Home > Get Ahead > Leisure > Travel
How I caught a cheap flight
Merril Diniz |
January 03, 2006
The best thing about a vacation is that suddenly time is of no consequence. The worst thing about a vacation is all the permuting and combining one has to do in the quest for the cheapest travel fares possible.
I used to travel to Goa only by bus or train. But ever since the budget airlines burst out of the skies, I've switched preferences.
Volvos no matter how luxurious mean backbreaking experiences for me and overnight journeys by trains are no fun if all you get to see is pitch darkness as opposed to picturesque green fields.
Besides, you will undoubtedly have a bevy of rambunctious kids in the same compartment who will wail through the night. If you are a single traveller, you will have some family or the other requesting you (with woebegone expressions) to exchange bunks or compartments, as a result of which you get shunted around like a piece of luggage.
Zeroing in on an airline
On a recent trip to Goa, I scoured the Internet for reasonable flight fares. I couldn't find any of the promised figures (Rs 899 and the like). I visited the web sites of SpiceJet, Air Deccan, Kingfisher Airlines, Air Sahara etc and did individual searches. But most of the prices started from Rs 2,000 onwards and the chances of a return ticket for the December 26 ranged from remote to none.
I decided to use Fare Search, a facility that throws up a list of possibilities along with fares and timings of flights, once you type in the relevant information like dates of travel and preferred timings.
The results of the search indicated that Go Air, a budget airline, which had just been launched a few weeks before, was offering the lowest rates.
I had to be back in Mumbai on December 26 which was rather ambitious. There was a flight scheduled for a 3.10 pm departure from Goa. But every time I tried to do the booking online it kept timing out. Finally, I called customer service for advice.
The GoAir representative at the receiving end was pretty helpful and offered to do the bookings for me. Getting a booking for my return trip took more time, and I ultimately got a seat at a higher price. I gave the representative my credit card number and the transaction was completed.
Note: You need to pay service tax on any ticket and an additional amount of Rs 50 service charge per ticket if customer service does your booking.
Mumbai to Goa: Rs 1,999 + Rs 221 + 50 = Rs 2,270
Goa to Mumbai: Rs 2,149 + Rs 221 + 50 = Rs 2,420
Note down the PNR number and ticket numbers. You will get an e-mail notification with your flight details. You can also book a seat number depending on whether you prefer an aisle or a window seat. Personally I like the window seat. The view from the clouds is breathtaking.
Mumbai to Goa
You are, of course, supposed to report an hour earlier. My flight was at 1.30 pm and I was running late. Very late. As I entered the Santa Cruz Domestic Airport it was already 1.10 on my watch and I was quite nervous about missing the flight. Of course when one is on time nothing can go wrong. But when one is late…
I entered the departure terminal only to be told that the GoAir counters were in another terminal. The van, which transports passengers between terminals was parked nearby but I couldn't see the driver. A rickshaw driver approached me saying he would drive me there. He wore the expression of a tout. I bundled myself into the rickshaw with my luggage and he said it would cost me Rs 40, no meter. How far is it? Depending on traffic he said it could take 20 minutes! My heart sank.
It turns out that the Go Air departure counters are located along with Kingfisher Airlines in the arrivals terminal. And it takes about five to ten minutes to get there.
The airline personnel were very helpful and the check-in was smooth. But the flight was delayed by about an hour. No explanation was given as to why there was a delay. When it did finally take off, I drifted off into sweet slumber only to be woken by a very disturbing growling sound. I soon realised it was coming from my stomach. The family seated next to me brought out their packets of wafers and biscuits as the airline wasn't selling any food on board. They offered some to me and I had their wafers quite willingly.
As the plane approached Goa it continued to circle in the air because it had not received a signal for landing. With the rise in air traffic, delays such as these may be inevitable.
Goa to Mumbai
My stay in Goa turned out to be a gastronomic delight. One week disappeared in a flash and soon, it was time to return to Mumbai. This time I reached the airport on time and also ate a sumptuous lunch before leaving home.
Again the flight was delayed. This time we were offered an explanation -- due to the fog the flight was delayed from Jaipur and so on and so forth.
I read a book at the airport lounge. It seemed as if all flights were delayed and announcements of regret were being made over the intercom every now and then. Finally we boarded the flight an hour later. This time they did serve food onboard -- packaged juice (Rs 20), potato wafers in various flavours (Rs 20 for a packet) and a snack box comprising a cheese sandwich, a slice of fruitcake and potato wafers for Rs 40. I didn't buy anything as mum's Rechado Prawns, Coconut Curry and rice were still churning in my tummy.
Enjoy the difference -- that is the tagline for GoAir. I didn't find any specific difference as such, except that the size of the plane was big for a budget airline (an Airbus 320, which is pretty spacious), some members of the cabin crew were foreigners and the male flight attendents were rather good-looking.
The flight fares are cheaper and that was the only attraction. But the cabin crew and ground personnel are polite, cooperative and pleasant just like GoAir's rainbow of signature colours ie blue, pink, green etc
I do hope that the fares remain competitive so that more of us mere mortals can jet-set to Goa in a jiffy.
How to book
- MTNL/BSNL: 1600-222-111
- All phones: 09223-222-111
Web site: http://www.goair.in/
What is your experience with budget travel?
Do you know of any short-cuts/booking tricks to travel cheaper? Post your tips and experiences.
Don't forget to mention your name, age, profession and location.