Ganga Ma.

Do You Want to Be Right or Do You Want to Be Free?

It is now four Indian men hunched over one of maybe 30 computers in the e-commerce office of Air India.

“But Madam,” says one who seems to be in a higher position, “if you wanted us to do something about this issue you should have contacted us long ago.” Four synchronized Indian head wobbles.

But I did! On the same day if not same hour of booking my ticket, I had sent an email pointing out the mistake on the Air India website. Because: All the way through the booking process I was reassured that I could check-in 25 kg of luggage on a domestic flight. No other airline had offered this option. I was pretty thorough in my research.

“Yes, I did get in touch,” I say. “I called the hotline, sent three emails, and even went to the airline office at Delhi airport the minute of my touchdown yesterday.”

Four pairs of eyebrows rise in surprise. Faces turn towards the screen. The e-commerce employee closest to the keyboard types my email address into the search function of his mail program. There you go! My messages from three weeks ago pop up. Unread.

“Please allow some time”, was the encouraging information I got the night before at the Air India booth of Delhi airport. Plus I’d better go directly to headquarters to pursue my case.

Moving Around With a House

This season I’m dragging an impressive 25kg throughout Asia. Without my realizing it, I had become a backpacker again, living an entirely nomadic lifestyle for six months.

But mastering three different climate zones and working three different jobs comes at a cost. It’s not so much traveling anymore, than moving house with each transition from country to country.

It’s entirely doable. For sure. Only thing is, I need taxi drivers, fellow travelers and the airlines comply!

How delighted I was when I found out, that Air India offers to ship me and my big blue travel buddy from Dehradun to Delhi for a reasonable price. Happily, I hit the “Buy Now” button, only to stare in utter disbelief at the confirmation that appeared right after. “Your baggage allowance is 15kg.”

Whaaattt? Just one screen before, you told me that 25 kg was fine!

Baggage Allowance Game Level 3

“Yes, it really was the Air India website,” is my first answer in the line of interrogation with the hotline as well as now in the e-commerce office. “Yes, it was exactly this flight,” is number two. And, “No! I don’t want to pay twice the original ticket price to top up my baggage allowance.”

Together we click our way through the booking process once again. “There! You see? 25 kg!” They see. Some sighing. Some shaking the head, up, down, sideways. Some cast down eyes, which seem to say, “She’s right.”

Of course, I am!

Long discussions in the e-commerce office. I’m hovering around in the back. Every few minutes someone asks me to sit down. Some other boss in Mumbai is called.

“I Understand Your Pain”

At least two employees would happily hand me over some cash or initiate some refund process. “I understand your pain,” says one of them in this adorable heartfelt way only an Indian would be capable of in a situation like this.

I struggle to not break out in laughter with the hilarity of the whole scene. It clearly is a game. I’ve reached level 3 by now.

“But madam, you know it is a very small aircraft. Very small indeed,“ they say to soften the unfolding dilemma. I do absolutely understand that. And if you had let me known BEFORE I had booked, I would not have wasted anyone’s time for sure.

“Clearly on such a small aircraft it is not possible to let everyone carry such an enormous amount of luggage”, I offer. “But I’m pretty slim. There surely are passengers carrying 25 kg on their hips. What about that?”

Funny Situation Not Funny

Soul not for sale.No one’s laughing. The irony is lost on my new friends. The whole thing turns more and more into one of these stepping out of the matrix situations.

“How about I just pay for a second seat and have my big blue travel buddy next to me. That would be half the cost of having him tuck along in the belly of the plane and a third of the price of canceling the trip!”

I’m somehow hoping they just give in to get rid of me. Just let me have my luggage. Courtesy for a believer in Air India. Or refund my ticket. Either way, I’m fine.

Better Read the Fine Print

“Madam, we cannot give you a refund, because you haven’t asked for one in your first email,” is the smart move of the lesser boss in Delhi.

I meant to be polite in my first email, pointing out the mistake on the website only. No refund? Okay then, let me travel with my luggage as promised in the first place.

The bigger boss in Mumbai won’t have any of my clever remarks. Some deep digging on her side brings it to light: There is a tiny asterisk and something in fine print on the page of my booking process. Five heads – including mine – are flying toward the screen.

It is an Air India ALLIANCE flight. Luggage rules of Air India do not apply. Although not even an inch further down the default information reads as if they do.

My bad.

When is it Time to Let Go?

I am still right, I feel. The inner child stomps with her both feet. How much research and reading through conditions on various webpages do I have to do before I hit “Submit”?!

I am right.

Famous last words.

The employee who understands “my pain” is guiding me towards the exit. With a comforting look on his friendly face he suggests I should just repack a little bit and shuffle the extra kilos into my hand luggage.

Very kind advice indeed. But unfortunately no option, my dear friend. Hand luggage is full already!

Gamble or Go?

What now? Insisting some more? Gamble and go to the airport anyway in the hope an equally empathic employee at the check-in counter just waves me through? Ready for Baggage Allowance Game Level 4?

I realize it’s not about my luggage anymore. Not even about the poor user information on the Air India website.

The remaining question is: Do I want to be right or do I want to be free?

The warm brown eyes of the friendly man next to me make it easy to rest my case.

Just drop it. And take the train. More fun encounters await!

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