Dear Airline Industry,
The time has come for you to start listening to travelers’ concerns. Not just hearing, but actually listening.
I have many years of personal and professional experience in the travel industry. My father was a pilot for a major U.S. carrier and my brother currently flies for another major U.S airline. I was raised around planes, understanding from a very young age about respecting other passengers, the flight crew, and airline representatives. Now a Certified Destination Specialist and the owner of a specialized travel company, I am very familiar with how air service was and what it has become. I have always been an advocate of the airline industry, but the time has come to really speak out about the mishandlings and sheer insolence. Let me also say that I write this letter openly in the hopes of, somehow, making a positive change. I am certain a carrier would prefer to receive twice as many compliments and half as many complaints.
Allow me to specify. The following are taken directly from the respective company websites:
United: We are committed to providing a level of service to our customers that makes us a leader in the airline industry. Our goal is to make every flight a positive experience for our customers.
Delta: Delta Air Lines intends to ensure that your air travel experience will encompass, to the best of our abilities, the most comprehensive customer service possible.
Hawaiian Airlines: At Hawaiian Airlines, our approach to customer service is simple: you’re our customer, and our goal is to provide you with the best service possible. So tell us: what can we do for you today?
I genuinely wish these statements were true. How much nicer the world would be if certain airlines actually cared about their customers. All their customers, and not just elite, business, and first class passengers.
Recently, a group of us flew from Portland to Orlando on Delta. Without exaggeration, I say that we should have felt so lucky to receive a bag of trail mix and a cup of soda. Or at least that is how the flight attendants made us feel. The attitude was derisory. When Delta incorrectly printed our boarding passes with seats not together, although we had selected our seats three months earlier, the agent was visibly not pleased with having to take time from her busy schedule to correct the error. When retrieving our stroller from baggage claim, it was broken. Delta did, however, compensate us for the cost of a new one.
In November, while flying on United from Delhi to Newark, I witnessed the worst customer service of any flight in all my years of travel. It would almost be comical, had the service not been so blatantly terrible. Racism, discrimination, and rudeness are just naming a few of the issues. I was appalled. One flight attendant did not smile for the entire 15-hour flight. Trust me, I noticed. I even tried to crack a joke when she served beverages. No luck. When I was waiting in line for the restroom, the flight attendants were sitting together and talking. They were actually making-fun of the accent of one passenger and laughing out loud. They also were discussing his hygiene and meal request, and how the meal may be contributing to his scent. And all of this was in public. Upon returning home, I contacted United to share my concerns. In recognition of the poor service, they offered us each a $150 travel voucher toward a future flight. Is this gesture an appropriate response? I appreciate the sentiment, but if the flight attendants continue to treat customers in this manner, United will run out of vouchers.
Las month, a client was flying from Toronto to Delhi via London. The segment from Toronto was on Air Canada, and Air India was servicing the flight from London – Delhi. After arriving in London, the clients were denied boarding on Air India. The gate agent told them that their ticket number and confirmation number were invalid. They were instructed to visit the Air Canada office to correct the issue, and return to the gate. The Air Canada agent pulled up the reservation and said the ticket number was correct and it was confirmed in the system. They were told to return to the gate and try again. Upon reaching, the agent said the same thing and once again denied boarding. They missed their flight.
To make an incredibly long and completely avoidable story short, Air India admitted their mistake and found the reservation but still refused to rebook the passengers on the later flight. There were five seats available in economy, but since they were in a different fare category, they would not reissue the tickets unless a supplement was paid. Sound familiar? After being on a call with various Air India offices for four hours, my air desk agreed to pay the difference in fare, just to get the clients on their way. To this, Air India responded that they could no longer make changes to the reservation since the clients had already departed from Toronto. The tickets were not reissued, the clients were forced to spend an overnight in London, and Air India would not provide a hotel voucher, meal voucher, or assistance. Finally Air India rebooked my clients on a flight the following day and issued an apology. Again, should I or my clients feel warm and fuzzy that Air India apologized? How about doing what you strive for, according to your company philosophy, and exceed customer expectations?
One final example: A few of my family members are flying to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines – Portland to Maui via Honolulu. They booked their flights the same day on the same flights and received confirmation and seat assignments. A few weeks ago, only one of the parties was notified that their flight from Honolulu to Maui was cancelled and they were rebooked on a much later flight. The other party, which was not notified, was rebooked on a different flight. Party #1 was told there were no more seats on the flight of party #2. Transportation arrangements had been made for a van rental to accommodate the group. After several phone calls, they were made aware that there were the three needed seats available on the same flight. However, Hawaiian Air would NOT upgrade them to those seats without charging an additional fee. They even offered to refund the entire groups round trip tickets rather than allow the easy fix on the short hop from Honolulu to Maui. So much for their slogan of a SIMPLE approach toward customer service!
Unfortunately, my sentiments are all too common. Visit any online forum or ombudsman column and the complaints are fairly similar. I will just go ahead and say what most of us are thinking. Don’t value your job? Quit. Quitting not an option? Then reevaluate your position and understand that we, your customers, are not the ones who are making you unhappy… or disrespectful…or just plain rude. You are employed in a customer service industry, and if you are not having the patience to field and alleviate our (mostly valid) concerns, shame on you. I am fairly certain you would not act this way if your supervisor, director, or CEO was monitoring your behavior.
Here is another idea. Start treating your customers like you are one. If you were in our position, how would you react? If you were denied boarding, talked about behind your back, and humiliated, would you simply accept it? Given your ability to throw stones, I believe not.
I would also like to take the time to state that some airlines do an excellent job and it is very clear that customer service is the priority. I had a wonderful experience on ANA in October, when our United flight was rerouted via Tokyo due to Hurricane Sandy. The kindness, patience, and precision were perhaps the best I have experienced on an international carrier. Emirates is also high on my list, as well as Alaska Airlines. It is evident on these carriers that the employees care about the passenger experience, both on the ground and in the air.
As someone who was raised in the airline industry and has made a profession in the travel industry, it breaks my heart that this is what flying has become – simply a form of transport where the customer is lucky to receive basic courtesy and – Gasp! – even a thank you for their business.
Is it correct to assume that this corporate airline culture is coming from the top? Are CEO’s responsible for the decisions and actions of their employees? Would employees be making these decisions if it was not an airline policy? These are valid questions to start the conversation. I have actually considered not offering air ticketing with my tours because of all the time and trouble. However, my clients deserve inclusive packages and their needs are my primary responsibility.
Fortunately, I remain optimistic that the airlines can recover from this poor reputation and bounce back stronger than before. Customer Service. Let’s bring it back.
I have written quite a few posts about travel insurance – the benefits, the policies, and why I always recommend coverage for clients. I also make sure to personally purchase a policy for each and every trip abroad. For the past two weeks, several of our clients have been met with unfortunate circumstances when traveling. All of the incidents have been associated with air travel, which is not surprising to us, especially this time of year. Flights are oversold, winter weather is unpredictable, and the busy holiday season makes it difficult for airlines to efficiently accommodate the passengers.
Although travel insurance can offer protection and reimbursement for trip cancellation, trip interruption, and medical expenses, I would like to focus this particular post on the value of insurance specifically relating to air travel. Most policies offer coverage for flight cancellations, missed connections, baggage delay/loss, and any costs directly associated with these incidents, including hotel rooms and transport costs. However, often the circumstances are not as simple as a flight cancellation due to weather. Last week, we had two clients traveling from Toronto – Delhi. The segment from Toronto – London was on Airline #1 and the segment from London – Delhi was on Airline #2. (The tickets were linked and operated under a codeshare partnership.) After arriving in London, the clients were denied boarding on Airline #2. The gate agent told them that their ticket number and confirmation number were invalid. They were instructed to visit the office of Airline #1 to correct the issue, and return to the gate. The agent pulled up the reservation and said the ticket number was correct and it was confirmed in the system. They were told to return to the gate and try again. Upon reaching, the agent at Airline #2 said the same thing and once again denied boarding. They missed their flight.
Eventually, Airline #2 admitted their mistake and found the reservation but still refused to rebook the passengers on the later flight. There were five seats available in economy, but since they were in a different fare category, they would not reissue the tickets unless a supplement was paid. After being on calls with various airline offices for four hours, my air desk agreed to pay the difference in fare, just to get the clients on their way. To this, Airline #2 responded that they could no longer make changes to the reservation since the clients had already departed from Toronto. The tickets were not reissued, the clients were forced to spend an overnight in London, and Airline #2 would not provide a hotel voucher, meal voucher, or assistance. Finally, Airline #2 rebooked the clients on a flight the following day and issued an apology.
Unfortunately, the clients had not elected to purchase travel insurance. Although it was the direct error of the airline, the clients were responsible for their hotel and transport in London. They also missed a full day of touring and two nights of hotel accommodations in Delhi. If a policy was purchased, all of these expenses would be reimbursed, as well as phone calls, meals, and other incidentals.
Just like with auto or health insurance, travel insurance is not for when things go as planned. The protection is for those unexpected and often costly incidents. Together with the clients, we plan to fight these charges with the airline for a refund, due to their admitted mistake. However, without coverage, the expenses are ultimately the responsibility of the passenger.
This is just one example of the true value of travel insurance. I have many years of personal and professional experience in the travel industry, and I am familiar with how air service was and what it has become. Customer service issues aside, the airlines do not offer as many vouchers for missed or cancelled flights as in previous years. Generally, we find that the cost of the insurance policy is only a fraction of what the clients pay for airline change fees, accommodations, etc. No coverage can reimburse or offer protection against the potential headaches and anxiety, but knowing you have 24/7 support and financial coverage is a real value – and worth every penny. For more information, please visit our Travel Insurance page or contact a Sodha Travel Destination Specialist.
Effective December 1, 2011, the Airport Development Fee (ADF) at the Delhi IGI airport will be reinstated as follows:
International Departure – Rs. 1434
Domestic Departure – Rs. 221
The ADF is not included in any airline tickets that were purchased before November 28, 2011, and passengers will need to pay the additional fee at the check-in counter. Payment must be made in INR – no USD will be accepted – and the fee is per person, including children and infants. The ADF will be included in any new tickets being issued, unless otherwise noted.
The ADF started in March 2009 as a way for passengers to help fund the Delhi airport expansion project. Please let us know if you have any additional questions.
I was recently reading an article in the LA Times about a family emergency that required a costly flight change. Due to unexpected circumstances, the passenger lost over $800 and will most likely have none of it refunded by the airline. Although these experiences are frustrating, they are unfortunately becoming all too common. I often discuss the benefits of travel insurance, and this story is just one more example of why it is worth it.
Just last month, we had four clients who became ill or injured abroad and had declined travel insurance coverage. (Thankfully, all have recovered and are doing well.) One traveler – who agreed to share her story anonymously – slipped on a staircase and severely twisted her ankle. Her bill from the hospital was over $1100. The cost of her insurance would have been less than $90. In a follow-up email to our office, she wrote, “If I could, I would be kicking myself. I kept thinking about all the reasons to not purchase insurance, but you can’t prepare for the unknown!”
For some passengers, travel insurance is no longer an option. Many companies now require travelers to purchase a policy as part of their tour package. And yet those with the option still mull over the question of cost vs. benefit: Is insurance worth it?
In my opinion, Yes. Not only do I recommend it to my clients, family members, and friends, but I also make sure to personally purchase coverage before each and every trip abroad. Just like with auto or health insurance, the coverage is not for when things go as planned. The protection is for those unexpected and often costly incidents. And in my many years of travel – on a personal and professional level – I have found that often plans unexpectedly change, someone becomes ill or injured, and/or my flights are cancelled. The cost of my policy is usually only a fraction of what I finally pay out of pocket for airline change fees, hotels, medical assistance, etc – all reimbursed by the insurance company!
Some credit card companies, like American Express, offer insurance coverage to their members. We recommend contacting your card provider to determine the policy inclusions and exclusions. Many plans only offer limited flight and baggage protection, and no coverage for trip cancellation, trip interruption, or medical expenses.
We have been quite surprised by the inflated prices of international airline tickets in 2011. And with higher fuel costs, the prices will continue to rise. In the past four months, oil has risen over 25% and airlines have raised fares as many as eight times.
Unfortunately, the airlines have also been quietly raising their baggage fees. As travelers become more savvy, many carriers respond with costly alternatives. One example: charging passengers for priority boarding, guaranteeing space in the overhead bins for carry-on bags. Other airlines are drastically increasing their fees on overweight bags. United now charges $400 for any bag weighing between 71 and 90 pounds. I was shocked to learn that U.S. airlines made $2.57 billion in baggage fees in the first nine months of 2010.
However, there is still hope. Many international-based airlines still allow passengers two checked bags (up to fifty pounds each) for no charge on most routes. And as we have seen, this is a strong deciding factor when travelers are selecting an airline. As a mom to a toddler, I also research which airlines allow me to check a stroller and car seat for no charge. Some experts are also predicting that airlines will start to charge for infants on domestic flights, as they do on international segments.
If you are concerned about baggage fees, please ask your agent or airline representative at the time of booking. I also recommend getting the policy in writing from the airline directly, or printing it from the website on the date your ticket is purchased.
These days, if you ask someone why they selected a tour package, destination, or travel operator, one word trumps all others: Value. However, value can mean different things to different travelers. For some, it implies a good deal or considerable savings. For others, the value is in the experience of visiting a new or exotic destination, or fulfilling a lifelong dream. Many travelers excitedly reserve a group tour based on the value of all of the above. The affordable price and enticing inclusions – international airfare, deluxe hotel accommodations, and comprehensive touring - are certainly tempting.
Many, including myself, appreciate the value and camaraderie of what a group tour offers. It can be a vibrant experience and affords travelers the opportunity to explore a new destination. However, as the saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true..” When reserving a group tour, it is important to research the details and read the fine print before placing a deposit. Here are 5 elements to consider before booking a group tour:
Number of Travelers: I recently had a friend return from a group tour to South America. She was very disappointed to land in Buenos Aires and find that her tour was with 48 other guests. Her expectation was somewhere between 20-25 people, and a full bus with double that amount felt impersonal and crowded. Her biggest complaint was during the touring. Unless she rushed to the front of the group, she had difficulty hearing the guide and also had limited time to ask questions. If you are not keen on sharing space with a large group, consider a smaller, specialized tour. Some agencies offer packages with a maximum of 20 people and are comparable in cost without traveling with the masses.
Departure Date: If you compare popular group tours from different companies, the departure dates are often the same. This is because airlines usually offer the lowest bulk rates when departing mid-week and/or on only one or two days a week. Since many companies follow a similar itinerary, the result is crowds of tourists on the same days at the same destinations. Reasonably, you can never tell exactly how many tour groups from around the world will be visiting a site the same day as you, but if you prefer to have less people crowding your view, consider alternate travel dates.
Time of Year: Similar to the departure dates, also research the best time of year to visit your destination. Sometimes the tour prices are low because the weather is unfavorable. However, if you don’t mind a little more rain or heat, this can actually be a cost benefit. A few years ago, I selected a group tour during the off season, fully understanding the weather would be a bit toasty. Since I don’t mind the heat, I saved $350 off the price and enjoyed less crowds.
Additional Expenses and Optional Excursions: Since the inclusions appear alluring, I strongly encourage all travelers to read the fine print and exclusions before placing a deposit, which is usually non-refundable. Most tours do not include additional airline taxes, hotel/government taxes, or visa fees. Some do not include airport transfers, domestic airfare, or a full touring package. In fact, the optional tours can be quite costly, so be sure to ask which tours and entrance fees are included in the advertised price. When approximating the final cost, also consider any additional meals, beverages, travel insurance, personal expenses (phone calls, laundry, WiFi) and gratuities. Last year, my friend and I were contemplating a very tempting group tour to Asia. However, after adding the additional expenses and desired excursions, the price almost doubled!
Customized Options: If you prefer to travel with a smaller group of friends and family, ask the agency for a price comparison. Many times, the international airfare is what makes the group tour price so affordable. When 40-50 seats are reserved, the airlines offer fantastic bulk rates. However, the land package is often comparable in cost when booking for 4 people or 40 people. If you have air miles accrued, consider traveling on a private tour. The affordability may surprise you and there is the added benefit of customizing the travel dates, excursions, and even the destinations.
As of last month, there have been terminal changes at the Delhi airport for domestic flights. Please refer to the table below:
|Airline Name||Departure Terminal||Arrival Terminal|
|Air India, Air India Express, Jet Airways, Jet Konnect, Jetlite, Kingfisher Airlines, Kingfisher Red||Terminal 3||Terminal 3|
|IndiGo Airlines, SpiceJet, Go Air||Terminal 1D||Terminal 1C|
All Air India flights have been operating from Terminal 3 since November 10, 2010, while Jet Airways and Kingfisher flights moved to Terminal 3 from November 14, 2010. All international flights to/ from Delhi have been operating from Terminal 3 since the last week of July 2010.
Terminal 1C and 1D are next to each other, within walking distance. Terminal 3 is about 9 kilometres away from Terminal 1. DIAL provides a complimentary shuttle bus service for passengers every 20 minutes between Terminal 1 and 3.
Please remember that the airlines recommend you reach the airport at least two hours prior to departure. Expect some traffic jams on the roads leading to Terminal 3 as the city adjusts to additional traffic. If you have a scheduled airport transfer, your representative will keep you updated of flight schedules. Otherwise, please check with the airline before you leave for the airport, as some flights are likely to be delayed. Also, if you are arriving at Terminal 1 and have to catch an onward flight from Terminal 3 (or vice versa), please collect any checked-in baggage and proceed to the catch the shuttle bus.
During this time of year, fog is common in North India and departures/arrivals in Delhi are frequently delayed or cancelled. Please visit the Delhi Airport website for updated information.
Many travelers are aware that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is considered the busiest travel day of the year. However, this year there is the strong possibility of an even longer delay at airports. Several groups have announced plans to encourage travelers on Nov. 24 to opt-out of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) full body scanner machines and opt-in for TSA’s enhanced pat-downs. As a result, security check-point delays may occur at some airports.
The following information has been prepared by Sodha Travel and the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) to help ease your passage through airport security:
TSA has recently expedited the deployment of new Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines, also known as body scanners, to help detect concealed metallic and non-metallic threats on passengers. In addition, TSA has recently enhanced its pat-down procedures for passengers that require secondary screening. In response, some consumer groups and bloggers have voiced privacy and health concerns. Yet Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has assured the public in an op-ed article in USA Today that these “machines are safe, efficient, and protect passenger privacy.” She has further noted that these machines “have been independently evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, who have all affirmed their safety.”
Airport Security Holiday Travel Tips
- Prepare your 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag of liquids before arriving at the airport
- Monitor local broadcasts for announcements of security checkpoint delays at local airports
- Pack all your coats and jackets in your checked baggage when possible
- Do not wrap gifts
- Check-in online
- Check your flight status online
- Review TSA’s Security Procedures for “Getting through the Line Faster“
- Wear easy to remove and replace shoes
- Plan to arrive to the airport earlier than normal
- Approach the initial security check-point with your drivers’ license/passport and paper boarding pass or electronic boarding pass in hand.
- While waiting for the next available security screener / metal detector, remove and place in bins:
- all metal (i.e. belt buckle, coins, eye glasses, etc.)
- plastic, zip-top bag of liquids
- items from your pockets, including mobile phone
- laptops from bag and place in separate bin
- Do not engage in trash talk about security or do anything else to call attention to yourself – this will only make it worse.
- Remember, if you are selected for an enhanced pat-down, you have the right to request it be done in private
Travel safely, enjoy the feast with family and friends, and Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Sodha Travel!
To Pack or Not to Pack? Our travelers often inquire about the best way to ”lug their luggage” to South Asia. It truly all depends on the destination, season, and duration of travel.
One of the first considerations is exactly how many bags to bring. Many international airlines allow for two free pieces of checked baggage up to 50 pounds each. However, does your itinerary include flights in India and Nepal? Most domestic airlines allow for one checked bag at 45 pounds (20kg) and one carry-on bag at 22 pounds (10kg). Fees will apply for additional and/or overweight luggage. There is no weight limit if traveling by land, but for ease of travel, we suggest trying to pack everything in one piece of luggage. Remember: There are no trolleys at most train and bus stations, and luggage is carried by yourself or a porter.
Clothing/Shoes: Of course, the season and activity will determine what is packed. A traveler to the Himalayas in fall/winter should pack accordingly, including a heavy jacket, hat, and gloves. Much of India has a patchy climate: Warmer in the days and cooler in the evenings. A light jacket or layering is best to accommodate the varying temperatures. If visiting during the monsoon months, pack a rain jacket, small umbrella, and – most importantly – waterproof shoes. In general, we suggest shoes that are comfortable for walking, including sandals, clogs, crocs, or tennis shoes. I also recommend packing a bathing suit, even in winter months. Your hotel may have an indoor pool, or you may unexpectedly pass hot springs or thermal tubs!
Adventure Gear: If you are participating in adventure activities, remember to bring appropriate gear and accessories. For example: If you will be camping, remember to pack your own sleeping bag. If you reserve your package with Sodha Travel, we will provide a list of what is included and available from the adventure company, as well as required items from home.
Toiletries: The amount of toiletries and cosmetics is dependent on your preferences and length of trip. Many travel-sized items can last for up to ten days, eliminating the need to pack bulky containers of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving cream, hair products, etc. If you don’t need your usual products, consider buying them once you arrive. This not only saves on space and weight in your bag, but also allows you to sample the local products. (I discovered one of my favorite body washes from a shop in Delhi. I now stock up each time I visit!) Most hotels provide hair dryers in the rooms, but if you are bringing your own, remember to check if it has dual voltage.
Money: Cash, credit cards, or travelers checks? And how much? Extra expenses include meals, gratuities, internet access, phone calls, spa services, and souvenirs. Unless otherwise stated, your accommodations include breakfast. Other packages may also include dinner, or all meals. (The houseboat in Kerala and most adventure itineraries include breakfast, lunch, and dinner.) Government regulated shops and retail outlets accept major credit cards, but the markets and bazaars are cash only. *Please be advised of the international fee your credit cards and ATM cards will charge if used abroad. Prior to departure, we recommend contacting your bank and credit card companies to determine the fees. I personally recommend travelers checks as opposed to cash, both for the added protection and to eliminate any ATM fees.
Travel Insurance: Technically this is not something you pack, but it does protect what you pack. Travel Insurance also protects your trip investment, your family, and yourself. Sodha Travel offers a variety of plans, including reimbursement for trip cancellation, flight delay/cancellation, baggage delay/loss, and medical expenses overseas. Please visit our Insurance page for more information.
Attention travelers: Per the latest Indian government guidelines, check-in counters at domestic airports will close 45 minutes before departure. If arranging independent airport transfers, please plan your commute accordingly. Presently, airlines allow passengers to check-in up to twenty minutes before departure. (In some smaller airports, even fifteen minutes is sufficient time.)
Also, a reminder that certain airports have a departure tax for international flights. Most airlines include this tax in the ticket price. Additionally, until March 2012, the Delhi airport is charging an Airport Development Fee (ADF) of Rs 200 for each domestic passenger and Rs 1300 for each international passenger, including children and infants. Payment must be made in INR – no USD or foreign currency will be accepted – and it will be collected at the time of departure from the domestic or international airport, respectively.
In the past ten years, domestic air travel in India has - pardon the pun - taken-off. Traditionally, trains were the primary mode of travel throughout the country – safe, affordable, and reliable. Although the rail system continues to dominate domestic transport, there has been a significant increase in the number of Indian-based airlines. Now more than ever, travelers are relying on the Indian skies and not the Indian tracks to reach their destination. Since 2005, I have witnessed a shift in both the passenger demographic and number of travelers. Airlines are now catering to the masses and making air travel affordable. After all, there are over one-billion potential customers!
Having flown on almost every domestic carrier (with the exception of Paramount), here are my reviews:
Kingfisher: Ask any traveler which Indian airline is considered the most luxurious, and the answer is unanimously Kingfisher. Kingfisher serves both international and domestic destinations and has received numerous awards, including an accolade for 5-star service. Though the tickets on Kingfisher are usually more expensive, lower fare options are available on Kingfisher Red. Also, based on availability, the airline offers affordable upgrades from economy to business class on domestic routes - and well worth the nominal fee.
Jet/Jet Lite: Like Kingfisher, Jet Airways serves both international and domestic destinations. I enjoy the Jet experience – the seats are comfortable and the planes are immaculately clean. However, I believe there is a significant difference between Jet and Jet Lite (formerly Air Sahara). The seats on Jet Lite have the least amount of leg room that I have ever had on any carrier worldwide. (At only 5’5, my knees were pressing the seat in front of me!) Also, the staff appeared indifferent and the drink cups were very small. Although Jet Lite offers good fares, there is usually another airline that is comparable in price – for a few dollars more, it is worth it to fly another carrier.
IndiGo: IndiGo is a low-cost, no frill airline. I believe IndiGo’s mission is to cater to the masses and make air travel accessible. There was nothing that stood out, good or bad, about this carrier. The flight was on time, the crew was accommodating, and the bathrooms were clean. With tickets as low as Rs 900 ($20), I would probably fly this airline again.
GoAir: GoAir serves 15 destinations, including Ahmedabad, Bagdogra, Chandigarh, Goa, Guwahati, Indore, Jaipur, and Srinagar. My flight delay was due to weather and not mechanical, and they did pass around juice and water at the gate during the 40-minute delay. I will say that the flight attendants on GoAir appeared to smile more than other carriers, including the usually fun and upbeat crew of Kingfisher.
SpiceJet: SpiceJet has always been one of my favorite Indian airlines. The tickets are reasonably priced, the staff and crew are friendly, and I have yet to experience a delayed flight. Perhaps most important is their liberal attitude toward overweight baggage. To date, I have never been charged an excess baggage fee, though my luggage almost always exceeds the 22kg limit. Appropriately, each plane is named after a spice: Cardamom, Ginger, Pepper, etc. And yes, I have taken note of how many spices I have flown: 6.
Air India/Air India Express: Air India is the oldest and most established Indian airline, serving international and domestic routes. Air India also has the largest fleet of aircraft and an extensive network of destinations. Recently, Air India and Air India Express launched a campaign to promote their updated image, including a more accessible and user-friendly website. Having flown this airline both international and domestic, I am a satisfied customer.
We are pleased to announce that effective immediately, foreign tourists can now re-enter India up to three times after visiting neighboring countries on a tourist visa in a six-month period. The highlights of the revisions are as follows:
- A Tourist Visa can only be granted to a foreigner who does not have a residence or occupation in India and whose sole objective of visiting India is recreation, sightseeing, casual visit to meet friends and relatives, etc. No other activity is permissible on a Tourist Visa. The Tourist Visa is non-extendable and non-convertible.
- A foreign national who wants to revisit India within 60 days after visiting the neighboring countries may be permitted up to three entries.
- The Immigration authorities in all Immigration check post in the country may allow such foreign nationals on a Tourist Visa arriving in India without the specific authorization from the Indian Missions/Posts subject to production of travel itinerary and supporting documentation (ticket bookings). Once a foreign national exits the country after availing the facility of three entries, there must be gap of at least 2 months from the date of final exit.
- A visit within the 2 month gap may be permitted by the Missions/Posts only in emergent situations, including death/serious illness in the family.
- Persons coming for medical treatment and other attendants shall be granted Med Visa and Med X Visa respectively. Such nationals shall not be issued a Tourist Visa.
We are very excited about these revisions, as it alleviates the challenges of coordinating multi-country itineraries with revisits to India. Please let us know if you have specific questions about the new policy.
With the rising costs of airfare these days, including baggage fees, meals for purchase, and fuel surcharges, travelers are spending more time researching the best deals. Some of you may not know that Sodha Travel reserves international airfare worldwide and not just to the Indian subcontinent. However, many of our clients have taken advantage of our discounted consolidated rates to Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa. Check out what a few of our clients saved recently when booking tickets:
Jeff K. saved $487 on Lufthansa from Boston – Paris
Chelsea A. saved $209 on Emirates from Chicago – Dubai
Miriam P. saved $172 on Jet Airways from Seattle – London
Jackson H. saved $159 on Cathay Pacific from Los Angeles – Hong Kong
Due to the competitive nature of the airline industry, we cannot always guarantee a lower fare compared to published sites. However, we encourage you to contact us for a quote – you may find a significant savings! Furthermore, we provide 24-hour emergency assistance if required during your trip, including rebooking a cancelled flight or upgrading class of service, when available.
Kingfisher Airlines, an India-based airline, will be joining the Oneworld global alliance. First, India must grant regulatory approval, and the entire process is expected to take eighteen months. Currently, Oneworld brings together eleven airlines, including American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Iberia. Oneworld has been named the World’s Leading Airline Alliance for seven consecutive years and serves over 700 destinations worldwide.
Kingfisher has won numerous awards in the airline and travel industry, including:
*Best Airline in India
*Kingfisher Red: Best Low Cost Airline in India
*Best Customer Service
*Best Bonus Promotion
This is a wonderful partnership for our Oneworld clients, as now they can claim mileage points and other benefits by flying Kingfisher in India and beyond.
For those of you flying between destinations in India, please remember that most domestic airlines only allow for one checked bag at 45 pounds (20 kg) and one carry-on bag at 22 pounds (10 kg). Fees may apply for additional and/overweight luggage, so please pack accordingly – especially since most international carriers allow two bags per passenger.
For travel by land (trains, buses, etc) there is no weight limit. However, there are no trolleys at the train and bus stations, so luggage must be carried by yourself or a porter. If you are traveling as a group tour, the baggage allowance will be stated in your itinerary.