Sunday, November 19, 2017

A blowback in India's booming aviation industry: Surge in consumer complaints

Richa Malhotra is still aghast at the “insensitivity” of the airline she flew with. The tech consultant in Delhi booked a flight to Patna on October 29 to attend her best friend’s wedding. Much to her horror, the evening flight of one of the low-cost airlines got cancelled. Malhotra, 31, was not kept in the loop. “There was no prior information.

They just did it arbitrarily,” she fumes, alleging that no alternative arrangement was made by the airline. “I missed my friend’s wedding. Flyers are being taken for a ride,” she rues.

Malhotra is not the only one nursing a gripe. Sonali Khatta, an HR recruiter in Delhi, alleges that she was denied boarding because the flight was overbooked. “They just want to fill the plane. What airlines forget is that we are not cattle. Show some heart.”

A sea of disgruntled flyers, unfortunately, threatens to expose the ugly underbelly of Indian aviation. Ironically, a boom in the sector may have much to do with consumer distress. For the second time this year, air travel volume breached the one crore monthly mark, with 1.04 crore passengers flying domestic airlines in October. Passengers carried by domestic airlines during the first 10 months of this year totalled 9.54 crore as against 8.14 crore during the previous year’s corresponding period, a jump of 17.30% according to data released by regulator DGCA (director general of civil aviation) on Friday.
A recent report by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) tipped India to overtake the UK to become the third largest air passenger market by 2025. China, according to the report released last month, and the US will occupy the top two slots, respectively. By 2036, India will have 478 million airline passengers, more than those of Japan and Germany combined, it added.
Unfortunately, a boom in flying is having an unanticipated blowback: a surge in consumer complaints. From 606 lodged against the erring airlines in September this year, the number shot up to 656 in October, according to DGCA data. While 30.5% of the flyers blamed customer service, 16% pointed fingers at flight problems like sudden cancellation and delay, 22% had issues with their baggage and 7.5% didn’t like staff behaviour.
19/11/17 Rajiv Singh/Economic Times