Saturday, June 2, 2012

Spaceline World Travel–A Recipe for Disaster

     

      Few days back I and my wife decided to take off to an exotic place and selected Thailand. We have been to one of the European tour through SOTC (Tour Operators) before but they usually operate in a group which sucks. Therefore I took a recommendation from a friend; who just had been to Thailand through a small time private tour operator called Spaceline Holidays India Pvt Ltd. They are located in Jayanagar 4th Block,

Prelim Talks

When we approached them; they went on telling us how gorgeous the place is and how well they organise the tour. I still remember the Cinderella story narrated to us by the chief operator Mr. Raja. He elucidated us how stunning our tour would be by breaking up each element one by one that will happen over the period of next 5 days on the trip. We were also given following precautions/facts/suggestions,

a. Carry only 5000 THB because that amount will be more than enough.
b. No need to carry cell phone because you are going on holidays.
b. Their tour guide is incredible and knows everything in Thailand, if we need anything; we can ask him anytime.
c. We will be given great cars for all the travel transfers.
d. We were just given the name of the tour guide; Tawan and were shown picture just once. We were guaranteed that he will be there to receive us.
e. We were given hotel bookings invoice and air tickets.

Day wise experience

Day 0 - The day arrived when we had to travel. We anticipated but were never given a call from Spaceline to ensure that we take flight at right time. But anyways the flight was good.

Day 1 – We landed at Bangkok airport at around 6:30 am. There we had to be greeted by Sapceline’s tour guide ‘Tawan’ at 7:30 am “sharp” (As emphasized by Mr. Raja countless times in our prelim talks). We were asked to leave from gate B and he will get us. We were also rapt by their proficiency and hence, were relaxed. Once we got out of gate B; there were lots of people but nobody seemed to have noticed us. We looked around for Tawan but since we had seen his photo just once; we were clueless. Finally after 45 annoying minutes we had to buy a sim card because there was no other way to find him but to call. When we called him, what we could comprehend was that he was still at his home !! I am sure that if there was someone else in our place; they would have taken next flight back home.

      Finally he came after another 45 agonizing minutes and welcomed us as if nothing happened. He told us that he go pickpocketed and lost everything, that’s why he was late. These kind of justifications are already timeworn in India but since we were in a new city, we accepted his words. He had arranged Toyota Camry for us to take us to Pattaya.

      We were impressed by the car but when we seated inside Tawan asked us a favour. Since he lost his wallet he asked us to pay the chauffeur 1000 THB and another 2000 THB to the hotel in Pattaya. He swore that he will return 3000 THB at around 12:30 when he will come to take us out for lunch. We already had spent 2400 THB on Visa and we were asked not to carry more than 5000 THB !!! By the way the moment we were about 10 minutes into our voyage to Pattaya; Tawan called and told us that he found his wallet, lucky right ??

      We touched Pattaya soon and got refreshed. It was soon 12, 12:30 and 1 pm but there was no sign or call from Tawan. At last we only had to call him up, he said that he just started and it will take him another 2 hours to reach. He told us the hotel name where we can go and have our lunch. We were exhausted, we were in new country and we were starving; instead of pleasing us or make our stay relaxed, we were asked to go on a quest for the restaurant where we can find our food !! Are you fucking kidding me ?

      We finally found the restaurant but it seemed like no one knew who Tawan is !! I had to call him yet again, he spoke to the owner and at last at 2 pm we got food.

      Tawan came at around 4:30 and began telling how he had to pick up his wife and then drop his daughter to swimming lessons. This idiot did not even summon up what story he had told us before, anyways he gave us our money and fixed our arrangements for the next day. That night we went to the same diner to have our food. Mr. Tawan never even called to check if we have had our dinner.

Day 2 – Tawan had fixed all the arrangements with the third party operators on Day 1 itself. Hence the day went without any suffering because Tawan wasn’t involved. By the way the whole day Tawan never called to inquire how was the day or did we have our lunch or dinner. Professionalism my ass.

Day 3 – We had to start for Bangkok at around 10, touch Bangkok in 2 hours, go for a swift city tour and have slight late lunch at about 2. Tawan/Spaceline had organized a car/minivan which could not go beyond 80 kmph and hence it took us virtually 4 hours to get to Bangkok. But halfway we made a halt to purchase some munchies and there our driver, Sompone got a ring from Tawan. Tawan told me that Sompone has forgotten his wallet at home and he needs to get the gas filled, so I should pay Sompone 1000 THB which Tawan will return at the hotel in Bangkok.

      He caught us off-guard and we did not have any choice but to pay the driver. We showed up at Bangkok at around 2 which originally was our lunch time. I called Tawan that we want to go for lunch first which he declined graciously and demanded us to go for city tour first after which Sompone will drop us to the hotel. Where Tawan will be waiting to get us checked into the hotel. Again we had no other choice but to agree.

      We concluded the city tour by 3 pm and we were dropped at our hotel by 4. By this time I was pissed off and somehow we knew that we will not find Tawan waiting for us. We went to the hotel and as expected Tawan was nowhere visible, hence we went ahead and checked-in. While checking in we had to deposit 100$; refundable at the time of checkout (Don’t carry more than 5000 THB, my foot). We checked in and called Tawan for lunch, upon which he asked how’s the room ? That substantiated that he had no intensions to turn up in hotel either.

      He asked us to come out and meet him at a certain point just outside the hotel. We reached there and he wasn’t there !! I called him yet again, this time he said, cross the road and I will find a hotel with the name Punjabi. We went there and asked if Tawan has booked a meal for us but guess what the reply was, who is Tawan ?

      So I called him again and this time I screamed my guts out on Tawan and hung up. He straightaway called me back and asked us to go to yet another Restaurant and order anything we want. We went there and ordered 2 meals and a juice.

      Tawan lastly showed up, he asked sorry and gave me 1000 THB. After we were done eating he asked me to pay for the juice, I was shocked to hear that. On one hand you are doing nothing, spoiling someone’s trip and when you asked them to order anything; is it you who will decide what are you going to pay for what customer ordered ? Bloody morons, Tawan and Spaceline both.

Day 4 – We had a plan to tour the Safari world the whole day and Tawan wasn’t involved but we were all set for any kind of situation now. En route to Safari World Sompone got a call from Tawan for me, asking 1000 THB because Sompone needs to get vehicle alright. To which I politely said that I have left my wallet in the hotel.

      Rest of the day was peaceful and as usual the whole day he never even troubled to ask if we had good day or did we have lunch or dinner. Bloody sick buggers.

Day 5 – No Tawan, no plans only shopping. We had flight 10 in the evening and yet for some strange reason the lunch and dinner wasn’t included in the tour. It was our error to overlook it but a clever Spaceline’s tact to fool their customer.

      According to me our flight back was at 10 in the night but while having lunch I was eavesdropping to the next table. A group was chatting about their flight being at 8 which was odd !! My wife instantly asked me to validate the tickets again. I took a look at my tickets again and in horror I saw that the flight in fact was at 8, all this time I was looking the arrival time at Bangalore which was 10 pm. Neither Spaceline nor Tawan EVER called to update or ensured if their clients are boarding the flight at the right time. If I had not looked at tickets well before; we certainly had missed the flight that day.

The Verbal feedback

      We went to Spaceline and recounted every solitary fact I have written above to Raja and Puneet (Manager, whom we were dealing). Raja straightaway called Tawan and exhibited that he is confronting Tawan in front of us, he in fact switched his phone to speaker mode so that we could hear stammering Tawan on the other end. He assured us that they will look into it and get back to us.

Conclusion

      Today its almost 2 months and no one has got back to us yet which ascertains that it wasn’t only Tawan who had that kind of attitude but the whole company itself does not respect their patrons. I honestly thought that Spaceline was that kind of company which try to stand out in its league. But miserably its actual face is something else, just because of such tour operators today common man is scared of trusting small time travel operators. They wasted my time, money, patience and in fact I lost my self respect. I never wished to write this but they made me do it by not replying to me; they would have thought; anyways client has paid money and had been on the tour also then why to to break head !!

      Avoid Spaceline, they will sell you the product by saying everything what you want to listen but in the end they will make every effort to ruin your holidays. Pathetic service and completely unprofessional.

My Score Card for Spacline

Product Quality – 3/10

(Extra 3 marks just for good hotel bookings)

Service – 0/10

Professionalism – 0/10

Value for Money – 0/10

Will I go back to them – Only if I am dead

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