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.
Last week, I received an email inquiry regarding local transportation in Sri Lanka. A Sodha Traveler, Richard, is traveling to the Emerald Isle in November on an independent itinerary. He asked our team, “What are the best options for traveling between destinations? Are buses available and safe? Is train travel suggested?” Here are Sodha Travel’s suggestions for local transportation in Sri Lanka:
Train: Trains are the cheapest and perhaps the best way to see Sri Lanka. Trains are available to all major tourist towns, but few offer first-class or air-conditioned carriages. An inter-city express service connects Colombo with Kandy. Train services to Jaffna have been closed.
Bus: Sri Lanka has an extensive network of roads reaching all parts of the island. Buses plying on these roads connect all parts of the country. The two main types of buses in Sri Lanka are the Central Transport Board buses and
private buses. Although affordable, be ready to jostle with the crowds!
Taxi and Auto Rickshaw: You can avail taxis in most destinations, though it is difficult to find metered-taxis in smaller towns. It is advisable to discuss the price before departing for your destination. The three-wheelers or autorickshaws are found in all areas of the country. In tourist spots as well as outside the railway stations and bus stops, three wheelers are easily available. The rule of negotiating the price implies itself here, too.
Private Vehicles for Hire: Private vehicles can be hired for the day or a proposed itinerary. Although more costly compared to other modes of transport, a private vehicle offers more comfort and flexibility. Depending on the destination and season, A/C or non-A/C vehicles are available.
Remember to join our live Facebook chat tomorrow, September 6, from 11am – 12pm PST. I will be answering your questions about Sodha Travel’s services and destinations, and each participant will receive a special booking discount toward a custom tour! I hope you will join us!
Playful. Astonishing. Uncomfortable. Microcosm. These were just a few responses we received to our recent Facebook post, “Describe Indian train travel in one word.” The post was prompted by a recent email from a Sodha Traveler, Paul, regarding the Indian rail system:
I have heard so many stories about taking an overnight train in India. Some are idyllic and some are horrifying. It seems like everyone has an opinion on whether or not I should reserve the journey. What is your professional opinion? Also, is 1st class worth it?
An Indian train journey surely has the ability to spark many descriptive words - some are positive and others cannot be posted on this blog! Although the rail system is very reliable, I only recommend it for certain travelers. Contrary to what you may hear, taking an overnight train in India is not similar to European train travel. (Note that this refers to standard train travel, not luxury rail journeys like Palace on Wheels.) If you are particularly discerning, overnight trains can be a sensory overload.
The majority of overnight trains offer three classes of seating: 1st A/C, 2nd A/C or non-A/C, and 3rd non-A/C. Most travelers opt for 1st or 2nd class, where seating is reserved and Western restroom facilities are available. Depending on your itinerary and class of service, meals are delivered by a server or you may purchase food items from a vendor. Here are a few photos of the different interior spaces:
The cost difference between 1st and 2nd class is usually nominal and I do recommend paying the difference. Although 1st class is not completely private, it does offer a bit more of a retreat. However, 1st class is not available on all overnight trains so be sure to check on the availability before confirming a reservation.
Although not for everyone, overnight train travel can be quite magical as you observe the lands and people passing outside your window. My advice is to try and not have strong expectations – positive or negative – and just enjoy the ride. If you find it less than desireable, remember that it will be over the following day. Enjoy the journey!
Scenario #1: Jane is visiting a new destination and relies on a travel agency to confirm her hotel and touring services. She arrives at the hotel, checks-in, and finds that her room does not meet her expectations. The agency quoted a 4-star property, but Jane feels it is below average. The view from her window is less than appealing, she can hear her noisy neighbors, and the air-conditioning is faulty. Later in the evening, guest services calls to follow-up and assure her room is comfortable. Jane communicates none of her concerns. Two days later, her travel agent also places a courtesy call. Again, Jane says the trip is wonderful and does not share her negative impressions about the hotel.
Three weeks after returning home, Jane calls her agent to complain about the hotel and asks for a refund. In this situation, who is responsible? Did Jane miss the window of opportunity to communicate her concerns to the hotel and agent? Or does the agency owe Jane a refund for not providing a hotel that met her standards?
Scenario #2: John hired a travel agency to confirm his hotel and airport transfers for his upcoming trip abroad. Before departure, he is given a detailed list of contact numbers in his destination, including the phone numbers of the transfer representatives. After his flight arrived 20 minutes early, John exits customs and is unable to locate the transfer representative. He searches for a few minutes, walks backs inside, and waits 20 minutes. He then exits again and finds the representative. John informed him that his flight was early and he had to wait for the transfer. The rep apologized and explained that the flight schedules are not always accurately updated, and according to the airline, the flight was on-time.
John later contacted his agency and asked for a refund of the transfer, citing lateness of the representative. Was it trivial for John to request a refund when the representative arrived on-time according to the stated flight schedule? Should John have called the rep and informed him of his early arrival? Or should the agency oblige John’s request and refund the amount of the transfer?
It is difficult to firmly define the traveler guidelines of personal responsibility. Where is the line drawn between what a traveler feels is unacceptable and what an agency believes is acceptable? And in the end, who is ultimately responsible? As an avid globe trotter and Destination Specialist, travel is bridged between my personal and professional lives. Professionally, I coordinate. Personally, I participate. For this reason, it is especially important for me to plan a trip from the perspective of a client. The same philosophy applies to the Sodha Travel team: Ask questions, inform, confirm, and then reconfirm. But let’s be honest. Although we will do everything we can to ensure the trip goes as planned, we cannot foresee every unanticipated obstacle. Travelers, be proactive. If you have concerns, contact your agency, guide, or local representative and clearly communicate your needs. Unfortunately, the travel industry is not exempt from human error. As agents, we are (hopefully!) committed to providing you with a fantastic experience, but can do little to act on this pledge without being informed of our errors. Certain circumstances are beyond our control, but as with any business, we appreciate the opportunity to make it right.
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.
For those who love to spread their wings and explore the world – or even hop from one destination to the next – be sure to check out Travelhoppers. Recently launched, Travelhoppers is a travel site that allows consumers to research, connect, and discover. I am also personally excited to be a featured contributor in the Travelhoppers community.
Here is an excerpt from the official Travelhoppers press release:
Travelhoppers is a travel site dedicated to the proposition that it’s all about value. The company provides consumers with free access to the largest, frequently updated repository of travel companies’ brochures, real travel deals, and travel planning resources on the Internet. All via one site, Travelhoppers brings travelers unabridged information directly from 3000+ tour operators, packagers, cruise lines, destinations and other travel suppliers; as well as insight from travel industry veterans, first-hand knowledge from travel writers and feedback from other consumers; and a means to connect with travel specialists for assistance with travel planning.
“Travelhoppers presents travelers with resources for planning their trips that they typically would not find online – and certainly not in one place,” says founder Richard Earls. “It’s the perfect place to research where you want to vacation and find the right information and provider for your desired trip – from well-known brands to smaller suppliers and niche-focused operators, we present a comprehensive spectrum of companies, information, and real travel deals not hook’em and book’em ads seen rampant across the Internet.”
Owned and operated by travel professionals, Travelhoppers is backed by decades in travel with various sectors of the industry represented. “When a prospective traveler says they want ‘the best travel deal’ – that doesn’t necessarily mean the cheapest,” explains Earls. “We’ve all heard the stories of how many travelers have booked a cut-rate package simply to find that the accommodations are below the standards they were expecting, or the location was far from the city’s main attractions… These are NOT travel deals; they are simply vacation spoilers that end up costing travelers more than money. At Travelhoppers, our focus is to provide travelers with the values they seek. We want to provide a forum for travelers to educate themselves.”
Hop on over and check out this fantastic new site, and also check out my most recent Travelhoppers article, India: Beyond the Taj Mahal.
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.
Fuel costs continue to increase across India and are currently averaging Rs 55 per liter. Unfortunately, this results in higher fuel surcharges for our clients. Sodha Travel is considering alternative measures to accommodate the prices.
India has been researching and implementing ways of limiting fuel consumption for many years. In July of 1998, India’s Supreme Court ordered the Delhi government to implement CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) or LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) for all auto rickshaws and buses in the city. With the change, Delhi’s air quality has improved dramatically. The city has also increased the number of CNG stations to accommodate the vehicles. Other Indian cities are also considering a mandatory change to CNG/LPG for public transportation.
Certain states are also proposing an increase in road taxes. We will keep you posted on any developments regarding transportation and fuel costs.
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.
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.
There are many options for Ground Transportation in India. Here is a list of common transports and sample fares:
Depending on the city/region, traditional taxicabs can be hired from stands or hailed from the street. They are required by law to be registered as commercial vehicles and have a fare-meter, though many drivers prefer to set a pre-paid flat rate. Surcharges will apply for extra baggage, night rides and tolls. Due to safety and convenience, taxis have become more popular in recent years.
Sample Fare: INR 15 – INR 25 per km
Cycle rickshaws have an elevated seat in the back with a person pedaling in front. Although banned in several cities for causing traffic congestion, they are still a feature in Delhi and provide a cheap mode of local transport.
Sample Fare: INR 15 – INR 50
Also called a tuk-tuk, an auto-rickshaw is a three-wheeled motor vehicle for hire. Generally green, yellow or black in color, they have regulated metered fares and are a common fixture throughout the country.
Sample Fare: Meter starts at INR 10, though many drivers prefer to set a flat rate
Suburban Rail System /Metro/Rapid Transit System
Suburban Rail Systems in India are local trains (similar to the American commuter train) and currently operational in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata. The Mumbai Suburban Railway has the largest passenger density in the world, transporting over 6.4 million passengers daily.
The Delhi Metro is air-conditioned and a reliable option for traveling throughout the city. It was also the first Metro in the world to be certified for environmentally friendly construction.
Rapid Transit Systems are currently under construction in Chennai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, and Mumbai.
Sample Fare: Delhi Metro ticket is INR 9 – INR 35, dependent on distance traveled; Rail System tickets average INR 25 per ticket
The train stations in India, particularly in large cities, are quite complex and can be very overwhelming. We highly recommend using a transfer representative when applicable, as they can safely navigate entering/exiting the station. Please also keep a safe watch of your valuables. When we do hear of theft, it mainly occurs in or around train stations.
Trains are available for both day and overnight journeys. There are generally three classes of seating: 1st class A/C, 2nd class (A/C or non-A/C), and 3rd class non – A/C. Most travelers opt for 1st or 2nd class, where Western restroom facilities are available and seating is reserved. Depending on your itinerary and class of service, meals are delivered by a server or you may purchase food items from a vendor.
Taking an overnight train in India is NOT similar to European rail travel. (This refers to standard train travel, not luxury rail journeys including Palace on Wheels.) Although the Indian rail system is very reliable, we only recommend it for certain travelers. If you are particularly discerning, train travel can be a sensory overload.
Sample Fare: Dependent on Itinerary
Private Vehicle for Hire
Private vehicles can be hired for the day or a proposed itinerary and offer more comfort and a flexible schedule. Depending on the destination and season, A/C or non-A/C vehicles are available.
Sample Fare: Dependent on Itinerary
A Sodha Travel representative will be happy to recommend the best transportation, based on budget and preferences.
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.
SpiceJet, an Indian based airline, has won the 2009 award for the Best Company in Travel and Tourism: South Asia. This prestigious award recognizes the airline as being the greatest contributor to regional travel and tourism. The title was granted by the World Travel Market in London, a premiere event for the international tourism industry.
SpiceJet’s mission “is to become India’s preferred low cost airline, delivering the lowest air fares with the highest consumer value, to price sensitive consumers.” We often use this airline in our packages and receive consistent positive reviews from clients. A fun feature is that each aircraft is named after a spice, such as pepper, cardamom, chili, etc. (On my personal flights last year, I flew pepper and ginger.)