Hundreds of passengers booked to travel on Kingfisher Airlines flights on Sunday either shelled out more money to find last-minute seats on other airlines or cancelled their journey as the airline cancelled 16 flights scheduled to take off from the Mumbai airport.
Fortunately, terminals at the city airport were not crowded with stranded passengers as it was a holiday. However, the scenario could get ugly by Monday if the cash-strapped carrier fails to streamline operations.
Although passenger traffic was limited on Sunday, a few desperate travellers ended up spending Rs2,000 to Rs3,000 extra per ticket for last-minute seats in other airlines.
"We have asked Kingfisher Airlines for a full refund and requested other domestic carriers to charge spillover passengers reasonably," said Iqbal Mulla, president, Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI).
He added that travel agents have cautioned fliers about the uncertainly in Kingfisher flight schedules. "We are booking only those passengers who are willing to take the risk," he said.
Kingfisher passengers set to travel in the next two days complained that updates received from the airline's call centre were confusing. Nikhil Parmar, a senior IT executive travelling to Chandigarh on Monday, said he received three text messages from the airline's call centre giving three different updates on his flight's status.
"I don't know which one to believe," said the 37-year-old. In exasperation, Parmar called his travel agent but that did not help either. "The agent said that he had not received any communication from the airline on the matter," he said.
Going by the flight cancellations on Sunday, airport officials said that travellers to metro cities as well as small towns are likely to face delays and disruptions on Monday. The 16 flights cancelled on Sunday catered to fliers from Delhi to Kochi (see box).
Since airline offices were shut owing to the long weekend, travel agents said they could do little to re-book passengers desperate to travel on Sunday.
"Most passengers are forced to get a re-booking from other airline counters at the airport," said Jay Bhatia, western region chairman of TAAI.
He added, "Now passengers are wary of booking Kingfisher tickets even if they are available for free."