2020 strikes home; Vistara saves the day

One of the biggest reasons I maintain airline status is because of the perks associated with it. One of the biggest perks for me all along has been the ability to reschedule or cancel tickets without paying exorbitant fees. Back in the day, I was a Jet Airways Platinum tier member, and this was the benefit I gave the most priority to, enough to sometimes do tier point runs to get over the magic number. With Jet Airways no longer around, Vistara has become my full-service carrier of choice.

With CoVid-19 affecting daily life, and 2020 turning up surprises after surprises, I would have taken today into my stride humorously, but somehow I am still digesting this. Since March 2020, I’ve only taken one set of flights, that to Jaipur and back, to assess how the airline processes have developed to accommodate CoVid-19. I was planning to fly to Goa to determine how the CoVid-19 protocols were working at another hotel chain where I regularly stay,  after Hilton and Accor. Eventually, I decided against it, given I had a trip coming up to Delhi, and I wanted to maintain extreme precaution before visiting my parents for Diwali.

Cut to yesterday, and we had to change all our plans. Humour me for a moment. Someone living in the vicinity of my parent’s home in Delhi, checked out positive for CoVid-19, and the entire apartment block went into, err, preventive isolation for 14 days. That means everyone operates from home to protect others and themselves, and break the chain. I heard of this in the morning, and luckily our home in Delhi was well prepared to hunker down.

This left me and Shipra with a very tough call to make. We were scheduled to fly on Vistara between Mumbai and Delhi on November 10, and we had also checked into the flight and were almost done packing our bags. I hadn’t met my parents for the better part of the year, something that used to be at least once a month or 40 days or so before the pandemic. So, I was looking forward to celebrating Diwali with them at least, with distancing of some sort if required. To top it up, the day before Diwali is my mom’s birthday, so I was hoping to be around.

We assessed various options, such as flying into Delhi and checking into a hotel instead of going home, and visiting them for a short while and saying hello from the ground floor. We could also go in, but then the 14-day clock starts all over again, and we would have to stay there as well.

Vistara saves the day.

Ultimately, after much back and forth the whole day, I picked up the phone this evening to cancel the tickets. Except cancelling these Premium Economy tickets, upgraded with vouchers to Business Class would cost me a whole lot in cancellation fees in comparison to the original cost of the ticket. So, I decided to reschedule the tickets instead.

Club Vistara affords a free reschedule waiver for their Gold and Platinum customers. The policy reads as follows:

Club Vistara Platinum and Gold members can make changes to their existing direct bookings at no additional charge. Please note that fare difference, if any, will be applicable. This benefit can be used by CV Platinum members to make up to 2 changes per booking for travel within and outside India & by CV Gold members for up to 1 change per booking for travel within India, up to 24 hours prior to departure. It is only valid on bookings made directly through airvistara.com or the Vistara mobile app and not  applicable when flying on Economy Lite fares.

All subsequent changes will be as per the charges for the respective fare category. This benefit can only be enjoyed by CV Platinum & CV Gold member and not by their companions. 

The last I used a free date change on the ticket was late December 2019, when I was in Delhi, and an overseas friend landed up in Mumbai on an unscheduled pit stop. I decided to cut my journey short and meet him, and Vistara’s free rescheduling came very handy.

Vistara

I’d booked my Mumbai – Delhi tickets directly with Vistara, given that is the best way to make ticket bookings in 2020 and beyond, precisely for this benefit. I’d booked the ticket about six weeks out (to beat the last-minute rush, which is the ticket booking trend these days) and I did expect that something could go wrong so we could course correct. Except, I did not expect it was going wrong at the nth hour after everything had worked till so far, and even upgrade space had opened up and been taken by us.

Vistara had launched a special fast track line for Gold and Platinum members earlier on in 2020, and I did not use it at all till yesterday. For me, the most interaction I do to change tickets is at the airport, when I arrive earlier than scheduled departure, and try and get myself on an earlier flight under Vistara Fly Early.

I placed my first call to this new hotline on Monday evening, with trepidation, given I had pushed decision making until the last minute, and I am happy to report, they did not disappoint. I was scheduled to fly on UK940 on Tuesday, and I had waited till 24 hours and 20 minutes out to make the call, or perhaps a miracle to happen. The whole day was a whole lot of confusion after all, and I got no work done after this news landed in my lap earlier in the morning.

From the get-go, this new helpline was very professional. They verified my ticket details, saw that both of us had status (Platinum and Gold) respectively, and explained to us our options. I had a long discussion on the choice of my new flights, and after going back and forth on 2-3 possibilities, we settled on the flight details. This was frankly the process that took a while, given I was getting the agent to go back and forth, and I did not have a laptop in front of me to see the details myself.

Eventually, once we settled on a flight, the agent proceeded to offload us manually from the flight to be able to tell us the extra amount we would need to pay, and then released our space on the earlier flight right in the nick of time (right at the 24-hour cut-off for status privileges to go away for rescheduling). My whole call was about 19 minutes long, at the end of which I got a text message which was to receive the remaining fare and the reissued ticket came through shortly after. If I choose to make a change on this ticket here on, as a Platinum, I am eligible for one more reissue, but Shipra has finished her turn and will either have to fly this ticket or pay for the next change.

My experience with the hotline, which caused this post in the first place, was one of the most professional ones in a long time. The agent felt empowered and was able to do everything very quickly as if they knew it at the back of their palm. It seems like the cream crop of Vistara agents are now being put on this line, and while the idea is not new, it helps so much because it saved me a lot of time and the execution is flawless. It was as if I was on the line with American Express and they would respond just as you would want them to.

Ultimately, this free rescheduling is one of the benefits of status that I have sworn by for a long time, and it came through one more time for me this year. The outcome was not the best one, and I don’t get to fly home, like many of you this year, but at least I saved myself some money in the process. Now time to book that birthday cake and a Zoom call with my parents. Kudo’s Vistara.

Have you interacted with the Gold or Platinum Vistara line? What has been your experience with them?


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Comments

  1. I’m literally confused a person who usually stays at Hilton and Accor
    Travels by Business Class
    Is worried by meagre cancellation charges
    Well I do understand that those charges are totally unjustified & inexplicable
    But
    Free date change for GOLD & SILVER MEMBERS is a feature of the membership
    & Should have been provided without much hassle
    I personally think people can see through it
    This looks more like an advertisement

    I’m 100% sure you won’t admit it
    People never accept their mistake
    Either way just be very honest with your viewers
    Cause they can see through it

  2. I am surprised by the title and article. Free date change for Gold and Platinum CV members is a tier entitlement. It’s not anything special as you are portraying.

    In personal experience, Vistara’s handling of 2020 has been pretty horrible.

    • @Amit K, it might not be something special for you, but this is a good time to remember your perks and privileges and the practical use cases. Not everyone travels frequently to have the book at the back of their palm, right?

  3. Hi Ajay
    Before I forget, please accept my wishes for your mum’s birthday (I’m guessing it’s on the 12th): A Very Happy Birthday & Blessed Returns of A Fantastic Day! And a very Happy Deepawali to all of you as well 🙂
    Your incident with Vistara makes for quite an interesting read and brought back memories that I had with the reps on the newest hotline number. I must say, their patience, the presence of mind, and their ability to connect with me on a human level (which is usually a given at UK) struck a chord with me each of the 7 times I had to connect with them over a course of six months. It all started when the lockdown fell in place in March & UK had to either cancel the flights I had booked or put me on a different flight on more than one occasion. When they had to cancel, they didn’t reduce the rescheduling option (it remained at 2 until I made any request for the same). And on occasions when I had used both of my rescheduling options and they had to cancel the resultant flight, I still got an additional waiver (which I was told when I called them to reschedule the flights). The rescheduling waiver came in very handy, esp when the states were coming up with their own lockdown measures (be it personal/institutional quarantine or other restrictions) as well and I made good use of those.
    I did write to Vistara about the fabulous handling of my situations each time, which I thought was the least I could do, but also because there was this sense of relief & gratitude that I felt for them and didn’t want to hold back on complimenting them.

  4. Dear Vistara Airlines,

    I booked ticket in Indigo and Air Vistara.Due to passenger got infected with Covid 19,could not able to travel. But indigo customer care is good and they they understood our problems and rescheduled our tickets and returned my balance money. But vistara does not have proper customer care executive with knowledge about their bookings or their policies. They did not return our money and no one has the knowledge about bookings. They did not either reschedule or return by booking money. Poor service and poor guy. Let them eat our hard earned money and become rich. I have made myself consoled by assuming that have contributed to my 12k to poor vistara airlines. Poor service ….Good Job Indigo and customer service is amazing..Keep up the zeal and your airlines will succeed.

  5. This is what most people dont get. Good service is not people bending over and being servile in the good times. Good service is helping your customer when the poop hits the pankha

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