Whenever we are on a vacation we often have a tendency to start planning and thinking of our next holiday! Many of us travel to India to meet family and friends but at times we just want to visit India to see all the beautiful places. There is so much cultural variety in India that just by travelling from the North to the South, one might get the feeling that one has visited many different countries.

The main steps towards planning begin with first deciding the place that you want to visit and then making all the bookings yourself or through some travel agent.

On today’s show I spoke to Raj Kumar, CEO and MD of Vacations Group and Tickets to India about planning a trip to India. He spoke about starting his company in 1972 and said that travel in those days was relatively simple and manual. People used to make bookings face to face and there was a personal touch to every booking. The travel industry has changed a lot since then with the digital burst. He said that earlier fewer people travelled and so there were limited travel agents and airlines, trips themselves were expensive while today even some from a middle class background can afford to go on trips regularly.

There is a lot of movement of traffic between India and UK and because of that the airlines capacity has grown. Initially there used to be high and low seasons but that is not the case anymore. People travel all year round.

At times people get cheated into paying for flights and then end up not receiving any confirmed tickets, and since people have paid online they might not even be able to retrieve their money. Also we book hotels to stay at by looking at online pictures and they can at times be deceptive. He said that people need to check the authenticity of the websites before making any payments and that can be done by finding out if they are IATA members and the ATOL icon is present on the website and if that icon is present then by clicking on it you should get a new page open for ATOL. If the website does not open on clicking the icon then there is a possibility that the website may not be trusted. The ATOL icon can usually be found on the header or the footer of the website. It should be clearly visible and not hidden in some corner. He also stressed that people should always check that there are no extra hidden charges.

Raj said that the rates of the flight tickets also go up as the travel date comes nearer. So if someone is planning to travel to India in the month of December they need to book their flights by May. He also spoke about the cancellations and date change policies of different airlines, saying that at times if the booking is made through an agent then the cancellation or changes also need to be made through the agent and the airline may not agree to make any changes to it. The fees that the airlines charge for the cancellations can be different, at times they are very high and adding to it the service charges of the agent it can be an expensive affair.

Another important thing to keep in mind according to him is that on making the payment for booking any flight people first receive an automated email giving the flight details, but this is not the final confirmed ticket, it is just the acknowledgement of the booking which is auto generated. The confirmed ticket is usually issued and sent in the next few hours and will contain the PNR or the ticket number.

Sometimes people miss their flights for reasons which are not in their control. But whatever the reason for not being able to reach on time people will hardly be reimbursed for the missed flight and will have to make another booking to be able to travel. He strongly advised people to leave for the airport with a lot of time in hand to avoid traffic problems or any other problems in reaching the airport.

People called in describing the ordeal they faced due to being stranded at the airport because of missing the connecting flight or because of an emergency landing. Speaking about connecting flights, he said that the laws in the UK regarding missing the next connecting flight if the first one was delayed are very strict. But when people are travelling to India the halt is usually in the Middle-Eastern countries where the rules are usually different. However, according to him, it is the moral responsibility of the airline that they should provide accommodation. Some airlines do provide accommodation and some do not. He suggests keeping 2 or more hours between flights and also booking the same airline for both flights to avoid the risk of missing it.

Raj also said that when booking hotels or accommodation options online it is best to use an agent who is registered in the UK because the UK laws will be applicable to them and if the room is not as it was portrayed in the pictures or if you face any other problem after reaching there then the agent will have to provide you with alternative accommodation or solve any issue that you might face. If a local agent is used then there is no guarantee that any problems faced will be resolved.

People who have trouble walking in the airport premises usually book wheelchairs in advance for themselves but at times on reaching the airport they are informed that there are no wheelchairs available and they are requested to walk some distance. Raj strongly advised people to not take no for an answer if they need wheelchair assistance. It is the responsibility of the airline with which people have booked to make sure that there are wheelchairs available. If they don’t do that then people need to lodge a complaint with the airline. The British Airport Authority is responsible for providing the wheel chairs and people need to write to the airline and also the British Airport Authority to lodge a complaint.

Raj gave the following tips for travellers to keep in mind before travelling:

  • Book in advance
  • Make sure you have insurance
  • Look for good authentic websites

I had a great time talking to Kumar about travel and learning about the precautions to take before making any online bookings.