Thursday, December 15, 2011

Travel industry sees red as Air India Express withdraws flights. Flights departing from Tiruchi will come down to 24 a week

Notwithstanding the strong opposition from the travel trade here, the Air India Express has withdrawn 10 flights a week from Tiruchi from December 19 to March 24, citing crew constraints.  The airline, on Tuesday, announced the withdrawal of the flights on the Chennai-Tiruchi-Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi-Tiruchi-Chennai sectors (IX613/614) on Mondays/Tuesdays, and the flights on the Tiruchi-Kuala Lumpur and Kuala Lumpur-Tiruchi-Chennai sectors (IX 622/621) on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. The Tiruchi-Chennai flights have been withdrawn on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Consequently, the thrice-a-week Abu Dhabi service stands curtailed to twice a week and the daily Tiruchi-Kuala Lumpur/Kuala Lumpur-Tiruchi services to just three days a week.  With the withdrawal of 10 flights a week, the total number of flights operated by the airline ex-Tiruchi would come down to 24 from 34 flights a week. The airline has been intermittently cancelling flights on the Tiruchi-Kuala Lumpur sector, one of the most profitable routes for it, over the past 45 days apparently due to the shortage of pilots.

The latest decision of the airline has come as a shock to the travel industry representatives, who had already registered their strong opposition to the frequent cancellation of flights over the past one-and-a-half months. The Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) had already sent representations to the Civil Aviation Minister and the top brass of Air India in this regard.  “We were expecting a positive response from the airline to our representation; but the withdrawal of the flights till March has come as a shock,” M.S.Paramasivam, chairman, TAAI, South Tamil Nadu Chapter, told The Hindu.

It is regrettable that more and more flights are cancelled from Tiruchi, when the airline was able to restore flights operated on other sectors, especially Kerala. Despite being a highly profitable station for the airline, Tiruchi was being accorded a step-motherly treatment, he regretted. The cancellation of the flights to Kuala Lumpur would cause much hardship to the labourers travelling regularly on the sector as the airline offered competitive fares. The cancellation has left the passengers with no option but to fly with one of the foreign carriers to Kuala Lumpur, travel trade representatives say.  The Tiruchi-Kuala Lumpur service of Air India Express was in great demand; they say and claim that the service was being operated with an average load factor of 87 per cent since April.
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