x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Air India still 'working' to repay customers

Many passengers complain that they are still owed money by the low-cost airline for having their flights cancelled.

DUBAI// Customers who bought tickets with a low-cost Indian airline only to have their flights cancelled say they are yet to receive any refunds four months later.

People who bought tickets from Dubai to Trivandrum in Kerala with Air India Express said they are still owed money despite making follow up emails and phone calls to the airline's local office in Deira.

The Indian government-owned low-cost carrier was forced to cut down operations from the UAE to Indian cities in the last few months due to a 58-day strike by its pilots that ended in July.

"I booked return tickets for me and my family from Dubai to Trivandrum for June 30 on the Air India Express," said Spurgeon Sugumar, an Indian expatriate who spent more than Dh3,000 on tickets.

"Unfortunately the flight got cancelled and I received a text to cancel the tickets or take the flight from Abu Dhabi.

"My wife and son took the Abu Dhabi flight but there was no alternative flight for my dates so I cancelled mine and all our return flights to Dubai for August 30."

He said he had made the transactions using a credit card and was yet to receive any reimbursement.

"I haven't got the money in spite of calling and emailing them several times. They have a responsibility to return our money since they cancelled the flight. Why should we beg for our money?" Mr Sugumar said.

The airline, which flies from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, confirmed a backlog in payments.

"We are aware of the matter of refund of tickets and are working towards resolving the same," said Seema Srivastava, Air India's Regional Manager for Gulf, Middle East and Africa, in a written statement.

"Initially, Air India Express' move to a new IT platform resulted in some teething problems and later a number of rescheduling of flights happened due to the pilots' agitation."

Mrs Srivastava said the low-cost carrier scaled down operations in June from Dubai from 48 to 28 flights a week and offered to rebook passengers on next available flights or through alternative routes.

The airline, however, did not say how many people were yet to receive money or what was the total pending amount.

Another passenger said he had been promised a refund of his fare of Dh3,100 within 20 days.

"Our flight from Trivandrum to Dubai for September 1 was cancelled," said Vivek Gopalakrishna Pillai. "I was told I will get the full refund and emailed them but there has been no response."

Azeemu Shyam, who bought a ticket for August 15 from Dubai, was also notified about his flight being called off. "They keep cancelling flights and the public has to suffer because of this," said the expatriate.

"I was informed of the change a week before my flight and was told the money will be sent to me within two weeks," said Mr Shyam, who paid Dh920 for a one-way fare.

Another customer said he was planning to visit the airline's office to demand his due.

"I had a ticket for May 12 but had to change my programme and travelled on May 5," said Asan Gani. "I cancelled the tickets and the amount is yet to be credited to my bank account," said the expatriate, who spent Dh 570 on a one-way ticket from Dubai.

Air India Express said most of its flights will resume normal operations from September 17 and will operate 46 flights per week from Dubai, 14 flights per week from Sharjah and 23 flights per week from Abu Dhabi to India.

pkannan@thenational.ae