We had planned to visit Ladakh in late April, and found out that the best way to get there was to either do a road trip from Srinagar to Leh or simply fly there. The route from Manali to Leh via the Rohtang Pass would not be open in April-end because of the snow/weather. Besides, it is widely recommended that one should do the Leh-Manali route after having stayed at Leh, on the way back down. This is because the altitude changes very rapidly via this route as opposed to the Srinagar-Leh route, which is a relatively more gradual change. So, by the time you are done with your Leh trip, your body is already acclimatized to the high altitudes of the majestic Himalayan region. However, the road trip from Srinagar to Leh was also ruled out because the security situation in Srinagar was not stable at the time of our planning. Our only option was to fly. Flights to Leh from Mumbai (or for that matter from anywhere in India) tend to be quite expensive, as Leh has been getting increasing attention from Indian and foreign tourists lately. The demand surge for Ladakh in the last 5 years has been immense. So, the best thing we could do was to get our hands on the best flight tickets that we could find. We booked our flight tickets real early (more than 7 months in advance!), and were rewarded with amazing ticket prices on the full service Jet Airways.
With travel sorted out, we moved on to the planning of some other parts of our trip. However, in early February we got a text message from Jet Airways stating the following:
“Dear Guest, We regret to inform your flight 9W …… stands cancelled. Please call us on …. to rebook or contact your travel agent for refund”
My first reaction was surprise. Would it be possible that there weren’t enough people booked on the flight? It probably couldn’t be, because there were still 2.5 months to go and there was enough time for people to still book their tickets. It could not be a weather related issue either, as no one can predict the weather so far in advance. Whatever it was, it left me a little confused. Our hotels were also planned around our flight dates and I had paid an advance amount to a hotel in Leh. This whole rescheduling business would mess up my entire itinerary.
So I called up Jet Airways, and interestingly the folks over there did not know anything about this cancellation. More amusingly, they asked me to give them a call 2 weeks before my scheduled departure date to check about the situation. This is perhaps the most haphazard piece of advice I have ever received from an official representative of a major airline. Wait until 2 weeks before departure? And what happens if the flight is indeed cancelled, and all other alternate flights are sold out by then? Do I just drop everything then?
Unfazed by what had just happened, I called again after an hour, hoping to get another representative on the phone who would be a little more understanding and responsible. I explained the entire situation and the text message which I had received. After patiently hearing me out and checking on his end, the rep informed me that there indeed was a cancellation. Jet had basically cancelled the entire flight. The rep could not give me a reason as to why it happened, but offered to change my flight dates on both my forward and return journeys, since I had booked a round trip ticket. All of this was to be done free of cost. I moved my flights one day early, as that would also allow me to easily reschedule with the hotels in Leh. 1 day was not a big change and was quite manageable.
In the end, I was lucky to find a solution so quickly without any major trouble. But, the whole episode just reinforces one of the most common things about travel: You never know what is going to come your way when you travel and so, you should go with the flow and be flexible in your approach. Only then can you truly enjoy the excitement and the unpredictability that comes with traveling.