the flight and damned how they got there?

I am not the only aggrieved party. I saw some of the complaints of your other ‘guests’ one of whom has complained that he couldn’t get a refund or adjustment of fare even after sending several emails.  He ultimately had to buy a new ticket when the original ticket had to be postponed. And what is worse, he was sending back his sick mother! That also goes to prove that I would never have received any email confirmation regarding my baggage limit from your office, right?

This is the way guests are treated by your airlines and if you are not aware of it Mr. Mallya, please become aware and take corrective steps. May I presume that this treatment is specific to your ‘cattle-class’ guests? If so, before the red in Kingfisher Red becomes synonymous with ‘Danger: stay away,’ please train your ground staff and others who deal with passengers to get their act together and show some courtesy and consideration for your ‘guests.’

With best regards,

An aggrieved cattle-class ‘guest’

44 comments

  1. sorry to hear that, fortunately i have never had to go through this hassle. i can understand how stressful it can be at the airport. i hope things change for good.

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    1. Oh yeah. And the airline guys act as if they are doing us a favour and not the other way round!

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  2. What can I say Zephyr…I am glad I found your blog. I can wonderfully connect and thoroughly enjoy.

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    1. Nice to know that you can connect with me. Do visit again 🙂

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  3. …and Vijay Mallya is never charged on carrying those ‘extra’ weights in the IPL parties, if you know what I mean! 😉

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    1. Welcome here Sourav!

      You said it! 😀

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  4. “The adventures of Zephyr” would have been more apt a title for this post.Trust me trains are so much more better no one cares even if you have brought a luggage equivalent to the whole cricket team,heck no one even cares even if you have brought the damm ticket,its only “First come first sit” condition….

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    1. You are so right WJ! I had once planned to travel by train and accumulated a lot of luggage, but at the last moment had to take a flight. Imagine the amount I paid in terms of excess baggage since I couldn’t leave behind anything! I love the train too!

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  5. U know Z…the issue seems to be in training in all service industries unless every single front line persosn is trained…it boils down to lower levels of customer satisfaction. ….aaargghhhh management gyaan!

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    1. LOL Good management gyaan! But how many companies follow it? They are all becoming more and more arrogant and less customer-centric (see, I can also throw in some jargon!!)

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  6. I tried cancelling a kingfisher ticket once, it couldn’t be done online and when I called customer care even they couldn’t cancel it. In the end, a bunch of emails were exchanged for 2 days and then the ticket was “finally” cancelled.
    The flight industry is totally reckless now, the last time I traveled they left a part of my luggage in Delhi, and I had to wait in Chennai for two days to get it back. While returning back to Delhi, I was 10 times more cautious. 😛

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    1. You are lucky, you got a reply from them to your email after two days. The person I have quoted from their website didn’t get a reply for 3 months! I think the airlines expect us to be grateful to them for taking us aboard at all! 🙂

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  7. Nice post … Hope the concerned authorities read this n take a stock of their so-called world class services !

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    1. Welcome here Mayank! Amen to that!

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  8. I have never traveled on International flights but going through your horrific plight on Kingfisher airlines, I do hope that Mr Mallya take note of the comments on this post and take corrective steps.

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    1. Yes indeed. Companies should become more accountable and offer better services, at least the services they CLAIM to offer! It is not about national and international flights, but the general standards of service that matters.

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  9. I never knew Kingfisher could do this!

    And @Zephyr, you have a point here in mentioning that these airlines should mention on the ticket itself what the baggage limit is, if they are so particular about it.

    Frankly, I have recently being travelling a lot to and fro between Delhi and Mumbai (I know your case is International flights) and I do not keep a weighing machine at hand. So, many a time it happens that my baggage is 3-5 kilos up or down the limit that we are allowed. But, I have been mainly using GoAir and they have been considerate enough to allow (and not charge me) those extra kilos.

    Net-net, all these airlines should mention the minimum weight that is allowed per head on-board.

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    1. Welcome here Dhakkanz! (Your name sounds intriguing! 🙂 )

      Oh, yes, the bigger the company, the flatter they fall! It is their own website and their own staff that give misleading info! So who is to be blamed?

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  10. Sad thing that you couldnt bring all the items. And next time if you are thinking of getting some e-mail confirmation.. dont bother yourself, that e-mail will never arrive. Slowly the customer service across all industries and going down which is a sad thing.

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    1. Welcome here Bragadeesh! Customer service is going down all right. But when a company, in this case an airline claims to be a premier one, does something like this, it is really bad. And when their website gives the information and it is corroborated by the person taking the call!

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  11. I stopped flying Kingfisher long time back. They started off with a lot of jing bang and we were maha impressed. But over the last one year, their services have gone downhill ; they cancel/reschedule and don’t bother to inform. Their flights are mostly delayed.

    In the Domestic sector, I find that low cost airlines like jetlite and indigo do a much better job. For the International sector we prefer Lufthansa.

    I think you should have raised a stink at the airport, this is no way to treat your passengers.

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    1. Welcome to my blog, Purba! I agree with you that the no-frills airlines are much better in their service. At least they don’t claim to be a 5-star airline! And when they charge for even the 200 ml of water, you actually don’t mind because their costs are low and they do not make tall claims!

      About the stink at the airport, what do you think? All the decibels and aggression from my son and me finally got us another 8 kgs more of baggage, which they magnanimously ‘allowed’.

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  12. Mr. Mallya,
    Recently I flew from Kandla to Mumbai. It was raining heavily and the flight, which was early in the morning, was delayed by more than one and half hour. Now if you have never been to kandla airport, this is to inform you that it seem like a single room government hospital with leaky roof(yes!! the roof was leaking in several places, and the plastic seats fixed to a single frame were drenched with water), a makeshift arrangement to provide your airline services. Due to the delay, we “guests” were served refreshments(tea and biscuits). On board for a 1 and 1/2 hour flight we were served a sandwich. I still remember paying 4800 rs for the flight tickets!!

    Do all your guests get such treatment?

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    1. Welcome here Nilesh! Mr.Mallya does not know about the inconveniences of the ‘guests.’ That’s why I thought it was my duty to inform him and then give the devil his due! 😀

      Their flights are the costliest but not matched by the service to justify the cost.

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  13. You said it, Keerthana! But we have no option but to keep being taken for rides, or should I say flights, by them!

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  14. Stupid people, they think they can do whatever they want!!

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  15. This experience is not confined to the particular airline in question.The larger question is the attitude of Indian businesses towards their customers. A person is king so long as he is a potential customer. Once he actually makes a payment for the goods/services, he becomes a nuisance.Do you know of businessman who has ever retuned your money in case you were not satisfied with his service? The maximum you would get is an exchange and that too with numerous visits to the establishment.It is immaterial whether it is a small business or large corporates.

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    1. Welcome here salaamreaders! I agree about the businessman not refunding money. And sometimes the bother of even exchanging the goods is so much that one is tempted to let it go as a dead loss. In this respect our country has a long way to go. As for the companies losing interest in the customer once the money has changed hands, I have written a post on that. You might be interested in reading it:

      https://cybernag.in/2010/06/tweet-power

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  16. ZM I have no idea about the foreign flights but even in India it is pathetic. A colleague was traveling to Bangalore recently on company work. Unfortunately, the same day the rules were revised stating that the security checks would stop 40 minutes before departure of flight. However, the airline in question happily decided not to call and inform him as a result of which he missed his flight having landed at the airport security with 30 minutes for departure (before anyone comments on it, he had checked in online in advance)… Air travel is really harrowing I guess… Even though the actual journey may take a couple of hours, the various other procedures included take almost twice or thrice that time.

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    1. That’s another thing Siddharth. They change the rules merrily and give no warning to the travelers. Hope your friend got a refund or at least accommodated on another flight without being charged for it! I once had the same problem. The airlines (I think it was Kingfisher again. Sorry Mr. Mallya!) which used to allow 20kgs check in baggage on the domestic sector had suddenly reduced it to 15 kgs, but fortunately there was no weight limit for the hand baggage and people removed stuff and stuffed them in their hand baggage. one gentleman, who had bulky things, bundled them in a sheet and carried the ‘potli’ as hand baggage! 😀 I don;t believe that the rule could have come in force just at that moment!

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  17. I so agree with you..Kingfisher has a different policy for people travelling from USA and that from other countries on their domestic flights for excess baggage. People from USA can carry any amount of excess baggage…

    I had to pay excess baggage charge just because I travelled from the UK…grrr it made me quite angry..

    Such callous attitude will ruin their image.

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    1. You too, LP? And the excess baggage fare is atrocious! Why can’t they clearly mention what their baggage policy is? Or at least have their UK number more responsive? The Kingfisher jingle came out of my ears, nose and mouth till I could take it no longer and slammed the phone down every time I was forced to hold on for more than 10 minutes!! Double grrrr….

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  18. 23×2 means 2 bags, each weighing 23kgs, not 1 bag weighing 46kgs. of course the onus is on kf call centre to clarify. this is the problem with outsourcing all ‘customer service’ jobs.

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    1. Welcome here magiceye! Of course I was aware that it meant two bags and I had taken two each weighing less than 23 kgs! the problem is not outsourcing alone, but not giving proper briefing to the call centre agents regarding the rules pertaining to various aspects of the flights. And that inconveniences the passengers no end.

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  19. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gopinath Parayil, neelnshah, Joyanto Mukherjee, Sneha Kataria, Ankita Gaba and others. Ankita Gaba said: RT @vineetrajan: Mom's Open Letter to @TheVijayMallya on her 'guest' like treatment by @flykingfisher http://bit.ly/9Uw6rJ […]

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  20. guess u should ask for the name of the person u spoke to each time. These calls are generally taken by call center employees who are quite unaware sometimes ! Maybe recording calls would be of help !

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    1. That’s my gripe precisely. When the person who takes the call to give clarification is not instructed properly about the facts, the passenger has to suffer. The airline wants only written confirmation of the info you were given!

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  21. I agree with Shrirang. Reading the ticket and knowing the rules is not rocket science. However the baggage allowance if your ticket is booked from the UK is 46kgs not 28. So its unfair all around. Given all that, Kingfisher is one of the worst long haul carriers there is. Small seats and terrible entertainment.

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  22. guys i think u r being unfair. Not holding a brief for KF or any other airline but i think we all should be aware of what r the limits we can carry. It is clearly stated on the ticket itself. Carrying xtra baggage costs the airline in terms of fuel. Even 10 kg more per 200 passangers works out to 2 tons of extra weight for the aircraft to carry. Why not stick to rules rather than indulge in airline bashing ?

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    1. Welcome here, Shrirang! I am not into airliine bashing. What I object to is the wrng information given to passengers and then penalising them! See the Kingfisher airline site and it states that the baggage limit from Delhi to London is 28 kgs and London to Delhi is 23×2 for check-in baggage. the samewas confirmed to me on phone on giving my ticket number and other details that they asked me for.

      Everyone knows about the dangers of excess cargo. Methinks that their flights back to Delhi are usually half empty and so the concession but on that particular day maybe it was not so empty so they changed the rule impromptu? 😉

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  23. Gayathri Krithivas · · Reply

    Why am I not surprised? It is all about the bottom line. Once you have bought a ticket through any airline, you are held hostage. Added tot hat are nickel and dime charges all over and before you know it, your pockets have been dried out. Did you know that airlines made record profits by charging for bags and the extras? I am disgusted just like you are.
    Add to that poor customer service by disgruntled employees who make little money because the “boss” takes in all the profits it is only natural to encounter such service. Here’s to hoping change will happen soon.

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    1. Hey G3, welcome here! You said it. We are held hostage by the airlines and the staff who treat you like some unsavoury thing to be tolerated!

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  24. This is not new with airlines. Even after working in aviation, i myself feel the heat many a times i travel. I hope your letter creates some ripples. I’ll post it on my facebook page.

    Regards

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    1. Welcome here Himanshu! It is not about the reduced baggage allowance, but about bad customer relations and wrong information provided to the passenger causing avoidable chaos and tension at the last moment.

      Thanks for posting it on your Facebook page!

      Like

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