OMG. I just can’t believe what I saw last evening, so I had to sleep on it before writing about it. Air India, the sole airline which can be used right now to fly outside of India, had a vast lineup of flights to offer, up to 70+ just to North America on this round of their sale. Since there were more flights, there were also more hopes that people would be able to buy them smoothly and move on with their lives.
Air India announced that they would start bookings at 5 PM on June 5, and sure enough, they did.
However, Air India did not seem to have scaled up their capacity, even though their new booking system appears to have the ability to do so, with top-of-the-line CDN and cloud infrastructure company Cloudflare running their booking engine now. As a result, their website crashed on everyone who was trying to book. In Indian terms, think IRCTC at 10 AM when bookings open. People were not very happy. Here is the experience of someone I’ve been in touch with during the lockdown, and hence a verified experience.
Took us ONLY 2.5 hours, 200 attempts , 8 declined cards, 2 blocked IP addresses, 4 ppl and 10 devices to book 2 tickets on #vVBM flights.Thanks for the WONDERFUL experience, @HardeepSPuri @MoCA_GoI take a bow for chosing AI. #boycottAIafterVBM #Shame #NeverAgain #BJPFailsIndia
— Swati Lodha (@CygnusLodha) June 6, 2020
Here is the experience of a friend, who has been stuck in India since she a few months.
On it since 5pm… no luck., flights not visible under booking & calls have been on hold for hours only to drop off in the end… no luck getting through.. 🙄
— Navleen Khalsa (@NavleenKhalsa) June 5, 2020
In their defence, Air India pleaded that their website had received 60 million hits in two hours, which is exceptional from their perspective.
Before we get impressed with the hits, a hit is not the same as a full website loading and Air India might be just fishing for sympathy talking about the lowest number they could go for. For instance, I counted over 100 hits (each image is a hit, each file they fetch is a hit. Here is a useful reference for what is a hit v/s a pageview.) for the home page of www.airindia.in and I did not even count till the end. Which means, if everyone started their visit to the Air India website there, would be 6 lakh visitors to the Air India website.
60,000,000/100 = 600,000 (6 Lakhs)
Let’s not forget that the Air India website passes you on to the booking engine which has at least 6-8 pages (flight selection, seat selection, passenger details, confirming that you are aware of the rules, payments, ticket generation are some of the ones I can remember from memory) and hence I would imagine, Air India got only a lakh visitors in the first couple of hours, which does not look like a significant number. In which case, it is a pity that Air India’s website crashed with such a small amount of traffic.
For reference, Air India, in a full month, gets between 3-4 million sessions (one session is one complete journey of accessing the website, booking a ticket/check-in/log in to FFP account etc.), which means about 1 lakh a day.
It just means that Air India got days worth of traffic in two hours, which explains the crashing of the website. Still, it does not explain why Air India could not have scaled up their engines, even temporarily, to ensure that everyone got a smooth experience and was able to book tickets.
However, the good news is, as of noon June 6, there are still ample tickets available to head to the USA if you are looking for one. Here is a screengrab from just now for the Mumbai Newark flights.
Air India’s website went flaky just like Mumbai goes flaky at the hint of rain. However, things are back to normal now, and you should be able to book a ticket from India to Europe, USA, Canada, Asia, Australasia if you are looking for one. Don’t wait forever, though, book fast. The app would be a better idea than the website, though.
What was your experience booking tickets via Air India though for one of these repatriation flights?
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