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Can I request compensation for 17 hours of hell on Air India and Kingfisher?

Can I request compensation for 17 hours of hell on Air India and Kingfisher?

Old Jan 12, 08, 2:12 pm
  #1  
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Can I request compensation for 17 hours of hell on Air India and Kingfisher?

Please let me know if I'm posting this to the appropriate sub-forum.

I just got home from JFK airport after a terrible journey from Chennai and then Mumbai last night. I scheduled this one way trip Friday morning for $1478 as an emergency return home. My domestic connection flight on Kingfisher (from MAA to BOM) was supposed to give me a 3+ hours layover in BOM, but was 2 hours late. So, I was directed to run (I had a 101-degree fever, so this was particularly stressfrul) and literally pushed into an autorickshaw ( re-spraining a elbow injury from a motorcycle accident 2 weeks ago...UPDATE 1/14--for the record, just got my x-rays back, and I've got a chipped elbow. Ughh.) by a Kingfisher sent to "help" me with the connection to the international airport 4km away. This agent dropped me off at the wrong entrance in order to better facilitate (carry the luggage of) a first class passenger who was in the exact same situation I was, but travelling on a Delta flight to JFK. So I checked in to the Air India counter at 12.32am for a 1.10am flight. I then had to run through immigration and TWO identical security screenings, all the while lifting up and down with my newly resprained elbow a 62lb duffel that I had hoped not to have to see after checking it in in Chennai. By the time I got to my seat on the plane, I was sweating and sobbing, having been overwhelmed by the fever and nauseating pain in my arm. I was luckily seated in the first bulkhead, on the aisle, so for help with storing my bag, I walked up to the business class galley, noticing 2 or 3 empty business seats as I went. The attendants there were very nice, giving me water, paracetamol, and a bag of ice, and asking me what they could do to help. I told them that I had been not slept well for days due to illness, and just wanted to try to sleep. I was worried, however, that between my injured arm being shoved in the economy seats and the 3 babies on either side of me, that wouldn't be possible. I asked if I would be able to upgrade to business or first--which I was entirely ready to pay cash or surrender my miles for, at that point. Twice in that half-hour while preparing for take-off was I promised that they would contact the supervisor about my request and come talk to me. This never happened.

So, I tried to sleep, but couldn't. My seat refused to stay in the reclining position and kept popping up, hurting my elbow and making my bag of ice leak freezing water all over my pants and the feet of the poor woman behind me. I was relieved when the first food came around, but soon found out that my requested meal--the lactose-free choice--wasn't there. I was correctly entered into the manifest as needed a vegetarian meal, but I needed a VEG/NON-DAIRY one! So, for the ENTIRETY of the 16-hour flight, I was accomodated with 1 plate of Veg Biryana and orange juice, as the only other option (a fruit "compote" entirely of papaya) I was also so unluckily allergic to. I hoped they would give me the business or first class fruit salad (I saw one sitting in the economy galley) but they didn't even offer, even after I twice visited the galley to ask about ingredients. Thirdly, I discovered that none of the electronic controls on my seat worked: not the call button, not the light, not the TV. So, because the light didn't even work, I couldn't even read (the cabin was dimmed for most of the trip). After I discovered this final insult (after 8 hours of unsucessful attempts to eat and sleep) , I requested to speak to someone about upgrading. The attendant that had been tremendously patient and friendly to me told me that first class had seats, but business was full. However, when she walked my up through business class and I talked to the supervisor, he said that the WHOLE flight was full. When I told him that I'd (truly) be willing to pay for First, he said "Only the ground crew has the authority to do that", and somehow I was actually too sullen and dazed with tiredness to debate him on this point. So, I was forced to return to my seat, where I heaved my duffel bag (which no one had ever come to help me store) up on it, grabbed an extra blanket, and curled up into fetal position ON THE FLOOR (I'm 5'8") under a baby basinet at the bulkhead. This was easily the worst flying experience of my life.

I was wondering if the misery caused by
--broken seat
--lack of TV or light
--lack of requested lactose-free meals
were, in your opinions, "good enough" reasons for Air India to give me compensation.

If so, is there a number/office that would be a better line of communication than others. I have a friend who always says try to get in touch with the office of the chairman.

I bought these tickets with my AAdvantage credit card, which I run $15-20K through every year, making CITI reps very amenable to my needs. Should I try to request monetary compensation through them?

Would it be worth my time to contact Kingfisher about their negligence that led to my (re)injury? This injury may cost me time from work.

Also, is it true that supervisors can't upgrade in flight, or was the guy just being a jerk?

Thank you all for your help and kindness!

Last edited by beantown; Jan 14, 08 at 8:41 am
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Old Jan 12, 08, 4:21 pm
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Welcome to FT! Hope you are feeling better.

The problems you encountered were very minor indeed. If you were coded for a vegetarian meal that is what you got. Maybe at the time of booking you were coded for VLML instead of VGML. The entire meal issue is trivial, and you had substantial to eat, except maybe not your first choice.

The FA's were absolutely correct when they stated that they have no authority to upgrade you once airborne. Only the ground staff can do that. NO amount of miles or money is going to make you sit up front once you are airborne. Just because there were some unused biz or first seats does not mean that you are welcome to use them.

Also, I can't understand when you say this was your worst flying experience. The Kingfischer airlines provided you transportation to the International terminal. That was "courtesy" transportation. Walking a few extra feet is not an issue. You could have booked your own private taxi if you wished, considering that you were not well.

The FA's were extremely patient with you, and attended to you even though you were the last pax to board, give you paracetemol, water, oj, bag of ice etc. That is first class service!

I don't understand how this could be your worst flying experiences. I am thinking you don't fly so much. A few inconveniences, but hardly deserves any compensation.

Sorry, I could not offer any favorable comments.
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Old Jan 12, 08, 7:20 pm
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Doesn't hurt to ask...

Having said that... and understanding you went through an awful experience.. I wonder why you actually went ahead with the trip if you were that ill??

The experience was that bad BECAUSE you were already feeling like crap... I suspect you would have shrugged off much of it had you been well... so it seems that it was more your physical condition than the sequence of events that made it so awful....

And .. it must be said...it is hardly the airlines fault that you chose to fly in that condition... Sorry if that sounds unsympathetic... I don't mean to be.. but a fever over 100 and you carry on travelling?

You are tougher (or more motivated) than I am!!!
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Old Jan 12, 08, 9:00 pm
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Hi, yes - inflight upgrades .. when the doors are closed, are just not possible normally. One case I know of (Y -> F) upgrade was when an old lady traveling on a flight died, there was space for the corpse only in an F seat, and her daughter was let into F to sit beside the body of her mother and grieve there..

If you posted that to FT, you look tolerably alive to me, I must say.

You got precisely what you paid for .. an economy seat. And hell, the service sounded rather better than you'd have got in coach on AA. Trying an ultra long haul flight like BOM-JFK in that condition probably wasnt the brightest of ideas .. and an even less bright idea was transiting through BOM, when you could have flown MAA-FRA-JFK on LH, MAA-CDG-JFK on AF etc.
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Old Jan 12, 08, 9:43 pm
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I agree with the previous poster, that you felt "it was 17 hours of hell" because of your physical condition (101 fever etc.).

From reading your post, it sounds like excellent service, with you mentioned a couple of times that the FA was very patient etc.

Airline meals are not guaranteed, and even they are not customized (e.g. you were allergic to Papayas and you got a papaya in your tray). If you really want customized options, Singapore Airlines Book the cook in Raffles/ First class is the only way to go for you from MAA to NYC via SIN. Or bring your own food from home if you have severe diet restrictions for whatever reasons.

So it did not feel like 17 hours of hell from reading your post, more you were self-obsessed/ self-sympathized because of your physical condition. Like some one said, try the DEL - ORD service on AA to really mean what 15 hours of hell can be!
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Old Jan 12, 08, 9:50 pm
  #6  
 
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Originally Posted by beantown View Post
Would it be worth my time to contact Kingfisher about their negligence that led to my (re)injury? This injury may cost me time from work.
wow..... this is above and beyond my comprehension. Kingfisher provided you with transportation to the International terminal out of courtesy. Their legal liability ended when you picked up your bags at the BOM domestic terminal. You could have hailed a cab and gone to the International terminal on your own.

You now want to contact about their negligence (which was to drop you a few feet away!).

Also, the FA's in the flight I read from your post were very patient and kind with you multiple times. The FA's are not here to lug your heavy bags. It was your primary responsiblity to stow your luggage in the oh bins or under your seat.
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Old Jan 12, 08, 10:23 pm
  #7  
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Interesting what expectations people still have of airlines: the reality is you get what cabin you pay for, unless you have invested in the company in other forms of loyalty... kudos to the AI crew for patiently taking care of the pax in this case

As far as IT and AI are concerned, I'm just imagaining how eg AA and US would have handled a similar situation at a similar airport say JFK. Airline rep escorted and paid transportation between terminals? Checkin for intl departure 38 mins before departure?
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Old Jan 13, 08, 2:51 am
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Originally Posted by oliver2002 View Post
kudos to the AI crew for patiently taking care of the pax in this case
I agree - awesome that they gave that level of service.

This is why I guess my wife likes AI! (as an infrequent traveler, most of the time traveling with kids, where AI tends to assist more than SQ, she attests!)

I would give AI a try for compensation for the non-working equipment in the air and the meal problem, but who knows whether they will even respond!!

Based on the current situation in BOM lately, you were lucky to even get on board, as they are heavily overbooking pax at the moment, and off-loading them accordingly...maybe that would have been better for you, so that you had time to recover from your illness/injuries? See this thread: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=776847

Further, I would never interline with 2 different Indian airlines, they simply do not interface whatsover...

I had the misfortune of being on a heavily-delayed 9w flight to MAA, where I almost (should have) missed the LH flight, but the only reason they allowed me to board was that I was in F!

I had to yell at the 9w ground staff individual to assist me to bring over my luggage, as I *ran* to the international terminal, and tried to find the LH ground staff, who had closed the counter - luckily they were contacted by someone!

(I was in C on 9w, and the 9w pilots reportedly radioed ahead, when even their new takeoff slot was delayed (no FA's initially, then no pilots), but obviously it did nothing on the ground. I almost disembarked from the aircraft, after calling LH BOM to endorse the ticket over, which they could have done...but I decided to take the chance)

Last edited by SuperFlyBoy; Jan 13, 08 at 3:07 am
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Old Jan 13, 08, 8:11 pm
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I am sorry to hear of your need to return to India for an emergency, but for you to fly back with >100 degree temperature was not wise for your self or your fellow passengers. i would also not leave 3 hours for an interline connect in India- inbound flights can be ~ 2 hours late. The amazing thing is they let you check in so late for your AI flight back...you can hardly complain of the need to speed through the exit formalities.
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Old Jan 14, 08, 3:56 am
  #10  
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Thanks to everyone for taking the time to respond. For the record, I'll try to clarify a few of the problems:

--One person said that even though they got my meal wrong, I had plenty to eat. Not true. I'm severely allergic to dairy, which almost all the prevalent vegetarian options contained. (I had planned to spend my last rupees in the Mumbai airport buying just-in-case food during the 2 hour layover the Kingfisher agents repeatedly promised I'd have, but that didn't pan out.). Continental once had me marked down for this, but couldn't find the meal, so they put together some stuff from business and/or first class. It seems not such a big deal now, but I was freakin' HUNGRY during those 17 hours, being given just 1 entre dish and some orange juice. I ordered my flight through Orbitz...do you think Air India or Orbitz got the order wrong? I was marked in the manifest for a special meal, just not the right one.

--A couple people brought up what a "courtesy" it was for Kingfisher to push me in an autorickshaw, given that I could have gotten my own taxi. The Kingfisher agents didn't even tell me what was going on, in any sense of that phrase. Although they were speaking English among themselves, after they left me at the baggage claim, they gave me only one word of instruction: "Wait." Tens minutes later, after some good anxious waiting, one of the Kingfisher guys just starts sprinting out the door (and then through traffic--you will understand why this was further disorienting and exhausting if you've ever BEEN to India) with another passenger's luggage, and the others look at me, point, and yell "Go!". Yeah, I could have, and would have gotten a cab for myself, if I had been told what was going on, and why an agent had been sent to get me in the first place. However, they didn't even mention that the international airport was a COMPLETELY SEPARATE place, 4 kilometers away. Given that my flight was set to depart in 57 minutes to JFK from this entirely unconnected airport, I was uncomfortably reliant on their help.

--I took this trip despite my illness for what has now turned in to my cousin's funeral. I agree with everyone's judgments that my condition made certain stressors less bearable. Does everyone feel that the seat that wouldn't recline and the lack of any working electronic controls (TV, and, more annoying for me, even the light) is something that Air India customer service would commiserate with? I paid double ($1478) what it cost to fly home on albeit slightly longer flights leaving a few hours later ($779/$785); which now seems ridiculous considering the discomfort. I think I should have just paid $700 more for the reduced hassle and guarantee of working seats in business class. Lesson learned.

--Thanks for letting me know that the inflight upgrades were really out of their hands.

Last edited by beantown; Jan 14, 08 at 4:25 am
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Old Jan 14, 08, 10:12 am
  #11  
 
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Unreasonale rant!

Thanks for writing back... We are generally a friendly bunch here in FT, as folks who fly a lot, we have seen many dubious posts of potraying problems when there ain't none, and some fter's who want compensation when in realty they are just being selfish.


There are different types of vegeterian meals offered on flights. Maybe, you mis-selected the regular vegeterian meal, as opposed to as Vegan meal (no dairy or eggs). Maybe Orbitz made a mistake. In both these cases the Air India is hardly to blame. Did you actually reconfirm with the Airline that you had a vegan meal reserved for you??? The FA told you all the cabins were full. The meals in Business Class and First Class are catered as per the number of pax in both these cabins. No extra meals are onboarded for biz and first meals. Only a few extra meals are onboarded in the Economy section. That's probably why the FA could not offer you any meal from the First or Biz class. Continental does not have a first class, and maybe your previous experience, they had extra Biz class meals left over. Also, there is a legal issue, Once I was on Singapore Airlines, and fell asleep in the regular meal service. When I woke up, I was told that they did not have the main meal, because it is legally not allowed to serve a meal which has been outside (in room temprarture) for over 2 hours. If I had told the FA that I would want my meal later, they would have stored it in the onboard refrigirator. Anyways, they managed to serve me the next 'light' meal and some on board munchies (chocolates, apples etc.).
My strong reccomenadation with any one on a special diet (especially someone with food allergies), is to carry their own food just in case. It could be simple things like granola bars, chocolates, trail mixes, nuts (if you can eat them), fruit etc. In any case, you had a 2 hour wait in MAA airport, and you could have purchased food from there. There are shops both before and after security. I usually have some snacks in my carry on way before I board my flight.


About the shuttle, Beg your pardon? It is the airline's fault that the Domestic and Inte'l terminals are 4KM's away from each other????? They were nice to send uniformed airline agents to meet your domestic fligth and put you on a transportation to the International terminal, as opposed to you figuring out. You should have done some home work. If you book Continental or Delta flight from BOM to (EWR) or (JFK), and you had a connection (on the same airline out of LGA, I can guarantee you Continental or Delta, WILL NOT send you an uniformed agent to help you at EWR or JFK, and pay for your transportation to LGA. You are at your own mercy to get to LGA. Again, what Kingfischer did was a courtesy (a freebie), and you had the option to take it or leave it. If you did not know that the International airport was 4 KM away, that is your problem and not Kingfisher's or Air India's.

$1478 for a Last minute emergercy ticket from MAA to JFK is a BIG BARGAIN!!! Considering that it is the PEAKEST time of the year for International travel In and Out of India. ALL the flights In/Out of India are going packed. So $1478 for your ticket is a bargain, especially for last minute purchase! Think about, That will be the same price on United or American or Continental on a Last minute New York - Los Angeles. And that is a 2500 mile journey, as opposed to your 9000 mile journey.


The fact that you purchased AI was because it was cheapest of the lot. This is not Singapore airlines first class. You get what you pay for.
Jet Airways flies out of MAA to BRU and onward to NYC, but that would have been more expensive, and you wouldn't have had to deal with changing planes and terminals in BOM.


Again, I think your rant is really unreasonable and selfish. You can try writing to AI, but you need to reset your expectations. really. Or pay big bucks and ride the front of the bus.
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Old Jan 14, 08, 2:00 pm
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Originally Posted by zoonil View Post
Did you actually reconfirm with the Airline that you had a vegan meal reserved for you???
I booked the ticket about 18 hours before the flight, while the Air India offices were closed, but I sent them an email to remind them of my request for a lactose-free meal (NOT vegan, which would've been harder, I imagine). I thought this was my best option as there was absolutely no chance of me using a phone until I got to the airport. As I mentioned, they did get a special food request, but the wrong one.


Originally Posted by zoonil View Post
My strong reccomenadation with any one on a special diet (especially someone with food allergies), is to carry their own food just in case. It could be simple things like granola bars, chocolates, trail mixes, nuts (if you can eat them), fruit etc. In any case, you had a 2 hour wait in MAA airport, and you could have purchased food from there. There are shops both before and after security. I usually have some snacks in my carry on way before I board my flight.
This is a solid recommendation for people with food allergies. Unfortunately, in my case, my stores of fruit and snack bars ran out on the Kingfisher flight (I had been on a nonstop 5 hour cab ride before that), and I had hoped to replenish them in Mumbai.

People traveling for the first time through Chennai airport should note that beyond security are only a sweets shop, two Lipton tea stands, and a slightly larger kiosk that has coffee, sodas and (dairy-containing) packaged sandwiches. Outside security the selection was identical, which the addition only of samosas and other fried foods. No fresh or packaged fruits, vegetables, nuts, or any type of meals in sight--so bring lots with you!


Originally Posted by zoonil View Post
About the shuttle, Beg your pardon? It is the airline's fault that the Domestic and Inte'l terminals are 4KM's away from each other????? They were nice to send uniformed airline agents to meet your domestic fligth and put you on a transportation to the International terminal, as opposed to you figuring out. You should have done some home work. If you book Continental or Delta flight from BOM to (EWR) or (JFK), and you had a connection (on the same airline out of LGA, I can guarantee you Continental or Delta, WILL NOT send you an uniformed agent to help you at EWR or JFK, and pay for your transportation to LGA. You are at your own mercy to get to LGA. Again, what Kingfischer did was a courtesy (a freebie), and you had the option to take it or leave it. If you did not know that the International airport was 4 KM away, that is your problem and not Kingfisher's or Air India's.
It's no one's fault that the intl and domestic airports (note, NOT terminals in the American or European) are quite far apart, but I think it would have been relevant for someone (ideally Orbitz) to note that fact--and also that bags are not checked through--to me when Kingfisher was repeatedly insisting that I'd arrive with time to spare. I definitely would have gone outside and bought a 6.500 rupee ticket on an earlier Jet MAA-->BOM flight had this been mentioned. As for all this research responsibility...when you find out your cousin is in the hospital, probably going to die, and you have maybe 48 hours to get home to see her, the last thing on your mind is looking up information on the airports in Bombay, especially when you just assume that when your ticket says BOM on both legs, you think you're really leaving from the SAME place. Jesus, a person can't always be as prepared as they'd like. And that's when one really needs help, especially from the people, like the Kingfisher agents, that are supposed to be there to do just that.

I guess I failed to note before that, all through this transit craziness, my arm was being conspicuously held in a impossible-to-miss blue and white sling, obviously indicating that I had some need gentleness in handling, you could say, not to mention maybe a hand with the bag. This courtesy transportation they offered equated to shoving me in a 3.5m wide rickshaw seat, followed by the other passenger's giant suitcase, followed by the portly passenger, followed by the Kingfisher agent. In the end, broken arm and all, maybe it was a godsend that I was given this 40 rupee (=$1) ride, because I didn't miss the flight, but the way to have done this without inflicting pain would have been to take us three passengers outside the domestic terminal, tell us that we needed to take a ride to get to the international airport (not letting us continue to think it was around the corner, or something, as we ALL did), and hailed us rides--or let us hail our own. What was scary was that we just waited while half these 8 Kingfisher guys milled around while the other 4 were trying to find the one guy's last piece of luggage. The other two of us should have been outta there ASAP, saving us from have to make a mad sprint with our bag trailing out into traffic at the last minute. (Have you been to India? Does the driving, esp. in Mumbai, not bother you when you are already stressed/tired/sick/in a rush?)

Originally Posted by zoonil View Post
The fact that you purchased AI was because it was cheapest of the lot. This is not Singapore airlines first class. You get what you pay for.
Jet Airways flies out of MAA to BRU and onward to NYC, but that would have been more expensive, and you wouldn't have had to deal with changing planes and terminals in BOM.
Actually, the Jet Airways flight through BRU, which I took on the way over and highly recommend, was $789 OW on Orbitz. However, it left 4 hours later and took a few hours longer, and because I was trying to actually see my cousin before she died, it wasn't a choice. But for anyone who reads this who does have time, take the Jet flight. BRU is a nice airport, with an especially nice Jet and BA lounges.



In any case, I started this thread because I was wondering if people ever sought compensation for these types of issues. I didn't really need to get called an unreasonable whiny brat for thinking that having no TV, no light in a darkly-dimmed cabin, a seat that didn't recline, and barely any food on an expensive 17 hour flight made it more uncomfortable than it had to be. In no way do I feel that Air India is a bad airline, and wouldn't rule out flying with them again. The plane was beautiful and clean and the service friendly. Other than my (now resolved) worry that the flight supervisor was being a jerk by not letting me buy an upgrade after takeoff, which one of the FAs told me was possible, I didn't have any issue with the crew. What I do take issue with is the maintenance of my seat, and the ground crew of Kingfisher, who in BOM were disconcertingly disorganized, and in MAA, less than truthful and prudent about the possibility of making my connection. If no one thinks I'll get anywhere reporting these things to AI and Kingfisher, I'll spend the time instead on physical therapy on my arm.
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Old Jan 14, 08, 3:11 pm
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[QUOTE=beantown;9067106]I booked the ticket about 18 hours before the flight, while the Air India offices were closed,[QUOTE]



There you go!!!! Air India and ALL the other Airlines (check out ANY airlines website including Jet, Singapore, Emirates etc..), Each one of them need a minimum of 24 hours for any special meals to be registered.

You booked your flight tickets with Orbitz 18 hours before the flight, and the ticketing was probably done later (12 to 15 hours before the flight). So Air India did not fail you. It needed like all the other airlines 24 hours before a special meal can be requested.



Airline employees need not offer help with lugging bags. If you needed help, hire a licensed porter.

Hope your hands feel better!
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Old Jan 14, 08, 7:27 pm
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Beantown: You had to deal with urgent travel in a stressful situation. The stress was compounded by ground factors and eventually some onboard complications. I empathize.

I suspect that AI would not be sympathetic to any request for compensation for the equipment failures. It would be nice if they offered a goodwill gesture, but you can pretty much bet that their tariff / CoC offers no relief in bad situations other than those due to their own negligence or deliberate omission.

You can make your displeasure known and see what comes of it, but I wouldn't go into it with high expectations.
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Old Jan 16, 08, 11:20 am
  #15  
 
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[QUOTE=zoonil;9067538][QUOTE=beantown;9067106]I booked the ticket about 18 hours before the flight, while the Air India offices were closed,



There you go!!!! Air India and ALL the other Airlines (check out ANY airlines website including Jet, Singapore, Emirates etc..), Each one of them need a minimum of 24 hours for any special meals to be registered.

You booked your flight tickets with Orbitz 18 hours before the flight, and the ticketing was probably done later (12 to 15 hours before the flight). So Air India did not fail you. It needed like all the other airlines 24 hours before a special meal can be requested.

Air Tahiti Nui needs 36 hours for special meals to be registered!
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