www.flickr.com user Premshree Pillai
I've previously had a good experience flying with GoAir, a budget domestic airline that offers some of the cheapest fares in India. And indeed, I was again impressed recently when they offered me free snacks after my flight was delayed through no fault of theirs (the runway at Bangalore airport had to be closed for a couple of hours). (This is more than I can say for IndiGo, who offered me nothing during two recent flight delays of 2-3 hours caused by foggy weather).
However, some passengers flying GoAir from Mumbai to Goa had a very different, and unfavorable, experience to report recently. While waiting for my flight to Jaipur, I got talking to three very worn out and disgruntled looking passengers. It was 2.30 p.m., and they'd been at Mumbai airport since the early hours of the morning to catch a 5.30 a.m. flight to Goa. Apparently, they weren't the only ones -- there were four more passengers in the same situation.
So, what happened?
Despite arriving at the airport to check in with plenty of time spare, the seven passengers had been told that they were one minute late and couldn't board the flight. Not only that, they were informed that they'd have to purchase new tickets if they wanted to travel on a later flight -- GoAir would not rebook them free of cost. Some of the foreign passengers also said that GoAir had tried to persuade them to buy Business Class seats for 45,000 rupees each.
An Indian passenger who travels a lot and works in the tourism industry was certain that GoAir had overbooked the flight and then told the passengers that they were late for check, in so that the company didn't have to compensate them.
Of course, as this article discusses, overbooking is nothing new in the airline industry both internationally and in India. Nevertheless, the article does state that India's low cost carriers don't overbook flights, as "there is no provision for cancellation of tickets or of claiming refunds" and their "systems aren't designed for that".
The article was written in 2007, and clearly things have changed since then or the information given by the airlines was misleading. Perhaps the reality is that airlines will not admit to overbooking flights.
According to this more recent article, "...Overbooking, apparently, has become a regular practice by airlines as a lot of case of overbooking have been seen at the Delhi airport. Even though the issue has been raised several times, the airlines keep repeating the mistake, causing problems for the passengers. Several policies have also been initiated by the Indian government to settle the issues of overbooking."
What's been your experience in India? Have you been denied a boarding pass for an overbooked flight and what happened? You can also share your India airline experiences here and find out what others have to say.