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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Deccan Goof-up: Air Deccan's handling minor travelling alone...

Air Deccan in many ways has changed the way people transport in India and not to take the credit has contributed significantly to make many people believe that they can afford to fly now. I am one of the beneficiaries of the Air Deccan fuelled revolution of the Indian airways.

But, Air Deccan also has contributed significantly to the sense of risk and uncertainty associated with air travel in India. Many novel and earlier un-heard of errors are possible through Air Deccan. One of the recurring problems is the utter carelessness or irresponsible handling of issues by its staff. I have witnessed in quite a few airports and in-flight the staff looking completely clueless and nonplussed about how to handle a situation. I often wonder whether they are adequately trained and equipped to handle a situation.

Here is an instance of what happened to a young boy of age 8 a few days back travelling alone from Coimbatore to Mumbai. Deccan charges extra fee in the case of minors travelling alone to take care of them, which means to ensure that the child reaches and is back with its people safe wherever he / she is supposed to land. What would be a normal work for other airlines is charged (Rs. 500/- currently) and provided as a 'service' by Deccan, fine if people are willing to pay and the do a good job.

In this instance, the kid was permitted to de-plane at Mumbai on his own, board the bus to the lounge, collect his baggage and leave the airport. This on a day when the flight landed 10 minutes in advance. Thankfully, his mother had reached the airport in advance and could immediately sight him and take charge. But, the apprehension of the mother as to what exactly constituted this 'service' and why were the staff of the airline not to be seen anywhere and how could they allow this to happen elicited nothing more than a routine response from the airport authorities (see text below), and even worse when she spoke to the PR people in the airline company, they promised to get back to her in a week with a response!!!
Dear Mrs. A B,
This is to acknowledge your mail and to tender our sincere apologies for the inconvenience and anxiety caused to you and your son. Please be assured that we shall get back to you within 48hrs. with our detail findings and action taken.

Thanking you,
Yours sincerely,

Rajan Karnik
Sr. Manager - Airport Services
(an email received by the mother)

The questions posed by the mother are as follows:
1. What are the steps that the airlines take to ensure that a minor child travelling is taken care of, what constitutes the service?
2. How are the records pertaining to such travel maintained; despite her protesting, the staff of the airline did not bother to get her to sign the form filled-up during check-in at Coimbatore, so according to their own records, the child has NOT BEEN handed over to the guardian on arrival. But does this record matter, is it audited, how frequently and by whom?
3. How are the staff of the air line instructed/ equipped / trained to handle minors travelling alone?

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