As a new mother to a four-month-old, finding the time and brain space to write this blog is a testament to how overwhelmed I am after my recent travel nightmares with IndiGo Airlines.
In December, I booked IndiGo to fly out of Delhi with my newborn, then 40 days old. I chose IndiGo after carefully reading the infant travel policies of different airlines and checking for the most convenient flights.
When I called the airline to book infant travel and block the front row seats, I learnt that IndiGo allows passengers with infants to sit only in the back rows, that too 23rd and beyond. But I need the extra leg room with a baby, I argued.
I was told the speakers are too loud at the front and that the air pressure is "dangerous" for a baby at the front. I called other airlines to crosscheck and learnt that these were just excuses to deny me the seats I wanted.
After I tweeted about IndiGo's infant travel policy, customer relations apologized for what they called a "misunderstanding". Not only were we given the front row, but we were greeted with a handmade card and a bouquet at the airport by the airline's staff. I tweeted to thank them, hoping fervently that these courtesies are not limited to a journalist who called them out, that this is their gesture for any woman travelling with an infant.
Alas, this was not the happy end we thought it was.
This month, I once again booked an IndiGo flight to Goa with my baby son. Counting on the airline to keep its promise, I booked, paid, and confirmed front row seats. The customer relations staff confirmed that infant services have been added to my seat and sent me a payment link. I had an unadventurous flight on seat 1F.
Five days later, on the flight back from Goa, I was seated on the same 1F seat. But just before take-off, three male employees approached me and ordered me to move to the back. They threatened to hold the flight until I vacated my seat.
The men argued with me while I was feeding. They refused to look at my previous boarding pass and said they couldn't possibly allow me to fly in the front row because - you guessed it - no oxygen masks for infants and it is "dangerous".
My baby started wailing and I didn't have the energy to fight. So, I buttoned up and went to the back rows. With hardly any leg room, my feeding pillow and my baby, I sat there, seething about being forced to get up while breastfeeding, angry at the incessant misinformation, and overwhelmed that my baby was crying.
Sure enough, a card and a bouquet were waiting for me at the airport, and again, an apologetic airline employee. This time, an apology would not cut it.
According to many news articles dated 2016, IndiGo took a decision to not offer extra leg room seats to passengers traveling with infants or young children, but they don't declare that in their infant travel policy or anywhere on their website.
I reached out to IndiGo with specific questions on whether the airline has a quiet zone or child-free zone. And if so, why it's not specified on the website under infant travel. So far, I have no response.
I am not judging the merits of the policy. I am questioning IndiGo's decision to be ambiguous, vague and misleading to people travelling with young children. Why is the airline training its staff to mislead and misinform? "Too loud, no air pressure and no oxygen masks" - these are terrifying scenarios to casually hand out to people.
Why can't the airline be transparent and let people make informed choices?
If you do have a quiet zone, then own it, and advertise it.
I may even book it when I am traveling without my son.
Postscript: After this blog was posted on March 22, I got the following response from IndiGo Airlines today: We have taken cognisance of the issue and are working towards a well-defined infant policy to avoid any such experiences in the future. IndiGo is conscious of the needs of its valued customers and it is our constant endeavour to provide a courteous and hassle-free experience to all.
(Rishika Baruah is News Editor & Senior Anchor, NDTV.)
Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.