Air India in a Downward Spiral
"How can anyone make firm travel plans with Air India when even confirmed tickets are being routinely rebooked?"
Air India, now owned by Tata, is spiraling out of control with extreme mismanagement and a horrible customer experience. Here are some recent firsthand experiences of Air India's appalling customer service:
1. I had a confirmed ticket on a flight from San Francisco to Bhopal for March 18th, 2023. On February 17th, 2023, Air India arbitrarily rebooked my flights on a completely different route and schedule. Even though my initial itinerary was carefully chosen at a paid premium, for a short travel duration, the new itinerary had a 15-hour layover in Delhi. I did not complain about this severe discomfort and delay, as these things sometimes happen.
2. On March 20th, 2023, I boarded the connecting flight ( AI435 ) from Delhi to Bhopal. When the passengers were waiting to take off, the Captain announced that there were 2 passengers who were just clearing security checks and the flight would be delayed by 10 minutes. Nobody complained, as these things sometimes happen. After 45 minutes of waiting in the plane, passengers inquired about the flight status and were told that there were 23 passengers who were about to reach the security checkpoint and that we would have to wait another 45 minutes for take off. This revealed that the initial announcement about 2 late passengers was a complete lie. Some passengers were traveling with small children, who were getting cranky. We asked the Air India representatives why 200+ people were being held up because of 23 people. Air India staff simply told us to wait for the 23 late passengers to arrive.
We had been sitting in the plane for 2 hours at this point. Some passengers had traveled internationally in a hurry to attend a funeral, which they would have to miss. Other passengers had important medical and business appointments that day. The 200+ passengers got irate and demanded that we take off immediately. Air India staff offered an empty apology, but stuck to their stance of not taking off to ease the discomfort of 200+ passengers. On further questioning, it was discovered that these 23 late passengers were in a bus that had not yet reached the airport.
"We asked to speak with a supervisor but were told, 'Sorry. That is against the Standard Operating Procedure.' We asked whether favoring 23 passengers over 200+ passengers was part of the Standard Operating Procedure."
The passengers demanded to speak with the flight Captain, but the Captain safely locked himself in the cockpit and refused to come out, or even address the passengers on the PA system. We asked to speak with a supervisor but were told, "Sorry. That is against the Standard Operating Procedure." We asked whether favoring 23 passengers over 200+ passengers was part of the Standard Operating Procedure. No reply. The Air India representative was a woman who just stood there doing nothing, while passengers tried to talk to her. She would periodically mumble, "sorry". There was real anger and frustration in the air. 3 hours passed before the 23 late passengers finally showed up.
3. A few hours ago ( on March 20th, 2023 ), Air India notified me that my confirmed return ticket to the USA had been arbitrarily rebooked. My flight from Bhopal to Delhi was on April 1st. But my connecting flight from Delhi to San Francisco is on April 3rd. The layover is now 2 days! I have important appointments in the USA, and cannot afford to be late. Air India is not even offering to pay for 2 days' accommodation in Delhi.
It is now quite clear that Air India is being grossly mismanaged by Tata. Air India is no longer able to even reasonably guarantee firm travel plans. As such, I recommend avoiding Air India entirely. Just sit back and watch Tata slam Air India into the ground at maximum speed.