The rosy scenario: Plan a vacation with family to Europe. Book airline tickets with Etihad for its wonderful reputation for hospitality. Get tickets booked through BudgetAir. Eagerly dream about European cruise. That very same night, a massive itinerary change by Etihad that adds an overnight stay at Abu Dhabi. First prick in our happiness balloon. The email says that we can cancel and claim full refund. Okay, it is a minor hitch or so we think.
The nightmare begins: Call and email BudgetAir.in repeatedly. No responses at all. Reach out to Etihad Customer Care in Abu Dhabi. First response is that they can’t help. Reach out to travel agent is what they tell us.
Engagement with Etihad: After I documented the tragic experience with BudgetAir in this post and tweet it to Etihad, there is a prompt reply to share the case at their email@example.com id. Happily I do that. Then receive a call from their Customer Care Center in Abu Dhabi. The man at the other end was very helpful. Yes, as an exception, they will process our refund directly. Etihad was a dream come true. We were directed to visit Etihad’s Bangalore office. On 19th August, our tickets were cancelled on Etihad’s website. We were now waiting for Etihad to send us the refund directly. Their Mumbai call center confirmed that we will get our refund soon.
The betrayal: While we were awaiting Etihad to send us the refund, we get a reverse invoice from BudgetAir giving details of full refund of over $3000 on 20th August. Confused we reached out to Etihad who still maintained that they had processed the refund on 24th August. Their social media team on twitter asked to wait 5-10 days for the refund to reach us.
That time gone, they said wait 2 more days.
That time was gone too. Suddenly, they started saying that BudgetAir will give us the refund. Followup with them. They can’t do any more.
The disbelief: This shattered us. How could they do this? Didn’t I raise a red flag against BudgetAir before the tickets were canceled? Why did they still send the refund back to them? Shouldn’t the refund be in a disputed status or something? Now that they sent the refund back, isn’t it their responsibility to make sure that the refund comes back to us?
Apparently not! Why? Because they are callous and just don’t care.
BudgetAir is now sleeping on our money perhaps putting it in a bank account where they can earn fat interest. Who knows if they will ever refund it? What hold do we have on them? The behemoth Etihad who have control over them, can do something but they clearly want to side with cheats and swindlers like BudgetAir than fare-paying customers who fly Etihad.
This is despicable customer service on part of Etihad. Appalling because they are in a hospitality business. They ought to care about their customer’s grievances. How can they continue to work with Contractors who have reputation for swindling customers? Just google BudgetAir and Etihad and you will find many sorry tales involving both of them. Clearly, Etihad is aware of these scams and chooses to turn a blind eye.
Their Customer Service is the pits. Their only strategy is to deflect, dilly dally and essentially not do anything. The flip flops they have done with me on both their email id and twitter messages are astounding! Their standard reply is “We have forwarded your query to the concerned Department.” Or “Reach out to your travel agent.” Is this what you call any form of resolution Etihad Airways?
I will be reaching out to Civil Aviation Ministry in India to complain about them. I also want to reach out to some right-thinking higher placed officials of Etihad who can see the travesty of justice here and help. I have already emailed Etihad’s CEO, James Hogan and India head, Neerja Bhatia. If anyone has any other contacts especially in the media, do share. It will be great help. I will leave no stone unturned to get what is legally due to me. Also, I am thinking that all this harassment should be compensated as well. In my wildest dream, I would not have imagined Etihad’s conduct in all this.
A notice has already been sent to BudgetAir.in in the Netherlands. Next step is to hire a Collection Agency. For Etihad, I think a Consumer complaint is definitely on the cards. In the future, they must not take hapless customers for a ride.
Moral of the Story: Do not book with Etihad. If you do, be aware that they have a non-existent Customer Service. You will be running around in circles to get what is your due even when they tell you that they will help you.