Air Costa, Where is your Customer Centricity?

Air Costa is a small, Vijaywada (India) headquartered airlines that seemed to have specialised on some routines (like Chennai-Jaipur, Chennai-Ahmedabad) connecting South India with some key towns in the North and West India. The airlines seemed to create a niche for itself by connecting towns that had no direct flight by other major airlines.

Take the example of the Chennai-Jaipur sector. With no other airlines connecting the two cities with direct flights, Air Costa launched one and became a preferred choice for me over the last two years. The airlines clocked the sector in two hours and twenty minutes flat while the other airlines took four and a half hours with their hopping flights.

Therefore, despite being a Jet Privilege member, I preferred Air Costa whenever I travelled on the Chennai-Jaipur or Chennai-Ahmedabad sectors.

However, the way Air Costa treated passengers like me recently on the Chennai-Jaipur sector during the peak 2015 Christmas-New Year season has left a bad taste and has forced me to take a pledge – never again travel by Air Costa. It is better to rely on the likes of Jet Airways as they are not only more reliable but also highly customer friendly.

I had my Silver Jubilee school reunion planned in Rajasthan during Christmas of 2015. I therefore booked to-and-fro tickets for the entire family with Air Costa in September 2015 itself. On December 21st, 2015, I got a shocker of a call from Air Costa that all flights on the Chennai-Jaipur sector between 26th December 2015 and 4th January 2016 had been cancelled.

Since I was leaving for Jaipur on 23rd December 2015 itself, that flight was confirmed but the return flight on 2nd January 2016 for all family members was summarily cancelled. The terse communication from Ait Costa was that the flights were being cancelled due to ‘operational reasons’ and that the booking amount was being refunded.

I had the following objections to what Air Costa had done.

  • The cancellation was last minute. With fares sky rocketing by December 21st 2015, any alternative bookings would cause immense financial loss to customers like me, who had bookings done for the entire family.
  • Air Costa, despite repeated requests, didn’t divulge the ‘operational reasons’ that resulted in cancellation of flights. Why? Clearly, the cancellation had something to do with gross negligence and dereliction of duty somewhere within their system – reasons behind which they knew they would not be able to hide. I will speculate on the reasons a bit later.
  • Air Costa decided that it would neither book the passengers in alternative flights with other airlines nor re-imburse the excess ticket cost incurred by me in alternative bookings owing to the last minute cancellation.

When Air Costa didn’t respond favourably to my request for booking us in alternative flights of other airlines, I had to book our return flight with Indigo, incurring more than double the original cost of tickets. Not only that, I lost two days of the family vacation as I had to pre-pone my return journey to keep the financial impact of the rebooking within reasonable limits (else, the cost to me would have been 3x the original cost).

Air Costa turned down my request for reimbursing the excess fare incurred, citing some rules. This was grossly unfair which has forced me to do three things :-

  • Write this blog post, so that the readers are aware of the pitfalls of flying with Air Costa.
  • Put up a formal complaint with the DGCA and request for justice from an erring airline.
  • Take a pledge to never ever fly with Air Costa in future.

On the probable reasons on why Air Costa summarily cancelled the peak season flights at the last minute, there are two theories doing the rounds.

  • The aircraft flying the Chennai-Jaipur sector had to undergo a repair by 31st December 2015; mandated by some guidelines, something which the Air Costa management knew well in advance yet didn’t plan the repair. I think the airlines realised only as late as December that the repairs were mandated by guidelines and couldn’t be avoided, resulting in the last minute cancellation. If this theory is true, it’s a clear case of gross negligence and poor management by Air Costa. Air Costa not only didn’t arrange for an alternative aircraft but also continued to accept flight bookings.
  • The aircraft flying the Jaipur-Chennai sector was put on duty on some other, more lucrative sectors during the peak season. If this theory is true, nothing could be more unfair to the customers.

Please note that I am forced to speculate on the reasons of cancellation as Air Costa refuses to divulge the actual reason till date. My assessment is based on my informal chats with the Air Costa ground staff and some fellow passengers.

I shall be forwarding this blog post to DGCA as well and request that

  • My blog post be treated as a formal complaint against Air Costa.
  • The DGCA should investigate the real reasons behind the en-masse cancellation of Air Costa flights from 26th December 2015 to 4th January 2016 which put the customers at extreme inconvenience and financial distress during peak season.
  • If the DGCA finds that it was gross negligence and dereliction of duty within the Air Costa system that was behind the cancellations, the airlines must be appropriately penalised.
  • I request the DGCA  to direct Air Costa to reimburse my return fare on actuals. Mere refund of my September 2015 booking amount would be grossly unfair, considering the circumstances.

I have learnt my lesson from the episode. Always trust the airlines which have painstakingly built their reputation over the years instead of betting on some rooky novices like Air Costa which can ditch the customers at any point of time.

About Aman Sharma

Management Professional.
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2 Responses to Air Costa, Where is your Customer Centricity?

  1. Harish says:

    Agree that Operational reasons should be explained, and state things which are in their control, and not in their control. Gives us the feeling of comfort, and expands our understanding if reason is beyond Airline Control. Recently, Our flight was about to land in Ahmedabad, and Captain delayed landing by 30mins. Stating Operational Reasons. We were all horrified, we are 10,000feet above ground, and not able to land, clearly seeing the landing strip from window. Later, Captain mentioned it was beyond their control, as ATC stopped landings for 30mins. Captain had to do circles around airport, and later landed safely. “Clarity erases confusion, and confusion creates assumptions”. Hope the Airline Industry understands this simple statement.

    • Aman Sharma says:

      Exactly Harish! I requested repeatedly on mail to confirm the reason for cancellation but the airline was not forthcoming. I have reasons to believe that the reason for cancellation is untenable and they know they won’t be able to hide behind the reason. This has something to do with management ineptitude for which the customers must not be penalised. I have written to DGCA separately requesting them to investigate the reason of cancellation and then take appropriate action.

      Thanks for writing in!


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