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Jet Airways crisis: Flyers rage over flight cancellation, some back boycott

Reuters/New Delhi 15 Mar 19 | 01:00 PM

Jet Airways

India's embattled Jet Airways put photographs of smiling women employees on social media last week for Women's Day, using the tagline "Standing tall; touching the skies" but few passengers reacted cheerfully.

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"'Touching the skies' is a good joke at a time when your flights are getting grounded," said a respondent on Twitter, while others expressed anger and dismay at cancellations, delays in refunds and long response times to telephone calls.

India's second-largest carrier, grappling with debt of more than $1 billion, Jet has delayed payments to banks, lessors, vendors and staff. Lessors have grounded more than three dozen planes, forcing hundreds of flights to be cancelled.

Rising customer frustration could bring further disruption for the 25-year-old airline, as some flyers backed a boycott, while others blamed cancellations for ruining their plans.

"We had to worry about rebooking flights during our wedding, when there is already so much to do," said Siddhant Agarwal, a 32-year-old businessman whose flight home from his honeymoon was abruptly cancelled just days before his marriage.

Agarwal, who is based in the capital, New Delhi, had to pay nearly twice as much for new tickets, he said.

"They did not even offer an apology, which is disappointing and unprofessional."

The airline, partly owned by Etihad Airways, did not respond to a request from Reuters for comment.

PLANES GROUNDED

Amid talks for a bailout led by state-run banks, lessors have forced the airline to ground at least 37 planes over non-payment of dues and some have also threatened repossession.

It had 556 flights on average in January, down from 641 a year earlier, data from the aviation regulator showed.

Jet has planned cancellations of more than 600 flights in March, said one source with direct knowledge of the matter.

Monday's tally of about 330 flights compared with a daily average of nearly 650 in March 2018, a second source said, adding that short notice about grounded planes triggered many unplanned cancellations.

"The bigger worry is if people stop future bookings, because that will affect cash flows," said the source, adding that cancellations in February and March outstripped prior months.

Jet Airways' market share shrank to 14.3 per cent in 2018 from 17.2 per cent a year earlier, even as India's aviation market grew nearly a fifth.

Some of the hundreds of aggrieved passengers who posted on the airline's Facebook page and Twitter told of delays on the way to wedding and festival celebrations, and several uploaded screenshots showing telephone wait times longer than an hour for a response from the customer call centre.

After a last-minute cancellation, comedian Kenny Sebastian expressed outrage on Twitter, warning his 1.74 million followers to avoid the airline.

"Best part is they made it sound like it was the passengers' fault," he said this week.

So @jetairways Flight 412 BLR-BOM cancels their 8am flight, then puts them all on the 8:55am flight.

Flight is completely overbooked, everyone is going crazy. Could have been easily avoided if they had informed everyone through texts. 300 people stranded. Next flight at 5pm.

— Kenny Sebastian (@knowkenny) March 12, 2019

So @jetairways Flight 412 BLR-BOM cancels their 8am flight, then puts them all on the 8:55am flight.

Flight is completely overbooked, everyone is going crazy. Could have been easily avoided if they had informed everyone through texts. 300 people stranded. Next flight at 5pm.

— Kenny Sebastian (@knowkenny) March 12, 2019

@jetairways #JetAirways morning 715am flight to Kolkata (9w 615) was over booked leading to no seats for me. I have alloted new ticket for 1pm flight (9w 6230), but that too is over booked. Please ensure I get the seat in that flight. Very urgent things are lined up ahead

— vijit jain (@vijit_jain) March 15, 2019

#jetairways @jetairways

There is a very bad situation at Dehradun.. 9W676 flight delayed by 3 hrs.. But no action taken... No food or meal given.. Very bad airways..

— Anirban Modak (@ANIRBANMODAK) March 14, 2019

@jetairways My flight 7851 with you on 16th march 2019 from DEL to PAT has been cancelled and a day before I got to know this without any pre-notification.

This is how you treat your customer ? #jetairways

— Ankesh parmar (@ankesh_73) March 15, 2019

Hey #jetairways

My flight of 6th March DEL CCU was cancelled. The refund process should start automatically, no? When I contacted Helpdesk, I was asked to send a mail. Loyal Jet Airways client. A paltry sum of Rs.3752.

PNR LQSKHJ. Dejected.

— Rotu Lahiri (@rotulahiri) March 14, 2019

The unethical behavior on part of #JetAirways is disappointing.

I have contacts of other passengers who were denied the compensation and are witness of the harassment that we were made to go through as customers. pic.twitter.com/YMNUmjnwOi

— Shalini (@Indian954) March 5, 2019

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