Travel woes don’t seem to leave me alone. After all the mess with the UK visa getting denied to me because of a “damaged passport” followed by a passport re-application struggle at multiple stages, where I underwent all adventures possible while dealing with Indian bureaucracy like a rude and haughty passport officer who called my application a “ghanta” loudly enough for the 50 people crowded around in the office without a care in the world, and being asked to come back thrice for the Passport re-issue application, to a background verification police officer who asked for a bribe in a subtle manner, the worse thing being that I fail to notice the subtlety, followed by a delay in receiving the re-applied UK visa till the very last afternoon of the day I was to fly out. And at one point you think, what else can happen? I’m at my lowest point and nothing can be worse than this.
But then more shit happens. Your flight gets cancelled. Or at least you get an email from Makemytrip saying that Qatar Airways has cancelled your flight in light of the diplomatic row with its neighbours. There were options provided in the email to either explore other options with the same airlines (why would I do that in this case with Qatar Airways?) or get a full refund, and the steps I need to follow to claim cancellation because of “flight being non-operational” through their web site or app. So I follow the steps to claim cancellation because of the stated reason and apply for the refund. The next day – and here it gets really interesting – I come to the office thinking I have to book a new flight, but I get a new email from Makemytrip asking me to ignore the flight cancellation email from them the previous day and that it was sent out due to a “technical glitch”! But it failed to mention anything about the big coincidence staring us in the faces, that the cancellation message was for a Qatar Airways flight, an airlines which is cancelling flights right, left and centre these past few days because of the diplomatic crisis where some other gulf countries have cut economic ties with them. I called up Makemytrip on the “toll free number” provided on their website, and had to wait for over 10 minutes and yawn three times before a customer service operator came on the line. I explained to them my situation and asked them to make me understand the present scenario. After holding the line and hearing the stale “music” for some time, she came back and told me that the flight is operational and good to go.
I asked her that since I had initiated cancellation and a refund, the status is showing as “Cancellation in Progress” and that a cancellation ID has been generated and all. She said that’s just some “problem with the website” which I should ignore. Since this and the other coincidences were too coincident to ignore, I asked her to cancel the flight for me, and let me know what is the refund I’ll be getting since I had booked a “refundable” flight. After making me wait on the line for what seemed like an eternity, she came back on the line and said that the flight is non-refundable now. I asked her to explain what that meant. She said that till the time of Departure, if the cancellation was done, it was refundable, with some cancellation fees going into it, but since I am “Departured” (thankfully she did not say “Departed”), it fell under the category of non-refundable. I was flabbergasted and I asked her how can I be considered “Departured” for the flight was 3 days away. She said I am being considered “Departured” as I have already flown from Bengaluru to Manchester, and since it was booked under the same return ticket, it meant that if I cancel now, I would not get any refund, which did not make sense to me. I kept up my side of incredulity-laden argument with her and used words like “loyal customer”, “very poor customer service” and “pathetic support”. I also dropped in words like “raise this issue” and “higher ups”. At that moment, in the middle of all this, I also asked her name, which I had to ask her to repeat at least 4 times before I could understand it (it was not a common name, in my defence). She suddenly seemed to be holding the phone upside down, as I could hardly hear her uncharacteristically whisper her name over the phone. Although I was asking it because I had spent the past almost half an hour arguing with her, and if the phone line happened to get disconnected right now, I would have to start it all over with a new customer care executive and have the same set of arguments, which is a pain (trust me, that has happened before). But she probably took it in the light of a sort of escalation that I may have in mind as she was being unsupportive, which she was, but I did not have that in mind when I asked her name. But it seemed to do the job, nevertheless. She took down my phone number, and said she will explore other options and will get back to me. After about half an hour I received an email from her stating that they will reimburse less than a third of the total cost of the to and fro flight, which seemed fair enough to me and she said that since I had already initiated the cancellation (which she was earlier calling “a problem with the website”), I need not worry about anything else. She mentioned the amount they’ll be reimbursing in writing, so I could trust that.
So finally I was able to get a new flight booked through Oman Air, flying through Muscat, which I hear has suddenly become a hot hub for a lot of flights connecting Indian subcontinent and south-east Asia with Europe. But one last ball of shit was yet to drop on my head. I received a mobile usage message the next day, and it seems the “toll free” call had cost me Rs 8,000 since I was in an international territory! So much for the reimbursement saving which I had fought so hard for. Anyhow, since I am “net positive”, I’ll have to live with this. But shit happens and you can’t do much, can you?