Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Springtime for Mallya

I recently saw a movie where the producer generates finance for his Broadway shows by conning little old ladies. He wins their trust and shows them da love, only to pocket their "checkees". Air Deccan, that charming seducer who forever changed the way Indians view flying, seems to have gone down the same path.

Most people I know, especially the older lot who is not so familiar with the Internet and its resident evils, equate flying with Air Deccan and Air Deccan with the concept of e-tickets. They still believe that Air Deccan spells low-cost, decent quality travel, easy ticket booking and Captain Gopinath's idealism.

Enter Mallya.

Simplifly Deccan today, renamed and recolored, is only too happy to use the trust of those very same people to con them with fine-print and complicated web user-interface. The best part is most people, like Max Bialystock's little old ladies, would go on living happy lives in their blissfull ignorance. Which is good, in a way, I guess.

What they do is add a default insurance charge to every ticket. This lets them pick-pocket a cool Rs.99 in the blink of an eye when you book online. While this itself is not wrong, the way they do it is. Yes, the break up and total charges show up on top of the page.The option to refuse insurance is further down the page, lost among the terms and conditions. The idea being that once a certain price is OK, people tend to skip the fine-print and go straight to the "BOOK NOW" button.

Even a net-savvy person like me caught this only because the website I use to book my travel (god bless them!!) have put a warning below their Deccan listing to this effect. I wonder how many little old ladies have contributed Rs.99 to Mallya's PYT fund.


The story in pictures:

Deccan flight to Pune shows up as costing Rs.3175 on www.ixigo.com

www.ixigo.com thoughtfully places a warning to alert users against Deccan's trick. This warning is not available to users of other travel websites or those booking direct at Deccan website.

The Deccan website now shows the same fare as Rs.3274 (instead of Rs.3175). An nominal increase of Rs.99 a layman might assume is merely another one of those "surcharges".

Option to refuse insurance does not come before the total fare is shown. It does not come even in the next section. It is cached among lots of T&C looking text, after the passenger details are entered (means, one has mentally moved on from thinking about fare related details)

The correct fare Rs.3175 is shown, same as Ixigo, once we remember to deselect the insurance charge.


Karthick Gopal said...

I don't think this was personally Mallya's scheming however it does tarnish his name.

Great find and excellent blog post :).

Vidooshak said...

Yes, i agree with you. However, a many companies tend to be personality-driven. if you recall the early days of Deccan, the whole attitude and policies of that airline reflected the integrity and simplicity of Capt Gopinath. similarly, Apple's revolutionary designs are reflective of Steve Jobs adventurous thinking.

while i don't expect mallya to be involved in day-to-day workings at KF airline, his staff would be designing policies the way they think would please him.

anyway, this is just an example. i believe ALL airlines will keep trying to rip us off until they have an aviation regulator to take them to task. just the way mobile operators had a field day charging Rs.24 a minute even on incoming calls till TRAI came in...

thanks for reading, rating and commenting (RRC) :-)

Mama - Mia said...


so often a small 'amount' of cheating can make so much money for someone else!

till someone like you comes and actches it! :)

you should really blog more often! :)