Cleartrip spicejet and refunds

It was the marriage of my wife's cousin in Mumbai and a reason to do a long overdue Mumbai trip.  That it coincided with Republic Day meant, we could also use the occasion to catch-up with the several relatives we have there.

We were intimated as early as September first week for the marriage, happening  on Jan 22nd.  This meant, we could get a good flight deal by booking early.  We did get a good deal - round-trip of Rs.3,500/- per head by Spicejet, which I booked through Cleartrip on 15th September.

And then the news started coming in - of SpiceJet going through a crisis and flights getting cancelled.  But there were also news of things getting sorted out and Spicejet even recommencing bookings, including flights in March 2015.   It looked like we would be unaffected by the problems.

Then disaster stuck in the form of an SMS at 5.54 PM 23rd December - your flight from Bengaluru to Mumbai is cancelled.  It was followed by another SMS at 9.37 PM on the same day - cancellation of the return flight.  Mind you, these were SMS from Spicejet and not Cleartrip.

I visited Cleartrip website and choose the Cancel option.  I was in for a shock.  If I cancelled, I was going to get Rs.500/- odd back!

I went through the booking policy - and understood there was cancellation charges - including additional when done over phone.

I went to Spicejet website to understand how things were.   Since they had frequent cancellations/changes, they had a dedicated link to change/cancel.    Since I had the airlines PNR, I tried to use this to cancel my ticket.   But here I hit a different issue - the site would only cancel bookings done from the site - and not done through other means.
Ok!  so I had no choice, but to cancel through Cleartrip.  I also read that the actual charges would be different from the indicated ones, based on the charges levied by the airline.  So bravely I went ahead and did the cancellation.

I got an intimation from Cleartrip that it would take a few days to process the refund - the time that the airlines took to do this.

And then came the shocker.  An email saying my refund was processed and I would be getting a refund of Rs.956/-

Since there is no "reply-to" id in the emails, I had no choice but to call up the customer support.

The first time I called, I was put through to a person, who could not see my information in his system.  But instead of telling me that, he asked me to give my trip id and put me on hold only to finally to ask me to call again. Imagine - no option to even transfer the call to someone else!

Ah, did I tell you they had an IVR option - "Spicejet cancellation - press 6"?   This was a popular option, no doubt!

I had to call again - did I have a choice?  This person had the information.  Imagine my shock when he says - "You cancelled the ticket online yourself.  You should have called us.  Then we would have processed complete refund".

"But you have mentioned you will charge me additionally to cancel over phone?"

"No, that does not apply in this case."

"But then you have not mentioned that anywhere in your website".

The guy put me on hold and came back "We have escalated your case.  When you do the cancellation, airline thinks you have cancelled wantonly and deduct Rs.1500/- per ticket, plus an additional Rs.500/- or something.  When we do it, we tell the airlines it is being cancelled because the flight is cancelled. Then this is taken care of.  Do call us if you don't get complete refund after 7 working days"  (he emphasised working days).

Can you beat that logic?  I cancel a ticket for a flight which is cancelled.  The airline punishes me!

As it is, now I have three issues -

  • I lose a cheap ticket
  • I don't have refund
  • I still need to attend the marriage for which I will end up shelling thrice the amount

And then you have web app, mobile app on various platforms for user convenience, only for the customer support to say, you need to call up to cancel and not do online.

If this is not an instance of airlines and travel companies working in tandem to take users for a ride (literally and figuratively), then I don't know what it is.

And then I look at Cleartrip FAQ.

It contradicts what the customer service person told me - to call them!

Man!  my day is made!

Update 2 Jan 2015

Five minutes after I posted, I got a tweet from Cleartrip "Sorry about that.  Please give us time as we need to check with the airline"

Two hours later I got a tweet and email "We've processed full refund for your booking...However, it will be reflected in your account in 5/7 days depending on Bank policy"

This morning I see the refund reflecting in my credit card statement online.

I do want to appreciate the quick action and response from Cleartrip to limit the damages caused.  But I can't help wonder if it would have been this quick, if I had not blogged this.


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