One of my friends was returning from the US recently, and he needed to book a few tickets for domestic flights which he asked me to do.
The way I book my tickets usually is this: Go to Travelguru and Cleartrip, search for flights, pick the best one (in my experience no one site gives a complete list) and then book directly from the airline’s website.
However, the flight I had to book was on Indian which has a slightly cumbersome booking process plus there was a discount on Cleartrip so I decided to give them a try. Here’s my review.
The first half: Booking and Ticket Delivery
In one word: Brilliant.
2. You don’t need to sign up for the first booking (but if you do another booking from the same email address you need to create an account).
3. The paper ticket was delivered the next day – very prompt.
The second half: Cancellation and Refund
This is where things get murky.
1. I discovered one of the key revenue sources for these travel portals : ticket cancellation. They charge a fixed Rs. 250 for each cancellation over and above the airline cancellation charges (though I must add in all fairness that they do state it on their booking receipt), plus take 30 days (!) to refund your money. Last I remember credit card refunds were quite prompt (Air Deccan refunds your money within 4-5 business days.)
2. If you are cancelling a ticket with less than 24 hours remaining for the flight, you have to cancel directly from the airline. Which is fine, but in this case the entire process needs some cleaning up. I had an e-ticket for Air Sahara. First off what Air Sahara calls PNR and what Cleartrip calls PNR are two different things (while in the case of Air Deccan it isn’t). Anyway after the Sahara customer service executive located the ticket through a passenger name search, he needed the ticket number to cancel the ticket. This was nowhere to be found. Not on my Cleartrip account, not on the Booking confirmation page they ask you to print out. Not even in the email link they sent me (which redirects to an itinerary page on virtuallythere.com)
Anyway after a lot of searching, I found this number on the eTicket receipt on the itinerary page, but you will never know that until you have clicked on multiple links on the left, which I wonder how many will do.
Further the airline gives you a cancellation reference which you then have to give back to Cleartrip before they cancel your ticket at their end and you can get your refund (after 30 days!).
So, verdict: Back to the basics. For airline bookings, I will use these sites as meta search engines to locate the best flight, but book directly from the airline – at least for a low frequency traveller like myself.