Passengers have complained against IndiGo airline’s cancellation of tickets without prior notice. Image Credit: Bloomberg

DUBAI: A Dubai-based passenger is alleging fraud after his online bookings for two Indian airline IndiGo flights were cancelled for what he said were dodgy reasons.

P. Sharma, a Dubai resident for the last six years, told XPRESS that authorities must investigate this disservice.

Sharma bought two IndiGo tickets on March 6 with his credit card issued by a Dubai bank. The purchase for Rs16,000 (Dh1,142.66) was marked "confirmed" in the tickets for his wife, Swati, and daughter, Tanya, for the April 5, 2012, flight from Delhi to Chennai.

On the morning of April 5, the mother-and-daughter took the train from Chandigarh to Delhi — a good 250km — to catch their 3.05pm Flight 6E 277 at Indira Gandhi International Airport, only to be told during check-in that their tickets had been cancelled.

Sharma was then forced to buy new two-way tickets through a travel agency for his wife and daughter at more than double the original airfare (Rs35,000+/Dh2,499.56+).

Dodgy reasons

Before this incident, Sharma's Dh986 ticket, which he booked for himself on February 7, 2012, for a May 23 flight from Dubai to Delhi (and a return flight on July 6, 2012), had been cancelled.

A cancellation notice received by Sharma on February 7 in his spam e-mail list stated: "In the instant case, we note that the credit card holder is not a travelling passenger and/or part of the party travelling. In light of the above, we are unable to honour the booking and as such, the reservation is released and refund is being processed to the credit card which was used by you to make the said booking. You will receive your refund shortly."

"This is ridiculous because I used my own credit card to buy a ticket for myself. This purchase was even verified by the airline call centre staff from India," Sharma said. The low-cost airline's website states that all cancellation requests must be made in writing and that a charge applies, though no cancellation fees were charged on Sharma.

The new ticket price is Dh1,200 as of Tuesday, more than Dh200 higher than the original price.

A day after XPRESS sought information about these incidents, Abhinav Maharishi, Assistant Manager for Customer Relations of IndiGo, sent an e-mail to Sharma with a plea to accept "sincere regrets" and told him that his Dubai-Delhi return seats on the same fare (Dh986) have been reinstated. "The differential amount of Rs8,124 [around Dh600] as compared to the original booking paid for Delhi-Chennai sector has been also refunded back to the travel agency account used for the booking for you to claim refund," Maharishi wrote.

Sharma said he is not happy, adding that the airline did not clarify as to who cancelled his booking and why he was never informed about the fact that his wife and daughter's seats were confirmed and later cancelled. He is also contemplating taking the airline to India's consumer court.

The Economic Times, India's leading business paper, reported on March 21 that the Consumer Court of India has directed IndiGo to compensate a passenger for cancelling his tickets on the day of his trip without prior notice. The airline has been ordered to pay Rs48,000 (Dh3,425.32) to the passenger, the newspaper said. Meanwhile, the web is abuzz with rants from IndiGo customers who had the same experience.

Sankaps, a Singapore-based passenger, wrote in flyertalk.com forum that he, along with a 75-year-old lady, faced a similar fate as the Sharmas. An airline official told Sankaps the bookings were cancelled "for their [passengers'] own protection". "The only ones they were protecting were themselves and us passengers were just left in [a] lurch by their unilateral cancellations. The issue was not just that they had cancelled our bookings, but that they had not really tried to inform us — we were just abandoned," wrote Sankaps.

IndiGo's response

"In the interest of credit card owners, we have an internal process that alerts us when any unusual activity appears on a credit card that was used to make a booking with IndiGo. The verification has a lot of combinations, including such transactions where a card was attempted multiple times to book a ticket… or multiple cards were tried on our website for similar travel details where the transaction failed, raising a suspicion. Since the reservation was cancelled within few hours of booking, as [part of the] process we sent an e-mail to [the] customer informing about the cancellations done. Complete refund of the ticket amount was also initiated immediately, i.e. on 7th March and 8th Feb for the cases mentioned."

But Sharma said as a result of the April 5 incident, his wife suffered from hypertension for two days. "If my credit card failed, why did they confirm the seats at the time the bookings were made? We spent thousands in phone calls between Dubai and India to sort out this problem."

He added that he made a single attempt to use his credit card to make the bookings for his wife and daughter and did not receive prior notice of the cancellation.