x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Expats face summer holiday chaos

The holiday plans of many south Asian expatriates have been thrown into chaos as Indian carriers cancel routes and a pilot strike continues.

Vasanth Rajeevan, a marketing assistant who lives in Dubai, has had his flights cancelled by Kingfisher Airlines.
Vasanth Rajeevan, a marketing assistant who lives in Dubai, has had his flights cancelled by Kingfisher Airlines.

DUBAI // The holiday plans of many south Asian expatriates have been thrown into chaos by turbulence in India's aviation industry.

A pilot strike at the national carrier Air India, which yesterday entered day 12, has resulted in cancelled flights and delays.

Meanwhile, Kingfisher Airlines - voted the best airline in India by review website Skytrax last year - announced in March it was suspending all international flights. The airline had operated daily flights from Dubai to New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

And Jet Airways, a private airline operating out of Mumbai, has said it will not fly to Chennai or Trivandrum anymore. The Trivandrum route has already been scrapped, while the Chennai route will be cancelled from June 21.

Dubai resident Vasanth Rajeevan thought he was being smart when he booked tickets early in the year for his family's holiday in June.

"I booked tickets to Bangalore with Kingfisher in February, thinking they would be cheap and I would be able to save.

"Now, with the sudden cancellation of flights, I am back to square one and I need to book with another airline and pay even more money for booking this late," he said.

The father of one, who works as a marketing assistant, said he is having trouble getting a full refund. "I never knew the flight would be cancelled, yet I am struggling to get my full refund. Dh113.42 of the fees has yet to be returned to my credit card and I am fighting with them to get all my money back," he said.

He said that he was not willing to accept a partial refund or lose any fees he had paid because the cancellation was not his decision and it had put his family in a very difficult position.

"They said that they are in liaison with their head office to get my full amount. I am not sure how long it will take. Why do people have to go through this for no fault of their own?"

The Kingfisher Airlines office in Dubai said Mr Rajeevan's request was being dealt with. "We are aware of the case," said a spokeswoman, who added that the missing money might be a result of currency fluctuation or a bank transaction fee.

"We are processing the request and it has been sent to our team in India," she said. All passengers affected by the cancellation of routes would be given refunds, she added.

Jet Airways said its cancelled routes were not performing well and that those passengers affected were given the option of either full refund or travel by another flight.

But one customer, who asked to remain anonymous, said the alternatives he was offered by Jet after they cancelled his flight to Chennai were no good for his schedule and he had been forced to pay extra for tickets with another airline.

"I had to book another flight for my family. They are now travelling by Air Arabia instead," he said.

Adding to the problems, the strike by a group of Air India pilots continues. They are protesting a decision by the carrier to train all pilots to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

According to the group, members of the Indian Pilots Guild, they alone should be given the training, on the basis on seniority.

A number of flights have already been cancelled or delayed as a result of the strike, with hundreds of passengers stranded at airports.

Abhay Pathak, Air India's regional manager for Gulf, Middle East and Africa, said passengers were being moved onto other flights.

frahman@thenational.ae