Pune airport shutdown: travelers face problems rescheduling flights and getting refunds

The closure of Pune Airport later this month and the resulting cancellation of flights caused problems for several travelers, with many complaining of difficulties in obtaining refunds from airlines or reschedule reservations.

Several customers pointed out that they had spent hours trying to reach customer service lines, but airlines are unwilling to provide an alternate travel date and are even warning them that “cancellation fees” will be incurred. charged if they opt for a refund.

In many cases, customers who had booked to travel during the October 16-30 closure are still waiting for a communication from the airlines. Some have even resorted to raising the issue on social media platforms.

Kanish Dagar, a student, posted his predicament on social media and criticized the airline for harassing him by not rescheduling his flight or offering him a full refund. “I am a student and due to the closure of Pune airport I needed a full refund or free deferment. Both are refused to me. I was told that rescheduling would come at a cost, ”Dagar wrote.

Sachin Almal, who had three Pune-Delhi bookings with SpiceJet for October 16, said he kept calling the helpline in hopes of rescheduling the trip for October 15, but that he couldn’t pass. When he posted the issue on social media, the airline told him it was facing a flurry of calls and he had to keep trying. “Later the airline rescheduled the flight as per my request,” he said.

Two days after the closure was announced, several airlines continued to tell concerned travelers that “their services were operational” during the period, adding to frustration.

Pune-based entrepreneur Gauri Pokhariyal said her husband booked to travel to Delhi on October 19 and return to Pune on October 29 on a Vistara flight. “After learning of the airport closure on Tuesday, I tried to contact the airline to reschedule the reservation or get a refund. I continued to call but couldn’t get through. I messaged them on Twitter and was told the service was still up and running. It was two days after the official announcement of the closure, ”Pokhariyal said.

Meanwhile, the family decided to book the trip via Mumbai at double the amount they originally paid. Pokhariyal finally contacted the Vistara helpline on Friday. “They gave me inconvenient rescheduling options and when I asked for a refund I was told they would deduct a cancellation fee. It apparently doesn’t occur to them that it was they who canceled the reservation, not us. Finally, when I insisted on a refund, they sent me a message asking for an explanation as to why I could not accept the postponement options that had been offered to me, ”Pokhariyal added.

Varun Pandya, owner of Fun Holidays, has so far said that there has been no information regarding the shutdown of airlines. “We have made reservations for several clients during the closure period. So far all airlines are still showing bookings as confirmed and if we cancel we will have to incur charges. To get refunds, we have to wait for the airline to declare the flight canceled, ”Pandya said.

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Nilesh Bhansali, director of the Association of Travel Agents of Pune, said the sudden announcement dealt a heavy blow to travel agencies. Businesses, he said, had suffered greatly over the past year and a half due to the pandemic disruptions and were slowly getting back on their feet.

“Due to the negative effects on income, people are on very tight budgets,” Bhansali said, referring to tourists who had booked trips to places such as Kashmir, Coorg and Jaipur. “If we postpone their flight through Mumbai, it will cost 20-40% more, as airfare prices have now gone up. The tour budget increases dramatically. Customers are also in a difficult situation because if they cancel the tour they will lose the money spent on hotel reservations, ”Bhansali said.

“We are working with minimal staff and the rescheduling and reimbursement work translates into an additional unpaid service that we have to offer to our customers,” Bhansali said, noting that better communication from Air Force and Airports Authority of India could have saved them from this problem. .