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Denied boarding at KTM by Air India on UA ticket ("new" India dual transit rules)

Denied boarding at KTM by Air India on UA ticket ("new" India dual transit rules)

Old Oct 29, 18, 12:45 am
  #1  
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Denied boarding at KTM by Air India on UA ticket ("new" India dual transit rules)

I was due to fly back to PHX from KTM on a UA business saver award ticket (I class) on 10/25. Routing was KTM-DEL (AI), DEL-BOM (AI), BOM-YYZ (AC), YYZ-PHX (AC). The DEL-BOM segment was on one of Air India's "international" domestic flights that operate out of the international terminals and allow for smoother international connections. This meant that I would not require an India visa since I would never go through Indian passport control given that both transfers in India would be INTL-INTL.

When I tried to check in at KTM on the morning of the 25th, the Air India check in agent told me that an Indian immigration policy change had taken place 5 days prior that no longer allowed "dual transits" through India without a visa. After talking to Air India station managers at both DEL & BOM, he confirmed that Indian immigration was very strict about this policy change and were not allowing passengers through without a visa. He told me that my options were to either fly Air India to DEL and make alternate flight arrangements from there, or not fly them at all and make alternate arrangements from KTM. Eventually the offer to fly to DEL was withdrawn, and when I asked if Air India was going to find alternate arrangements for me, I was basically told I was on my own and they had no responsibility. I reached out to United through FB messenger (calling them would have cost $3/min) and explained the situation. I had used that channel for communications in the past and usually got responses within 10-15 minutes. While waiting, I checked the United app and saw there was one I class seat left on a less-than-convenient routing on CA/UA through LXA/CTU/SFO (immigration stopover at LXA continuing on the same plane to CTU, followed by overnight at CTU); no other I class options showed up. I communicated the same to United FB and waited. The relatively quick response was that they couldn't see the option I was referring to, and that the earliest they could get me back home on another flight was 2 days later, or they could cancel and refund the original reservation (i.e. I was on my own again). I was lucky enough to have the miles needed to try and rebook on my own, which I was able to do on the app with no issues (despite United saying they couldn't see the option). The CA flight out of KTM was leaving almost 2 hours after the original AI flight, and despite the overnight in CTU it would get me to PHX within 3 hours of the original arrival time (the AI/AC itinerary had some long but not overnight layovers). I asked the UA FB team to cancel the original reservation as they had offered, and I told them I had booked the one they couldn't find. They responded back that they had canceled it, and told me the miles should be back in my account within 24 hours and the refund in 7-10 business days (FYI, that never happened; the miles still haven't been redeposited and it's been 4 days since the FB conversation).

The CA/UA trip ended up being even more grueling than I anticipated. The CA KTM-LXA flight was more than 2 hours late, I had some tense moments at Chinese immigration at LXA when applying for a transit visa since they were looking at the same-day reservation with some suspicion, and the LXA-CTU segment had an additional delay resulting in getting to CTU 3+ hours late. The late hour meant I couldn't book a hotel room online (all inventory went to zero after a certain point), CTU had no hotel counter that I could find, and it became a comedy of errors to try and make a reservation through the phone, take a cab, and check in (while pushing around all my luggage that CA had me take out at CTU), with most conversations taking place through the use of Google translate; I guess I happened to deal with people that spoke very limited english and my knowledge of Chinese was limited to hello and thank you. I ended up having less than 5 hours of sleep (if the flight into CTU had been on time that would've been a different case). The rest of the trip was on UA metal and went fairly smooth, but by that point this was already a return trip from hell!

My contention is that if Air India or United had notified me of that immigration policy change in a timely manner, I would've had 2 options: attempt to get a transit visa, or look for other return options (I would assume that I might have had at least a couple more alternative return options at 5 days prior to departure versus 2 hours!). I have just sent a lengthy email to UA (including the FB messenger conversations) and I am waiting for their response; I believe they definitely need to redeposit my miles from the original reservation, compensate me for change fees I paid on the original reservation (that went unused), the close-in award booking fee for the new reservation, maybe the hotel cost in CTU, and potentially an additional amount/miles for the trouble I went through due to the lack of communication from them and Air India. I am curious as to any opinions from forum members to what compensation I might be entitled to or if they have had similar experiences and how they handled them. Given that this was an award reservation on UA I started the thread in the UA forum. If the moderators feel it's more appropriate elsewhere, (i.e. Indian airlines?) feel free to move it there. TIA
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Old Oct 29, 18, 1:00 am
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An unfortunate situation but AI is absolutely not at fault.

1. Is it not (ever) the airlines responsibility to educate pax about immigratiom policies (or changes).
2. You can get an eVisa for India online, though it must be applied seeveradaysbin advance I find it is consistently issued between 8-9am Indian time the day after I apply (and valid immediately once issued). If AI was willing to rebook you to a day later (big if, no obligation to) this may have been an option
3. Such a dual transit is unusual and I'd have done some in-depth research on the availability and logistics of it, which may have thrown up some news about the policy change. Checking Timatic for such an itinerary periodically makes sense, too.
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Old Oct 29, 18, 1:08 am
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Originally Posted by stephanos99 View Post
...
My contention is that if Air India or United had notified me of that immigration policy change in a timely manner, ...
Neither has any responsibilities to notify you of immigration rules changes. Those are extremely complex and passenger dependent. The responsible to have valid travel document is entirely yours. Not a great situation but that is how it works. This is one service many travel agents provide but in the DIY world of today's travel, we own the travel document responsibility.

UA states this explicitly in the CoC and at booking and again when you check-in (if checking in with UA)

Originally Posted by stephanos99 View Post
... I have just sent a lengthy email to UA (including the FB messenger conversations) and I am waiting for their response; ...
Doubt you will hear a satisfactory response of the travel documents issue

Originally Posted by stephanos99 View Post
I believe they definitely need to redeposit my miles from the original reservation, compensate me for change fees I paid on the original reservation (that went unused), the close-in award booking fee for the new reservation, maybe the hotel cost in CTU, and potentially an additional amount/miles for the trouble I went through due to the lack of communication from them and Air India. I am curious as to any opinions from forum members to what compensation I might be entitled to or if they have had similar experiences and how they handled them. Given that this was an award reservation on UA I started the thread in the UA forum. If the moderators feel it's more appropriate elsewhere, (i.e. Indian airlines?) feel free to move it there. TIA
You should get the miles back from the cancelled ticket. UA owe no compensation -- you own the travel document issue.

You need to use Timatic , check the immigration website of country you are traveling and for a double transit -- search the web just before travel to make sure nothing has changed

If the change of regulations is true, AI owes you nothing.

If you want to pursue AI, the thread can move. But neither UA or AI is going to do much for you.
UA needs to return the miles of the cancelled ticket ( not the fees -- but they might waive them as a gesture) -- the rest is on you.
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Last edited by WineCountryUA; Oct 29, 18 at 1:17 am Reason: typos
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Old Oct 29, 18, 1:10 am
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Sorry to read about your issues with the flights.

I am uncertain about the wording for award tickets but for every international flight,and I take a number to various countries, there is a warning about ensuring I have the requisite travel documents. This always entails me looking at the websites for various consulates. Absolutely NOT the responsibility of the airline to inform you of changes.

For the change fees it was your responsibility to ensure you had the correct Visa documents and not the responsibility of the airline so not sure why you think they should refund you these.

For the miles for the unused trip you should follow up if they have not been deposited back into your account.

Glad you are safely home.
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Old Oct 29, 18, 1:33 am
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I did all the research on the visa requirements when I booked my ticket. Originally I was assuming that I would need the transit visa (which can be booked online but only within a certain amount of time from use) since I didn't know about the special status of those AI flights, so I had set a reminder to myself to apply for it. When the time came, I did more research and I found out the information on the AI flights being considered "international" (on flyer talk) and read that if you were flying on one of those flights your connection did not involve you "transiting" in India (since it was INTL-to-INTL) so a visa was not needed. I confirmed by finding that same information on the Air India web site, which gave the specific flight numbers that this applied to. Since returning, I have done a search on this policy change to find out the actual timing and other details, and have come up with zero results. So my guess is that if I had done any such search in Nepal before leaving, I would have come up empty again. What else I could have done?
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Old Oct 29, 18, 1:36 am
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If you have a few pictures, Id say this thread belongs in Trip Reports. Its a good travel story.

On a serious note, UA owes you nothing, other than a redeposit of your miles. The problems you encountered which led to the expenses and frustration you incurred were of your own making. Visas are always your responsibility. And a note for the future; the longer your complaint letter, the less likely someone reads and acts on it.
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Old Oct 29, 18, 1:55 am
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Originally Posted by stephanos99 View Post
I did all the research on the visa requirements when I booked my ticket. Originally I was assuming that I would need the transit visa (which can be booked online but only within a certain amount of time from use) since I didn't know about the special status of those AI flights, so I had set a reminder to myself to apply for it. When the time came, I did more research and I found out the information on the AI flights being considered "international" (on flyer talk) and read that if you were flying on one of those flights your connection did not involve you "transiting" in India (since it was INTL-to-INTL) so a visa was not needed. I confirmed by finding that same information on the Air India web site, which gave the specific flight numbers that this applied to. Since returning, I have done a search on this policy change to find out the actual timing and other details, and have come up with zero results. So my guess is that if I had done any such search in Nepal before leaving, I would have come up empty again. What else I could have done?
Did you try Timatic ? UA provides access, anyone handling there own international travel needs to be familiar with Timatic.

Did you verify by calling an Indian consulate or embassy? Internet is great for some things but nothing is better than a primary source.

And yes it is unfortunately the rules changed but that does not change you own the responsibility -- not the airlines.

Personally I don't transit a country that I don't have visa access -- there are too many things that can go wrong where you might need access.
(BTW, if you are overflying a country and the aircraft needs to land, there are process for handling that - so I don't worry about that. That's a different issue and has been discussions in other thread about that situation that we don;t need to drive into now.)
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Old Oct 29, 18, 2:38 am
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Originally Posted by stephanos99 View Post
I reached out to United through FB messenger (calling them would have cost $3/min) and explained the situation.
FYI: Google Voice and Skype both allow free access to US 800#s via any data connection (WiFi, LTE, etc.).

Originally Posted by stephanos99 View Post
FYI, that never happened; the miles still haven't been redeposited and it's been 4 days since the FB conversation).
This is, more or less, par for the course. If you contact the MileagePlus Service Center, they can process the redeposit immediately. Note that they may attempt to charge you a fee of up to $125, depending upon your status. If you explain the situation, Im hopeful that theyd waive it as a courtesy.

Originally Posted by stephanos99 View Post
I guess I happened to deal with people that spoke very limited english
CTU is a wonderful place to visit, but its thousands of kilometers from the nearest places where English would be widely spoken. Why would you expect proficiency in English?

Overall, Im sorry to hear about your experience, and Im also sorry to have to agree with the majority opinion here your expectation of UAs responsibility to you is not in line with mine. To the extent that you have a complaint, it would be with AI. You could try to get them to cover the hotel as part of the duty of care owed to a business class customer on an international flight during IRROPS. This is likely to take quite a bit of convincing, since ultimately visas are your responsibility, but you may be able to make the case.
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Old Oct 29, 18, 3:59 am
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Just wanted to say thanks for posting this. Sounds frustrating but I appreciate the notification about the new Travel doc situation.
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Old Oct 29, 18, 6:40 am
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If it cheers you up any, its not unheard of to have Indian passport holders run into similar problems whilst flying itineraries like Indiagateway-CDG-AMS-USdestination or Indiagateway-FRA-MUC-USdestination. They arrive at the airport to discover they need a Schengen transit visa.
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Old Oct 29, 18, 6:55 am
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Originally Posted by NeedstoFly View Post
If it cheers you up any, its not unheard of to have Indian passport holders run into similar problems whilst flying itineraries like Indiagateway-CDG-AMS-USdestination or Indiagateway-FRA-MUC-USdestination. They arrive at the airport to discover they need a Schengen transit visa.
Good point. There is a whole thread on this.
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Old Oct 29, 18, 7:39 am
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I don't know if India is one of them but most countries will not allow you to apply for a visa if you are in the country you are applying for.

Also, e-Visa is not valid for transit in India. You would have to apply for a regular tourist visa. When I got mine two years ago the e-visa was approved very quickly. But, yes, OP would have had to overnight before taking a different internal India flight with an international connection in DEL.

-RM
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Old Oct 29, 18, 7:51 am
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You should have taken them up on the offer to fly you to DEL and take it up there. I am near certain they would've allowed you to transit to BOM to get the conection as that is the eaiest solution and I Indian immigration has more flexibility than most people think.

The aternative would have been a paid flight the next day to find a better connection or in Y or C as these can be very cheap (700-1200 one -way) from KTM. Losing a day is better then the connection you took.

If you complain to UA they will likely give you some miles for goodwil.
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Old Oct 29, 18, 8:06 am
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UA should/will refund your miles, hopefully without any fees -- but I don't think they will offer any compensation. Your planned itinerary was entirely on non-UA metal. Therefore, UA was acting as nothing more than a travel agent. Issues with AI or Indian immigration are not the travel agent's responsibilities.
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Old Oct 29, 18, 8:12 am
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Has the OP actually verified that there was such a change in transit visa policy for India for for the OP's nationality? What does the AI website currently say? The Indian consulate website for the OP's passport? TIMATIC? I'd start by checking whether the AI airport agents at KTM were actually correct or not.
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